Why we care

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Aug 222005
 
Authors: Brett Okamoto

They're not supposed to die like this.

These athletes who we glorify as they leap into the crowd and dance in the end zone aren't supposed to collapse in a heap on a locker room floor.

Every now and then the unthinkable happens to the invincible, and all of a sudden everyone's on the same team.

Thomas Herrion shocked the sports world Saturday night when on a cool evening, after limited playing action, he collapsed in the visiting locker room at Invesco Field at Mile High. He died shortly after.

Herrion was 23 years old.

The question as to why it happened can't be answered yet; toxicology reports that will reveal what killed the seemingly healthy first-year lineman won't be in for another few weeks. The question as to why everyone cares is worth taking a shot at.

Why do we care so much that this young man died? In the last few days, Internet sports message boards and chat rooms have been flooded with sympathy for Herrion's family and teammates.

This man had no face to America. Herrion was trying out for the offensive line on the worst team in the NFL. A year before that he played in the European League. A year before that he wasn't in the Big 12 or SEC soaking up national exposure, he was playing at Hughes Stadium against Colorado State in the Mountain West Conference, for Utah.

And yet America is crying over his death.

Maybe it's because it took us by such surprise. Herrion was fooling around with teammates after the game, and he carried his 300 plus pounds of body frame off the field unassisted.

Four years ago Minnesota's offensive lineman Korey Stringer collapsed and died in 110-degree heat. Fans left Invesco in sweatshirts and jackets on Saturday.

Maybe we care because it's because of the guilt. Maybe the 49er fan who cursed Herrion for the penalty he received in the final drive of the game is now cursing himself. Just for a second, I think America was disgusted with itself for screaming at athletes from their couch, with beer in hand and nacho cheese on shirt.

We all get the opportunity to meet these players through television and they become a part of our lives. We all cried while watching the last episode of Friends – you can't deny it. The same thing holds true with televised sports. We see these athletes at practice, in the locker room, in the training facilities and on the field.

Bottom line is that I watched Thomas Herrion running up and down on that football field Saturday and – it just couldn't have been his time. Sports should push you to the limit not to the grave.

Brett Okamoto is a sophomore journalism major. He is the Collegian's Sports Editor.

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