November 18, 2005

The Hit That Changed a Career: It's the 20th anniversary of the most gruesome on-field injury in NFL history.

posted by dyams to football at 03:52 PM - 50 comments

I remember the hit very clearly, even though I wasn't at the game live. I was an intern, working the sports desk at the Northwest Florida Daily News, and I had to put the paper to bed that night, so I was sitting at my desk doing some proofreading while our Sports Editor put the finishing touches on his weekly column when people started screaming "Sports Desk! Sports Desk! Get over here!" I ran across the newsroom to the TV and immediately, here came the replays. One after another. Watching Lawrence Taylor jump up screaming, crying and literally dragging Skins trainers on the field remains to this day one of the strangest sights I've ever seen in professional sports. Like most newspapers, we were a subscriber to the Associated Press, and we had a laser printer in the corner of the newsroom that hummed, sputtered, and printed out black and white AP photos pretty much all day long. As we watched the replays in horror over and over again, the laser printer started it's humming. The AP had taken the video replay and isolated it frame-by-frame, and sent those frames out to AP newsrooms across the country. The replays were bad enough, but those single frame photos were even worse. You could see the expression on Theismann's face, see the bulge in his sock grow larger and more pronounced with each frame, see the end of the bone poke out, and so much more. Easily the worst NFL injury I've ever seen. I remember that night, we all knew Joe's career was over, and several of us literally thought the man would never walk again. Then we went back to making fun of Cathy Lee Crosby. What can I say, we were a cynical bunch.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 05:11 PM on November 18, 2005

I was 8 and that was my first memory of the NFL.

posted by Turbo at 05:24 PM on November 18, 2005

That memory will stick with alot of us, its one of those visions you cant forget

posted by countrygirllostinLA at 05:29 PM on November 18, 2005

Remember it like it was yesterday. On a cruise in the Atlantic, 150 miles out from the eye, boat was rocking, people getting sick and there I am in the movie theatre watching that sight over and over. I do not get sea sick, but that was enough to challenge any stomach, choppy sea or not. Troy

posted by Mpls Chef at 05:34 PM on November 18, 2005

I didn't watch a lot of football back in those days, being a disgruntled sports hating angst ridden teen at the time, but I happened to be home for that game. I remember thinking at the time that it confirmed many of my reasons for hating sports. I couldn't watch the replays - they made me sick. Upon reflection, I realize that Theisman became the first NFL player that I really respected (as a direct result of all the stuff I read about him post injury) and, in an odd way, was my gateway for (if you'll excuse the unmanly turn of phrase) falling in love with football. Strange, that.

posted by Joey Michaels at 05:36 PM on November 18, 2005

o.k. I'm a twisted individual anyone know where i can see video of the hit?

posted by Fade222 at 05:37 PM on November 18, 2005

I was watching the game with my old man. My old man is a tough as nails ex-Navy SOB. I remember when it happened, my old man turned this pasty white, got up and left the room. I just stared at the screen in awe...unable to peel my eyes away and not sure if what I saw really happened. To this day, I still don't know if my dad got sick or not. My memory as a whole absolutely sucks, but I remember that moment vividly. The sick side of me would kinda like to see the video myself.

posted by willthrill72 at 05:53 PM on November 18, 2005

Fade222, willthrill72, you are some sick bastards. I don't ever want to see that shit again. SNAP! AHHH!! Man, I get the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it.

posted by Desert Dog at 06:21 PM on November 18, 2005

yep I'm twisted but hey admitted it in my post. Also I'm kinda young so i wasn't really watchin football when this happened so I've never actually seen it but heard it talked about really often.

posted by Fade222 at 06:27 PM on November 18, 2005

I think Darryl Stingley might disagree about it being the worst hit in history, but it was pretty gross. It's funny, I could watch it at the time, but I can't watch it now without closing my eyes at the moment of, uh, impact. And you know, they've never stopped showing it.

posted by chicobangs at 06:37 PM on November 18, 2005

so if you know they keep showing it, Chicobangs can you help the twisted guys find it.

posted by countrygirllostinLA at 06:42 PM on November 18, 2005

"Taylor, a Hall of Fame linebacker, knew immediately after hitting Theismann that the quarterback was in deep trouble. Taylor immediately leaped up and, in a move out of character for football players, frantically signaled to the sideline as he raced toward the Washington bench to get the Redskins' medical people on the field." With everything negative that can be said about Lawrence Taylor, that was really classy.

posted by flicknut at 07:07 PM on November 18, 2005

Here's the link to the video, you sickos. I remember seeing it back in 85, the video does not do it justice.

posted by inmyopinion at 07:12 PM on November 18, 2005

The weird thing about hits that have caused paralysis to a few players, such as Daryl Stingley, is those hits never seemed to be as violent or out-of-the-ordinary, but the results were obviously much more tragic. With Theismann's injury, I just can't get over the descriptions those on hand make of the noise, what they say sounded like a shotgun. When I do see it (or read about it) I start feeling uneasy, queasy, etc. Same goes for Willis McGahee's injury versus Ohio State, and Tim Krumrie's injury in the Super Bowl. When you can see the damage of a strong, vital body belonging to a gifted athlete so vividly, in extra slow-motion, it drives home the idea of how violent a game professional football is. As much as I struggle sometimes to like Theismann, I always find myself coming back to the knowledge it was HIM who went through that injury, and I go back to a high level of respect for him. And to see Lawrence Taylor of all people, probably the most vicious, dominating defensive player in recent football history, reduced to that horrific a reaction, it's truly an amazing, unforgettable happening.

posted by dyams at 07:17 PM on November 18, 2005

Couldn't hear the snapping sound on TV but somehow, I think all who saw heard it anyway. Worst sports-related thing I ever saw.

posted by STLCardinalfan at 07:22 PM on November 18, 2005

OMG the was unreal. I've seen wicked hits but ouch.

posted by Fade222 at 07:33 PM on November 18, 2005

those hits never seemed to be as violent or out-of-the-ordinary Agreed. I think it's because your average big hit is one guy out-hitting the other, whereas the hits you're talking about are one guy running over the other. When I finally saw Frank Gifford getting ruined by Chuck Benardik, I was disappointed: they run together and Gifford drops. Boh. Ring. The most disappointing hit I ever had in lacrosse was one of the ones I got the most congratulations on. One of those classic spin-the-airborne-guy-around-360-plus. Because his feet weren't plated, there was no resistance, which was no fun.

posted by yerfatma at 07:45 PM on November 18, 2005

TBH - thanks for sharing that. Interesting to hear about your angle. I remember the Theisman injury but was a little too young to really absorb it (though, older than Turbo, apparently, I guess I was not paying attention) so the Tim Krumrie injury in SB XXIII. Not quite a mega gruesome though.

posted by gspm at 07:59 PM on November 18, 2005

I was watching that game when that happened...That still makes me cringe to see that..

posted by chevytruck at 08:07 PM on November 18, 2005

you know, i remember that and they replayed it over and over and over again... and if my memory is correct, that was when they QUIT showing horrific injuries over and over... that hit ended a certain era and subsequently brought about more censorship of fight on the fields and other devistating hits... right? mexi-kalifornia ej

posted by ej at 08:24 PM on November 18, 2005

If you're really sick and want to 'own' the video I posted it here.

posted by justgary at 08:35 PM on November 18, 2005

I play rugby and about 7 years ago I saw a guy get his leg snapped. he was standing and another player made a tackle and was parrell and hit his leg about the same spot as Theismans. Sounded like a big oak limb being smapped in two. pretty crazy, i was about 10 yards away and started running to the sidelines lik LT did telling them to call 911

posted by lazer07 at 08:42 PM on November 18, 2005

The most gruesome injury I've ever seen... it's really bad. It really makes my stomach turn. But I'm a sicko too so I watch it anyway.

posted by panoptican at 09:46 PM on November 18, 2005

Just so you know, that's a link to a video so click at your own risk. Napoleon McCallum with the Raiders in 96 I think.

posted by panoptican at 09:52 PM on November 18, 2005

Jesus, you're right. Worse than the theisman video. Did he ever come back from that? I can't remember.

posted by justgary at 09:59 PM on November 18, 2005

I remember the Theisman/Taylor play. For some reason, I remember them playing the replay over and over and over again. I don't know if they actually did that, but I have that impression. Maybe it was just me being scarred for life when it happened... However, if we are talking gruesome non-fatal injuries, then there is just one name, and one name only: Clint Malarchuk (description of the injury) WARNING! The next link contains a very disturbing photo of Malarchuk's injury as it happened. If you are in the least bit squeamish, DO NOT CLICK ON IT! Photo of Malarchuk after the incident.

posted by grum@work at 10:21 PM on November 18, 2005

Okay, yeah, the Malarchuk thing was the most horrifying thing I've ever seen in a sports context. Everyone really believed they were watching someone die, right in front of them.

posted by chicobangs at 10:27 PM on November 18, 2005

Everyone really believed they were watching someone die, right in front of them. You know what's messed up? I did see Duk Koo Kim get killed, I just didn't know it at the time. I mean, I didn't see it in person or anything, I was just watching, and he lapsed right there at Caesar's.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 10:55 PM on November 18, 2005

i remember watching the game but i don't remember actually seeing the break. i guess my parents made sure i didn't see the replays. a sick and twisted (former) friend of mine always looked back on that injury with glee. he just hated Theismann 1) because he was a cowboys fan and 2) his dad went to the same high school as Joe (graduated between him and Drew Pearson) and i guess he was an ass or something. he always pronounced his name as Theesman.

posted by goddam at 11:16 PM on November 18, 2005

OK, I see all you twisted sicko's are really getting twisted here, its almost like mines sicker than yours, and have problems finding the clips, go boys, I can see this can go on for awhile. I just had to check back because I just knew one of you would of found somthing to share. Have fun boys

posted by countrygirllostinLA at 11:16 PM on November 18, 2005

Mine's healthier than yours.

posted by yerfatma at 11:30 PM on November 18, 2005

As a few mentioned before, for me, Tim Krumrie's injury was the worst. Because it happened in the Super Bowl, it seemed to get much more play than other hits. But also the recurring sight of his entire body spinning through the air and the lower half of one leg spinning half a rotation behind it was really an awesome sight to see.

posted by vito90 at 12:09 AM on November 19, 2005

I don't watch football, so none of these ring a bell (except from seeing them years after the fact), and Malarchuk was before my time. The first on field/ice injury that stuck with me was Kevin Stevens' injury in the 1993 playoffs. Brief description. I had never seen that much blood on the ice before and haven't since. The image definitely stuck with me.

posted by mkn at 02:39 AM on November 19, 2005

Perhaps I'm the first spofite out of my bed in the UK, but I'm surprised no one has posted this yet. [David Busst meets Dennis Irwin - not for the faint-hearted] NFL took off in the UK in 1984 (I think) when Channel 4 started showing live games and a weekly round-up programme. A friend and I were mad into it. He was a Redskins fan, so we were allowed to stay up late and watch this game. We were both ten years old, and I suspect this incident probably sustained our interest in the game for the next ten years. Years later, I wish I'd read this before I got taken into surgery: "I felt that if I never knew how bad the leg had been broken, the mental hurdle to the rehab wouldn't have been as big." Had I read that, I might have answered differently when, four hours into the surgery, the surgeon asked me if I wanted to see the inside of my hand. Thanks for the link. I can't believe that was twenty years ago. Or maybe I just can't believe that I'm now old enough to remember something so vividly that happened twenty years ago.

posted by JJ at 05:47 AM on November 19, 2005

I know its not NFL but what about the Tyrone Prothro accident?

posted by StephyG at 06:57 AM on November 19, 2005

I live just south of Buffalo and was watching that Sabres game when Malarchuk got his throat cut. It was horrible to see it after it took place. Blood was pouring out like a faucet. That was a big reason for improvements to masks around the throat area. I also remember I watched the Du Ku Kim fight on TV. Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini was really big back then, and he absolutely beat on that poor guy. I remember how terrible the guy looked after the fight, but just figured he'd be OK. When I found out he'd died a little bit later, I couldn't believe it. It's very seldom (thankfully) you can say you watched a person get beat to death. I watched Krumrie's injury, now he's coaching in Buffalo. I watched McGahee's injury, now he's in Buffalo. If Theismann starts looking for property around me (HIGHLY unlikely), then I'll know something's up.

posted by dyams at 07:15 AM on November 19, 2005

dyams - nothing personal - but did you post this comment so you could talk about youself or was it to remember the injury that Joe Theisman suffered? If I cared, I would know all about what you were doing and come away not knowing who the player was. REMEMBER THIS: Tell us who you are talking about. (English 100)

posted by alljasz at 09:10 AM on November 19, 2005

Wow, really sorry, alljasz. I guess I didn't finish reading the SportsFilter rule book. Send me your address and I'll try sending you the precious 10 seconds you must have lost having to read what I posted. Here's a hint: Read the comments preceeding my last one. You may discover what my post relates to. Nothing personal, but I'll post any damn thing I want. If you read it or don't read it, I really don't give a shit.

posted by dyams at 09:26 AM on November 19, 2005

One thing I haven't seen addressed here is the effect this had on Taylor. His sack totals droppeed from that point on, but it was more than just that. LT is among the most ferocious defenders I ever saw, but after that hit there was always something missing. At the moment of impact he seemed to hold back just a little. To me this made him, perhaps less of a player, but more of a human being.

posted by gradioc at 09:39 AM on November 19, 2005

Monday nights, I worked until about 9, and I'd just gotten home and reheated a big chicken dinner. Sit down, turn on the TV, start eating, and they're showing the replay. Woof!

posted by alumshubby at 09:53 AM on November 19, 2005

gradioc, that's true. It was like Taylor suddenly realized what damage he was doing out there on the field, and it tempered him a little bit. His place in football history is assured, but in a lot of ways it helped him to grow up, just a bit. It was kind of heartening that despite the fact that he was most feared player in the game since, well, since Jack Tatum at least, he still had the natural human reaction to seeing someone's leg snap like that. Looking at it that way, it was kind of a reaffirmation of the human spirit and shit.

posted by chicobangs at 10:27 AM on November 19, 2005

JJ, I just saw this thread and was also surprised that no-one had mentioned the Busst leg-break. I remember when that happened, the day after all the tabloid rags had that picture on the back page, whick kinda repulsed me. IIRC correctly, the injury was so bad that they had to get stewards onto the pitch and literally mop up the blood. It also affected Peter Schmeichel pretty badly, apparently.

posted by afx237vi at 03:38 PM on November 19, 2005

REMEMBER THIS: Tell us who you are talking about. (English 100) Stick around for a few weeks before you start policing the place, OK?

posted by dusted at 11:45 PM on November 19, 2005

dyams - you are as bitter as Theisman's injury was career ending. Remember another thing - YOU AIN'T ALL THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

posted by alljasz at 09:15 AM on November 20, 2005

alljasz: Try saying something, ANYTHING, constructive. Why are you even here? You've added nothing to any posting, and all you do is throw in your moronic critiques. Maybe I'm bitter, but only towards idiots, and YOU ARE ALL THAT!!!

posted by dyams at 10:57 AM on November 20, 2005

dyams - you are as bitter as Theisman's injury was career ending. That does it, I'm calling the metaphor police...or the simile police...or somedamnbody.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 11:11 AM on November 20, 2005

REMEMBER THIS: Tell us who you are talking about. (English 100) posted by alljasz at 9:10 AM CST on November 19 I find it quite funny that alljasz is rebuking another about their writing style, but then proceeds to use 18 exclamation points in a row in her next post. Anyways, alljasz, if you had read the previous posts, people were comparing the Theisman injury to other tragic sports injuries they had seen. dyams was showing an interesting connection between the previous injuries mentioned (Krumrie, Malarchuk, Maghee) and the city of Buffalo. I found it interesting.

posted by grum@work at 12:59 PM on November 20, 2005

Mebbe she ain't alljasz after all...

posted by ajaffe at 02:11 PM on November 20, 2005

while not nearly as gruesome, today is the 45th anniversary of the Gifford/Bednarik hit.

posted by goddam at 02:14 PM on November 20, 2005

I still think the Bednarik hit is the most devastating in NFL history. People in the stands actually thought Gifford was dead, he laid motionless so long. That was absolution and total destruction.

posted by wfrazerjr at 03:36 PM on November 20, 2005

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