Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Father Supports Franklin's Decision; COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Father Supports Franklin's Decision; COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Article excerpt

COLUMBIA, MO. - From the first day they get in this game when oversized helmets and shoulder pads swivel on their tiny bodies like lazy Susans, one of the first things every kid learns is that football is a game of hurt. By the time those little boys mature into full grown young men, they're already quite familiar with the essence of the Hurt Game - inflicting it, absorbing it, but most importantly, managing it.

Everyone who enters football's violent world must learn how to manage the hurt. The trouble is, too often in football's bone- jarring culture, the lines get a little blurred. Foolishness is mistaken for courage, common sense is disparaged as cowardice, and the unseen heft of peer pressure can often be too overwhelming to bear.

On Saturday night at Faurot Field, we saw football's oldest and most complicated debate sparked when Mizzou's starting quarterback James Franklin apparently made the rather difficult decision to refuse a pain-numbing cortisone shot in the shoulder of his throwing arm and it kept him from playing in the Tigers' 24-20 victory over Arizona State.

The question is simple, but the answers are too complex to be contained in a quick sound bite, a pithy blog or an ill-informed tweet.

How do you know whether an athlete is playing with a little uncomfortable, but manageable, pain or risking greater long-term damage by not understanding that he's actually ignoring a more serious injury?

There are a lot of questions to be asked and answered about why the 6-foot-2, 228-pound junior from Corinth, Texas, did not play against Arizona State. Lots of complicated questions that revolve around matters of the propriety of religion in sports, understanding the difference between playing with pain or playing with an injury, and a multitude of other rather provocative conversations that offer uncomfortable examinations into football's ultra-macho culture.

But here's the most important thing everyone needs to know. It doesn't matter if you would have played. It doesn't matter if the inner neanderthal in all of us would suck it up, grind it out, take that cortisone shot and deal with the consequences 20 minutes, 20 days or 20 years from now.

Every athlete not only has the right, but the obligation to make that decision all on his own, for whatever reasons he might use to come to that choice.

And for James Franklin, the decision not to take that shot was made a long time ago, when he was being raised by his father, Willie, back in Corinth. It wasn't a decision based on their faith as devout Christians, his father told me late Saturday night as he waited for his son to come out of the Mizzou locker room.

When asked if he was surprised that his son eschewed the pain killers even though it meant he wouldn't be able to play, Willie Franklin just flashed a prideful smile. …

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