NFL Players Not Wearing Cups? That's Nuts

12/10/2012 05:26 EST | Updated 02/09/2013 05:12 EST

I believe it was Austin (Danger) Powers -- Renaissance Man, International Man of Mystery, Aging Hipster -- who once addressed the unspoken code that guys are always speaking about when he eloquently intoned: "You don't kick a man in the pills. It's just not cricket."

It's true in the real world, and true in the sporting world. It's something that, as a male, you learn early on, that the beans are out-of-bounds: this is the code by which we live, it's what separates us from primates, punks, and the Macaulay Culkin character in those old Home Alone movies.

Alas, stuff happens. Pills get popped, even if it ain't cricket. Recently Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh's left foot apparently struck Houston Texans Matt Schaub's left testicle, ostensibly by accident as the quarterback was falling to the turf. The NFL fined Suh $30,000 because the kick sure looked malicious, but did not suspend him because it's impossible to prove intent.

Over the years more than a few football players have been groined, grounded, left gasping and groping for an ice pack to treat testicular trauma, inadvertent or otherwise (and ladies if you're looking for perspective on the pain incurred via a groin-hit, well, I imagine it's akin to giving birth. To a full-grown linebacker. Wearing cleats).

A few years back, Sports Illustrated ran a feature detailing what typically occurs at the bottom of one of those ubiquitous pigskin pile-ups, wherein the ball pops loose, 10 guys jump on it, and a skirmish for possession ensues. Hair is apparently pulled. Eyeballs gouged. Eardrums mined. Skin is punctured by marauding mandibles. And manhood is, ah, manhandled. Yep, as one player noted: "The go-to spots are the eyeballs and the family jewels."

With all this in mind, it seems more than a bit odd that, according to a probing piece in The New York Times, players do not protect those delicate, tender, highly sought-after jewels. In the words of New York Giants tight-end Martellus Bennett: "In my life, at any level, I have never worn a cup. I don't know anyone who has. I think most guys like to hang out and be free." Which makes Bennett sound like Kramer when he goes commando on Seinfeld: the NFL guys are "out there... and they're loving every minute of it." Nothing between teammates and opponents save for "a thin layer of gaberdine."

Seriously, though: no cups? That's astonishing. I mean, they wear equipment to protect every other area. Why be more protective of the kidneys than the cookies? More protective of the noggin than the nuggets?

Restrictiveness. The players feel that jockstraps impede their progress. Slippage. The players worry the cup may do a slight shift and de-cup-itate the testicles (in medical terms, this would be known as "The Big Owie"). And the aforementioned Unspoken Code (that guys are always speaking about). Wherein, according to Giants center David Baas, everyone on the field is fully aware that groins are off-limits. But, Baas noted defeatedly: "Some people always ruin it for everyone else."

And that's just not cricket. For the record, cricket players actually wear cups. But I guess that's just not football.