Recently, there was a Monday Night Football game, replayed in bits over and over on ESPN, where millionaire players threw tantrums over officiating.
The hometown team, the Carolina Panthers, releases a list of injuries every week. In one recent week, a guy had a bad knee, so he was listed as "doubtful."
"Probable" were a guy with a bad back, one man with a sore thumb and another who had an "illness."
A sick millionaire, probable that he would feel good enough to play football that Sunday.
On Rock Hill's India Hook Road lives an 86-year-old man and his 86-year-old wife. The man's name is Jim Gaffney. The wife's name is Virginia Gaffney. They have been married for 65 years.
They were married when Jim, a former star at the University of Tennessee who joined the Army Air Corps during World War II to teach young pilots how to fly bombers, played in the NFL as a 6-foot, 210-pound halfback for the Washington Redskins from 1945 through 1948.
Virginia told me that even star football players joined the military in those war years because, "It was the patriotic thing to do."
On the Redskins alone, 14 players came out of the service after the war to play football.
Jim stopped playing in 1949 because a doctor told Gaffney, in the words of Virginia, "Don't be stupid. Quit."
By that time, Gaffney's knees were a wreck. The right knee had cartilage torn loose and hanging like a ripped sheet. The only thing that kept players on the field then were hungry mouths at home, like the two Gaffney children who liked to eat. Virginia Gaffney was a nurse, but after Carol and James came, she stayed home and raised them, like women did in those days.
At the beginning, Jim Gaffney was paid the princely sum of $750 per game. A dozen games a year -- $9,000 a year.
In the off-season at home in Cumberland, Md., Gaffney worked in a Kelly-Springfield Tire factory. He wasn't a manager. He worked on the assembly line. He made tires.
"A guy today, he's a businessman, not a player," Gaffney said. "There are agents and lawyers. All players are specialists. Hired for a specific position. They might get two or three million before they have ever proved anything."
The wife, Virginia, stated, "They make too much money."
On the field in the late 1940s, there were no facemasks. Players wore leather helmets and shoulder pads the size of butter beans.
Jim Gaffney broke both collarbones playing in the NFL. He still played after those collarbones healed a little bit. He had cracked ribs that didn't wait for healing. The only succor in those days was yards of tape around those ribs, so he could barely breathe because breathing hurt. Still, he ran out on the field and played.
"I knew every chiropractor between Washington and Cumberland," Gaffney said. "You played hurt all the time. They figured you were all right if when you ran you didn't limp too much."
The team traveled by train. One Sunday evening in the club car, Gaffney strolled in, and a woman stared at him and said, "Young fella, you have been in a fight."
Gaffney's eyes already were swollen, the face bruised and turning black and blue. Gaffney said, as cordial as he could, something like, "No, ma'am, I have been in a football game."
Every Sunday after the Redskins team would leave home games at Griffith Stadium, or alight at Union Station after the train ride home from Philadelphia, New York or wherever, Gaffney would take the train home. His wife recalled, "I never knew what might walk off the train."
That is, when Gaffney could walk.
Gaffney came to Rock Hill more than 25 years ago with his work with a trucking company. He later retired and stayed. He pointed at his bride and said he stays busy. "I play as much golf as my boss allows," he said.
He hits the ball 230 yards off the tee at age 86.
So I ask Jim Gaffney, who refereed football and coached football after his playing days, and still watches football, if the old players were tougher.
Gaffney put it like this: "The Bears were known to pay better, so one time we were on the train and Fred Davis, a big lineman from Alabama, and Billy Hughes tried to get me to jump off that train in Chicago and play for the Bears. They jumped, I didn't. We later played the Bears, and this big guy with his fist all taped up just belted me one right across the face. The blood. Broke my nose. That guy who hit me was my old teammate, Fred Davis."
Gaffney added: "I wiped off the blood and they taped up my nose and I went back in the game."