Dave Walsh: In An Instant On Monday Night Football, Sports Didn’t Matter

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By Dave Walsh, Columnist

There are many things that draw us to the sports we love. 

The many feats and physical acts are simply astounding at times. The accomplishments made during what is often intense competition are so compelling to so many.

We are drawn to competition, we love our games and admire what people accomplish under pressure. We are amazed by what we see, and often just downright shocked at what takes place in the fields, on the court, in the gyms and on the football field. 

I’m always surprised at how often I find myself stunned by what I’ve seen. I’ll find myself thinking, “I’ve never seen that before!” 

It can be an amazing shot, a great catch, a phenomenal pass or any other athletic act that leaves you wondering at times, “Wow, how did that happen?”

It is truly one of the great appeals that “live” sports brings, that moment when you say to yourself, “I’ve never seen that before!” 

And it can be something just simply breathtaking, or it could be something that is simply tragic.

Last Monday night many of us watched in amazement when something happened, and many must have said to themselves, “I’ve never seen that before.”

It was a tragic ending to what appeared to be just another benign, everyday play on a football field.

It was a play as normal as any in the game, but ended when Damar Hamlin, a safety for the Buffalo Bills, rose to his feet after assisting on a tackle, then collapsed. 

There have been times when a player may go to one knee after a play. There is time taken to gather one’s faculties, and then it’s up and at it. After a brief visit to the sideline, the player is usually right back in the game.

We’ve seen players knocked out on the field. Out cold. But after a few moments, the player will sit up, shake his head, gather it up and walk off the field. Some will even jog to the sidelines, take a drink of water, get checked out and then are right back in the game.

But Monday night in Cincinnati when Hamlin collapsed, what happened next was something many of us had never seen. 

Hamlin lay motionless, not breathing. Within moments, medical staff surrounded him, along with other players and coaches.

Hamlin, a young man, a professional athlete, was having a heart attack! 

And it was the quick response of the medical staff to administer cardio pulmonary resuscitation, right there on the field, that saved Hamlin’s life. 

He would be transported off the field by ambulance and taken to a hospital, where he remains in critical condition.

That whole situation, that entire scene, I had never seen before. 

It was like a tragedy that was unfolding in a fog. I hadn’t experienced anything like this – at a football game!

The early reactions of the players, coaches and staff members on the field was chilling, and heartbreaking. 

We’ve all seen plays where there might be an injury. We experience the drama of a player being injured and of that player reacting to it. 

But we don’t see players lay motionless very often. We don’t see players crying on the field. And we never see life-saving emergency techniques being administered, right there on the field.

We might see players get hit and lose their air. You know, like having the breath knocked out of them. They will make their way to the sidelines, take a few hits of oxygen and they are fine. 

We will see players limp to the sidelines, some will need assistance to get there. But they are conscious and well-aware of what is happening. They participate in the process of taking care of a strained joint or pulled muscle.

Our sports bring us great pleasure, but as we saw last Monday, our sports can also bring us pain. Not just the short-lived pain of losing, but the highly unusual occurrence of a critical event that can bring long-lasting pain.

There are many games that I often remember fondly, plays that I will never forget.

And then there are games that I will not soon forget because something happened that I had never seen before.

That game last Monday night was like that. 

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