Joba Chamberlain: Bad Bounce Raises Interesting Question

Frank NappiSpecial ColumnistMarch 25, 2012

An unfortunate injury could cost Joba Chamberlain his career, but how much should it cost the Yankees?
An unfortunate injury could cost Joba Chamberlain his career, but how much should it cost the Yankees?Al Bello/Getty Images

So what could possibly be wrong with a friendly game of 3-on-3 basketball? How about a Playstation 2 marathon featuring several Guitar Hero solos, or a relaxing jaunt to the country for a little fishing? Anyone see a problem with grabbing some artificial rays in a tanning bed or unwrapping that new DVD you’ve been dying to watch?

What about bouncing around mindlessly on a trampoline?

It all sounds like good, harmless fun—quality leisure time sure to take the edge off a beleaguered nine-to-fiver after a long week of work. Yes, all good, except if your work happens to earn you millions of dollars a year, and your ability to earn those millions is predicated on your physical well being.

Then, when the basketball game results in a torn ACL, the Playstation escapade leads to wrist strain, reeling in the big one causes a shoulder separation, the tanning that was supposed to be therapeutic goes awry and causes severe burns, wrestling with that pesky DVD packaging causes a freakish scissor mishap and of course, bouncing on your trampoline with your kids not only destroys your ankle but quite possibly your livelihood as well, it ain’t so funny anymore.

You remember what mama used to say: “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.”

Joba Chamberlain’s unfortunate trampoline calamity has left a gaping hole in the Yankees bullpen. The Bronx Bombers will have to find a way to fill the void created by Chamberlain’s absence. But more importantly, this latest incident has once again thrown a spotlight on the off-field exploits of professional athletes, particularly baseball players.

It seems as though an inordinate number of these aberrant occurrences involve our boys of summer. I’m not quite sure if there is a scientific reason for that or not, but the record certainly would suggest that it warrants some scrutiny.

Names like Aaron Boone, Joel Zumaya, Larry Walker, Marty Cordova and Adam Eaton all conjure unfortunate recollections of off-field indiscretions which resulted in professional misfortune—not to mention more than just a modicum of embarrassment for both them and their respective teams.

Now we can add Chamberlain’s name to the ignominious list. The members of this dubious club seems to keep growing—not at an alarming rate by any means—but I have an inkling that there exists in the annals of private baseball lore an array of transgressions of which we have no formal knowledge.

But what does prevail, without speculation or conjecture, is one very glaring and equally ominous question: Who will be next?

While many would argue that professional athletes certainly have the right to lead conventional lives off the field, including all of the frivolity and oftentimes dangerous leisure activity in which all of us common folk engage.

Perhaps that’s not the case. Perhaps there needs to be an understanding or agreement—more formal than tacit—that professional athletes are not like the rest of us and, consequently, need to be more cognizant of the reality that their actions outside of the professional arena have serious consequences that affect not only them but others as well.

I’m sure that some attorneys and civil liberties enthusiasts would take umbrage at such a suggestion, but the truth of the matter is that when a professional athlete makes the decision to go off-roading in the Outback or hang gliding near the Makapuu Cliffs, he takes with him the immediate fortunes of his teammates and the hopes and dreams of a legion of worshipers who are relying on him to help bring the team of which he is part to the promised land.

Perhaps it needs to be more than just an agreement.

Maybe it should be compulsory language written into every professional athlete’s contract. An injury of this sort, as infrequent as it might be, precludes an athlete’s ability to perform the job for which he is being compensated quite nicely and is a direct threat to the success of that athlete’s organization. Does that sound unreasonable?

Fascist? Perhaps. 

All I know is that if there were millions of people waiting with breathless anticipation, clamoring for my next novel or article and I lost a couple of fingers on my typing hand feeding turtles on the Galapagos Islands, I would feel just a little responsible.

What do you think?

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