|Korey Stringer pronounced dead, 1:50 am early Wednesday morning at the age of 27. He leaves both a wife and a four-year-old son. Those words can leave the strongest man, woman, and child numb, bucking from weak knees caused by uncontrollable tears of pain and emptiness. The word of Korey's death hit the NFL hard, sending tidal waves through all sport organizations.
It is sadly ironic that the topic of last week's column is reinforced by the death of this Minnesota Viking. Again, I'm forced to ask when is enough going to be enough? I reiterate our admiration for these great athletes whom display amazing courage, stamina, heart, desire, and compassion. We proudly cheer when our team or favorite player does something spectacular we just know will make ESPN's highlight reel. This week we've all been reminded of the real human side of ourselves and our athletes. We know to always push for greatness, always playing on the edge. Unfortunately, with the death of Korey we have to pay attention to where the ledge may be.
Athletes push themselves beyond God's limitations for a variety of different reasons. One could be the possibility of a young rookie coming into the league after the same position in search for that same greatness. Another may be the threat of the most despised word in all sports: trade. Or maybe it's the insatiable desire to beat their greatest competitor: self. Whatever the motive might be there will be uncertain outcomes. We as loyal subjects to professional sports adore these titans for finding a 100 percent capacity level to only then increase it by 20, 30, or 50 percent more, all for the love of a game.
Who should hold the responsibility for Korey Stringer's death? Should it be the NFL, the coaching staff, the fans, or Korey himself? I won't sit here and point the finger at anyone but I will say this. No matter how great men may be in our own minds or how much we have been able to accomplish, we still know nature is no joke. It is physically impossible for men with 6'5" massive frames that may already weigh too much to push themselves beyond extreme limitations in 95-plus-degree weather. No one is immune to the heat and dehydration, but especially when you add extra weight and heat from the equipment the players have to wear. It goes without question the NFL and the coaching staffs believe they are taking the necessary precautions to protect the players. You can't miss one of the staff members too far away with water and Gatorade. It's mandatory to have water breaks to prevent the players from dehydration. There's always someone keeping an eye out for any health problems someone could incur. So what happened to Korey Stringer?
The signs were all laid out neatly. If someone had only took notice and read carefully, maybe Korey's death could have been avoided. It's believed that Monday morning was the first sign. Korey was taken off the field after he vomited on the first practice of training camp. That afternoon he sat out from practice after suffering form heat exhaustion. Tuesday morning the Vikings practiced intensely in full pads for about 2 hours. Then that was followed by a scrimmage. Korey vomited three times. The temperature by that afternoon had reached 91-degrees and Korey was showing signs of weakness and rapid breathing. He was then rushed to the hospital with a body temperature of 108.8 degrees. Later he developed a bleeding disorder and a kidney ailment. Korey Stringer died at 1:50am after his heart stopped.
I've often and proudly compared our athletes to the gladiators of old with the arenas they play on as fields of combat. Unfortunately, that analogy got closer to the truth than I expected it to. It's a sad day to have to mourn the death of anyone. It's painful to see those that knew Korey Stringer best try to cope with this tragedy. Watching Randy Moss crying and trying to get his words out leaves even me choked up.
The game isn't everything. There just isn't enough importance in million dollar contracts, MVPs, All-Pro titles, championships, and accolades to trade for life itself. Again, I personally have been reminded of the vulnerability in all of us. My deepest condolences to the family of Korey Stringer, to the Minnesota Vikings organization and their fans, most of all, my heart goes out to a 4-year-old child who will wake up tomorrow asking for "daddy." To all the warriors, gladiators, and titans of the gridiron, life is much more important than sports. So I ask you to please know when it's time to RIDE THE BENCH.
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