Sports can strike a cord in all of us for a variety of reasons.
The history, the nostalgia, the wow factor. Great players coming up with big plays in big moments and teams capturing our hearts on championship runs.
Joy, anger, elation and sadness all have big roles in sports. And so too does laughter. Nothing showcases that as much as bloopers.
But with increases in technology and the rise in the skill level of athletes, we’re left with far less to laugh at these days. In fact, some companies are making it their business to make the blooper reel no laughing matter.
Take, for example, Unequal Technologies and their recent introduction of helmet and hat pad reinforcers to the market.
I know what you’re thinking. Why would anyone have any need for an additional liner in their baseball hat? You’re not getting a ball thrown at you and you already have your glove to protect you. And to that point, I give you Jose Canseco.
Now known more for blowing the lid off the steroid scandal than for blowing the cover off the baseball, there was a time when Canseco was among the best in the game. The first player to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in a single season, Canseco was named to five all-star teams in his first eight years in the majors with the Oakland A’s.
After reaching three straight World Series from 1988-1990, the A’s fell from prominence, and, to a large extent, so did Canseco. He was traded from Oakland to the Texas Rangers late in 1992 and bottomed out in May of 1993 when he lost track of a Carlos Martinez fly ball, which hit him in the head at the warning track and bounced over the fence for a home run.
Three days later, he pitched the eighth inning of a blowout loss to the Red Sox, injuring his arm and requiring Tommy John surgery in the process. He missed the remainder of the season and though he bounced back to win the Comeback Player of the Year award in 1994, he was never the same player.
Had he installed a HPZ Halo helmet pad in his cap on that fateful day, maybe he wouldn’t have become a sideshow. Maybe he would have played out the ’93 season, and gotten closer to the 500-home run mark (he ended his career 38 dingers shy, despite playing just 60 games that season). Maybe he wouldn’t have had a need to thrust himself back into the spotlight with a book exposing baseball’s dirty secret. And maybe, just maybe, the course of baseball history would have been changed forever.
||By Lou Rusnock
Lou is a writer at Sports Unlimited.