It is somewhat ridiculous to say that we pick our heroes based on their points per game, their slap-shot, their passer rating, or their fastball. Still, many a sports fan finds their idol on the branches of professional sports trees.
But ironically, we cast away our allegiances to these sports stars when they fall short of greatness in the most important game of all: life.
The media plays a role in who we idolize and who we vilify when they report on players' lives. For once, it would be great to hear of a story in which a professional athlete conducted himself beyond reproach.
Well, my search for a role model has ended with Ryan Moats.
Moats, you will recall, is a running back for the Houston Texans. By NFL standards, he is neither a prolific star nor a media darling. He seemingly has punched the proverbial clock during his four-year NFL career, shunned the spotlight, and served his role as a back-up player on an average team.
Recently, Moats found himself in a situation that few of us have ever had to deal with. He was driving his family to a Dallas hospital, in hopes of being at his dying mother-in-law’s side as she breathed her last breaths on this earth.
But Moats' vehicle was stopped by a police officer just outside the hospital for rolling through a red light. Moats’ wife exited the car with the officer’s gun trained on her, briefly paused to explain that her mother was dying, and then turned and entered the hospital.
By then, Moats had parked and gotten out. He attempted to explain to the officer that he needed to be at the side of his family and his dying mother-in-law.
This was a fight-or-flight moment in which, understandably, Ryan could have chosen to be disrespectful and non-compliant with the officer’s wishes. Instead, he followed the officer’s command, knowing that every moment he lingered, his loved one was fading.
In the aftermath of public apologies from police department heads and prominent political figures, Moats and his family are united in forgiveness of the officer who clearly exercised poor judgment in detaining him during the crisis.
With all of the media attention given to this story, we should note that Moats and his family in no way encouraged the media circus surrounding this episode. Moats, at a most critical moment in his life, did not call on his celebrity to get what he wanted.
And now, after failing to reach his loved one’s bedside before she passed, he has forgiven the man who caused his absence.
Sports may be the place where heroes and legends are made, but for me, Ryan Moats became my hero outside a Dallas hospital.