Ah, Humanity!

Reality. It has been quite a tumultuous aspect of life for as long as humans have had to face it. Reality. Other than being asleep, one must face it every waking day of life. Whatever number of days one may be granted before succumbing to an inevitable endgame. What transpires between the cradle and the grave is sometimes planned and sometimes not. Presumably we all seek satisfaction. Whatever might provide for such. Along the way, maybe the pursuit of satisfaction (dare I say “happiness”?) may be filtered through a wide aperture, magnanimous personal lens. Or maybe a tunnel-vision that serves ultimately only the self.

How thick a skin one has had to have just in the past several years in facing reality. We hear about horrors far flung or literally in one’s front yard. For some, cruel fate has become the quotidian hunter. No place seems safe anymore. Good versus Evil is the narrative of much news. With Evil typically the “if it bleeds, it leads” headliner. One wants to be safe in spite of everyplace now seeming to be subject to assault. We are less shocked anymore from the accounts of cold-blooded killings as than becoming-numbed out from them.

Well, clearly we try to escape reality. For many, through a virtual reality. Caveat emptor on the virtual world of the Internet age. One might be lured into a web of deceit. The self-servers are everywhere and nowhere in cyberspace. That’s the trade-off on seeking satisfaction in a world filtered through a hazy lens that keeps reality tucked behind a deceptive, digital curtain.

In a more passive approach to wanting a distraction from brutal, outside-the-front-door cold reality that satisfies, there’s sports. Sports are big business. Name the major professional sport and then consider the salaries of the players; but don’t scoff at the obscene mounds of money the stars of sports receive. Big money aside, watching players skill levels in action can be exciting, even if one’s teams or individual competitor flops. We watch, they get paid for doing so. It’s a business transaction,

You bet it is. And winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing, said a famous football coach of back when. Yeah. And some sports are inherently violent, but the violence is accepted by the fans. Like football. Football plays are planned and rehearsed. The violence is a spontaneous outcome. Players suffer broken bones, dislocations, concussions, torn ligaments, tendons, muscles. It’s part of the game and the fans accept the possible sight of potential season or career-ending injuries. It’s an ironic way of escaping personal reality for a few hours or so. Watch others intentionally trying to ruin someone’s health. They get paid well for the risk. Not sure how much wrecking one’s health at an early age is worth, but the choice is theirs.

Right now, however, that mentality of eyeballing violent sporting events as “entertainment” of a sort has now been given a really strong dose of harsh reality all its own. Oddly so, I might say. Bear with me…

Mass shootings, gang violence are harsh realities. The stench of polluted politics is a harsh reality. Entertainment is supposed to give the audience an escape, whether light-hearted or heart felt. The audience member understands when the show is over, they are either to going to find it worthy of watching or not. They’ll likely not lose sleep over what they saw. But last night, with tens of millions of eyeballs watching a game that was a football fan’s extra-strength dose of escapism, a player suffered more than an injury. A player went down, and stayed down. And stayed down. Cut to commercial. He’s still down. Cut to more commercials. Still down. Team mates surround their fallen brother, but they know this not a broken this or that, not just a knock-out head slam. He might actually, in front of their eyes and the eyes of the TV audience, die.

As of this writing, he is still alive. In a Cincinnati hospital. Only after being given CPR to get his heartbeat back, get him breathing. But he was laying there, with the TV coverage of this stunning, gut-wrenching event lasting for a long enough time to wonder, will he survive? The moment of his collapse was caught in-the-moment. Replay shows he barely got to his feet after he tackled another player before dropping free-fall on his back. He was almost certainly in cardiac arrest before he hit the ground. From that moment on, all players from both teams, the announcers in the stadium and back in broadcast studios, and the national viewing audience stopped thinking about being entertained. Or winning and losing. Or anything, anything having to do with the game at hand. It had suddenly become all about our inevitable human mortality. A prime time lesson in appreciating life and its fragility. That game will never be played. Players may play again, but they and the coaches, broadcasters, and viewers at home won’t be able to view the game as mere entertainment. It became all too real. It begs the question of how the game now and as always invite such a grim outcome in the name of generating revenue for all involved. Is this Ancient Rome and gladiators? From now on, I have to believe the violence will be unnerving for all to watch, and not just “part of the game”.

The player is 24 years old. Everyday, people his age and much younger die in senseless acts of violence. Little does Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills football team know how he has brought people from around the world together in rooting for his life to be given back to him. People who did not know he even existed. Millions of people saw what happened.

The mayhem and senseless loss of life that occurs so frequently around the world is not captured by live media. And certainly the cold reality that encompasses such dreadful local and worldly events cannot ever be a form of recreational entertainment. That’s the “odd” irony I alluded to earlier. Just maybe this story will have a satisfying ending. It certainly has the potential to make a lot of emotionally insulated people understand what does and what does not truly matter in life beyond their own.

About jharrin4

mass communication/speech instructor at College of DuPage and Triton College in suburban Chicago. Army veteran of the Viet Nam era.
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