Why I Won’t Be Viewing Kevin Ware’s Injury

Why I Won’t Be Viewing Kevin Ware’s Injury April 3, 2013

Yesterday, I was sitting in the steam room at the gym, minding my own business, enjoying some silence, when the naked guy next to me says, “So, did you see that basketball player’s broken leg? It was gruesome.”

“No,” I replied, “I’ve been avoiding it.”

“Well, all the talk on the radio today is about the sound. Supposedly a lot of people in the arena could hear the snap, and they can’t get the sound out of their heads.”

Then he got up and left the steam room, leaving me alone to ponder the sound of breaking bone.

About the time that Ware broke his leg in a basketball game this weekend, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed. People were expressing their anguish at seeing the injury and the replays, and I immediately knew that I did not want to see it. I tweeted:

I’ve got a funny relationship with the frailties of the human body. On the one hand, in 1991 I seriously contemplated dropping out of seminary and applying to medical schools. I wanted to be an ER physician, and I even shadowed an ER doc for a few overnight shifts, pretending to be a med school student. On the other hand, I have fainted in several doctors’ offices when they’ve been explaining some internal ailment I had.

On the one hand, I saw several dead bodies during my decade as a police chaplain and never felt sick. On the other hand, I could never bring myself to watch Faces of Death when my buddies viewed it in high school.

As I sat alone in the steam room, contemplating a sound I hadn’t heard but had only imagined, I thought: You know what, there’s enough trauma in our world and in my life. I don’t need to add to it by making a point of watching and hearing the bodily trauma of another person.

We are frail. Bones break, skin rips open.

If there is anything to be learned about the death of Jesus on the cross, it is this: God knows this experience. God has embraced our frailty, and that experience has changed God for all time.

That’s the suffering I’d rather contemplate this week.

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  • Truth has the structure of fiction. Millions and millions of dollars are made every year in the horror-movie genre in a country where most don’t seem to care that we’ve been at war for a decade…but a broken leg in a basketball game, and we’re collectively horrified.

    Go figure.

  • I’m with you. Served in a relief team that supported the detectives stationed in the makeshift morgue at Ground Zero. The world is severe enough without indulging the shock factor on gruesome athletic injuries. Entertainment? Not for me either.

  • Michael Jordan

    wisdom. Thanks, Tony!

  • Luke A

    It’s just a broken leg, for crying out loud. He was fine in about twelve hours. There’s even pictures of him in the hospital. It’s not like he lives in a third world country and the pain can’t be dealt with.

    I, too find the strange juxtaposition of reality and fantasy in America to be troubling. In a country where millions of people watch shows like CSI and SVU, where the extremes of human behavior are treated with a sort of witty and joyful horror, a compound fracture in a basketball game merits some kind of gravity. I guess as long as the basketball player wasn’t “bad.”

  • There’s no such thing as “just” a broken leg. I’ve had about 36. My daughter (we share a bone disorder) has had 12. I can’t even hear about gruesome bone injuries like this one and Theisman’s without feeling woozy. When my daughter breaks, I routinely talk to ER docs while sitting with my head down on my knees so I won’t pass out. When it was MY pain, I was tough. When it’s hers, I can’t handle it. There’s a tendency on Facebook these days to post photos of your children’s injuries. I have become sickened on occasion coming across a friend’s photo of his or her child’s untreated broken arm. I find this tendency disturbing. What are we trying to prove by sharing all this? That we deserve sympathy? You certainly have mine, but I don’t need to see the injury.

    One other minor thing: You say that God knows it all, all of our many kinds of pain. And I absolutely believe that. But this year, for the first time I noticed that, in the Gospel account, Jesus is the only one of the three crucified men whose legs are not broken. Because of my own history, I found that disappointing…though I’m glad for his sake.

  • Sven

    Good call on not seeing the injury.
    My curiosity got the best of me…
    …I could have lived a happier life if I had not watched that.

  • Phil Miller

    I was curious to see the injury not because of the goriness surrounding it, but I guess I just am sort of fascinated by the mechanics surrounding the body. I know there are some people who have a morbid fascination with that kind of stuff, and I don’t fall into that camp. I just like knowing how things work. I was the type of kid who took apart VCRs and stuff for fun, though, so I’m probably a bit messed up anyway.

  • Ellen,

    Clearly your situation is different from a basketball player suffering an injury after doing a lateral jump 4 feet off the ground trying to block a shot. I am sorry that you have had to live with something that causes that kind of pain to you and your daughter. I meant no diminishment of your situation…
    But, I still think people are making too big a deal about this particular injury. It’s a compound fracture. Happens all the time. I don’t think there should be such an emotional element to it. I saw a man die in a motorcycle accident, and that stuck with me for a while. A broken leg? Not so much.

    All I’m saying is that he was treated to the highest possible medical care, and most likely had the pain under control in a matter of 15 minutes or so. I think there’s some psychological trauma here because he’s a part of a team that people feel strong familial ties to. That’s what sports do to us.

  • I have not seen the broken leg either, nor do I plan to. Some people seem drawn to pain, torture, and misfortune. When I scan the titles on my news feeder, there are always ‘see this accident’, ‘watch how this person dies’, and so on–often on video. I do not wish to gawk at the personal calamities of others.

    I agree that it is the suffereing of Jesus that should capture our attention, but, even here, some must imagine it as painful and gruesome as possible; just think of the Mel Gibson movie, The Passion of the Christ. It is not how painfully Jesus suffered; many suffer more physical pain and for a longer time. Rather, it is that he died, defeated death, and was resurrected and that he provides for our own resurrection.

  • Tim Heebner

    I also have avoided the replays although curiosity has almost won out a few times. But then I remember a prior leg injury I had and dont want to be reminded of that again by visually watching someone else’s. Then I do ask myself, why am I curious about it.

    And since it happened around Easter, it also makes me wonder why people around this time love popping in The Passion of Christ DVD. I don’t understand how that can help someone, unless they are the type who is motivated by guilt. If my son was severely beaten in a back alley trying to save someone elses life and it was caught on video, why would I ever want to watch his beating over and over again?

  • You are so right Tony. I broke my back in a jet crash and when I see our Gawker culture in action it makes me shudder.

  • JR

    Good for you for avoiding the clip. The Sax battle in NYC subway vid is a better watch.

  • You take a jump from commentary on Ware’s injury to Jesus’ death on the cross?? Really Tony? This is so disappointing. What a reach! Very Rick Warren-esque of you! Don’t do it Tony… please don’t. Stay relevant. Stay sharp. Stay smart. 🙂

  • Several years ago with the Nic Berg beheading only a click away, I impulsively clicked it. I probably should not have done this.

    That makes Ware’s broken leg look like a hangnail by comparison.

    High degrees of physical pain, even torture are things that happen with consistency every day, hour and minute of human existence on this planet. So I do have some sympathy with Luke A. Perhaps we shouldn’t shelter ourselves from horrific realities especially when it becomes an attempt to ignore them (out of sight, out of mind) but at the same time, too much of a morbid attraction to this stuff is also unhealthy.

  • I saw what happened live on TV. The striking image I couldn’t get out of my head was of the other players on the court turning around from the injury, as if by instinct, and falling to their knees. Some burst into tears, immediately. At the sight of this broken body all aggression stopped and turned into this intense, grieving empathy. It was really powerful.