Damar Hamlin and the whole human experience

Bengals fans light a candle for Bills' Damar Hamlin.

Bengals fans light a candle for Bills’ Damar Hamlin.
picture: beautiful pictures

I’ve spent a lot of time in this space trying to figure out the essence of fandom, the appeal of sports, and where it all fits into our lives. The best thing I’ve come up with, and maybe it’s not entirely accurate, is that fandom is the allure of feeling part of something, being part of a group, a sense of belonging, while being physically able. Sports act as a distraction or a bubble in the service of that. We know it’s not really, but for three hours on any given day you can certainly feel it.

A lot happened to Damar Hamlin on Monday night. What’s most jarring is that the small groups we divide ourselves into to get that sense of belonging, and the bubble we’ve created around it, has clearly broken completely. The world descends on all of us, and even harder to face is the fragility of life, which we spend most of our lives trying to ignore or defy, slapping them all in the face. we.

That’s not football. Like it wasn’t football when Christian Eriksen fell in Euro 2021. Just like it wasn’t hockey when Jiri Fischer or Rich Peverley or Jay Bouwmeester fell, or basketball when Hank Gathers died on the field. It is easy to associate it with football, and we may later discover that they are related, because no other sport is accustomed to having stretchers and ambulances on the field. We’ve gotten used to it, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s why the officials, who must have been as shocked as all of us, initially wanted to start the game over. . It’s their natural reflex, even if all this feels very, very different.

The football field is not a place where we are prepared to see a young man and woman, and someone who is at the peak of his health as someone who has to become a professional athlete, has to go into cardiac arrest. But there is no context outside of the hospital where we can prepare for that. And if you’re not a medical professional, you’re probably not prepared to see it there either. Again, a reminder of the fragility of it all and how quickly it can disappear for you is not something we are made to embrace. It’s not just footballers who ignore injuries and the threat to their health on Sunday, something we all do and perhaps Monday is a reminder of the spirit of the players. how powerful that is. We all do this to varying degrees in our daily lives. Just getting to 7-11 for a six year old is a lot harder if you spend all your time wondering what could happen to you along the way.

There are good things on display that are hard to understand. The calmness and determination of the EMTs and training staff. Love from his teammates and opponents. After that, donations to Hamlin’s toy drive skyrocketed. Downplaying the scale, professionalism of the broadcasters, analysts and reporters on ESPN who handled it as best they could. Forward the information they have, never go into speculation, don’t be afraid to convey the feelings of the moment, without being spooky.

Of course, there is also the bad side of the world and humanity. I won’t give him the advantage of saying his name, because that’s what he wants, but he’s out there who’ve decided that someone’s life is hanging by a thread. as important as being the story itself. It was his only job that took much longer than it should have. Farther on the scale of scum are the people using this to forward their grotesque agenda are completely unrelated. There was a lot of that around last night if you want to find it.

The nature of the job, the employer and that relationship is also there, in the early stages when it looks like the game will be restarted against everyone’s objections, considering all these players as emotionless machines to fulfill the wishes of those who have more. power and influence over them. And then sanity won, for the first time.

That’s all, and it’s all too much. None of us are made to take all of that at once, which is why we do our best to categorize and keep them separate as best we can. But sometimes we are all affected for a moment, and when it happens on national television, the feeling is even greater than when we were alone.

We have to pause. Thankfully, both the Bengals and Bills had to pause as well. They probably won’t have enough time, but they will get something. And finally life begins again, because it has to be. That’s life, it’s existence on this planet, we just don’t want to think about it.


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