When it comes to sports, I am selfish.
I cheer for players because of what they can do to help my team win. I demand they entertain me, play flawlessly and do and say all the right things.
If they fail in any way, I demand they be shipped off to another city, never considering their wishes or the impact that might have on their family.
I am a fan, and it is my god-given right to be entertained.
For several years now, I've had the privilege of being entertained by Austin Collie of the Indianapolis Colts. He's performed brilliantly, played flawlessly, exceeded my every expectation and has always said and done the right things.
On Sunday, August 19, Collie went across the middle against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He caught a strike from Andrew Luck, and then crumpled to the turf after a forearm to the helmet from Larry Foote.
He left the game.
Collie has a well-documented history of concussions, beginning with a particularly violent shot against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010. He was then forced to leave two other games the same season with concussive symptoms. He currently plays with a dark prescription visor as a reminder of his sensitivity to light.
A day later, the Indianapolis Colts released quotes to the media about Collie's condition from Colts head coach Chuck Pagano confirming what everyone suspected,
“Austin (Collie) did suffer a concussion. He came in today, felt really good, was examined by the doctors and basically is going to be day-to-day. He felt really good coming out of the game this morning after being evaluated today."
Collie is a young man with a young wife and young family. Playing football has been his dream. Only he and his wife can make the decision as to what is right for them.
But I am selfish.
I want to tell him to shelve the dream. I want to tell him to please not come back. I want him to retire.
It's not my right as a fan to do that, of course, but it feels like it should be.
I ought to be able to cloak my selfishness in concern and act grave and wax eloquent about all the years to come and how much there is to live and how I'm only worried for him and his family.
It's not true though.
The simple truth is that it's not fun to watch Collie play football anymore.
Every single time he gets tackled I cringe. Every time he crosses the middle I find myself hoping he doesn't get hit.
I'm selfish. I'm tired of the dread and guilt I feel watching Collie play.
Collie doesn't remind me of youth and strength and the faux-immortality of sports any more.
He reminds me that man is dust.
That's heavy lifting for Sunday at 1 P.M. Eastern. It would be so much easier for me if he'd just walk away. I wouldn't have to think about the weight of his choices.
Collie is living his dream, and if he chooses to keep living it regardless of the consequences that makes him nothing but a good American. Tom Jefferson made damn sure we all remember our place when it comes to telling each other how pursue happiness.
I can't tell him to quit doing what he loves.
No matter how selfish I am.