It’s been an interesting 24 hours.
Interesting isn’t the right word, but what do you use to describe a period when we lose a kid like Tony Seibert in an avalanche on Tuesday and then a kid like Sylvan Ellefson does something as triumphant as winning the 30K mass-start freestyle Nordic race at nationals in Utah on Wednesday?
Aching sadness and fist-pumping joy don’t seem like emotional companions.
Sports are meant to be our refuge from the world. When my team wins, I buy merchandise at the volume of the gross-national product of a third-world nation. If my team loses, well, I still have the DVD set of games from when we won. In the unlikely event that the Broncos lose to the Chargers on Sunday, no one is going to die.
Sports also keep coming. Whenever the Broncos are done — hopefully, the Super Bowl against the Niners — there are the Nuggets and the Avs or the Rockies (or, ahem, Warriors, Sharks and Giants). And there’s always next year. If the Broncos don’t win the Super Bowl next month, we’ll all be on Peyton Manning watch come training camp in July again. (The concept has kept Chicago Cubs fans going for 106 years and counting.)
However, what do we do when the worlds of mortality and sports collide as they did with Tony? And is it OK to celebrate when Sylvan does something astounding that has a chance of propelling him toward his Olympic dream?
The answer comes in Ellefson’s Facebook stream on Tuesday — “Having a tough time swallowing this one. I’ll be skiing for you tomorrow Tony!” and on Wednesday — “#tonyseibert #lyndonellefson #vailstrong #coloradostrong.”
The last two tweets can be viewed as trite and certainly derivative from last year’s Boston Marathon. On the other hand, there’s a reason people use cliches — they’re true. I’ve seen it with others. I’ve lived it myself.
TAKING CARE OF OUR OWN
I remember when former Sports Editor Don Cameron got the call that Lyndon Ellefson, Sylvan’s father, had died in Italy in 1998, and the events that followed to help the Ellefsons though their grief in multiple ways. When cyclist Mike Janelle died in 2007, the same thing happened to aid his wife, Meribel, and new son, little Mikey, who isn’t so little anymore. One look at the web traffic on our website or on Tony’s or Lizzie Seibert’s Facebook pages shows that Eagle County is in action once again.
When my father died in 2006, our house in San Francisco looked like a mobster had died — the amount of flowers would have made Vito Corleone blush. (I have to joke. It’s a defense mechanism.) The stunning thing was a lot of them were from the Vail area. I didn’t grow up here — that’s pretty obvious in my sporting preferences. It didn’t matter.
This area does take care of its own. We had a parent in our office on Tuesday remembering Tony as a youngster in scouts on camping trips because he was jumping off of things and getting hurt because that’s what Tony did. Sylvan, well, he simply had a habit of breaking things, particularly his own bones. Nothing to see here, Nothing to worry about.
We watched them grow up as teens on the soccer pitch as Tony was part of the tradition of Battle Mountain center backs from Evie Gonzalez in the beginning to Ryan Wood today. Hear a grunt behind you? That was likely Tony taking someone out. When Tony went down in Glenwood Springs, we thought Battle Mountain soccer was done. The Huskies had to put some smallish freshman in named Connor Tedstrom. It worked out with Tony supporting the team all the way.
Sylvan? We don’t know whether he’s going to make Sochi. (We’re rooting for him.) In my memory, Sylvan’s always jumping up and down in the snow with Patrick Scanlan (who was a fellow goofball) and Tyler Kjesbo after the Vail Mountain School beat Lutheran during the playoffs in that photo we’re running again today. Sylvan was also pretty good in that skiing thing, too.
Tony is always a Seibert and Sylvan an Ellefson, but they’re also ours. That’s why we call them kids even though they’re men. We revel in the success of Sylvan vicariously with Tashina, Kjell and, you bet, Lyndon Ellefson. We mourn with the Seiberts — Peter Jr., Teri, Peter III, Anna and Lizzie — and send them all our love.
We are #vailstrong.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and firstname.lastname@example.org.