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Archive for January 3, 2023

Jan. 3, 2023 — Remembrance of a formative incident

Last night’s collapse of Buffalo defensive back Damar Hamlin of a cardiac arrest took me back about 35 years.

It was my first month as a professional journalist, and I was covering a Saturday evening football game between two suburban Philadelphia schools.

During the halftime interval, a coach from one of the teams collapsed and died in the locker room.

As a sportswriter, I had absolutely no idea what to do. I was able to get a quote or two from the other head coach, but I came home without a story. The person on our police desk was able to put together what happened. Because that person had more — much more — experience than I had. Instead of knowing what to do upon receiving report of the coach’s death, what did I do? I shrank.

Perhaps it’s because it was the first time that “real life” had ever intruded into my space as a writer. Perhaps it was my own first realization of mortality.

But also, perhaps, it was the realization that there was something wrong with how I did my job. I wasn’t ever trained to act in situations like this. Then again, from what I’ve seen in the news business these days, there is no training for what happens when a game is postponed because of a sudden incident.

It’s where the NFL is right now at this moment as Hamlin is lying in a hospital bed at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. There is literally nothing in the rules, nothing that you can train for, to account for a situation like this.