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Brandon McCarthy’s injury exposes insanity of unprotected pitching

BrandMcCarthy grabs his head after being hit Wednesday night. He remains hospitalized after emergency brasurgery. | Doug Duran~AP

Brandon McCarthy grabs his head after being hit Wednesday night. He remains hospitalized after emergency brain surgery. | Doug Duran~AP

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Updated: October 10, 2012 6:23AM

Oakland Athletics pitcher Brandon McCarthy had to have emergency brain surgery after a line drive off the bat of Angels batter Erick Aybar hit him in the head and fractured his skull during a game Wednesday.

In my opinion, being a pitcher and following through on a big-league pitch — getting into that helpless position in which the body has just completed a violent act with maximum effort and is off-balance and defenseless, while a man stands 20 yards away with a club, swinging at a rock-hard ball — is about the scariest position an athlete can be in.

I’d put it up there with a quarterback getting blitzed from the blind side, a NASCAR driver starting a spin, a cyclist hitting an oil slick.

It’s interesting that all those other athletes wear helmets. Maybe ‘‘interesting’’ isn’t the word.

YOU HAVE TO LOVE IT when a team like Savannah State, a former D-1A school that finished 1-10 last year, has its 2012 opener against Oklahoma State and then follows up with Florida State this Saturday.

Last week, the Tigers were body-waxed 84-0 by the Cowboys, They were 701/2-point underdogs against the Seminoles, who failed to cover when the game was called because of lightning. We no longer allow humans to be eaten by animals in coliseums, so what’s going on here?

Money. Savannah State will pocket $860,000 for being tied to a tree and eviscerated. The big schools will tell you that this is good ‘‘exposure’’ for Savannah State, and the money will help the school’s football program. I say, then just give them the money, without the pornography attached. If it’s charity, don’t add flagellation.

And I also say these wins should not count for OSU or FSU. They should go in the record book as something akin to public indecency.

THE MORE I THINK about double-amputee South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius and the controversy he stirs because of the carbon fiber blades he uses for lower legs when he runs, the more I roll my eyes.

It’s interesting that Pistorius couldn’t understand why people might have had criticisms of him running in the Olympics with his high-tech blades, because the blades might have given him an unnatural advantage, but he swiftly criticized the sprinter who beat him in the 200 meters in the ensuing Paralympics. Pistorius said gold medalist Alan Oliveira had blades that were too long for his height.

Well, therein lies the issue, my friend.

Being without a limb may be considered a handicap in one regard, but in another it could prove to be an advantage since science and technology can clearly create artificial limbs and joints that — in certain ways, like going around a track — are far superior to natural ones. Exoskeletons have been devised that enable their wearer to easily lift 200 pounds and carry the load indefinitely. Artificial hands can crush human hands like twigs. Robots with legs have run faster than Usain Bolt.

So, yes, Oscar Pistorius, blade length is a troubling issue. As are the springiness and energy return of such devices. Multi-levered, towering blades could certainly be made that enabled a runner to cover a quarter-mile track in almost no time, taking gigantic strides. And maybe that would be a cool thing to watch.

But the question is: Just what are the rules?

Just as there is this question for Pistorius: Do you really think you could have run a 45.39 in the 400 meters if you had not had your lower legs amputated?

SOME ADS ARE TOO GOOD. I’ve known uber-professional ESPN football analyst John Clayton a long time. I was always aware the balding ‘‘Professor’’ didn’t have a hidden pony tail tucked away behind his glasses and studio ear wire. But apparently other people were not. And the rumor grew that, like Paul being dead, Clayton was a closet longhair.

Now, having seen the latest ESPN promotional commercial featuring Clayton as a goth metalhead in a Slayer T-shirt, a complete dork living at his mom’s house — with a freaking hilarious waist-length ponytail — I never will be able to take him quite as seriously as before.

And maybe that’s OK.

THE MIAMI HEAT JUST signed free-agent center Mickell Gladness, not a great player, but a great name, in my opinion, and I hope yours. You can almost feel the . . .

AND HERE IS A HEADLINE from the Friday New York Times: ‘‘ ‘This Is House’’: A Defensive Tackle for a Semi-Pro Team, John Taylor Is One of the Largest Players in the History of Football.’’

One of the largest? Good lord, Taylor, nicknamed ‘‘House,’’ who plays for the Central Penn (Pa.) Piranha, goes 6-11, 500 pounds. I think it would be dangerous if he looked at a quarterback.

‘‘What can I say?’’ says his father, who, like House’s mother, goes over 320 pounds.

Not much. But House can’t be particularly healthy — the story notes that both parents suffered from high blood pressure — and so my mind wanders. If House fell on a little tailback and died, what would the chances of survival be for the ball carrier?

Not huge.

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