An Injury with a Greater Purpose

It was another night of excitement as the undefeated Blackhawks Football team took the field for their first playoff game of the season. (If you are wondering who are the Blackhawks, they are the local high school team my daughter cheers for.  It’s quite possible I am their biggest fan.) The Blackhawks were up by a few touchdowns at the beginning of the third quarter as the visiting team, from Tucson, now had the ball. The crowd was on fire, chanting, “Defense, Defense!”

The play was made, and the ball carrier was running down the sidelines toward his end zone. And then, all of a sudden, he wasn’t. He was down. Flat. From my vantage point, I could only see his still legs. A few players from the visiting team stepped away from the scene on the field, and took a knee. Then the whole team joined. Our coach and trainers walked over to the scene of the injury. With a nod from the head coach, our players took a knee.

A few minutes turned into five minutes, and then 10 minutes. The injured player was still down. The cheerleaders were now seated and quiet. The rowdy student section sat down with eyes fixed on the scene unfolding in front of us. The once loud and excited stadium was eerily quiet.

Fifteen minutes passed. Sirens could be heard in the distance. Soon the fire department arrived, and made their way on the field to assess the injured player. Every once in a while, when the crowd cleared around him, I could see what looked like lifeless legs. His position never changed.

The crowd began to mumble. The worst thoughts raced through our minds. Head injury? Spinal injury? Something worse? I closed my eyes and prayed for this young man. I prayed for his parents, wondering if they were watching this horror play out.

Twenty-five minutes now, and then flashing lights could be seen on the track below. The ambulance proceeded on to the field. The EMT’s carefully moved the injured player on the stretcher and into the ambulance. The crowd stood and cheered as the ambulance made its way off the field, across the track, and into the parking lot.  The announcer came over the intercom and said that the player had sustained a head injury, but was conscious. He asked that we lift up this player and his family in our thoughts and prayers.

And then there was this moment that captivated my attention. I will never forget it. Both teams, without prompting, gathered in the end zone of the visiting team, and took a knee. All of them. Our guys wore black and red; their guys in blue and gold. But in that moment, there was a blend of colors, as they formed in clusters, praying, hugging, and comforting one another before the game resumed.

Tears welled in my eyes. I thought how this, this, was the definition of community. This was sportsmanship at its finest. This was what it looks like to take our eyes off of ourselves and focus on another human being who is struggling. I thought about how moments like this are somewhat rare–at least these days.

You may wonder why this was all so touching to me. This game took place two days after our country’s presidential election. This game took place a day after my husband returned from traveling, and peaceful protests (well barely peaceful) broke out in the streets below the hotel he was staying. This scene unfolded a few hours after I deleted the Facebook app from my phone because, frankly, I couldn’t stand to read status updates anymore. This game took place on November 10, because school and football was not going to happen on the 11th, as we honored our country’s veterans.

I shake my head and wonder.  Why, during the week of the election, did I have to look to a high school football game, and a serious injury, to find goodness, human kindness, and unity?

But I did.

Several days have passed. I’m still cautious about what I read on the Internet, or if I should watch the news at all. I’ve found I like Instagram better. Pictures and short captions are just what I need right now. The Blackhawks continue their undefeated streak, and will play in the State Championship game on Saturday at the Cardinals Arena. And the injured player from Tucson? He’s fine. Praise the Lord. He’s fine.

This month of thankfulness didn’t start out so thankful or grateful for me. The negativity leading up to election night, and the days to follow, made me everything but positive. But that football game changed something. It made me realize, once again, that we need each other. In moments of crisis, like the one on the field that night, there was an unspoken understanding throughout that whole stadium that we needed to come together as a community. Race, age, gender, political views, and even religious affiliations, didn’t matter in that moment. We all needed to hope in something greater than ourselves. Or, as I’d like to think, Someone, greater than ourselves.

Thank you to the Blackhawks Football Community for giving me some hope in humankind again.

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