Friday, September 4, 2020

United Front

 As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

We are now 148 days past the NBA’s sudden COVID shutdown, but a week into its unprecedented bubble city reboot.  Baseball’s back too, but after playing briefly outside of a tightly controlled environment, COVID cases with the Miami Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals have caused postponements and tattooed a big question mark on the rest of the season.  If this is any indication of how sports will fare while operating where pathogens roam, the chances of football this fall are slim (at least football with any acceptable level of competitive integrity).  And let’s hope MLB’s bubble-less experience isn’t a prelude for school re-openings. 

Rumors are swirling that poor choices by some Marlins players caused the outbreak.  Bad choices by unsupervised humans?  Get out of here.  You mean like how the nation shut down in March and April, made progress against the viral enemy, then rushed to re-open around Memorial Day with no uniform strategy other than the hope that 300 million people would put the country’s interests ahead of their own hankering for a mask-less life featuring massive pool parties, nights at the club and political rallies?  Just this past weekend I watched a mask-less couple enter a local restaurant without seemingly a care in the world.  Maybe they just missed the massive sign on the door requiring masks upon entry.  I figured once they got inside and saw all the employees and patrons dutifully wearing masks, they would do the right thing and extend the same courtesy.  Or not…

You know who has been doing the right thing?  Washington Football Team (love how that sounds) QB Alex Smith.

It was the afternoon of Sunday, November 18, 2018.  I was leaving Miami International Airport in a rental car and looking for the fastest trip out of the city and toward a unique world where roosters and the ghosts of pirates, writers and former presidents roam – Key West.  I flipped on the radio to get an update on NFL action and, specifically Washington’s pivotal game against the Houston Texans.  It was late in the second half, Washington was trailing and backup QB Colt McCoy was in the game.

That’s where I was when I learned that Alex Smith had suffered a gruesome compound fracture of his lower right leg, an injury that immediately threatened his career, then the viability of his limb and, ultimately, his life. 

Where were you?

Smith’s recovery since was chronicled in the documentary “Project 11”.  It is equally inspirational and disturbing.  The 17 surgeries aside, there are clips of Smith’s leg in the film that leave the cringing viewer marveling at modern medicine and the quarterback’s resolve.  For those that haven’t seen it, I won’t attempt a detailed description.  Just know this: A dangerous infection necessitated significant tissue removal. 

With that context, it is a miracle that Smith just has his leg, much less that he’s moving around without restriction and living a normal life – but he is.  Admission: This is where I thought the story would end.  After seeing that injury and learning of the complications that threatened his life, I figured happily ever after was Smith being able to run around in the backyard with his kids.

Smith, however, is flirting with a different conclusion.  Last week he was cleared by his medical team to resume football activities.  The Washington Football Team officially placed Smith on the Physically Unable to Perform list and his availability during the upcoming training camp is uncertain, but even the hint of Smith on a football field for anything more than polite applause to acknowledge his journey is a comeback of biblical proportions.  That he has made it this far is a testament to the alignment of his mind, body and spirit.  It is also stands witness to the shared commitment that he, his wife and family and his tending medical professionals had in defeating the bacteria that threatened his life and avoiding an amputation. 

Now, to scale that gritty team effort nationally in order to disintegrate political divides, divisive rhetoric and false claims and create a united front against a novel virus…


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