Sunday dawned with miserable news – an exemplary young pitcher named Jose Fernandez crashed his boat and died. That should have been enough. More than enough, to be honest.
And it ended with slightly dissimilar yet equally horrible news – Arnold Palmer, one of the pre-eminent American golfers and sportsmen ever, died after a prolonged illness at age 87.
But the circus never closes, the merry-go-round whirls faster, the calliope only gets louder, and the only constant is the postgame seagull force. Fernandez’ death was a stark reminder that even the ideal life is too short and usually ends too cruelly for us to properly absorb. It was also an excellent signal to give the entire day a pass, just to acknowledge and comprehend the loss.
But it also happened on a football weekend, which meant that Fernandez’ death and Palmer’s passing could so swiftly be pushed aside for other, far less important news, because the beast must be fed, and the beast is always hungry. Their lives deserved lengthening, and if not that, at least a much quieter news day so that we could be less distracted and more inclined to remember and honor them both.
Two college football coaches were fired, Les Miles at LSU and Ron Turner at Florida International, and Notre Dame, which always alleges that it stands for loftier things than mere football, whacked defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder after Saturday’s 38-35 loss to Duke. None of those teams had played more than four games all year, but that was sufficient evidence to send them on their way with malice aforethought.
Fourteen NFL teams won their games, including the Oakland Raiders, who had no defense until they got one, thus saving their still larval seasons. Fourteen lost their games, including the San Francisco 49ers, who are now beneath contempt while being beyond redemption. Much angsting and gnashage of teeth resulted, thus fueling everyone’s fantasies and portents of doom until Week 4 – because the circus never closes.
Oh, and the Rams-Buccaneers game was delayed in the fourth quarter because the earth decided to remind everyone that it is still actually in charge, and makes its wishes known with weather that can kill people and destroy their belongings. A healthy reminder for everyone, I think.
Nine baseball teams ended their regular seasons at home, including the Oakland Athletics, who beat Texas mostly for the greater glory of pitcher Jharel Cotton, the New York Mets, who beat Philadelphia by a smooth 17 runs, and the Minnesota Twins, who lost their 100th game.
Oh, and the Giants lost in San Diego again, falling a game behind the Mets, because that’s what THEY do.
Oh, and might I add oh, the Los Angeles Dodgers played an extra inning in Vin Scully’s last home game ever, which I can assure you was not met with his approval, walk-off homer or no walk-off homer. You might have thought this was some gift from the celestial production booth, but in his head, Scully was more than prepared to just go home as quietly as possible. He just chose the wrong profession to be quiet.
Oakland’s Michael Crabtree chose not to gesture before or speak later on the Great Anthem Debate, which caused many people to savage him as their political foes savaged Colin Kaepernick for starting the whole miss-the-point-he’s-trying-to-make discussion. It is good to know that our version of open discourse still requires an absolute and categorical refusal to consider the opinions of others, and that the First Amendment actually means “freedom to agree, and only to agree.”
And Kaepernick thanked his coach, Chip Kelly, for standing by him at the very same time that everyone else still paying attention to the 49ers was excoriating Kelly for not making the 49ers offense a perfectly polished diamond out of a heap of gravel.
Oh, and Mylan Hicks, a former 49er on the Calgary Stampeders’ practice squad, was shot and killed outside a Calgary nightclub after his team beat Winnipeg only a few hours earlier.
And that brings us back to Fernandez and Palmer, and a day that began and ended horribly. Sometimes 24 hours is simply not enough, and too much, all at the same time, and then you’re left to remember that the days for all of us are too few.