Football Short Story
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A Typical Day at the Office

From "You're Okay, It's Just a Bruise": A Doctor's Sideline Secrets about Pro Football's Most Outrageous Team, Rob Huizenga, M.D. (1994)

The Orange Bowl was rocking! I mean actually swaying on its foundation, as 75,151 Raider-hating Dolphin fanatics stomped their feet in unison and screamed, "Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.!"
Only nine seconds remained in the opening half. We were ahead by a cou­ple of points, but now Miami had our battered defense backed up to the one-inch line. Coach Don Shula, Miami's stoic-faced leader, waved off his field goal team. It was December 11, 1984. The Dolphins were 12-1, this year's top AFC team, and Shula wanted to beat us - the defending world champion Los Ange­les Raiders - in the worst way.
Bob Zeman, the Raiders' defensive coordinator, sent in the gap goal-line smash defense. Dolphin QB Dan Marino handed the ball to Woody Ben­nett. Bam! He was immediately bent backward and dropped by Raider heavies Matt Millen and Mike Davis. The gun sounded, ending the half. Our sideline jumped in celebration.
s the reenergized Raiders jogged off toward the locker room, I ran out on the field to check one of our LBs, who'd been stricken with a violent stomach flu. He'd started vomiting early last night, and by game time had been pass­ing enough watery stool to qualify as a cholera patient.
"I feel like shit," he said as I threw an arm around his waist and helped him off the field.
quot;Are you light-headed?" I asked.
"That was two quarters ago, doc. I'm at the one-foot-in-the-coffin stage now."
"We'll pump in some intravenous fluids during half," I said. "And I'll tell Coach Zeman you're questionable for the rest of the game."

L: Lyle Alzado, R: Ted Hendricks
Suddenly, just twenty yards from the visitors' locker room entrance, we were surrounded by an inebriated mob. The end-zone stands angled inward forcing us to run through a narrow alley. Red-faced, drunken Dolphin par­tisans - just a yard or two away from us on either side - were hurling profani­ties, peanuts, half-filled Cokes, and seat cushions.
Just to our right, one rowdy male fan in his mid-twenties caught Lyle Al­zado right in the face with a full cup of beer, and then began to beat his chest in a drunken Tarzan impersonation. As we watched in horror, Lyle lunged over a four-foot retaining wall, grabbed the startled troublemaker's sweatshirt with one swat of his muddy left paw, and started beating the fan over the head with his helmet. Four of us rushed to grab Lyle's leg and pull him down, but he peeled us off with one torque of his hips.
Luckily, the foolhardy fan was able to stumble up several concrete stadium steps, out of Lyle's reach. Dazed and with blood dripping down his forehead, the fan was suddenly subdued. I wondered if he was sober enough to realize that he had come within a helmet hit of death.
Inside the locker room, the walking wounded congregated around four small examining tables in the cramped trainers' cubicle. It had the feel of a county emergency room on a Saturday night.
My first priority was the LB. A trainer had already neatly set out a large-bore intravenous needle, intravenous tubing, and several plastic bags of a sterile sugar-salt solution. I quickly inserted one line in his right forearm while the assistant trainer rigged a bent hanger off an overhead pipe to act as a make­shift intravenous pole. I took his blood pressure lying down, then standing up. This maneuver caused the LB's blood pressure to drop, confirm­ing dehydration as a cause of his dizziness.
"You're a couple of quarts low," I said. "Maybe even a gallon."
"Pump it into me, doc," he said. "I've got a game to catch."
Replacing several quarts of fluid in a ten-minute halftime is like changing a flat tire in ten seconds in the Indy 500 pits. It can be done, but it takes know-how and teamwork. ... Luckily all went well, and I was able to turn my attention to a receiver who had been patiently waiting behind me during all of this.
"My left eye's killing me, doc. I can catch a ball with one hand, but with one eye, I don't know."
"What happened," I asked.
quot;I think I got swiped during a tackle."
pulled out my medical kit and fished out a bottle of ophthalmic numbing so­lution ... With his pain relieved by numbing drops, I did a rudimentary eye exam. Standing on the other side of the room, I told him to close his good eye. I held up three fingers.
"How many fingers?" I asked.
quot;Is that how many fingers up or how many fingers folded down?" chimed in Dave Casper, who was sitting on a nearby table.
"Doc, get over here. Pull these pipes out. I gotta go."
"Wait! Halftime's not over for five more minutes," I replied.
"No, I gotta go!" the player said, pointing to his rear end and moving off the table, intravenous tubes and all.
The trainers and I quickly unhooked the hangers from the ceiling pipes and walked his double IV apparatus to the bathroom. The LB made it to the toilet. It was quite a sight. Two ball boys were perched atop the walls on either side of the toilet, manually squeezing the IV bags. I was pinched in between the toilet paper and the toilet bowl taking a sitting blood pressure. Then a defen­sive coach came by to go over the halftime changes in the defensive cover­age schemes. All the while, diarrhea was hitting the bowl like a Malaysian monsoon.
As the player got up, I was faced with the final indignity of this halftime. Be­cause I didn't want the player to bend his elbows, which might disturb the intravenous needles, he couldn't reach back and wipe himself. Enter team­work. I obligingly wiped the patient clean after I took some stool to test for the presence of blood.
"Doc," said one of the trainers, who was standing on the adjacent toilet and looking over the stall, "if they could only see you now back at Harvard." ...
The security guard at the door signaled it was time to go back out on the field, but Ted Hendricks, one tough SOB and a future Hall of Famer who had just re­tired the year before, stepped forward to say something to the team.
"You motherf-----ers," he said, "don't embarrass me in my hometown. Get out there and hit somebody."
To demonstrate, he rammed his head into one of the metal lockers. It buc­kled inward. The team was hushed for a moment, half expecting his eyes to roll back or blood to gush from his mouth.
Instead he said in a psychotic snarl, "Take no prisoners ...!"
I went over to help the LB slip on his shoulder pads and jersey.
"Gee, I can't believe it," he said. "I actually feel good."
"We call this the instant man syndrome," I said. "Like instant rice. Take a pruned player, pour in a few liters of salt water, and puff! - instant man."
"Doc, you're sure these pills'll stop ..." he began.
He was worried about an uncontrolled burst of diarrhea in front of twenty or thirty million prime-time viewers, and I assured him that the three Lomo­tils I had just given him would prevent that from happening.
"You know, sometimes you bear down and strain when you make a hit," he growled. "I'm warning you ... if I get any brown stuff on the bottom of my uniform, you're fired as my doctor."

 

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