This was one of those weeks where I had great things planned for this site: lots of new Twanglish Lessons competing for screen time, a meditation on the uses of kudzu, a debate on the greatest college sports program in the South (any bets on which side I was taking?), a funny tale about a friend and fellow RSM who scammed some scammers, and a treatise on Yankees’ inability to endure heat and humidity (yes, I am going to get to that one … eventually). Instead, I’ve posted one link to someone else’s story and now written this one. Not a stellar outing.
After a vacation week cooped up with my sick kids, I’m now ailing myself. It’s my fault, really. I always did teach them to share. This is one of those insidious illnesses that lets you think you’re fine … so long as you’re lying down and not trying to do anything strenuous like holding up your head or opening your eyes. Otherwise, you’re dizzy, nauseous, struggling for breath and sleeping. A lot.
Sadly, this situation is just further proof of the fact that I’m no Real Southern Man, because …
Real Southern Men play hurt.
Several years ago, when my daughter was a newborn, we arranged a beach trip for us and our parents. When my dad showed up, I noticed he was clutching his thumb and grimacing when he thought no one was looking. When I asked about it, he showed me his ad hoc bandage made from paper towels and electric tape. Then he slid the bandage off to reveal the wound underneath. It was ghastly.
“Near ’bout cut my thumb off.”
“How’d you do that?” I asked.
“With a circular saw,” he replied matter-of-factly.
“Did you go to the hospital?” It was pretty obvious by the black tape and Bounty holding his thumb in place that he hadn’t.
“What would I do that for?”
Southern men are notorious for this kind of thing. What’s a half sawn-off thumb to keep a man from doing what he needs to do?
I don’t think it’s bravado so much as a mentality born of necessity. For so long, the South was farm country. There were no doc-in-the-box clinics on every corner, no pharmacy at the local Walmart. If it didn’t kill you, you did your best and kept moving. There was work to be done.
As a University of Alabama alumnus, I’m a bit of a student of Crimson Tide football history. Two of my favorite stories in Tide lore deal with literally “playing hurt.”
In a 1913 tilt against Tennessee, Alabama player Hargrove van de Graaff (other reports indicate it was his brother, “Bully,” Alabama’s first All-American) got up after a particularly rough hit to find his ear dangling from his head. Incensed by the hit and ready to exact vengeance, van de Graaff reached up to rip the ear from his head. Fortunately, teammates stopped him.
A few decades later, again against Tennessee, a tough-as-nails end scored two touchdowns while playing with a broken leg. It wasn’t future NFL hall of famer Don Hutson, but that “other end” … named Paul “Bear” Bryant.
There are no doubt thousands of similar stories of Real Southern Men playing hurt. Share your stories in the comments below.
Meanwhile, I’m going to take a nap.