Love the Game, Love Life More


Luke Reyes

Last Monday, the Cincinnati Bengals (11–4) were set to host the Buffalo Bills (12–3) for the final Monday night match of the season. Prior to the game, football fans across the nation were hyped to see the first duel between Joe Burrow and Josh Allen, as well as what the end result of this game would mean for the AFC standings. With playoff implications on the line, the game had an exciting start as the Bengals marched down the field and Burrow struck immediately with a touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd within the first three minutes of game time. The Bills answered back with a respectable drive of their own in the following set of downs, scoring a field goal at the 6:52 mark and making it 7–3, Bengals, over halfway through the first. 

Cincinnati opened their next drive looking to pick up where they left off on offense by continuing to move the ball up the field. On the second play of the drive, Burrow connected with his receiver Tee Higgins for a first down conversion that positioned the Bengals past the 50–yard line and into Buffalo’s territory. In what first appeared to be a routine tackle made against Higgins, Bills safety Damar Hamlin was able to get up and stand on his feet after making the defensive play, but within seconds of standing up, Hamlin unexpectedly collapsed and fell backwards unconscious. It was a shocking and frightening moment for all in attendance and those watching at home, as many were having a hard time processing what they had just witnessed. It was later revealed that Hamlin entered a sudden cardiac arrest after taking a blow to the chest on the play. 

Within nine minutes of the incident, an ambulance made its way to the 50–yard line to perform CPR on Hamlin, after it was noted by various medical personnel on the field that Hamlin was unable to breathe on his own. For several more minutes, while the ambulance remained on the field as medical professionals tried to resuscitate Hamlin, his teammates and coaches knelt around him and prayed that he would pull through. After performing CPR for a few more minutes, the medical staff was able to get Hamlin’s heart beating again, and from there he was immediately transferred to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center to continue undergoing proper treatment. The game was initially set to resume play after a five minute suspension following Hamlin’s departure to the hospital, but the NFL, its Players Association, and both the Bills and Bengals eventually decided later that night to make the appropriate decision and call off the game. 

In the hours following this unsettling incident, many Bills and Bengals fans in attendance went to University of Cincinnati Medical Center to show their support for Hamlin. Various NFL fans, players, former players, and official team accounts shared their empathy towards Damar on social media by advocating to pray for him and his family. In the days that followed, every NFL team changed their official social media profile photo to a picture that showed his jersey number along with a caption that read “PRAY FOR DAMAR.” Many fans and players have also donated to Hamlin’s GoFundMe page that he made for a toy drive within his community of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania. At the moment, his charity has amassed over eight million dollars and counting, going well beyond the initial goal of twenty–five hundred. The touching support from the NFL community is not uncommon, but the context of near-tragedy makes this widespread act of love an inspiring display of the best humanity has to offer. Damar’s family has publicly expressed their gratitude towards all who have supported him at this time. 

The amount of support and compassion shown towards Damar and his family in recent days has been nothing short of remarkable. As fans of football, we tuned into last Monday’s game to feel uplifted as we watch terrific athletes play the game that we all love at the highest level, and we get together to watch these games because sports are a gateway to unity for us fans who enjoy cheering on our favorite players and teams, but when an incident as severe as the one we witnessed last Monday occurs, it is important for all of us to acknowledge that life is more important than a game. The beauty of sports is that it can unite people, but our humanity is what should unite all of us. Today’s climate is divisive to say the least, but it is in these moments when we are united that we can shove aside our differences and simply try to help each other and look ahead to the light at the end of the tunnel as a symbol for unity and a better tomorrow. 

On Wednesday night, Damar Hamlin regained consciousness, and his health continues to improve. It is also worth noting that when he woke up, the first question he asked was if his team won the game. The answer to that question is that everybody won. The Bills won, the Bengals won, the NFL won, the fans won, the country won, the world won, and most of all, Damar and his family won. 

Photo Courtesy of Astro Kabir of Flickr.