I will not condemn sports or the violence of some of the contact sports we love and enjoy. That is not the purpose of my writing today. Science and technology have made tremendous gains in designing equipment for the maximum safety of athletes. Unfortunately, sometimes an injury will happen despite all the equipment and techniques that the players are taught. This is what happened on Monday night. On a clean play, with marginal contact, Damar Hamlin, a young defensive back for the Buffalo Bills, lay motionless on the field. His heart stopped by the contact of a Cincinnati Bengals player directly to the center of Damar’s chest. The incident was nobody’s fault; there is no one to blame; it simply happened.
Professional and college athletes have gotten so big and fast that violent collisions are inevitable. That is one of the reasons we watch the games. Not to see players injured but how quickly they can have their bodies jolted, shake it off and get back in the game. These athletes are in incredible shape and condition, and they know the dangers of the game. Injuries are part of sports, but until last night, we had not been brought to the point where it was not an injury we witnessed but someone facing death. Thank God Damar Hamlin was attended to quickly, and his heart responded and began beating back to life. Damar is in critical condition but should survive and recover.
The Monday night game was looked forward to this week and probably had an above-average viewership because of the teams and playoff implications. The Bills and Bengals are two of the premier teams with two of the most exciting quarterbacks in Burrows and Allen. The buildup was massive, the crowd was electric, and the teams were ready to play. Everything changed five minutes into the contest, and the game became insignificant. The announcers and analysts were put into the uncomfortable position of filling time as we watched in horror. The crowd that had been filling the night air with cheers fell deathly quiet. The players and coaches huddled, hugged, prayed, and cried. Emotions were running the gamut, and people waited for the athlete to get to his feet or give a thumbs up. Neither signal came, and the fears mounted. Not knowing is not something we do well.
The outpouring of concern and love for Damar Hamlin was heartwarming. Fans who had just been cheering for their team with a fever pitch joined to hold candles outside the stadium and hospital. Social media was ablaze with prayers and good wishes for the young fallen athlete. The game was halted, and the goodwill of Americans took over. The GoFundMe site that Damar had set up to supply toys to needy children in Buffalo had a goal of $2,500. The site quickly swelled to over $3.6 Million in a matter of minutes, with over 140,000 individual donors. The American people are the most generous on earth. Goodness always rises to the top.
Sports, especially professional football, have hit the pause button, and all attention is on a young man lying in a bed in a Cincinnati hospital. His life and well-being trump wins, losses, and playoff seeding. This is precisely how it should be. Sport, as vital as we make them, is a game played by a few. Life and pulling for someone to pull through a tragedy is for us all. If you haven’t already, stop for a moment and give some thoughts and prayers for Damar Hamlin. If he never plays again, so be it, but he has a long life ahead to enjoy. He deserves that.