On Damar Hamlin

It sure is great to see that Damar Hamlin is doing so well, is back in Buffalo, and just really seems like he's going to pull through this. I'm old enough to remember when Loyola Marymount basketball start Hank Gathers was not so lucky, and indeed the sports landscape is dotted (thankfully lightly) with cardiac deaths on the field of play. I'm so relieved we won't need to add Hamlin's name to that list.

I'm going to have to tread carefully here, but I found the world's reaction to Hamlin to be, in certain ways, quite unsettling.

I've written about serious sports injuries in this space before, and my point is always the same: announcers always say, "it's at times like this you remember this is just a game and not important in the grand scheme of things," and I always counter that it's also just a game on plays where players don't get hurt.

Indeed, I would say that sports' lack of importance is a big part of the reason why I love them so much. Life is nasty, brutish, and short, wrote Hobbes, so shouldn't you spend as much time as possible on things that make you happy, and can't it be said that a key component of pleasant, happy diversions is that they be of low stakes?

The reaction to Hamlin's near death experience also has me thinking of all the young men and women (and children!) around the world that are are going to unceremoniously die today. Some will die of similar or identical causes to Hamlin's near death. Some will have it much worse, with so much more suffering.

Hamlin, of course, was practicing his profession when he experienced his cardiac event. How many people (including, again, young people) will die at work today? How many of their coworkers will be told to get back to work a day later at best, all to ensure that money keeps flowing into the owners' pockets?

I understand that, as a society, we cannot grieve all deaths and near-deaths equally. Even if we gave Joe at chicken processing plant his due grief and memorial (and I'm sure we all want Joe to get that), there isn't enough time in the day for all of us to mourn them all. Hamlin's accident was on national TV. It's only logical he gets the attention, if only by some sort of default.

Still, there is something kind of gross about people treating him like you might a benevolent head of state who passed. For one, again, he didn't die. Number two, he's no better or worse than Joe at the chicken plant, he's just more visible.

Speaking of Hamlin not dying, the sanctimonious treatment we give to serious injuries is not limited to life-or-death cases, or career-ending cases, either. A few years ago, there was a outfield collision for the Astros in a Cleveland/Houston game. They needed to tend to one of the Astros outfielders for several minutes out on the field, and it seemed like his leg was perhaps broken.

Again, in the spirit of thinking about how many thousands of schmucks are gonna break their leg today, and how in the grand scheme of things this broken leg especially is not that big a deal (I hear baseball players are paid well, with good medical benefits), I started to crack jokes (not at the injured players' expense) in the Indians baseball thread about it, and I was treated like Vlad the Impaler. This is no time for jokes!

Now I can't even find or figure out who the injured player in question was, but I do remember his leg wasn't broken in the end.

Maybe a lot of people haven't contemplated their own mortality, and Hamlin forced them to do so, and that's the reason for some of the more maudlin reactions to his misfortune. If so, that's a bit of a bummer. So let me give you some bitter medicine: You are going to die. Everyone you know is going to die.

So do what you can to spread happiness, joy, and relief to yourself and others when you can. For every tear you shed, try to, through your actions, words, donations, etc., subtract a tear from the world. It will feel good, and I for one will be grateful.

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