Smith was less than 24 hours removed from learning that his brother, Tevin Jones, had died in a motorcycle accident. Nobody would have blamed him in the least had he decided to sit this one out. I can't imagine the sorrow he and his family must be feeling.
But Smith decided to play. Perhaps he did so in honor of his brother—his mother texted him that his brother would have wanted him to play, according to Robert Klemko of USA Today—or perhaps he just needed something to take his mind off the recent tragedy.
Whatever his reasoning, the bravery and poise shown by Smith was inspiring. It's easy to root for someone who is strong in the face of adversity, and Smith was certainly that.
But Smith was more than just strong—he was fantastic on Sunday night. He caught six passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns. His ability to beat the secondary deep kept the New England Patriots defense honest and opened up the running game for Ray Rice later in the game.
There were plenty of subplots coming into this game. The Ravens were looking for revenge after losing to the Patriots in last year's AFC championship game. Both teams were trying to avoid starting the season at 1-2, a mark hardly befitting of two of the AFC's best teams.
Within a few minutes of play, it became clear these teams are legitimate rivals. The game was chippy, the atmosphere was buzzing and the level of football being played was as high as you'll see.
By the end of the game, the replacement referees were once again a story. On a day when there were a number of bad gaffes and poorly officiated games, Sunday night's game represented a boiling point of sorts. Frankly, the product on the field is suffering while the real refs remain sidelined.
But Smith was the story of the night. Ravens coach John Harbaugh (via Don Banks of Sports Illustrated) put the situation in his own perspective:
When Torrey said he wanted to play, then the decision was finished. He was going to get the opportunity to play. He deserved that. If it didn't work out, then we'd have known, and he'd have known. Obviously he's a pretty special guy.
How do you explain it? Coming from a faith perspective, God and heaven work in beautiful wonders, mysterious, wonderful ways. I am not talking about winning and losing. I am talking about what you see people accomplish in the face of adversity. That's really what it's all about. What would be a better story than the one you just saw?
Smith's showing reminds us of the role sports play in all of our lives. They aren't life itself—though we too often treat them that way—but they do provide all of us with entertainment, a shared bond and even comfort at times.
On Sunday night, a football game didn't heal a grieving brother, but it helped, even if only on a temporary and slight basis. I'm glad Torrey Smith had football. And I'm glad I was able to witness his brave performance.
Isn't that what it's really all about?
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