I don’t quite know where I’m going with these late Memorial Day musings, so bear with me …
Of course, my prayers — and I’m sure, those of many others in the Broncos’ realm — are with the family, friends, teammates and all those who knew Marquise Hill and who grieve his death in Lake Pontchartrain.
Thinking about Hill, remembering the recent passings of Darrent Williams and Damien Nash, and, most of all, pausing for a Memorial Day reflection upon those who made this country’s way of life possible from Bunker Hill to Bataan and beyond, has a way of sending the mind careening down a highway of thought — a road to which there is no destination. One doesn’t know quite what the final conclusion of such mental meanderings will be — or, for that matter, if there will be any resolution at all.
Today, these ponderings had me glancing back to my Monday morning stroll around the Web, when I happened upon a wonderful story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on one of the most relentlessly optimistic individuals ever to grace the American sports stage, former Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates manager Chuck Tanner. As I read the piece, I recalled a quote that I remembered being attributed to him, the exact phrasing of which eluded my mind until I found it on baseball-almanac.com.
“The greatest feeling in the world is to win a major league game. The second greatest feeling is to lose a major league game.”
Tanner is right. You can substitute any sport in there — football, basketball, hockey, soccer, whatever you wish — but to invest oneself into a game, whether it’s through actual parrticipation or vicarious observance, is one of the blessings of life, and is worth treasuring all the same, whether the result is victory, defeat or draw.
Reading about Hill and pondering the sacrifices of those to whom Memorial Day is dedicated only heightens the accuracy of Tanner’s sentiments. Simply being a part of the game for that day in some fashion is a great feeling, indeed. There have been and remain many spots on this globe where it is impossible to retreat into the cocoon of sport, where, for that moment, a game can mean everything in that moment, even though in the larger picture, it means little.
We are blessed to be in a place where it is possible to lose oneself in the game, in the moment, where a win can be the greatest thing of all — but even a loss comes with the knowledge that you’d performed on the grandest of stages. The time of Hill, Williams and Nash on this earth was far too brief, but they nevertheless experienced a feeling of which multitudes dream but few reach — of being at the pinnacle of sport and human performance, and being in a place where, for those moments of competition, nothing matters but the game itself.
Someday, the Patriots will know that feeling again. The Broncos will, too. A young man’s spirit is a fairly resilient one; multiply that by 53 or 61 or however many players happen to be on a roster at any given point in the year.
For now, though, the day is about remembering and praying for the fallen — for those who made freedom possible, and, in the NFL’s realm, for another player seized from the world far too quickly.