A Shadow Crossed My Heart: There Is More to Life Than Football

Chaz MattsonAnalyst ISeptember 25, 2008


When someone else can say what you think or feel better than you can, sometimes it’s best just to let them speak on your behalf.  Today, I chose the following lyrics from the song Bravest Face on RUSH’s disc Snakes and Arrows with the lyrics complements of Neil Peart.  There is a point to all of this I promise.

I like that song about this wonderful world
It's got a sunny point of view
And sometimes I feel it's true
At least for a few of us
I like that world, it makes a wonderful song
But there's a darker point of view
But sadly just as true
For so many among us

Though we might have precious little
It's still precious

In the sweetest child there's a vicious streak
In the strongest man there's a child so weak
In the whole wide world there's no magic place
So you might as well rise put on your bravest face

So I sit at my computer writing ever so slowly.  In part because I want to be perfect not just in what I try to convey, but also how I go about it.  It’s important, but knowing that is the challenge in writing.  It’s not easy to tackle difficult subject matter, and it’s not easy or right to overlook the stories of everyday life. 

That’s probably why we all love sports so much.  It’s the challenge to excel and the spectacle of it all that brings elation to our hearts and souls and minds.  It is the times when we rejoice and can feel so jovial and light-hearted that we have to be reminded of why we need to rise and put on the bravest face.  The rub is, if not for you, rise and put on your bravest face for someone else in need.

Now, I promise you this is a sports article and not a Sunday sermon, but if it compels you then so be it.  You see when I was young and full of athletic dreams and the hopes of finding the perfect life, my father noticed I was putting a lot of eggs into one basket.  I had dreams of at least playing baseball or possibly football at the collegiate level.  The long and the short of it was my father was a stern military sort.  He fought in Vietnam and saw some of his best friends die at a young age.  Then he had the challenge of coming home and fitting back into society after fighting in a war our country now regrets ever being a part of.  Fast forward about 8 years, I was probably about 11 and my father sat his two boys down and he said something that has resonated with me all these years.  You see he said simply this:  “Boys, there’s more to life than football or baseball.  Someday you will understand…”  Well my dad went on for a short time, but what he said resonated.

You see maybe he was missing his youngest brother who was tragically taken, or maybe it was his mom or dad who had passed on as well.  This article is not meant to be depressing, I still love football, I still love baseball, and I still love sports.  But I’ve crossed a bridge I never could have known about at that age.  It’s a bridge that I came across once again yesterday.

March 2006 forever changed my life.  Without getting to deep into it, my wife and I lost our twin sons prematurely and our lives were forever changed.  I learned many years before this incident that my father was right about sports and priorities.  Most people recognize that if you can play sports professionally you are truly blessed in a special way.  It was at that point in time of losing my two sons that I learned exactly what it meant to have something truly precious in my life.  I also learned what it meant to have it taken away far sooner than it ever should have been.  Finally, I also learned what it means to help someone else who’s suffering is greater than your own and the need to fill that void can seem so deep.

One of the greatest lessons I learned along the way was that you do have to be brave to work your way through this.  I was also inspired by a friend I met who went through a very similar trial.  He told me that it is important to talk about it and get it out so the healing can somehow begin, no matter how uncomfortable it could make things. 

You see maybe you heard about the headline from Wednesday that was buried on the web and in the news papers.  It was about a professional football team that is dealing with a loss, and it’s not your regular loss of a player to summer heat or a gang related incident.  No you see this loss is about losing an important link to the future.  Tampa Bay Buccaneer kicker Matt Bryant who helped the Bucs win a “big game” on Sunday lost his 3-month-old son on Wednesday.  As an aspiring journalist, now it’s my job to somehow make sense of things that can’t be understood.  I’m also supposed to steer this story into a happier place.  It’s hard to do that when you know someone else’s family is suffering just as you and your family have had to suffer.  It’s not right, it’s just not right.  My heart goes out to Matt, his wife Melissa, their family, friends, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who all are wrestling with this horrible news.  For the rest of us, this is a story that can't be overlooked or forgotten.

The hardest part to this is that children are the future and there is now a void and emptiness where joy once belonged.  I’m twisting in the wind a bit over this, sad, and weak in my current state.  Sports are so opposite to the way I feel about loss.  I think that’s why we love them, why we say we need them, why we look forward to them.  I’ve just found it ironic in life how life is so much bigger than sports and yet sports can be like a spark plug to our hearts.  It seems so futile at a time like this.

Since my wife and I suffered our loss we’ve had to learn the meaning of what it takes to overcome the darkest times in life.  You do have to recognize the precious things in life; you do have to embrace them.  We have been fortunate in being surrounded by family and friends who may not be able to relate entirely, but certainly have helped with their love, caring, and heartfelt prayers that they all have offered up on our behalf.  Moreover, it was beautiful to see people from all walks of life go to bat on our behalf.  The world loses its’ luster at times like these when you lose someone you love.  I look back and I say my old man was right, no he was exactly right.  There is more to life than football, or fill in the blank as you see fit. 

We have to be ready for the bigger and more important things in life, and we have to be ready to carry someone else’s burden while working hard to bury the fears that are our own.  With stories like these, we can’t afford to take bad news lightly, and if there is good news, we need to celebrate it too that much more brightly.

So we might as well rise, put on our bravest face.