OAKLAND, Calif. • Here is a humble wish every last sports fan, and those who are not, had the opportunity to hear Brady Quinn on Sunday.
I don’t know the Kansas City quarterback, only his career path. What he said resonated with and struck me harder than anything accomplished on an NFL playground.
“I know when it happened, I was sitting and, in my head, thinking what I could have done differently,” Quinn said in reference to the unfathomable acts of former teammate Jovan Belcher. “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?”
One truth: I did not think the Chiefs should have played Sunday. I thought it was insensitive to the life and death of Kasandra Perkins, the 22-year-old woman murdered by Belcher.
I thought the NFL missed an opportunity to take a stand against any number of horrific issues in our society, namely violence against women, and show there are far more important things than a football game.
I was wrong. Quinn, serving as a voice of reason at a time when there was none, used his Sunday platform to focus not on a trivial game, but on the basic responsibility bestowed on all of us.
We are our brother’s keeper.
Football doesn’t fix what is wrong. But the NFL stage is so influential, it gives those involved a forum from which to preach what is right.
In a dark hour, Quinn offered powerful words to live by.
Now the starting quarterback with the Chiefs, Quinn last season was with the Broncos. It seems the AFC West always has lived in these close quarters. Perhaps because of their familiarity, the division rivals regularly swap coaches (Dennis Allen from the Broncos to the Raiders, for example) and players (Eddie Royal, Le’Ron McClain, Quinn and others).
When you know each other like that, their pain can become yours.
There has been too much pain in these circles.
I don’t know Robert Ayers. I wish that I did. I know his locker is next to Elvis Dumervil’s, and I know he hopes the University of Tennessee hires a good football coach. In a short time around the Broncos locker room, I know he’s been pleasant and approachable and big.
And I know he’s living with a heavy heart. Just over a week ago, his father, Robert Sr., died unexpectedly.
“He had a rough week last week,” coach John Fox said, “But he came back and he’s in good spirits.”
“Can’t wait to get back wit(h) my team,” Ayers tweeted while caring for his family.
I don’t know Dennis Allen. I wish that I did, so I could tell the Raiders coach I’m praying for his loss after the death of his father Tuesday. Grady Allen was 66.
“Coach Allen … he’s a better person than a coach. I know his dad is everything to him,” Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. “One, there are no words. Two, he’s such a great man that all we do is feel for him.”
In no way is this meant to compare the circumstances or anguish endured by these players and coaches. I don’t know their pain; only that it must be terribly hard.
It does show how sports, a team and its locker room, offer a blueprint of selflessness of which we can attempt to model. When a player asks a teammate how he’s doing, he has to mean it. He must listen to the response. Support isn’t an option; it’s a necessity.
Ayers expressed gratitude for the support from the Broncos, who dedicated a win in his name. Allen can coach the Raiders against the Broncos Thursday night knowing his team is playing for him and his late father.
“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,” Quinn said.
“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.”
I don’t know Brady Quinn.
I wish that I did.
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