Thoughts on Damar Hamlin

At the risk of being labeled insensitive, I feel like I need to write this. Writing is cathartic for me and allows me to gather my thoughts through events, good and bad. This past season has been absolutely wild in so many ways, and that’s made it exciting to watch and follow and analyze. But with the unprecedented good can come the unprecedented bad, and amidst a bevy of the former all season long, we witnessed the latter last night on live prime time TV.

A tragedy plus social media can be a way for people to help each other better understand things, but it’s also an unfortunate opportunity for people desperate for attention to make claims and insert themselves into the story, and that brings us to thought number one.

Shannon’s Overcompensating White Friend

I make no secret of my general disdain for Skip Bayless. This is a guy who once said he’d take Tim Tebow over Aaron Rodgers, and that’s on the weaker end of the nonsense he spews out with alarming frequency. He routinely toes the line of racism, then tries to overcompensate by saying things like American-born white guys shouldn’t go in the 1st round of the NBA draft. He’s a troll, nothing more. Last night’s tweet about Damar Hamlin served one purpose: To make us talk about Skip Bayless. Which is why that’s the last time I’ll say his name on this blog. Still working on a few substitute names… Shannon’s White Friend, Undisputed Troll, I may need some time on this. Suggestions welcome.

If you haven’t seen the tweet, it’s easy to find. I’m not putting it up here. He basically drones on about how important the game is and the late-season impact, clearly missing the general sentiment that no one cares about the game anymore, then ends it with a vague qualifier that makes it seem like he was only concerned about Hamlin the whole time. It served its purpose; Twitter lit him up, and shortly after his defenders jumped into the fray. It was a trolling master class. He knew exactly what he was writing, he knew it would cause an uproar, he knew people would then defend him, and he knew that less than a day after this tragedy, we would be talking about him more than Hamlin.

I realize it seems hypocritical of me to say all this, as I’m essentially playing into the troll. But in cases where the story is already far and wide, I think it’s important to expose the troll. Any Twitter feed looking for updates had to sort through his nonsense. The only thing more annoying than his tweet was the anti-vaxxers, so here comes thought number two.

Cause of Hamlin’s Injury

I don’t know. I’ve heard theories coming from doctors that sound smart, but I don’t know. I’ve heard the helmet hit his chest at the exact wrong millisecond to cause a cardiac arrest. For all we know, he could have a heart defect, or genetic disorder, or all kinds of other things that I’m not qualified to talk about. His doctors still may not know what caused it. And yet, couch doctors all over Facebook and Twitter immediately decided this was a consequence of the COVID vaccine. Zero knowledge of the situation, zero medical schooling, zero understanding of the causes of cardiac arrest, but they watched a YouTube video that made them super special experts in cardiology. It would be one thing to suggest it as one of many possibilities, but the absolute certainty with which these people delivered this diagnosis, based on no evidence and no days of medical training, was gross. If you’re one of those people, go ahead and stop reading my blog. I don’t need you or your less than pseudo-scientific brand of analysis.

When Did the NFL Decide to Postpone

The swirling rumors were everywhere; they said the league wanted the game to be played, but the coaches and players bravely refused. They said the league demanded them back to play after a 5 minute warmup. This is another situation where we just don’t know, but I think it’s safe to say that the NFL didn’t actually need to make a decision, and therefore are not responsible for explaining themselves. It was clearly a conversation between the coaches and the NFL, as it should be, and ultimately the league decided to postpone the game based on what looked to be strong recommendations by the coaches. Sometimes things are done the way they should be done, and it’s okay to accept that instead of grabbing onto the storyline that sounds conspiratorial.

Now What

How long before we’re back to trashing one player for being soft or another for dropping a pass or fumbling in a crucial moment? I’m guessing it won’t be long. That’s fine; these players are paid a lot of money to be media and fan punching bags. But life doesn’t have a price, and that makes this different. All I ask is that even as you lambaste your team’s quarterback for throwing a pick that bumps your team from the playoffs, try to keep at least a small seed in the back of your mind that this is someone putting their body on the line in a violent game for your entertainment. Remind yourself that he has family and friends who would be as deeply distraught by a devastating injury as you would be if you saw it happen to your own family or friend.

There’s no playbook for how to act about football right now. There have been tragedies on the field before, but this is the first time so many people watched live as player faces failed to hide the emotions drawn from watching their teammate and friend shocked back to life. This wasn’t a neck injury or concussion or torn ACL. It wasn’t will he recover, will he play again… it was will he live or die. The very human reactions of the players watching was a stark reminder of how fragile life can be, and how painful it is to watch someone fight for their very existence.

If you believe in a higher power with whom you communicate, throw a few up for Damar Hamlin and his family with your regular prayers. If not, keep his loved ones in your thoughts, as they’ve had to watch their worst nightmare become front page news. It’s hard to know how to react to all this, but kindness, compassion, and patience is a good starting point.

6 thoughts on “Thoughts on Damar Hamlin”

  1. Good job with this. I know it’s a hard situation to put into words.

    There seems to be a back and forth going on between ESPN and the NFL about the “5 minutes to get ready” information that Joe Buck mention on the air. Troy Vincent of the NFL said he didn’t know where the “5 minutes to get ready” came from, while Buck is saying he got word from rules analyst Josh Perry, who was in constant contact with the NFL at the time. So, I don’t know. I’d like to believe the NFL was so insensitive to the situation that they were demanded the game be continued. Perhaps the “5 minutes” thing was a message passed along just because everyone wanted to know “what happens now?” and that is what would normally happen.

    As for that tweet, I saw it too. The whole on-field situation was begging for people to say less, but of course that person you mentioned just can’t do that. They always have to say something – and it’s normally the thoughts that are extremely unnecessary and disrespectful at the time. The fact that the tweet is still up 18 hours later is disgusting.

    1. Yeah, there’s so much speculation about the 5 minute thing. It just got frustrating seeing people all over social media going off on the NFL when none of us really knew what was happening. Based on Twitter and Facebook, you’d think Goodell was sitting behind a big chair with a cigar in his mouth, snickering at the injury while petting a cat.

      It’s interesting that Buck heard it from the rules analyst… one would think that person would be by the book, and the book says once the player is off the field, teams get 5 minutes to warm up before play resumes. So this was all likely a misunderstanding rooted in the unprecedented nature of the situation. Once everything calmed down a bit, it seemed to me that the coaches and the league got together, talked it through, and made the decision. I’m fine with that.

  2. Excellent piece Travis.

    I don’t watch Skip for the reason you supply, he’s an overpaid troll is all. Sad, because he knows his stuff, but he doesn’t really care about that as much as he cares about burnishing his trademark vitriol to a small minded base.

    As for that five minutes, we don’t know. At all. I mean, this is where all the information in the world at our fingertips can be a hindrance at times. One outlet says one thing, they run with it, that story, true or not, never gets fit back inside the bottle. I find it hard to believe the league office was putting in a call to Cincy demanding the players get back to it. I think it was a long process of everyone feeling out a moment that nobody knew how to proceed with. Once it became clear this kid was in grave trouble, I think the staff and players made the choice not to play. The right choice, and only one. But again, we don’t know the timeline, we don’t know what THEY knew. Or didn’t know.

    This young man has a long way to go, and prayers, thoughts, anything positive, that has to matter most of all.

    1. And not knowing is okay for me. Maybe not always, but in this case, it would be more surprising if there wasn’t a misunderstanding somewhere along the line. The only people on that field prepared to witness and handle all this were the medical professionals and EMTs. And man did they come through. They were trained for this… coaches, players, and broadcasters were not, and everyone was just trying to do their best. I’m willing to give the league a pass on this one, especially since it was their emergency plan (did you know every game has a cardiologist??) that likely saved his life.

      1. You’re right, if not for the immediate response, Hamlin wouldn’t be here.

        I’m with you. I think it’s so easy to criticize or speculate and that’s what’s going on now. And the trash being thrown at Higgins . . unbelievable.

      2. I wasn’t sure what all got said about that. I heard it came from Bart Scott, but that’s about it.

        I do think there’s a larger conversation that has to be had at some point about the double standard of using the helmet as a weapon (offense can, defense can’t), and maybe that’s what he’s trying to put out there? But obviously this is not the time and place for that conversation, and he should know better.

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: