On Saturday, I was sort of half-reading and half-watching the Tottenham-Bolton game, when I looked up and noticed that all I was seeing on the TV screen was shots of people in the crowd looking horrified and, even worse, shots of players looking just as horrified. I watched for a couple minutes and they kept not showing what was going on, and I kept thinking it must have been a Ramsey-esque injury that they didn't want to show. Then I remembered I live in the year 2012 and I rewound my DVR's feed back to where people were still playing the game, until all of a sudden they weren't.
I, like many other people, sat on my couch horrified at what I was hearing (well, I was the only one on my couch, but you get the point). I will go out on a limb here and assume that 100% of the people reading this website have no actual connection with Fabrice Muamba - you don't know him, you've probably never really followed Bolton Wanderers with any degree of seriousness, and before Saturday you may never have even heard of him.
One of my "things" as a sports fan is that I don't care about the character of professional athletes, and never have - I will never meet them, they won't be cat-sitting for me any time soon, and the likelihood of an elite professional athlete moving into my neighborhood ranks right up there with the likelihood that I will become an elite professional athlete. Let them be reprobates, let them be drunks, let them take all manner of drugs - I don't really care, because as long as it doesn't affect what happens on the field it doesn't matter to me.
Given that attitude, you might expect that I would see what happened to Muamba and think "eh, that sucks, but can we get back to sports now please?", right? In that, friends, you'd be wrong.
I'm not going to sit here and get all self-righteous and say that Muamba's near-death experience caused me to reflect on the relative meaningless of sports in life - I know that full well. Sports are dumb. They're fun, and I love them, but they're inherently dumb, which is the point of them. I'm also not going to get all weepy and try to draw some grand conclusion about...anything, really, because the only conclusion I am tempted to draw from watching someone nearly die while playing a game is that life is nasty, brutish, and short and we all die at the end of it. Life, after all, is the only activity from which you can only either get fired or quit. There are no other options.
What I am going to do, though, is say that watching the coverage of the game, and watching the Spurs fans try (and in a lot of cases, fail) to hold it together while the incident was unfolding really shook me. I don't like watching people suffer, but if a player, say, tears a ligament or something, I shrug and think "eh, that sucks but that's the risk you take", but this was something different. This was outside the boundary. This wasn't supposed to happen; this wasn't "part of the game".
When I watch movies, I have a similar reaction. I can watch slasher movies, horror movies, or other extreme examples of art all day long and not really be bothered, because on some level I know they're fake. Nobody chainsaws an entire Texas town. But after seeing it once, I know I will never be able to watch In The Company Of Men again, because it showed, in realistic detail, the horrific emotional treatment of one human being by other human beings. It crossed the boundaries. It was a great film, I'm not sorry I saw it, but...never again.
So no, I have no direct connection to Fabrice Muamba, but like him, I am a human being. And that is why I care, and why I hope everyone cares, what happens to him. As of this writing, he's still in intensive care. His arms and legs are moving, and his heart is beating on its own, and these are all very, very good signs - he's got a long way to go, but this story has a chance to end better than any of us thought it might on Saturday, and that's what I hang on to right now. I like a happy ending.