There is little I can add regarding the death of Nick Adenhart. The sadness and shock are self-evident; his was a fate that nobody deserves. But the tragedy has gotten me thinking about the nature of death in sports, the way react to grim circumstances like this as not just human beings, but sports fans.
There’s this tendency to write longingly about how sports is supposed to be an escape, how sad it is when events like this one bust open our perfect, insulated, sub-universe. We want the world of baseball to be one where losing is as bad as things get, where steroids and egos are man’s greatest vices. We lament: what a great shame when the American Elysium is marred by the horrible realities of American Society.
As a sports fan, it’s hard not to see things that way. It’s hard not to think about how sad it is that Nick Adenhart won’t get the chance to fulfill his most ambitious big league dreams, and that the Angels have lost a teammate, and that for a moment our escapist paradise is cloudy.
But that kind of thinking — I’m guilty too — is short-sighted. The real tragedy is not that Nick Adenhart won’t get to pitch, but that Nick Adenhart won’t get to fall in love, enjoy another night out with his buddies, sleep until noon, travel the world, fall out of love, grow old. The real tragedy is simply human. Nick Adenhart loved and played baseball, but if he didn’t, if instead he loved painting or web design, or politics, his death would be just as distressing. So from now on, when I remember Nick Adenhart, or Darryl Kile, or Thurman Munson, I’m going to try to remember them as not just ballplayers, but men.
I think they deserve that.