If you like to watch NFL football as much as I do, from a bar stool or the comfort of your living room, most of the hits don’t seem too painful. Sure, there is the occasional OH MY GOD you blurt when a receiver extends his arms for a ball and is instantly hit VIOLENTLY and drops like a bag of rocks. He lies motionless, and the aggression is palpable—to the point where you wince repeatedly as they show it over and over. But the routine plays don’t seem so bad. It looks like fun. You used to play two-hand touch in grade school. That’s why you watch, right?
In SLOW GETTING UP: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile, Nate Jackson, who played for six seasons as a wide receiver and tight end, will quickly reframe your thinking. Yes, it’s fun (if you really like to hit people), but it’s also a steady stream of ripped hamstrings, dislocated fingers, separated shoulders, and did I mention hamstrings ripped off the bone? You have a job as long as you’re healthy, and it’s nearly impossible to stay healthy for long. The way some people pop vitamins, you take needles and pain pills. Also, apparently—after you’ve passed your one drug test per year—marijuana. After each major injury, you undergo strenuous rehab and hope to regain your job. Sometimes you do, sometimes you work hard and are cut. Just like that.
Jackson’s story lays bear the torments of the NFL lifestyle. It’s fascinating. And as the readers, we get off easy. We just have to watch.