The Vault In Our Stars

Look: Paycor Stadium, Cincinnati Skyline Lit Up Blue In Support of Damar Hamlin | Yardbarker

It’s impossible to know what happens from here, but that’s because life doesn’t let us cheat. We don’t get to read the last chapter in order to make sure the story goes to our liking. It doesn’t work that way.

I woke up to the sobering news that the Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was clinging to life after collapsing on the field during a Monday Night football game. I was expecting to dig into the deep of a dish that had been billed as the latest “Game of the Year” in a league that sells hype the way Waffle House sells bad decisions. The league was spot on about this one though, because Bills vs Bengals was coming in hot: From a conference champion looking to win one more game than last season to the team many consider the favorites this time around. Add in two of the best young quarterbacks in Joe Burrow and Josh Allen and the game really didn’t need much selling.

Bengals: Cincinnati dons Bills red and blue to support Damar Hamlin

And then Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins caught a pass over the middle and then Damar Hamlin applied the hit to take him down and then he rose to his feet momentarily before collapsing in a frightening heap. We would come to learn that Hamlin died on that field before emergency personnel brought him back. After which the last six minutes of the first quarter and a 7-3 Bengals lead and a matchup of two conference heavyweights stopped mattering. Because that’s when the sixty-five thousand fans in attendance and the millions watching at home had to give life and death their undivided attention.

Blaze of blue lights in Downtown Cincinnati for Damar Hamlin

For the better part of an hour, those sixty-five thousand souls at Paycor Stadium behaved as one. Their rooting interest was no longer attached to a scoreboard or the standings or a social media page. Their cheers stunted by the tragedy that was playing out on the field below, they focused all of their energies into a collective embrace of Damar Hamlin; a young man fighting for the rest of his life right in front of them.

As a country, we are one hot mess. We are petty and political and wholly improper when it comes to compassion. It’s gotten to the point where Saturday Night Live is going away because it cannot deliver the same level of satire as our cable news channels.

But there are times when all the differences in the world cannot overshadow the ties that somehow still hold our tattered flag together. It happened on Monday night when every single fan in that stadium came together not for a game, but for Damar Hamlin. The previously raucous crowd more closely resembled church as they stood together in silence and just waited, together. And after the game was called, they filed out into the streets and joined together again in hushed conversations and candlelight vigils. And this brush fire of a newly found spirit, it grew.

Football stadiums across the country lit up their digs in the colors of the Bills, the new America’s Team. Cincinnati’s skyline went blue as well, as did the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Hockey players wore shirts in his honor. Social media sites were overrun with best wishes and prayers for Hamlin. Less than a day after Hamlin’s collapse, his toy drive for needy kids saw a five million dollar spike in donations.

Yesterday, Damar Hamlin woke up. His family members were right there waiting, just as they have been since that fateful Monday night when they thought they might lose him for good. And the humble kid from McKees Rock, Pennsylvania who has given so much of himself, learned how much he has come to mean to all of us.

“Did we win?” He asked. The question provides us all with a much needed sense of normalcy. And if we could answer him collectively, I think it’s easy to guess our response.

Yes we did.


37 thoughts on “The Vault In Our Stars

  1. B,

    First off… just love the title. You have a knack!

    As only you can, you’ve written such a beautiful piece. That it was inspired by a tragedy is par for the course.

    The collective “holding of breath” in that stadium was palpable. I don’t think there was a single soul who finally left the stadium, did so with complaint the game was stopped. I like to think humanity showed it’s beautiful face that day.

    I love that upon waking this brave and lucky (at this point, things are looking really good for Damar Hamelin) young man asked if they won. It is a perfect end to this particular chapter.

    And you’re right. As a society, we definitely did.


    Liked by 2 people

    • Q

      Why thank you. I do struggle finding them sometimes.

      It was there to be felt and experienced and written. I’m just thankful I had a few minutes with which to find the words. It has been a crazy trying week, as you well know.

      Nope. It wasn’t about a game or fretting over tickets purchased. It was about something much more important than all of that.

      He’s a gamer. This is why these athletes make the money they do. This isn’t ping pong.

      For a half a week, we did. Can we maybe stretch it a little?


      Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful tribute. Watching a tackle Iโ€™ve seen a million times before followed by that jarring collapse haunted my dreams this week, and I feel like we all let out a collective breath yesterday.

    Mine happened when I saw the words โ€œneurologically intact.โ€ What a relief. I canโ€™t say enough good things about the medical crews that made this possible.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We sure did Travis. It was frightening as all get out and I cannot imagine what it was like in the moment.

      That was it right there. A Christmas miracle, a week and change late and yet, right on time.

      Here’s to the response, indeed. It saved his life.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You have a knack for words, sir. Wonderfully penned. Our society loves sports. I love sports. But in an instant, it suddenly didn’t matter because sports took a backseat.

    I was only 20 miles away, feeling good about the way my men in stripes were playing. Sure I wondered what the league would do about the game, but I know it didn’t matter in the big scheme …. and it still doesn’t matter. Downtown was shining with orange that night, then suddenly blue took over throughout the city.

    On a personal note, I have an interesting connection to one of the doctors in the press conference. I’ve gotten to know him because he’s a member where I work. One of my friends has known him a long time because he and their son were best friends growing up. He was also the last boss of another friend before she retired … and the doc knows I’m connected to those two people in his life.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It has been so nice to see the country rally around the young man. We haven’t been on the same page as a nation for quite a while now, and certainly still won’t be after this either. He likely would have died without the performance of the first responders at the stadium, as well as the medical personnel at the hospital. Great tribute here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What an ironic twist, that the January 6th event of two years ago was overshadowed this week by the “all in” spirit of a country. It’s nice when that happens, and much needed.

      Yes, they saved his life. If this would have happened in a pickup game or even in a practice, I shudder to think.

      Thanks Bruce

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Lovely piece of writing, Marc. Beautiful to read how a crowd comes together (and that the boy is recovering, of course). You tell that story in your inimitable, compelling way. Happy new year to you, fella.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sometimes it takes a near tragedy to show people the truth of their humanity. Good people exist, they just don’t always know it. I hope things continue to trend well for that young man, who is so well loved.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. For a few sobering moments it was good that people, cities and fans came together to provide a special kind of energy that helps make a grave situation like that better-at least in our hearts. Like everyone else, we dropped our team allegiance and just rooted for one blessed kid. The recovery may be fraught with hiccups but we’re rooting that young man onward.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m sorry I’m late here, Marc. This touching and profound post says so much about hope and humankind. Given the chance, I think all of us would do the right thing. The right thing in this situation was to honor Damar and collectively will his spirit to return. I wish the leadership of this country could respond to the division we all feel in a similar manner. Anyway, I’m glad Damar is on the mend and wish him the best on his road to recovery. This post was so well done. Bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

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