That moment, for me came before watching the season premier of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and the season finale of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” – two programs particularly well-known for their depiction of violent events.
And it occurred in, of all places, a basketball game.
Anyone who was paying attention to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament Elight Eight game between Louisville and Duke knows what I’m talking about. Many who weren’t probably do, too.
During the first half, Louisville’s Kevin Ware attempted to block a Duke player’s shot. Upon first glance, viewers probably didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary – most were likely watching the ball’s flight toward the hoop.
For me, after watching the completed shot, my attention was drawn immediately to the Louisville bench, where players and coaches were reacting as if they were witnessing something more horrific than they’d ever seen.
And chances are, they were.
It’s at this point that I’ll extend you a courtesy that CBS did not during its broadcast – if you experience squeamishness at even the thought of signifcant injury, stop reading. I won’t be too graphic, but even thinking about it now is difficult for me. I’ll give you a *** when it’s safe to continue.
I rewound the video to a point prior to the shot and watched Ware. I wish I hadn’t. Upon landing, his leg snapped in two places – the snap was quite audible, and even without a zoomed-in view, the injury was obvious. Like me, no one in the immediate area noticed until after the shot was made, and most of those folks had a similar and almost simultaneous reaction.
*** It’s safe now.
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, who was standing only a few feet from where Ware landed, later said his initial response was to help Ware up. Then he saw Ware’s leg and immediately motioned for help.
A few teammates immediately fell to the floor. Several were crying, as were Pitino, Duke players and head coach Mike Krzyzewski. What up until that point had been shoved down our throats as a “rematch” dating back to Duke’s last-second Elight Eight win over Pitino-led Kentucky in 1992 immediately experienced a change in tone.
For about 10 minutes, there was almost no sound in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. CBS – again, with little-to-no warning to an audience of mostly unsuspecting viewers – replayed the injury twice. To their credit, they never did again.
The injury immediately brought to mind a few similar football incidents, particularly the 1985 broken leg suffered by Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann. To me, though, Ware’s is worse than any other I can remember simply because there was no contact with another player – just Ware jumping and landing. It was one of those jarring, surreal moments we rarely see during televised sports events, let alone a stage as large as the NCAA Tournament.
“Stage” being the operative word. Over the last several years, larger venues have begun hosting basketball games and using an elevated playing surface that, for me, does not pass the eye test. It seems like it would be too easy for a player, giving it his all, to run right off the end of the floor and significantly injure himself or others.
It’s conceivable that Ware was worried about just such a situation and adjusted his landing style to compensate, leading to just such an injury.
This situation presents several angles worthy of discussion, including the one about the elevated floor.
Most importantly for Ware’s future will be how the NCAA compensates him. College players are insured against catastrophic injury, but Ware is a sophomore. Will the NCAA, with its history of shady, irresponsible activity, foot the bill for Ware’s surgery and recovery and then allow him to continue playing collegiately? The shorter, to-the-point version of that question is, will the NCAA prove it has a heart?
More positively are discussions about the heart and sportsmanship displayed by the players. Ware himself was telling his teammates after the injury, “I’ll be fine. Win the game.” And win the Cardinals did. What was a close contest for much of the first half turned into a blowout.
Credit Duke’s players as well, along with Coach K for their understanding and compassion.
And credit them all for eliciting a positive reaction from me, given that this game featured the two programs at the top of my “Must Always Lose” list.
Justin McGill is executive editor of The Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.