As I watched New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore intercept Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and put the finishing touches on a great comeback win, the fan in me could not help but celebrate.
Then, I saw Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffrey lying face down on the turf after his missed catch resulted in the interception. That moment reminded why I love sports. It’s the same reason why I love life.
It’s because of the people. In this case, it just so happens that these people amaze us with their physical prowess, inspire us with their dedication to their sport, and thrill us with their prodigious skills. These people even sometimes appear to be superheroes as they coolly hit last-second shots, score mind-blowing goals, drain million-dollar putts, hit walk-off home runs, and throw game-winning touchdown passes.
But that’s not where the love, respect, and admiration for these people comes from. It comes from the fact that they are just like you and me. Sure, we may not make millions of dollars, have endorsement deals and entertain fans all over playing a sport we love. Still, these people eat, sleep, breathe, and feel the warmth of gladness and the dull ache of pain just like you and me.
As Jeffrey laid on the turf before heading to the sidelines to be consoled by teammates, I thought about the humanity of this sports hero. I thought about the hurt, disappointment, and anger he was experiencing at the time. Finally, I thought about the heart that beats inside the chest of the guy most of the world only knows as a professional athlete and No. 17 for an NFL team called the Philadelphia Eagles.
That beating heart inside of Jeffrey’s chest is the tide that binds those people and you and me together. Consumers, critics, and the most loyal fan can often forget. Some might call me sentimental, especially since this is the second consecutive week I find myself empathizing with someone the rest of the sports world is criticizing.
Maybe it’s time I spent as a sports reporter. Or, it could be the years I served coaching high school and college athletes. Whatever the reason, life has taught me to care more about Cody Parkey and Alshon Jeffrey the men more than Cody Parkey and Alshon Jeffrey the athletes.
The fact of the matter is we all have bad days at work. Thankfully, though, our bad days aren’t broadcasted on national television and replayed thousands of times for every caring fan to pontificate over.
A cynic might say that’s the price of fortune and fame. You get paid big dollars to make big plays so do it. I understand that logic, and it’s right in many ways. On the other hand, I’m willing to bet Jeffrey’s loved ones weren’t swayed one bit by his tough day at work.
Every athlete, no matter the level, that gets built up or torn down is more than the jersey they wear. Beyond the stats, wins, losses, missed field goals or dropped passes, there’s a heart that beats, a person that bleeds and a sports hero who is only human, made of flesh and blood and is born to make mistakes.
Just like Parkey and Jeffrey’s teammates did for them, we all need someone to pick us up during our weakest moment and support us win, lose, or draw.