Observers of sport, be fans or the media, tend to be, as a rule, jaded and unforgiving. We expect athletes to be superhuman and perfect, both on the field of play and off it. This is especially true when it comes to injuries. Athlete’s are expected to be indestructible warriors who grit their teeth and play through any injury that befalls them. That is why the reaction to Greg Oden’s most recent injury is surprising. People actually care.
(avoid this video if you are squeemish)
Yes, sports fans and media actually do have a heart after all. Everyone seems very broken up over Oden’s knee injury, with some writers even admitting to being reduced to tears. Well add me to the list of people upset about the big man’s latest setback (and it’s not only because I had him in my fantasy pool). Its because Oden doesn’t deserve all of the trials and tribulations he has had to go through. This isn’t saying that some players deserve to get hurt, but, rather, most players don’t do much to illicit our compassion. Oden, on the other hand, does everything right. He’s a big, goofy kid who plays hard, is down-to-earth and feels the pressure to live up to the heady expectations heaped upon a number one overall draft pick. This pressure will only intensify with the continued evolution of the man picked after Oden – Kevin Durant. But this isn’t Oden’s fault – the man tries as hard as he can. He just seems to be snakebitten.
Plus, we watched and waited and dreamed about finally seeing Oden in the NBA, so now it seems like we are being robbed of something since he keeps getting hurt. Oden has been on most hoop junkies’ radars since he was an underclassman in high school. He endeared himself to hoopheads not only with his Bill Russell-esque play but his humble attitude. The only other high school player in history to get as much attention was LeBron James, but while LeBron appeared on the scene with a finished, polished (aka boring) persona, Oden seems like a normal, well adjusted, “regular” human being. So when Oden gets injured, we all feel it.
Sometimes when a tree falls in a forest, we all notice.