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.
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.