Getting A Leg Up On Man Cred

As I lay anxiously awaiting the siren call of surgery, I came upon a universal truth: Injuries can give a guy some serious man cred. They also can destroy reputations if the wrong ones occur.

Back injuries are never good. One can hit a retaining wall at 180 mph and it still doesn’t matter – back injuries are for old men and golfers. Discuss a bad back with friends and strangers, and the most common response is, “My father had the same problem.” As these stories usually go, dad dies soon after. Sammy Sosa suffered a back injury while sneezing, and look what happened to him.

Shoulder injuries can be good, but never in a contract year. Shoulders get destroyed doing manly things like throwing a baseball, scrambling for a first down or punching someone in the neck.

Wrists are a bad injury, not because the tiny bones take forever to heal, but because who hurts their wrists beside secretaries and columnists? The ESPYs will never close the “in memoriam” segment with some dude who lost his fight to carpal tunnel. Yes, six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmy Johnson broke his wrist after falling off a golf cart, but he stockpiled man points after busting up his knee in an adolescent dirt bike accident. He also makes his living at 200 mph, which is the epitome of man cool. The same can’t be said for Joel Zumaya.

In 2006, the Detroit Tigers reliever who hit triple digits on the Jugs Gun missed the American League Championship Series after hurting his wrist playing Guitar Hero. If the 5-foot-6 Scott Ian can make it through 30 years of thrash without getting hurt playing a real guitar, then getting laid up by a fake one is totally unacceptable.

If you are going to have an injury, take it from Johnson and bust up your knee. It’s the best thing you can do for your image.

Knee injuries are a badge of honor, even if they occur at inopportune times. Consider the case of Hall of Fame tackle Turk Edwards. The longtime Redskins player and coach was forced from the game after injuring his knee during a coin toss. After years of trench warfare in the NFL, Edwards’ knees were shot, but no one remembers the final injury because knee pain always comes in battle. That is, unless you’re Bill Gramatica. Kickers don’t count. They may even suffer back injuries.

Perhaps the best thing about knee ailments is that others will create manly explanations for the injury even if the truth is far less impressive.

Let me explain. As a 20-something sailor in San Diego, I tore the medial collateral ligament shagging fly balls prior to a softball game. It was my own Gramatica moment, yet none of that mattered. I had a knee injury, and everyone had their own exciting theory of how it happened. None were true, but the tales were great image boosters even if the lies play havoc on the soul. It’s a small price to pay for immortality.

The only way a knee injury can be a negative is if the activity is questionable for your age or body type. Five years ago I tore a meniscus after wiping out on a skateboard. This time there were no voluntary statements of greatness, just the repeated question, “How old are you?” Evidently, too old, in the minds of most. But that’s OK, it could have been much worse.

One-time Brazilian soccer player Ramalho missed three games after taking a suppository – orally. Man cred points for that? Zero.