Photo: David Berding/Getty Images
What is Sportsopoly? Spirited commentary, features and more. Add it to your sports diet. Read my welcome here.
We've all heard variations of this same theme -- 'There's a difference between being hurt and injured,' 'players gotta learn to play hurt,' and 'that which does not kill us makes us stronger.'
And, in one way or another, they're all rather disrespectful to the frailties of the human body, especially a supremely conditioned one, and the strength of an athlete's courage and will to compete.
Yet, here we are again. Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis is sidelined once more, this time for about a month with what the team says is an MCL sprain in his left knee. And the chatter about his toughness is back.
One doesn't have to scour Davis' career very long to reach the conclusion he can't stay healthy. Hard to argue. What's easier to deconstruct, though, are criticisms that somehow he isn't in good enough shape to ward off the injury bug.
Davis is 6-feet-10 and weighs a tad over 250 pounds, according to the team's website. He's 28 years old. He runs the floor very well for a man his size, to say nothing about being a dominant player when at his best.
How is it remotely possible that he's not in optimal health? That he's not mentally or physically strong enough to stay off the DNP (did-not-play) list?
Yes, we love seeing Willis Reed emerging from the tunnel at Madison Square Garden, limping noticeably from a torn thigh muscle, to start Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, inspiring the New York Knicks to a title victory. Or Jack Youngblood, of the Los Angeles Rams, playing Super Bowl XIV with a broken leg. Or Kirk Gibson, nursing a bum knee and hamstring, shuffling into the batter's box and smacking a walk-off home run for the Dodgers in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, famously wobbling around the bases with a few arm pumps to celebrate the moment.
All great feats, obviously. But we cannot expect athletes to play with this kind of pain every day. They can easily cause more damage.
Only that ridiculously inaccurate BMI (body-mass index) calculator that has undoubtedly offended many of us with its harsh characterizations of our bodies is in position to dare suggest Davis drop a few. I put in his height and weight (253 pounds) and it returned a BMI of 26.5, which falls under the category 'overweight.'
Give me a break.
As a top player, Davis has had to deal with side eyes throughout his career for not always being available due to injury. Charles Barkley has nicknamed him "Street Clothes," as Davis has spent a fair amount of time in civilian threads, watching instead of playing.
Nothing about his health, in my line of thinking, is responsible for many of his injuries. Flexing a knee in a direction it wasn't designed to go is surely to hurt and likely lead to damage. Stretching a muscle beyond its natural ability during the course of competition (and, yes, we can increase our range of motion with proper training) is almost certain to cause injury.
Sometimes, technique can be blamed; a change in an athlete's style of play might reduce the incidence of injury. Davis is not a reckless player. Often, it's just bad luck; misfortune; right place, wrong time; however one wishes to describe it.
Many of us are guilty of projecting unrealistic expectations on athletes who test the limits of their bodies much more over the course of a few hours in a game than most of us will in a month, or longer.
These athletes spend a good portion of any season ailing from something, doing whatever they can to alleviate the pain and discomfort long enough to be productive. When that's no longer possible -- or a responsible physician advises them not to play until fully healed -- they should sit. And not hear blowback.
Sure, Anthony Davis has had more than his fair share of injuries, mostly through no fault of his own. It's unfair to suggest otherwise.
Let him recover, in peace, and hope he's even better on the other side than before.
That's my take. What's yours? Fire off your comments!