On a crisp fall evening in 1997, the Washington Football team and the New York Giants were tied 0-0 late in the second quarter. On 3rd and goal, Washington quarterback Gus Frerotte managed to break the tie, running in a touchdown! Full of unbridled enthusiasm, he headbutted a padded wall, as you can see here:
He then had to leave the game early for the hospital because he sprained his neck. On the surface, this seems ... embarrassing at best, and has certainly caused Frerotte a great deal of ridicule. But I’d argue his actions are actually quite admirable. Gus Frerotte is someone to be revered, not reviled.
There’s no “I” in “Team”
From the time we’re children running aimlessly on a soccer field, we’re taught it’s noble to put the team’s success before yourself. And isn’t that what Frerotte did in, the most literal sense? The team’s success — touchdown — was put at greater importance than Frerotte’s body — sprained neck.
Sure, usually a lauded play involves sacrificing one’s body for the score, not sacrificing one’s body because of the score. But why should a slight temporal re-shuffling of events completely change our perception? The team’s success was put above the self.
Now, if you’re of the disposition that it’s even dumb to sacrifice your body for the play, I’d just ask you to show me where the “i” in “team” is, and then let you continue your argument.
The wall was padded. Yet my man still hurt himself? Yeah, that takes a great deal of strength.
To Be That Happy
Gus Frerotte has experienced joy at a level the rest of us can barely imagine.
Self-preservation is a basic instinct of both humans and animals. At the lizard-brain level, we want to protect ourselves to ensure our own survival— it’s why we instinctively duck when we hear a loud noise, or pull our hand away from a hot stove, or don’t do parkour. (If you do parkour, please write in because you’re also to be revered)
Gus Frerotte was so happy about his touchdown, his natural instincts to avoid bodily harm and ensure his survival were overwritten. That’s amazing. He so completely lost himself in that moment his brain didn’t tell him not to headbutt a wall. Or maybe it did, but he couldn’t hear his brain because his joy was so loud.
May we all one day be so happy we cannot hear our brains.
The Intimidation Factor
To strike fear in the hearts of their opponents, the Ancient Greeks sculpted superhuman muscles onto their armor. The Mayans wore masks into battle. Gus Frerotte headbutted a wall. If you were on the opposing team and saw the quarterback headbutt a wall, how would you feel? A little scared, right? “This guy is strong, tough, a little out of control, and we’re his enemy? Uh oh!” I’m sure that before the New York Giants found out he hurt himself, headbutting the wall was intimidating.
And lastly we should all admire Gus because he was a QB on a team that couldn’t make the playoffs in the late 90’s, with just one Pro Bowl appearance, who we’re still talking about. He was interviewed about the incident in 2017, he tops numerous lists of “Athletes who hurt themselves celebrating.” And I know that most of the chatter that persists is negative, but look, the fact of the matter is you can’t say “Gus Frerotte scored a touchdown and injured himself celebrating” without saying “Gus Frerotte scored a touchdown.”