Friday, April 10, 2009

By Thomas Crow - Contributor

I have sat here thinking about the tragic events of late Wednesday evening; about the few unfortunate moments that took the life of Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and two of his companions and left another in critical condition; of sheer senselessness of three lives being snuffed out by a repeat offender, who otherwise deserves no further mention. However, what I’ve perhaps given the most thought is why this has affected me so much.

When I read speculation regarding the incident I hoped for the best — not that three people wouldn't die, as that was already assured — instead it was a diminishing hope that it wasn't Nick. This wasn't for baseball reasons, as at that point I didn't care if he ever threw another pitch. It was true concern for his wellbeing. When the news of his passing came, I felt immediate grief. I spent the rest of the day numb and in denial that this could have happened. But why?

This thought, of course, struck me immediately as selfish. Further thought made me wonder if my grief itself wasn’t selfish. Who am I to feel this way? It isn't like I knew any of them personally. Why should I feel this way about relative strangers when there is so much death around us everyday that we take for granted. What makes them so unique as to deserve special consideration?

Reading reactions on our and others’ message boards, and especially watching reactions from all around baseball, made me aware that I wasn't alone feeling this way. This gave me a great deal of comfort. I still didn't understand why I felt this way, though. I then found myself humming the chorus to American Pie. For some reason it all started to make sense; at least as much as something like this really could make sense.

Being in my early 30s, I of course have heard about the event that served as inspiration for the famous song. However, being so long ago, it never really resonated with me. Sure it was a sad story and a huge blow to overall contributions to music, but it never connected with me on a personal level. However, for many even now it holds a powerful meaning. In my opinion this is because the story was so overwhelmingly tragic that they couldn't avoid reacting to it.

To function as a society we have learned to live with all the tragedy around us by becoming oblivious to it. It isn't that we don't care, but instead disassociate our emotions in regards all these events. This is not a bad thing, as otherwise we'd be so overcome with feelings as to be unable to perform the necessary task to continue living. But we are not completely impervious. Adenhart's death has proven this again to be true.

His death, coming hours after a start that finally demonstrated he belonged in the majors after years of hard work, was horrible; the unfulfilled potential that was in front of him, terrible; the affect on his family, his baseball organization and fellow Angels and baseball fans, devastating; the needlessness of his and his friends’ deaths, untenable. To attempt to absorb the impact of it all is impossible. To attempt to encompass it all seems folly. So, we mourn not only this 22-year-old, but everything his death represents.

We, as fans, have again lost any semblance of innocence. Our feeling of safety has had its veil lifted away; our belief and faith that everything will work our right shaken to the core. If any solace, though, is to be found right now, it is perhaps this: while time may heal all wounds, this wound seems so deep as to ensure that Nick will not be forgotten.
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