Who cares about the game? Pray for life

Twitter update Damar Hamlin
Credit Buffalo Bills PR

Life is so precious. Far too few of us realize that until the reality slaps us in the face – or a pro football player in the chest.

We saw a human being die – if only for a few minutes – on the playing field when Damar Hamlin was injured in the Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals football game on Monday, Jan. 2. He had to be resuscitated on the field as he could not breathe on his own.

At the time of this writing Hamlin was lying in a Cincinnati hospital in critical condition. The prayers of myself and many others across this country and even the world continue to go out to him for survival.

Along with this, sports fans and NFL executives, players and coaches are wondering when the game will be finished. After all, it has playoff major playoff implications.

Who cares? It is a game. Just. a. game.

I could go into how even the worst players are paid far too much money, how ordinary people have to skip making a utility payment for a family of four to attend a game at Jerry World, etc.

But we all know that, and from the looks of the success of the NFL and all pro sports we clearly don’t care. I will be watching the playoffs and Super Bowl this season just like millions of other people around the globe.

The whole time I will be thinking of Hamlin, as we all should. With each hit we should be reminded of the thin line between the play of the game and the fight for a human life to continue.

What happened to Hamlin, a 24-year-old defensive back in the second season of a career many youngsters dream about, is a grim reminder that the game is and always will be secondary. Of this there is no choice, and if anyone thinks otherwise, please keep it to yourself as I think I speak for many in saying we simply don’t want to hear your twisted logic.

Are you listening Skip Bayless?

Championship trophies are nice and shiny – and the Bills are a good bet to be hoisting one come early February. However, the Hamlin family would trade a hundred of them to not be waiting and praying for Damar’s future.

The NFL wanted to resume play in five minutes as he was laying on the field. Kudos to the Bills and Bengals coaches and players for saying “Nope. Ain’t happening.” And let’s not kid ourselves, it was only when that happened that the NFL suits opted to postpone the contest.

Such unity brings a renewed optimism that pro athletes are not just spoiled millionaires. There is a brotherhood that exceeds all lucrative contracts and bonuses and we saw it that night and even days after as several joined the Hamlin family at the hospital.

We’re always hearing how pro athletes can and should be role models for youngsters. Well, no amount of incredible passes, diving catches, slam dunks or end zone celebrations surpass what players and coaches for both teams did in the wake of this on-field tragedy. They showed love, class and compassion, the real things all young people – not just young athletes – should have as an example.

Some have argued the game has to be played, that it has to be finished for the sake of the playoff implications connected to it. And it will be finished, we all know it. The game, like the show, must go on, I suppose.

I hope the NFL addresses more protection for players going forward. I’m not a doctor, obviously, so I don’t have much to offer in the way of ideas, but one thing does come to mind. Perhaps some additional padding across the chest and front of the body for a start?

We could all ask why this wasn’t part of a uniform before? But then, we’ve been asking ourselves for a long time why the league didn’t pay more attention to concussions before folks started dying?

We move forward, keep praying and hope for the best. Like the Hamlin family.

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Rick Mauch
Rick Mauch is a veteran of more than four decades in the media. He began writing in high school and immediately went into broadcasting for almost a decade after graduating, working his way to morning drive in Birmingham, Alabama. However, realizing how much he missed writing (though he did continue to do some during his time in top-40 radio), Rick returned to what he loved and has been doing it ever since. Rick's career has spanned a plethora of media outlets, including community journalism, sports, entertainment, politics and more. He's worked in print, broadcast and online media. He also spent several years doing public relations for a children's home in East Texas - still writing on the side, of course. When he's not writing, Rick loves to play golf and do Bigfoot research. He's an avid believer. He also made his first hole-in-one in June of 2020. Rick is married to Junell Mauch. They have five children and three granddaughters