Yes, some pro athletes are thugs, but …
Last week, I was casually watching Sports Center for my daily updates when I was floored by horrible news. The Denver Broncos running back, Damien Nash, collapsed and was pronounced dead at 24. Now, this tragedy would have been awful enough by itself, but the especially heart-wrenching part was that this came less than two months after another Bronco – cornerback Darrent Williams – was murdered at the same age. In a matter of weeks, two promising young men are gone, and the sporting world is left searching for answers. And that’s where more problems begin.The deaths of celebrities are more or less commonplace in America – it rarely shocks us when our favorite rapper gets shot in a drive by, or that crazy guitarist overdoses on heroin. However, sports tragedies are somewhat rare. Everyone was stunned in 2000, when Panthers’ running back Fred Lane was murdered by his wife, or last fall when the Miami Hurricanes’ Bryan Pata was shot to death outside his dorm room. The media portrays pro athletes as gladiators; invincible and fearless. So when a sportsman dies, one conclusion is universally given: The athlete was a thug/gangster/lowlife. This assumption has been proven wrong in the Broncos’ current situation.DistortionOur view of pro football players is skewed. We hear idiots like T.O. carrying on about how much they hate their teammates. We hear the rumors that O.J. Simpson and Ray Lewis are murderers. Time and time again we are exposed to the thugs that inhabit so many locker rooms and arenas. However, it is simply ludicrous to assume that all elite athletes behave like gangsters (think Ray Lewis, Ron Artest) or spoiled teenage girls (think T.O., A-Rod). There are innumerable pro ballplayers that simply enjoy playing the game, without side-effects.When I heard that Darrent Williams had been killed on New Year’s Day, I felt sick. I couldn’t imagine a better example of what a truly nice human being was like. Darrent was always smiling, and the media gravitated towards him. The first thing he bought with his NFL paycheck was a new house for his mother. The worst thing in a long list was the fact that Darrent had used football to escape the violent gang life that overruled his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. He overcame the struggles in his past; he grew up fatherless and in poverty, football was his only alternative to a gang lifestyle. Unfortunately, some nameless coward felt the need to take away one of the league’s great young players, and more importantly, one of the league’s best human beings.Life isn’t fairThen there’s Damien Nash. Nash was a quiet young running back, backing up the Broncos’ Bell Brothers. He only played in six games, gaining 91 yards. Although he was no superstar, the tragedy remains just as terrible. The most disturbing irony of all was the circumstances under which Nash died. He was playing in a charitable basketball game for his younger brother who had recently received a heart transplant. Nash, who just collapsed and stopped breathing, may have perished from the same congenital heart problems that he was helping his brother to deal with.Life isn’t fair, and neither is the world of sports. As the saying goes, the good die young. But nothing ticks me off more than people assuming all pro athletes are thugs who’s lives involve money, sex, and guns. Darrent Williams and Damien Nash were far from thugs, and even if they were, that hardly justifies two dead 24-year-olds.Ascher Robbins is a junior at Battle Mountain High School.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.