Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bigger Than Life: A Few Words About Two Great Athletes

I swiped this great photo from Arnold Palmer's official website. It's AP, obviously, quite some time ago. Ah, youth, sweet youth. When dreams are stacked up so high. And the dissuaders? Small things in the shadows, mostly. Until they leap out and give the most dreadful surprises...

And I mean the fastest surprises: No gradual inch by inch nonsense. No, tragedy coming out of nowhere just as fast as youth itself: It's the only thing that can knock it down or outrun it.

Before Arnie was finished with his scholarship at Wake Forest, his best friend and roommate, Bud Worsham, was killed in a one-car accident. Palmer left school entirely, entering the Coast Guard, in the wake of grief for his friend.

Bud was about the same age Jose Fernandez was when he died this weekend. And his death stayed with Palmer his whole life.

Unlike Palmer, Bud and Jose couldn't give us years, decades, entire generations of time to fall in love with them. With who and what they might've been.

In the case of Fernandez, we knew he was a great pitcher and only time would tell about how big that legacy would be.

Now, his legacy of grief is the larger part of who he was. His beloved grandmother outlives him...

And later maybe the legacy will partly be one about the dangers of speed - and I mean the going too fast kind - which young men tend to crave too often and at great cost.

Now the heaviest kind of loss has descended over Jose's beloved: the jagged-edged kind of grief, the early, sudden exit stuff that rips open love and hope in all its glory and prime.

We've never been big golf nuts, but appreciated Arnold Palmer, that guy who stayed around to be a legend, scandal free - with seeming ease and a gallantry that is almost quaint these days.

There will be beautiful eulogies written and spoken about both men. This isn't one of them.

But I wanted to give the old man a thanks on his send-off and all my condolences to Jose Fernandez's loved ones, including his little girl who hasn't even been born yet.

If you're reading this and you're young... Be that dope who slows down. The life you save, etc etc. I promise. You matter a lot to someone.

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