Monday, October 20, 2008

Nah, calling it your job don't make it right, boss

A few things have surfaced about the Browns in the last 36 hours, but I'll leave the sloppy performance against the Redskins to another post.

Most interesting to me are the emerging details around Kellen Winslow's recent visit to the Cleveland Clinic, which was not just to cheer up sick kids as one might have expected. Pardon me if I sound a bit conspiratorial, but I just finished watching JFK.

So Winslow goes into the hospital for three days. The only word emerging from the Browns, via coach Crennel, state simply that its a minor issue that he can't discuss. Meanwhile, rumors run rampant around the internet that Winslow is there because of "swollen testicles", with some rumor mills suggesting its a case of the clap (no doubt from an overzealous WAC?).

After returning to the field and taking part in an ugly Browns' loss, Winslow breaks the silence to say he was in the hospital because of an all-too-frequent staph infection. Now Winslow is being portrayed as the villain for going public, with Crennel threatening to fine or suspend Winslow, and Terry Pluto writing the Browns' front office's cover story.

Winslow has seen his share of adversity over the years, and he has brought alot of it on himself. And I'm aware that he has been vocal that he wants a new contract (which, I have pointed out before, is not entirely undeserved). But to suggest that his disclosure (which the Browns have confirmed) is nothing but a money-grabbing scheme (as Pluto has suggested) is just downright wrong.

As briefly noted  opposite of Pluto's take, staph infections are no laughing matter with the Browns. Over the past few years multiple Browns have had already serious injuries turned into life-threatening illnesses by staph infections. The Browns have become the butt of jokes throughout the league because of the frequency of these infections, and there is little doubt that it must enter into any free agent's mind when entertaining offers to join the squad.

Given this history, it's understandable that the Browns' front office wants to keep quiet another outbreak of the dreaded staph infection. Understandable, but unconscionable.

The fact is that, in a time where formerly simple diseases are emerging as uncontrollable plagues (OK, hyperbole, but not much so) the last thing we need as a society is to be sweeping this kind of thing under the rug. Drug-resistant bacterial infections are becoming a fact of life in the sports world and the larger world in general, and its just one more issue that confronts us as a country.

But beyond that, Winslow was being raked over the coals by the free (but unscrupulous) press. Not only was his masculinity being denigrated, but his fidelity to his wife. I, for one, cannot blame the man for setting the record straight, regardless of its effects on the Browns' efforts to control information.

Kellen Winslow has his flaws. But he deserves respect for his commitment to the game, if not to the Browns. On a surgically repaired (but not healed) knee he has dragged himself out there to lay his well-being on the line for the Browns, in both losing efforts as well as winning. In the process he has not only bourn incredible pain (the man has little cartilage left in his knee, dealing with bone scraping upon bone), but actually risking his future ability to walk about freely and unhindered. Yes, he is better compensated than I or most human beings. But what is money, compared to the ability to walk? What is money, compared to the respect of your peers, and the respect of the public?

Winslow had every right to go public with his story, and he will have every right to take the Browns' retaliatory response into consideration when deciding his future with the team. And we may eventually hear the Browns' side of the story. I just hope we can believe it.

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