Damar Hamlin’s incident should be a wakeup call for NFL fans

Damar Hamlins incident should be a wakeup call for NFL fans

George Monroe, staff writer

On Jan. 2, the Buffalo Bills faced off against the Cincinnati Bengals. It was Monday Night Football, a primetime show hosted on NBC. Both teams were in the playoff picture and it was an important game nearing the end of the regular season. Crowds were cheering, players were competing, and everything was normal. With the Bengals having possession, quarterback Joe Burrow threw a pass to wide receiver Tee Higgins for a first down. Bills safety Damar Hamlin made the tackle. After Hamlin got up, he grabbed his facemask and then fell to the ground unconscious. He went into cardiac arrest.

While medical staff was attending to him, the opposing Bengals crowd grew quiet without knowledge of what exactly happened. They were in a mix of shock and confusion. Neither them nor the audience at home could see Hamlin being assisted, because both the Bills and Bengals players surrounded the ambulance. Hamlin’s teammates were in tears, unsure of his condition. Talks were beginning around social media and the public had one question. It wasn’t about the outcome of the football game or a call made on the field. It was about Damar Hamlin, a man who looked likely to die on the football field. 

Damar Hamlin serves as a wake up call for not only Americans, but all humans. Some viewers went into this game thinking about their wagers and money. They viewed this game as an important one for their favorite team. But all these viewers soon realized that none of this matters. The only thing that mattered was another human’s well-being. During the incident, many people voiced out statements along the lines of, “This isn’t about football” or “Football is the least of our worries right now.” Even if it was just for one night, society came together to pray and hope for a person, not an event or something that benefited themselves.

Football is a violent sport. It is also the most popular sport in America. It has a stigma of danger and grit, and players take the game extremely seriously. It is common to see an NFL player say statements during an interview that show his dedication to the game. They state that they are willing to put their lives on the line, or go out into the battlefield. This fiery attitude also ignites fans. This high-contact sport excites them, and when football is being played, it is a time for fans to sit back, relax, and enjoy. They treat it like a fun game, but still take it seriously nonetheless. But when an injury occurs like Damar Hamlin’s, we are in shock. Sure, an incident where a player goes completely unconscious is almost unheard of in the sport, but with all the contact in football, it always seems like surprise when a player is in unstable condition after an injury. When Hamlin was injured, fans stopped thinking of him as a little toy soldier on a battlefield. They saw him as a real human with a caring family.

For the past month, America has been patting themselves on the back for supporting Hamlin. This situation has been used as evidence that society still has a sense of community when things are so divided. But people need to sit back and answer this question: Do people really care? Well, the answer is yes, but time and time again, passionate fans don’t act like they care about anyone in the National Football League unless their health is at risk. If a player makes a bad play, angry fans are quick to dismiss them or curse them out, almost as if they are raging at some video game. A player has to go through a rough injury for fans to realize that there is an actual person with emotions on the field. This person lives just as an important life as the fans, but every time, they are treated like another background character in Madden. 

Damar Hamlin has recovered. He is out of the hospital, and is spending time with his teammates and family. As Hamlin recovers, fans will begin to forget about his cardiac arrest. They will move on, treating players badly, until the next one is hurt. But, we can use Hamlin’s injury as a turning point in football. The NFL can take greater measures when it comes to player safety, ensuring every player has immediate medical attention. This could also serve as a turning point for fans. They can realize how little their world of football seems and treat each player with respect, on and off the field. But will the public actually start reacting this way? Probably not, but we can just hope they will in the near future. As stakes get higher for the game of football, stress increasing and anger arises. This anger can be covered by a tradgedy like this, but it returns in the nick of time. Prayers and good wishes transform into gimics and memes. Patience and calmness quickly turn in anger and hostility. Fans are in desperate need of a reality check. Football isn’t about their bets or favorite team, it is about the real human players who put their life on the line.