The quarterfinals of the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) basketball tournament were held last night at the University of Detroit. There were two games being played, four teams with exceptional athletes displaying exceptional skill. My four sons and I were joined by two friends of mine and their sons, along with the head coach at our high school. We sat in a crowd of approximately 5,000 others, packed into a college stadium to watch high school athletes play this game we all love so much. It was really a great night.
Except that a guy died last night.
After the first game, there was a 30-minute intermission. Somewhere between the multiple trips to the concession stands and the commensurate trips to the bathroom, we noticed a commotion in the stands near us. A man was down and others gathered around him seem to be trying to help him, medically.
We watched a bit more, and soon we noticed someone had begun chest compressions on the man. His heart had stopped. He wasn’t breathing. Paramedics arrived and police officers as well. Stadium staff held walkie talkies to their mouths and seemed to be barking orders to someone. The area around this growing group of medial and security staff was cleared of all others. The entire section of the stadium was now empty as they worked feverishly to save his life.
Down on the court, the players for the teams playing in game two took the court and began their pre-game warmups. Music played over the stadium speakers and people scampered around trying to get good seats.
After approximately 30 minutes of this, the group helping the man changed their postures. No one was hurrying around anymore. The medics took off their gloves. The police now started filling out forms. He was gone.
On the court, the game started on time. The PA announcer loudly proclaiming the name of a player who just slam dunked.
Eventually the group of people who had tried to save this man’s life, carried his body out of the stadium. Soon a maintenance man arrived with a mop and pail and seemed to clean up the area where the man had been.
On the court, one of the coaches was complaining about his player being called for a foul. He thought it was unfair.
The section, about 15 minutes after they took the man out.
I watched over the next several minutes as the section of the stadium was reopened and people started to drift back into the seats there. It didn’t take long until the area was nearly full of cheering, taunting, hot-pretzel-eating fans who just came to watch a game.
Except that a guy died.
I couldn’t help but think that this isn’t the way I’d want to go. Alone, on the filthy floor of a basketball stadium in Detroit, while the speakers blast the Black Eyed Peas’, “Tonight’s Gonna Be A Good Night…” No thanks.
It was such a stark reminder of how fragile this existence really is. We are here, and then, in a blink, we are gone. And the world just keeps turning. The area we occupied simply fills in with new people. And the game on the court plays on.
I don’t know the man’s name. I don’t know what happened to him. I have scanned Google and all of the Detroit media outlets looking for any reference of the man, to no avail. It’s like it didn’t happen. It’s as if the night was about other people, and other things. It wasn’t about him. If one of the coaches or an official had died, almost certainly, the game would’ve been postponed and we all would’ve been sent home. Instead, this man died. So they sent in the guy with the mop. And they played on.
I don’t have a punch line for all of this. No snappy sardonic wit to conclude with. It’s just that… a guy died last night. And I thought that someone should mention it.