The Prototype

ESPN.com has an article on retired NFL linebacker Bill Romanowski, who may best be described as the prototypical NFL football player as cyborg athlete-cum-war metaphor.

Romanowski quote: "The game is not good for you, it's not good for the human body. I wanted to offset as many of the bad side effects as possible. Not only did I want to be the best out on the field, but I wanted to be able to handle the kind of trauma the body endures."

He did so by becoming a sort of mad scientist of his own body, with treatments including massage; hyperbaric chamber sessions; proper nutrition; vitamin, mineral and enzyme supplements; acupuncture; intravenous therapy; and proper sleep. He pushed the boundaries regarding steroids and other drugs based on what could be tested for in the NFL drug policy, and he employed over 10 different body specialists at a cost of about $250,000 a year.

Romanowski quote: "I would have been out of the league probably by my sixth year to my eighth year had I not done what I did. Injuries would have caught up with me. What happens is, your body is an amazing compensator. But if you don't address things, eventually you would break down."

Instead, Romanowski played a mind-blowing 16 seasons of devastating football, starting 243 consecutive games. Complications arising from a number of concussions ultimately led to his retirement.

Romanowski quote: "The last three years were brutal as far as the concussions. I had to overcompensate and push myself to a new level, but I was actually doing more harm than good."

Resample:

So long as injuries are biomechanical — with an emphasis on the "-mechanical" — then we can still conceive of these (cyborg) athletes as machines, churning out plays, points, statistics and wins; they are assets belonging to the team that may be replaced at any sign of deficiency. If, on the other hand, we are forced to confront the humanity of a serious neurological injury, we must shake ourselves out of our narcotic slumber — if only for minute — and realize that these are flesh-and-blood human beings playing an extremely violent game to quench our collective bloodthirst on Sunday afternoons, and that at any moment they are only a play away from being paralyzed, brain-damaged, or killed. It is very difficult to consume product with that kind of guilt hanging over your head.

With Romanowski's neurological problems occurring post-career, and thus out of sight, however, consumption by the lipidinal masses may continue apace.

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One response to The Prototype

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  1. Mark Yacoub says:

    It was mentioned that he used steroids to enhance his game and increase his longevity. To me, steroids are the main contributers to this idea of cyborg athletes. I feel that the main characteristic deciding whether an athlete is truly great or just mediocre is something personal. It's personal in the sense that only you can control it. Do you train hard, do you have natural talent, do you have the mindset to be great, etc? These are all human qualities which you can control (except for the natural talent idea).

    When steroids are introduced to this idea, it completely strips people of this identity. There are some people out there who say that most professional athletes are taking steroids anyway so why not just remove the ban and allow steroids to become a regular part of the game? There are a number of reasons why I disagree with this idea, but I won't go into all of them. However, there is one reason which I feel really applies to this article. By giving an athlete steroids, you take away from that personal aspect. No longer does the amount of training matter as much. Now it becomes who has the best substances which produce the greatest results. What if steroids eventually peak and individuals turn to protestic limbs to help enhance their play? It may be a big jump and some people may say who in their right minds would want to get a protestic limb just to win? Well who in their right minds would want to take a substance which causes aggression, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and can lead to suicide? The will to win is powerful and it can make people act in irrational ways.

    So yes, steroids are substances that are around now that are accessible. And yes, a number of high performance athletes use them. However, steroids have to be looked at in the same light as marijuana. Maybe it's not the worst thing you can do, but it can be considered a gateway, something that leads to more risky and dangerous things. In this sense, it can lead to the complete dehumanization of sport. No longer will we be pitting the top human competitors against each other. We will begin to pit the best produced "robots" or "cyborgs" against each other in our mission to see "who" or "what" is the fastest, strongest, best.