An Unfortunate Event
Two Sundays ago the Kansas City Chiefs organization was dealt a very unexpected and tragic blow. My prayers go out to everyone hurt as a result of the events involving Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher. I do not know how any organization or business could adequately prepare for such a situation. More importantly, how does one erase the impact of seeing a life taken right in front of his or her very eyes? A first-hand experience like that will no doubt have a lasting impression.
There were countless media reports surrounding the weekend’s events, and they all had importance: The 3-month old orphaned child, Belcher’s mental status, team executives watching him say his final goodbye, pre-game acknowledgements, and the on-field performance of the players impacted. But one encouraging response was overlooked among the whirlwind of reports. It was a call to remember the most important aspect of life itself.
Most players will admit that it is difficult to experience a teammate passing away. There is obviously an emotional battle inside as they realize a fellow teammate is suddenly not present. It feels different than a player being traded or released. In those cases, the player will likely say goodbye to fellow teammates in the locker room prior to departing. If time doesn’t permit, the player leaving will typically reach out via text message or phone call to tell his friends he has been removed from the roster. There is usually a request to get together in the off-season and/or meet when the player’s new team plays his old team. But that was not the case with Jovan Belcher.
Often a person suddenly passes from this life with no forewarning. For a pro football player this reality rings clear daily when there is no goodbye. Instead, there is a constant reminder of the player’s absence. (I lived through this when a player that was on our roster one season passed away unexpectedly.) His seat in the team meeting room remains empty for the rest of the season out of respect. His locker is an unforgettable memorial as it remains intact the same as the last time the player sat at it. And while gearing up for the first game after his absence might be a bit more difficult, the realization of the importance of the game at its conclusion easily brings additional emotion. Players already perform ‘on edge’ as they give their all on game-day, but a very new and different emotion presents itself in the case of a lost life.
The “Quinn-tessential” Answer
Dictionary.com defines ‘quintessential’ with the following 2 entries, and they both directly apply:
1. of the pure and essential essence of something
2. of or pertaining to the most perfect embodiment of something
Kansas City starting quarterback Brady Quinn exhibited exactly what I would hope to see from every player dealing with the loss of a teammate. It was definitely ‘pure,’ and it was ‘perfect.’ The definition is right on target. After the Chiefs pulled out a victory on Sunday, Quinn’s emotions became more than he could bear. I imagine that he felt a sense of joy in overcoming additional adversity while also acknowledging that he could do nothing to help Mr. Belcher now. Even winning the game would ultimately offer only a temporary escape from reality. Consequently, the post-game celebration wasn’t so much happiness for victory as it was the purest sense of joy in life.
As the clock expired and the Chiefs won the game, Brady Quinn went to Head Coach Romeo Crennel and gave him a long hug. Breaking down in tears, the two men embraced and displayed the rawest of emotions. It no longer mattered how “macho” a football player was supposed to be. No, this was something more, something bigger, and something infinitely greater. And Quinn wasn’t afraid to show such emotions in front of cameras.
At the post-game press conference, Brady Quinn provided the most basic, yet stimulating, response to a question addressing his post-game actions. His answer is likely the most meaningful response to any question any of us will hear all season! Below is the question and answer in full:
Can you talk about the emotion after the game?
“It was tough. I think it was an eerie feeling after a win because you don’t think that you can win in this situation. The one thing people can hopefully try to take away, I guess, is the relationships they have with people. I know when it happened, I was sitting and, in my head, thinking what I could have done differently. When you ask someone how they are doing, do you really mean it? When you answer someone back how you are doing, are you really telling the truth? We live in a society of social networks, with Twitter pages and Facebook, and that’s fine, but we have contact with our work associates, our family, our friends, and it seems like half the time we are more preoccupied with our phone and other things going on instead of the actual relationships that we have right in front of us. Hopefully people can learn from this and try to actually help if someone is battling something deeper on the inside than what they are revealing on a day-to-day basis.”
Maybe without even realizing it, Quinn tapped into the innermost needs of us all. He hit on the very fundamental fabric of life. He addressed an enormous social problem. What has happened to a person going out of the way to help another person? Have we become too preoccupied with our own lives to notice the lives of others? Do we even care? Why do we care more about our Facebook account than the person next to us at work every day? How could we let ourselves become too busy with life to acknowledge the needs of others?! Are we too self-absorbed to see the people in our lives that are hurting more than us? These became more than just questions to Brady Quinn as a direct result of the traumatic experience he had just gone through. His intellect shined through as he combined the emotions of the situation with a direct presentation of the BIG PICTURE.
This response held so much meaning that there was no follow-up question to it, it wasn’t dissected on sports shows for days to come, and there was no conversation on the local sports talk show the next morning. No, I have to believe this answer went so deep that everyone chose not to discuss it. It hit right at the heart of what we all are missing and how our daily pursuits have led us astray.
More Than Football
In one short response to a post-game question, Quinn not only addressed the emotions involved in the game, but he went deeper and identified the very essence of human beings. He indirectly addressed the importance of genuinely caring about others and how that is missing in society today. He unintentionally challenged each and every one of us to put aside our selfishness. He dared us to pay attention to the concerns of others. He motivated us to make every effort to help someone else, even if it may be inconvenient. He encouraged us to stop and enjoy life by focusing on what is truly important. In the end, does it matter how much money you had, if you got the promotion, or if dinner was ready on time? Do you think you will remember these things? Often enough we hear of people on their death beds asking if their lives mattered and what impact they had on others. I think they realize that most of their actions and pursuits amount to nothing. But if someone values and loves you for what you did for him or her, that holds lasting value. After all, wouldn’t you rather be appreciated for helping somebody in need?
Brady Quinn likely realized he hasn’t made the necessary effort to help others. He may not be giving of his time and talents unselfishly. He might have seen a hurting and depressed teammate in Jovan Belcher and chosen to ignore it. He might have chosen to instead be preoccupied with his Twitter account. But if you listened to his response to that simple question, he shook you to your core. He called you to be a better friend, co-worker and family member. He forced you to examine who you are as a person, what you stand for, and how you use your time. He made you want to reach out to others more often for fear of missing a chance to help somebody truly in need. Hopefully it won’t take a personal experience such as the one he went through for us to take heed.
How refreshing to hear those words spoken by Quinn instead of another recycled question and answer about how a player used athletic talent to win a game. Dare I say his answer was the perfect challenge for each and every one of us? If YOU were the one in need, wouldn’t you be grateful for someone reaching out to help you?
For me personally, Brady Quinn reminded me that life is short. He forced me to examine my life. I had no choice but to rebuke myself as I thought about how I too had become overly absorbed in my life and too busy to notice the needs of others. He challenged me to be a better man.
To Mr. Quinn I say, “THANK YOU. Challenge accepted.”
Check back next Friday as I explore the NFL Draft from a team perspective and what all goes into being fully prepared. Comment below with your thoughts in the wake of this tragedy and shoot us a tweet @SportsNetworker.