I’m not the first person to say it and I probably won’t be the last, but what happened to Fabrice Muamba was terrible. A 23-year-old isn’t supposed to suffer a cardiac arrest. A 23-year-old isn’t supposed to be laying in a hospital bed fighting for his life. There are so many things wrong with what Fabrice Muamba is going through that one can’t help but get depressed thinking about it. Forget if he will ever be able to play again, will he ever be able to lead a normal life again? Will he be able to do a lot of the things that most of us take for granted every day? As I’m writing this article, the Associated Press is reporting that he is showing “encouraging” signs, breathing on his own, moving his limbs and speaking. He is going to have a long hard road of recovery ahead of him, but even the smallest signs of improvement bring me, and the many people who are following his story, great relief.
But through all of the bad things that surround Fabrice Muamba’s collapse, it was the outpouring of support that really amazed me. People from all over the world, on all outlets of social media, showing their support for a player on a team they most likely don’t support or even watch with any sort of regularity. After the incident happened, my Twitter feed was flooded with tweets of support, the hashtag #PrayforMuamba could be found everywhere. It’s this outpouring of humanity that really hit home for me and shows just how small the world we live in has actually become. It also shows how closely knit the sports community worldwide actually is.
I remember back in 2007, when Antonio Puerta suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch playing for Sevilla, I didn’t find out about it personally until many hours after the incident had happened. And even then, as a casual fan, details and updates were few and far between. The amount of time it took from Puerta collapsing and being rushed to a hospital to the world finding out about it seems like an eternity compared to the time in which we were all following Muamba’s situation. The turnaround time from the incident happening to people around the world reacting is absolutely astounding.
I had a conversation with my cousin hours after Muamba collapsed and we were reflecting on what happened, when he said something that resonated with me. He said “I understand it is a horrible situation, but isn’t it a little much that people at the stadium were crying for a guy that they probably don’t even know or have ever met?” I know personally after I watched the video I got a little choked up watching it and it brings up a good topic. Sports bring out all kinds of emotions in people and unfortunately most of the time they’re not the good kinds of emotions. I’m usually someone who thinks it’s a little far for fans to cry at sporting events. People sink so much of their passion into their favorite teams that often they become disillusioned with the fact that they’re just watching a game. But what happened at White Hart Lane transcended sports.
The second you saw the medical staff rushing out onto the pitch, it’s hard for your heart not to sink. All the pomp and circumstance surrounding the game disappears and the real world sets in. It takes us somewhere that we don’t want to go. Sports are an escape from the real world, an escape from all the bad things that happen out there. It allows us, even for just a few hours, to just forget everything and focus on something that brings us joy. But the second Muamba hit the floor, the real world invaded the pitch and there was no going back. The first things that came to my mind were what happened to Marc-Vivien Foe, Miklos Feher and Antonio Puerta. When a guy just collapses on the pitch, you can’t help but go to a bad place because that is all we’ve really known when that sort of thing happens. Even here in the United States, people are reminded of the basketball player Hank Gathers who collapsed in the middle of a college basketball game and died. When your mind takes you to such a dark place, it’s all you can do to not fear the worst. If I was at White Hart Lane that fateful night I wouldn’t be able to shake the thought that I was watching a man die before my very eyes. It’s a situation that until you’ve actually been in it, you don’t know how you’re going to react. From one minute having fun and watching a game, to the next sitting there watching this young man fight for his life and feeling utterly powerless to do anything to stop it.
When such an incident occurs, be it at a sporting event or anywhere else, that’s when the human element kicks in. We start to reflect on our own lives, and the lives of our loved ones. Sometimes we even put ourselves in the shoes of those effected to see how we would react if that was someone we knew going through the same situation. At the end of the day it reminds us that we’re all human. Take away the rivalries, the derbies, the hatred for another team and what it all boils down to is the fact that we’re just rooting for laundry. A patch on a colored shirt that costs way too much and causes us to get all fired up over a game. What happened to Fabrice Muamba was awful, but it serves as a reminder that at the end of the day we all feel the same feelings. No matter who someone is, where they’re from or what team they play for, when something so incredibly unfortunate happens we can take solace in the fact that there are millions of others around the world who are feeling the same way we feel.
Keep on fighting Fabrice, we’re all praying for you.