These are the main ways to describe Damar Hamlin, who is currently fighting for his life in a Cincinnati hospital. Football is a brutal game, camouflaged under thick padding and helmets with blacked-out visors, but it got very human Monday night after Hamlin, a sophomore security guard for the Buffalo Bills, collapsed on the field early in a game in Cincinnati.
said the Bills early Tuesday that Hamlin, 24, went into cardiac arrest and had his heartbeat restored on the field. His condition remains critical.
In the hours since, an undone national audience has learned more about Hamlin, a rising young talent but not a household name until Monday’s horrific twist.
You’ve learned that Hamlin was a high school football sensation in his hometown of Pittsburgh who played at the University of Pittsburgh because he wanted to be a role model for his younger brother. How he started a charitable toy fund That has now risen to over $3 million as of early Tuesday morning after donations from people who saw Monday’s harrowing scene wanted to do something – anything – to recognize the life of the young man in need.
Hamlin is an entrepreneur. He launched his own clothing line in college after a series of injuries in his freshman year led him to believe he needed a backup plan – in case a football career didn’t materialize for him.
football ended. But Hamlin kept the Chasing Millions clothing line, which now sells a sweatshirt stitched with the auspicious phrase: LOVE ME B4 THEY ALL DO.
I saw an interview with Hamlin recently where he talked about his family and how they are the priority in his life.
“My mom, my dad, my little brother, that’s pretty much my whole world,” he said. “I don’t really do much without my mother’s and father’s opinion. Whether I take it or not – I just want to hear it. That’s how I was raised.”
Those are the important things now. Those are really the only things now. ESPN reported that Hamlin’s mother took her son to the hospital in the ambulance. Football can wait.
It took some time for football to sort that out on Monday night. After Hamlin’s collapse, there was a bewildering delay as the officers in charge sorted out what to do. There was a bizarre moment when it appeared the game was about to resume. It felt like hubris. Social media is churning. how could they play
Wisdom has triumphed. The players – many of them clearly overwhelmed – retreated to the dressing room. Eventually the game was suspended for the night. Before the public’s decision was announced, the Bills made their intentions clear as staff began packing up team gear on the sidelines of visitors.
No more. Not tonight.
Football is such an enthusiastic giant that we are not used to anything stopping it. It routinely plays through serious injuries and wild elements. If more serious weather threatens, pack it up and find another stadium to take care of it. It rarely taps the brakes for anything.
It will be hard to forget the scene of this Cincinnati Stadium, thousands of fans looking out onto a suddenly desolate field.
And it’s another stark reminder of the human side of the game and the considerable risks involved. Football is a fast-paced, often violent sport, but all that padding and bravery creates an aura of invincibility — the NFL is nicknamed “The Shield” as if protected by supernatural forces. Media coverage largely focuses on the merry talk — the stars, the rivalries, who’s pacing — and rarely addresses the pervasive pain.
We all know it deep down: football is anything but invincible. Players are vulnerable. You look at Hamlin and you see yourself. It brings all that excitement and ritual back to reality.
A son, a big brother, a friend, a neighbor, a teammate. That’s the reality. This is Damar Hamlin.
Authors: Jason Gay at Jason.Gay@wsj.com
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