Just hours ago, he had danced triumphantly towards the locker room with his teammates, a ball raised high in one hand, the other raising an index finger in celebration and notice to the rest of the league and any remaining doubters left in the stands:
The Seahawks are the new team to beat.
In the days following the incident that left a warrior lying in a hospital bed with a fractured skull and brain trauma, initial thoughts of well-wishes, prayers and healing turned to the darker side of human nature. Fans on message boards aggressively argued and fought over the reasons for the attack as the media clamored over each other for the latest sound byte and hearsay from witnesses – reliable or not - that could make their top story.
The blame game played across many a household in the Pacific Northwest. Players ranged from fans to non-fans alike. Even local news channel KOMO TV 4’s Ken Schram, whose commentaries rarely breach the sports world, offered up his take:
“…Didn't he get the memo that pro athletes shouldn't fraternize with the public outside the stadium venue?
Never mind that the investigation into what happened to Hamlin is nowhere near complete.
Never mind that it could just as easily have been any 20-something year old guy out for a night of fun.
Nothing beats knocking a pro athlete off the pedestal we put them on.
That's what some people actually consider sport.”
Clearly, it’s the player’s fault for putting himself in that compromising position in the first place.
No, it’s the club owner’s fault.
No, it’s the bouncers and security who should have done a better job.
It’s Pioneer Square. The police. Hip Hop. Alcohol. George Bush.
Oh yeah, maybe it’s the thug’s fault too.
Whatever you think, the story doesn’t have to end with one of our own recovering from wounds that came just due West of the true battlefield.
In fact, it’s just the beginning.
There is no honor in beating a man half to death when he is defenseless and without just cause. There is no honor in kicking a man when he is literally down…Ever.
A warrior I met once whose mere words left me breathless told me that there is no honor in war. No matter what the politicians say. “There’s only honor in peace.” Yet, there was one stipulation that transcends any line of thought…
“Never leave one of your own behind.”
His eyes became hollow when he said that, as if he was suddenly recalling the first time death danced into his life. In fact, his mother was taken away from him when he was just 8-years-old so I could respect the moment completely.
“On the battlefield, only one thing matters to you above everything else,” he continued. “And that is the brother on the side of you. Without him, you’re stranded. Nothing empowers you in the chaos and madness of war as much as knowing you depend on him as much as he depends on you.”
I could only nod in the sheepish way one nods to let the human being sitting across from you understand you’re not deaf. In truth, I could only dream of such horrors, honors and depths of the human spirit that can even contemplate such dauntlessness.
When a warrior falls, it is the responsibility and obligation of his troops to pick him up and continue the fight in his honor if he is unable to stand up and battle next to you on his own latitude.
And so it is with this latest incarnation of the Seattle Seahawks. The signs of greatness surround us all. Character, teamwork, honor, rings throughout the clubhouse in Kirkland this year for the first time since Chuck Knox walked the hallways. It behooves me to mention that it’s even possible that these attributes have never been felt –at this level- in the history of this humble franchise.
These are men who honor their own.
These are men who will fight for one of their own.
These, are men, who will never leave one of their own behind.
On Sunday, Cowboys will invade our territory with guns slinging. Formidable men wearing stars on their heads will attempt to burst through our battlefield with a victory in hand.
A fallen warrior resides in the minds and hearts of us all. We honor our fallen.
And we know they’re coming.
Todd Breda is the Owner and Creative Director of Seahawks.Net. If you would like to e-mail Todd, send any and all love letters, hate mail, whimsical musings or your personal dealings with little green men to: firstname.lastname@example.org.