Big O Tires

Marshall's admission a reminder culture of health doesn't exist in sports

painkillers-bottles.jpg
AP

Marshall's admission a reminder culture of health doesn't exist in sports

Brandon Marshall of the New York Jets had one of his greatest games ever against the San Francisco 49ers two years ago and remembers almost none of it, because, as he told reporters Wednesday, he was cloudy-minded on painkillers.

This admission is one more reminder that sports are not necessarily good for one’s health, in large part because the culture of health in sports really doesn’t exist.

There is, rather, a culture of ordinance, and the players are the weaponry.

Marshall’s acknowledgement that he was masking pain from a high ankle sprain that should have kept him out of action for “four to six weeks,” by his own estimation but had him returning to action 10 days after the original injury.

“I’ll say it: I took a couple pain pills, so . . . I took a couple of pain pills to mask the pain,” he said on a conference call with CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco. “I really wasn’t supposed to play. So I don’t remember much from that game. I just remember catching those balls. That was pretty much it.”

We now re-enter the culture of playing when it isn’t prudent, either out of a misplaced sense of bravado or employer-based pressure to perform (there is no direct statement from Marshall saying that the painkillers were given to him by the team). The sense of bravado, which most athletes have, probably can never be legislated, and the culture of downward pressure to perform no matter what the infirmity has proven immensely difficult to conquer.

But there is another factor here, and that is the general lack of efficacy of painkillers. Warriors coach Steve Kerr took to using a form of medicinal marijuana because the painkillers he was taking for long-lingering symptoms from his back surgery were doing more harm than good. He said he found the marijuana was equally lacking, but he had enough concerns about the deleterious effects of Vicodin, OxyContin and other standard medications assigned to athletes in pain.

“I’m not a pot person; it doesn’t agree with me,” Kerr told CSN Bay Area’s Monte Poole on the Warriors Insider Podcast. “I’ve tried it a few times, and it did not agree with me at all. So I’m not the expert on this stuff. But I do know this: If you’re an NFL player, in particular, and you’ve got a lot of pain, I don’t think there is any question that pot is better for your body than Vicodin. And yet athletes everywhere are prescribed Vicodin like it’s Vitamin C, like it’s no big deal.”

He later expanded on that after the initial “Kerr Is A Sparker” headlines hit the Internet.

“Having gone through a tough spell over the last year with my own recovery from back surgery, a lot of pain, a lot of chronic pain, I had to do a lot of research,” he said. “You get handed prescriptions for Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet . . . NFL players, that’s what they’re given. That stuff is awful. That stuff is dangerous, the addiction possibility, what it can lead to, the long-term health risks. The issue that’s really important is how do we do what’s best for the players.

“But I understand that it’s a perception issue around the country. The NFL, the NBA, it’s a business. So you don’t want your customers thinking, ‘These guys are a bunch of potheads.’ That’s what it is. To me, it’s only a matter of time before medicinal marijuana is allowed in sports leagues because the education will overwhelm the perception. If you do any research at all, the stuff they’re prescribing is really bad for you and the stuff that they’re banning is fine.”

It is instructive, then, that when Marshall was asked for his position on the NFL’s stance not to include marijuana as a permissible substance for pain management, substance, a Jets public-relations employee who could be heard in the background of the call saying that Marshall “knows better than that.”

But Marshall did answer the question, saying in essence that he fully intends to know better, period.

“That is something that I actually want to research more this offseason when I have time,” he said. “I’m not a guy that knows about the benefits of what it can do for pain and other things. But I’d like to hear others’ opinions and really research the effects it can have on us – positives and negatives.”

In the meantime, sports soldiers on, using increasingly debunked methods for dealing with the pain their businesses inflict upon their employees and issuing warnings about breaching the silence of the workplace. But tales like Marshall’s will continue to surface until the businesses that require him and his like come to grips with the toll of their shortsightedness and, in some cases, neglect.

Arrhythmic poetry to Bill King making Hall of Fame posthumously

Arrhythmic poetry to Bill King making Hall of Fame posthumously

Bill King would have found his entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame for winning the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in baseball broadcasting a satisfying but indisputably odd thing for him to receive 11 years after his death. He would have said, and I can guarantee this, “Well, my work must have dramatically improved in the last few years.”

And Hank Greenwald, Lon Simmons, Greg Papa and all his other broadcast partners would have laughed and nodded. King knew he was good and didn’t mind being recognized for it, but he wouldn’t miss the weird touch of being hailed for it after his passing.

Nor would he have missed the amusing notion that he won the award in his ninth time as a finalist. The A’s teams whose exploits he described for a quarter-century reached the postseason nine times but won the big only once, in 1989.

But there is an arrhythmic poetry in the notion that King’s final recognition went this way rather than while he was alive. The nation caught on to him late, if at all, and while he was the voice of all things Bay Area sports for 43 years between the Warriors, Raiders and A’s, he was happily non-telegenic, and thoroughly content with living outside the troika of national broadcasting circles (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago) of the time.

He did want to be thought of as he is today by a larger audience, because he was a man with a healthy respect for his own talent and work ethic, but he knew the deal when he took it, and he took it happily. He was allowed to be himself by three separate owners (which is three over the current national average, given that broadcasters are now given a daily party line that must be adhered to), and he took full advantage. Talent gets you that kind of freedom, and obstinacy in the face of control allows you to use it fearlessly.

And now it’s been noticed, ironically enough in the sport most people thought was his third best. The NBA’s Curt Gowdy Award, given since 1990, includes many of his contemporaries (Chick Hearn, Johnny Most, Al McCoy, Joe Tait, Bill Schonely, et. al.) but not him, and the NFL’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, given since 1989, is almost exclusively reserved for network TV announcers, though some of King’s radio compatriots (Buffalo’s Van Miller and Pittsburgh’s Myron Cope) have also won.

But baseball embraced the Internet vote first, and King got consistent support from Bay Area fans who kept his name alive through a number of failed attempts when the voting was done by the public; he won under a new system in which winners are selected by a 17-person panel, which many people thought was not his best constituency.

If King were alive and still active, he would have been properly appreciative, though one should not have been surprised had he pulled a Bob Dylan with the Nobel Prize people and skipped the induction ceremony next July: “Thanks for the award, but I’ll have been in New York the week before and I'm taking that weekend off to sit on the boat. Give (Hall of Fame director) Jeff Idelson a ‘Holy Toledo!’ for me, and pass that bottle over here.”

It’s how we would want him to want it, anyway.
 

Are the 18-3 Warriors better than the Warrior teams of past two years?

Are the 18-3 Warriors better than the Warrior teams of past two years?

When the Golden State Warriors weren’t planet-eating this summer (re: signing Kevin Durant), they were doing some low-level whining about the narratives surrounding their team. Like “planet-eating.”

You know, that “you guys have a job to do” lefthanded compliment/commentary that lets us all know that their real nature would never be revealed by the bombardment of stories about how they had changed themselves, the nature of their business, the culture of American sport and Draymond Green’s wayward legs.

Or whatever.

[POOLE: Warriors first-quarter report card: Only two solid A's]

But now we’re a quarter into their season, and that seems as good a time to pander to the brand . . . err, examine who they really are in the one place where there is least debate. The floor.

So with the other two uber-Warrior teams as a comparison point, let us wallow in the shallow end.

THIS IS THE WORST TEAM: Their 21-game record is 18-3, which is three games worse than last year, and a game worse than 2014-2015. Math all you want, but 18 is less than 19 or 21. Plus, they didn’t even have the best record in the league for the first month of the season. Lesson? They changed too much.

THIS IS THE MOST DOMINANT TEAM: The current margin of victory per game is 14.04, down from 14.90 a year ago but up from the 11.19 of the title year. In another way, though, they are crushing teams with greater facility, with nine of their 18 wins coming by 20 or more points – as many as they have had in the last three years combined. Lesson: After the anticipated adjustment period, they’re figuring it out.

THIS IS THE MOST DETESTABLE TEAM: Winning the Durant sweepstakes was supposed to make them nationally loathed, the league’s new villain du jour, and maybe winning by 23, 26, 21, 24, 37, 43, 24, 29 and 36 sucks the joy out of an athletic contest, thereby making them even more hateable. Lesson? People will be weary of this.

THIS IS THE MOST ENJOYABLE TEAM: More of a qualitative argument, but every game promises more difficult-to-conceive moments than the one before. Monday night, Klay Thompson, whose shooting has been occasionally worrisome and who said in the offseason that he wouldn’t defer to any new pecking order, went for 60 in three quarters, and didn’t touch the ball on the most amazing play of the season so far – Zaza Pachulia wins a jump ball, tips to Draymond Green, who throws a home run ball to Stephen Curry who flips it high into the air for Kevin Durant to follow and slam. Eighty-five feet, no dribbles, and a GIF to keep your children quiet when you just want to enjoy a beer.

THIS IS THE MOST COHESIVE TEAM: After the expected fitful start, in which they managed to lose by 29 on Opening Night to San Antonio and 20 in Los Angeles (to the Lakers, no less) 11 days later, their assist-to-turnover ratio is an absurd 2.15 (32.4 assists, 14.9 turnovers), well up from 2015 (1.67) and 2016 (1.84). They are taking better care of the basketball, and are more active at sharing it.

THIS IS THE WORST DEFENSIVE TEAM: A lot happens to one’s defensive concentration when the opponent has been consumed by your offense, so this is a bit deceptive, but the raw numbers indicate that this team is living on points rather than points allowed. The defense rating has risen from 101.4 (first in 2015) to 104.7 (ninth now), for a team Steve Kerr has always touted for its devotion to the other end of the court, but the offense has gone from 110 (first) to 114.9 (first) to 118.2 (first).

THIS IS A HAPPY TEAM: They seem genuinely happy when one of theirs has a game (say, Thompson’s Monday night), and have either no agendas or have kept what agendas exist on the very downest of lows. In sum, lots of smiles, but if you can’t smile when you win games by an average of five threes per game, then you’re just a drag to be around. Unhappy happens with unhappy results. Plus, who can’t smile with Zaza Pachulia around? To quote a greater man about a greater man, “a certain magic still lingers in the very name.”

THIS IS A TEAM WITH INSUFFICIENT DRAMA PER COLUMN INCH/MINUTE OF VIDEO: Other than Green’s daily dance on the razor wire with the officials and Joe Lacob popping up from time to time as the FTD delivery man, what’s the problem? Do they run up scores? Do they dance a lot in victory? Are they overloved by the media? Underloved by the nation? Too girly basketball? Not girly basketball enough? Just the right amount of girly basketball? Frankly, most of the coverage strategy about this team falls under, “They exist, therefore we must record their existence.” The bulk of their drama comes with people saying things about them, and them contriving those things into a slight worthy of a motivational response. That’s not really drama in the classic, or even tabloid sense.

This differs from 2014-5, when they were the freshest item on the menu, and 2015-6, when . . . well, when they were a lot like they are now, only without Durant.

In short, 21 games in, the Warriors are better and worse and more dominant on offense and less consistently devoted on defense and more generous and less careless with the ball and about as likable or dislikable as we speculated they would be in October – because we’ve speculated about every possibility, and we’ll keep doping it because the beast is endlessly hungry and must be fed.