Let’s listen to the sounds of sports.
In Detroit, the Oakland A’s whined because a Tigers pitcher kissed the baseball.
In Kansas City, many of the 70,000 spectators at a Chiefs game celebrated when their quarterback was rendered unconscious, flat out on the field, not moving.
Across the Atlantic, a major league English rugby player took a knee to his business and then removed himself to a hospital where surgeons removed his right testicle. While no one cheered, even the most hairy-chested of us can agree that this is the sort of news that causes men to reach with both hands to their nether regions, curl into a fetal ball, and send across continents a silent scream.
Perhaps because his sport is unique -- “Rugby Players Eat Their Dead” and all that -- Paul Wood took it well. According to the BBC Sports website, he is a 30-year-old prop for the Warrington Wolves. I have no idea if he’s a tighthead prop or a loosehead prop because until studying up at Wikipedia just now I had never heard of either position. My knowledge of rugby is limited to an afternoon in Alice Springs, Australia. There men wrapped black electrical tape around their heads before playing, taking particular care to cover the tips of their ears. That day I resolved never to play a game in which I had to tape on my ears. Anyway, the BBC reported that Wood played 20 minutes after the injury before leaving for repairs.
After surgery, he tweeted: “Ruptured my right testicle, got a knee 1 minute into the second half, had to have it removed.” Then he added: “Just coming out the hospital to go home...Seriously feel like I’ve left something?”
The next morning, Wood did a radio show. “I must admit,” he told an interviewer, a perky woman, “it does smart a bit when you get hit in the box.”
Had Wood considered wearing manhood’s friend, a device known in America as a cup and in England as a cricket box? He said, “It's something I'm going to look at because obviously I've only got one now.” Here, the poor guy chuckled. “So I've got to look after it. If I want any more kids” -- he’s the father of two -- “this has got to be my pride and joy.”
The perky interviewer then called Wood a “great sport for coming on” and told him, “You are a tough nut, no pun intended.”
No tougher, it says here, than Eric Winston. He’s an offensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs, 28 years old, a veteran of seven years in the NFL. He is as big as a house. He didn’t like what he heard Sunday from his hometown fans.
He heard them cheering an injury to quarterback Matt Cassel. Apparently, the otherwise kind heartlanders have had their fill of Cassel’s failings. The full measure of their displeasure came when they cheered Cassel’s replacement, the perpetual failure Brady Quinn.
Winston said he understands paying customers have the right to be critical. He also understands players put themselves at risk choosing to play football rather than, say, croquet. Still, he said to reporters in the locker room, "We are not gladiators. This is not the Roman Coliseum. ... But when you cheer, when you cheer somebody getting knocked out, I don’t care who it is, and it just so happened to be Matt Cassel -- it’s sickening. It’s 100 percent sickening. I’ve been in some rough times on some rough teams, I’ve never been more embarrassed in my life to play football than in that moment right there.”
When some fans pushed back against Winston’s rant, a teammate, tight end Kevin Boss, tweeted: “"God Bless @ericwinston for having the stones to speak his mind & speak the TRUTH!”
In keeping with our themes, let’s move on to the Oakland Athletics, whose testicles were in an uproar because they didn’t like what Al Alburquerque did.
It was 4-all in the second game of the A’s-Tigers ALDS. In the top of the ninth, with two outs, Yoenis Cespedes bounced one back to Alburquerque. The relief pitcher hopped two steps toward first, raised the ball to his lips for a quick smooch of relief -- “I did it because I did something good and felt happy” -- and underhanded it to Prince Fielder. Detroit won in their ninth, 5-4.
Among professional athletes, baseball players are the most easily offended by violations of unwritten rules. There are thousands of such rules of conduct. Most say this: “Beat us 11 ways to Sunday, but don’t show us up.” Oil Can Boyd strutted. Dennis Eckersley struck you out and then, with two fingers, shot you down. Joaquin Andujar had a gun, too. In the 1982 World Series, Andujar held a ground ball until Jim Gantner was near first. “When I ran by him,” Gantner said, “he went ‘pow,’ and shot me with his fingers and said, ‘I got ya.’ I called him a hotdog and he went berserk. He wanted to fight right there and then, but the umpire broke it up. The guy is a hotdog.”
So there was Al Alburquerque kissing the baseball. Then came the whimpering.
The New York Post’s Kevin Kernan quoted three A’s. Cespedes: “When I get back to Oakland, I am going to hit the ball hard against him and I can kiss my bat.’’ Josh Reddick: “I think that is immature and not very professional. That got under my skin.” Jonny Gomes: “He must not believe in the baseball gods because the baseball gods take care of stuff like that.”
Maybe. Maybe not. But if I were Al Alburquerque, next time out, just in case, I’d wear a cup.