Not Every Tragedy Needs A Villain

Joshua A Bickel. Shutterstock Images.

What happened last night to Damar Hamlin is an incredibly sad tragedy. It was one of the scariest moments in sports history. All we can do now is hope that this story doesn't have a tragic ending and that Hamlin is able to pull through and survive. 

But one thing we don't have to do is find a villain to direct all our anger at over this situation. Twitter was an absolute warzone last night. In the minutes and hours following Hamlin collapsing, people ran to Twitter to get off all their high-horse takes about all the people who were handling this situation wrong. People blamed ESPN for showing too many commercials and not cutting to other programming. People blamed the studio crew for what they were saying about the incident. People blamed the refs and the NFL for apparently telling the teams they had 5 minutes to warm up and resume the game (which was debunked as not true). Now people are blaming Joe Buck and ESPN for reporting the 5 minutes thing. Then people directed their hate to Skip Bayless for an insensitive but largely misunderstood tweet. 

It's a never ending cycle of blame and hate. But in reality, there is no villain or bad guy in this story. There's nobody to be mad at. Sometimes just a really shitty thing happens and you can just acknowledge it as very sad and shitty without picking up the pitchforks and attacking whoever you think isn't handling the shitty situation properly. 

This was an unprecedented event that nobody knew how to handle. A player collapsed on the football field out of nowhere and then needed CPR to save his life. It's understandable that people weren't properly prepared for how to handle that situation. ESPN didn't include that possibility in their pre-production meeting. They had to react in real time to a very serious situation and talk about what was going on. I think that Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Suzy Kolbert, Adam Schefter, and Booger McFarland all performed admirably in an impossible situation. And then later, Scott Van Pelt and Ryan Clark were especially fantastic. The people who rushed to Twitter to criticize every word that was being said or ESPN's decision of what they were showing are crazy. Everyone thinks they would handle a situation like this perfectly, but it's much easier to say that when you're on the outside of it and not in the middle of the chaos. 

And as for the NFL's decision to not immediately suspend the game, I think people are overreacting to this too. Look, the NFL definitely doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt when it comes to player safety. But I'm not sure what people wanted them to do in this situation. Even if it is true that the players were told to warm up, I doubt it came from an evil place of "Get the fuck back out there and play right now!!! Who cares about that guy!!! We have money to make!!!" No. Even as evil as they are, that's ridiculous to think. I'm sure it came more from a place of "Uhhhhh….what the fuck are we supposed to do now?" Usually when a player is carted off like that after a long delay, teams warm back up and play resumes. Obviously this was way worse than your typical injury, and in hindsight common sense says that they should've immediately suspended the game. But in the moment, I'm sure it was a lot to process and there was a scramble of figuring out what the hell they were supposed to do. I'm sure the refs didn't feel like they were in enough of a position of power to decide the biggest game of the season should be canceled. And yeah maybe the league office should've decided to postpone it sooner than they did, but I just think that criticizing people for their handling of a sudden and tragic situation is a pretty shitty thing to do overall. 

Even all the hate towards Skip Bayless seems kind of wild to me. I was thinking that last night but was too big a pussy to say it because the whole Internet was crucifying him. Thankfully today, people with bigger balls than me said it in KFC and Dave. 


So anyway just to wrap up, I'd say that we should keep the focus on Damar Hamlin and his family and hoping he's able to recover from this. You don't need to find someone to be angry towards and vilify every time something bad happens. Sometimes it's OK to just say "Hey this is a really bad thing that happened and I hope everyone involved is alright." We shouldn't use a tragedy like this to hate each other even more than we usually do. 

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