Friday, December 19, 2008

Blog Blast Past: Canuck NFLer Kaczur turns police informant; no joking

Pro Football Talk has a thread going over Nick Kaczur, the New England Patriots tackle who's from Southern Ontario, not being suspended for despite an arrest for OxyContin possession (he helped the police bust someone else). Please keep in mind, the temptation for pro athletes to use painkillers is very high, and the consequences are very real, which is why using them as a political football gets tiresome. From June 4, 2008, here's this site's original post.

Nick Kaczur, the Canadian who starts on the New England Patriots offensive line, turning drug informant after he was arrested for illegal possession of the painkiller oxycodone in late April, is comedy gold -- for someone else.

It's one thing to joke when it's marijuana, which kills no one (and as Bill Hicks once said, "let me put this in a historical timeframe -- ever"), or cocaine, the ultimate capitalist drug. OxyContin (whose main ingredient is oxycodone) is a little more frightening. It's incredibly addictive.

Gifted athletes such as Kaczur or Jeff Allison, the one-time Florida Marlins bonus baby from Peabody, Mass., whose Oxy addiction was Sports Illustrated material a few years ago, are susceptible. Their jobs often leave them with aches and pains. They have a free-floating fear of losing a lucrative livelihood they've worked a lifetime to achieve. They're also arrogant enough to believe they can't get hooked.

The focus should be on a 28-year-old who's very vulnerable. NFL players are very replaceable.

True, the Patriots were caught cheating last fall and now one of their players is turning police informant. That's hard to pass up, even if one has very little to do with the other -- Kaczur is just the equipment in Coach Hoodie's grand design. It's reasonable to wonder if this affected his play late in the season, particularly in Super Bowl 42, when the whole Patriots offensive line was little more than big, beefy turnstiles against the New York Giants pass rushers.

Making fun of OxyContin abuse is also fair game, since it's a drug typically abused by people from working-class or rural environments -- hence the nickname "hillbilly heroin." Last but not least, for some people this lends itself to all sorts of Brantford-bashing, since economic downturn has made Kaczur's hometown a regional whipping boy.

All of that is trivial next to Kaczur's welfare. He battled long odds, as an offensive lineman out of Canada, to make his way in major-college football at the University of Toledo (typically, Canadian linemen are at a disadvantage since they don't develop shoulder strength as well as U.S. kids do) and win a spot with the Patriots. Who knows what to believe, but Kaczur's come too far to be any kind of prop for anyone, be it comic or tragic.


Tyler King said...

"typically, Canadian linemen are at a disadvantage since they don't develop shoulder strength as well as U.S. kids do"

Any idea why that is?

sager said...

Peter Zonta, a coach in the Burlington-Hamilton area, was the coach who told me this.

He runs camps that help Canadian high schoolers adjust to the rigours of a U.S. college environment -- one of his proteges might end up starting for the Virginia Cavaliers this season.

As with anything, there's a lot of factors. The U.S. kids take up football earlier (minor football is a relatively recent phenomenon in Canada), they lift weights earlier, they have better competition and they get more specialized coaching.

Kaczur was out of school for two years in between high school and college at Toledo, so he came in physically mature.