Remember, pro athletes are people too

With the CATCH…

NO GOOD!

If you don’t understand the reference, then you obviously don’t know your college basketball or Gus Johnson history very well. Trust me, if you want to hear some incredibly fantastic calls, look up Gus Johnson games on YouTube and make sure the people living near you aren’t bothered by loud noises or fun.

Come on, people, who doesn’t know that the reference was Gus Johnson’s call in a 2006 Sweet 16 game between UCLA-Gonzaga, where the culmination was Adam Morrison (by the way, without Przybilla, there wasn’t enough underwhelming vanilla on the Blazers, so here’s Adam Morrison! Ladies and gentlemen, your 2012-13 Portland Trailblazers!) sitting on the floor, bawling his eyes out, Samwise Gamgee-style, reminiscent of the end of “The Fellowship of the Ring?”

OK, most of you probably didn’t get the reference because you aren’t complete dorks with stockpiles of useless sports information.

Anyway, that UCLA-Gonzaga game was amazing. UCLA was down by 17 points at halftime, and somehow took the lead with six seconds to go. It was madness, baby!

2006 was a pretty good year for UCLA basketball. After that Gonzaga game, the Bruins would go on to win their next two games before being slaughtered by Joakim Noah and the Florida Gators in the National Championship game. That UCLA team has special meaning for me, and not because I like UCLA. In fact, I despise UCLA, so let’s get that straight.

No, I had a family friend who would root for UCLA every year. He loved college basketball. He loved sports in general. Like me, he had the same stockpiles of sports information in his brain.

But on Oct. 17, 2006, our family friend suddenly died in his sleep. He was only 42 years old, and hopefully he continues to rest in peace.

Needless to say, this was not a good day for my family. Each year I try and reflect on his death and remember how amazing he was.

Because this is a sports column, I know that he would love to read my writing, no matter how poor or inane or absurd it is. So, I figured I would reflect in this column this year because the way he consumed and loved sports was eminently beautiful.

He and I would talk about sports for hours and hours, but unlike me, he was never overly critical of players or coaches. He loved the sports, but he was able to compartmentalize the fact they were just games. There was no need to rain venom upon players or coaches or teams. I have serious trouble remembering this at times.

The sports media is quick to pull the trigger on a player if they underperform or choke, and there is an inherent epidemic with forgetting the fact that the players are human, and they are doing things that most of us cannot even imagine. OK, we can imagine, but that can be painful because we could probably strain our imagination muscle or something. Do we have an imagination muscle? Probably not, but us run-of-the-mill, non-professional or college athletes have a good chance of straining this muscle I am sure (well, Michael Vick probably just strained his imagination muscle by reading this paragraph too).

We have to remember that these athletes have backgrounds or events that make it difficult for them to succeed. The New York Yankees manager, Joe Girardi, just had his father pass away Oct. 11, and yet there he was, in the dugout on Thursday night with a heavy heart. That’s amazing.

On Oct. 7, the Indianapolis Colts won a heart-palpitating game vs. the Packers, 30-27. The players dedicated it to their coach, Chuck Pagano, who was recently diagnosed with Leukemia. You can’t underestimate how touching that victory was to see, and I don’t even know Chuck. He seems like a nice fellow.

Unfortunately, it often takes events, such as death or cancer for us to remember that athletes and coaches are human. We are finally able to take a step back and not condemn, but recompense these individuals for our consistently harsh critiques.

Yet my friend didn’t need sad events. He always loved sports, but he always appreciated the athletes and the coaches because of the exhausting efforts and sacrifices they made to perfect their craft. We need to enjoy sports in this way. Sure, it’s easy to get wrapped up and angry, but my friend loved sports as much as I did without the frustration.

I will never forget how happy he was after the UCLA win against Gonzaga. Gus Johnson left his mark on the game with an amazing call, but the game will always help me remember the importance of enjoying what athletes give us rather than unfairly criticizing them for failing to reach our astronomical expectations.

Let’s take a page out of my friend’s book: step back, relax and enjoy the show that these players put on—preferably with Gus Johnson calling the game.

 

Tyler Bradley/ Sports columnist

Tyler Bradley can be reached at linfieldreviewsports@gmail.com.

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