Back in October (over the University of Michigan’s fall break), I had the opportunity to attend a high school football game played by my alma mater. Watching my former teammates play their senior season had always been something I’d intended to do, as I recall vividly how much it meant to me to see alumni and former teammates of mine attend games during my own senior season (now over a year ago). For this reason, I made a point of attending at least one game this year.
It was a close game that my former school was able to win, but this fact is irrelevant.
What is relevant is something which transpired late in the game. A friend and former teammate of mine, a (now) senior who played the same position I used to play (whose name I will leave out because it is not particularly necessary in this discussion) was seriously injured. He sustained a serious spinal fracture in one, normal play. A horrible twist of luck, and one which, believe me, he, nor anyone, should ever deserve.
Since this moment, two things about my friend’s situation of amazed me. Perhaps–knowing him and the community surrounding him–I can’t shocked by these two things, but they are certainly incredibly reassuring and comforting to see. First, the fortitude and persistence he has shown to attempt to recover has been absolutely inspiring (it is possible he may not walk again, but he has not let that deter him), and, second, the support that his surrounding community–one which I used to be a proud member of–has demonstrated is amazing.
I’m sure there are countless incidents involving sports that have brought a community together, whether in joy or sorrow, but this one hit home for me more than any successes or failures I experienced in my sports career (now a thing of the past). Both the fact that this injury could have happened to anyone, playing anywhere, including myself, is the most eye-opening characteristic of this occurrence. It is for this reason, perhaps, that sympathy and support are not the only responses one might have to such an awful thing happening. Frustration is certainly a reasonable response, one which I encountered the moment I heard the news of the severity of my friend’s injury. “Why him?” “How could this happen?” And even expletive-filled pleas to an intangible thing with no real answers.
The reasons don’t matter once something like this happens. The response is the only thing that bears significance. And the countless visitors to the hospital and rehabilitation center he is now housed at (including a visit from one of my own favorite athletes, Charles “Peanut” Tillman) have shown my friend and his community could not have responded much better.
After attending the Michigan vs. Syracuse basketball game this past Tuesday, I would also say I am fairly convinced that the support and sympathy shown by the community in which I grew up would be replicated by the Michigan community were a similar incident to occur (but, let us hope, one never does).
This incident and the response to such a tragedy has convinced me of several things about human nature. Humankind and the human spirit is naturally kind. We are, in most instances, inclined toward unity. As such, I genuinely struggle to agree with Thomas Hobbes’ assertion that human nature is driven by self interest. A community driven by individual self interest would not demonstrate the genuine sympathy and support shown toward my friend. Though one may argue that we act in sympathy out of self interest, because “being nice makes us feel good,” to argue that the kindness shown by this community was driven by my community’s self interest is preposterous.
Consequently, all of this has led me to be convinced of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s perception of our nature as one that is kind, supportive, and united.