On March 17th, Fabrice Muamba fell down. Everyone has already written about it, and I didn’t plan to. If you watch sports enough, you already know that players hit the turf on a daily basis. They get tangled up, tackled, dive for a line drive. Then they get up…usually.
If you’ve watched sports for long enough, you know that there are three kinds of falls. The first is the kind I already talked about – the everyday tumbles and tackles. The second is what happens when a player cramps up or twists an ankle. They’ll be okay, and we’re going to commercial break. The third kind is the kind that you’ve probably only seen once or twice. The kind that Muamba took on March 17th, and the kind that you never want to see again.
No one was close to Muamba when he fell, the first sign that this was one of those falls. The trainer looked genuinely concerned, the second sign that this was one of those falls. You could see it on the faces of the other players – this was no average fall.
As Muamba was carried off on a stretcher, journalists everywhere reported that he wasn’t breathing and that he had been given CPR all the way to the hospital. For hours, no one knew anything else. Anyone who watched the match thought they had just seen a man die on the soccer pitch. No one is supposed to die on a soccer field, and as it turned out, no one did.
Muamba is 23 years old. I’m 23 years old. The collapse seems to hit a little closer to home when it’s someone you could have grown up with. Muamba is one of the good guys. Not one that you hear about on ESPN every night, and not one that breaks records every time he touches the ball. He is, though, a feel-good story. He isn’t a guy you’ll find in the Jets locker room. He’s well liked by the whole team and all the fans.
I don’t follow soccer, and I’ll admit that I didn’t know who Muamba was two weeks ago. When he hit the turf, I was glued to ESPN and Twitter waiting to see what happened. I’m still glued to ESPN waiting to see what happens next and if he’ll make a full recovery.
Athletes are in better shape than most of the human race. They don’t die on the field. That’s just how it works. Fabrice Muamba died for 78-minutes while standing in the middle of a soccer field, playing the game he loved. If there’s a way to fall down and hopefully to get back up, it’s doing the thing you love. No one knows how or why his heart decided to stop that day. No one knows what happens next. Today, there is a good man still breathing. That’s an ending we’ll take, for now.