A Dark Night For Football in Cincinnati

Kickoff of the Monday Night Football game on 1/2/2023 – Photo By Mike Cline Jr.

For the tenth time this NFL season I traversed to a Bills game. I live for seeing football in person. While I mostly travel to support my hometown Buffalo Bills, I just really enjoy the NFL atmosphere. Seeing the cities and the stadiums, throughout the year. Monday night began like any other game I have attended. I entered the stadium early, exploring and capturing my pregame pictures, bought some souvenirs, before settling into my seat for an unseasonably warm night in Cincinnati. This game, though would end like no other sporting event that I have ever attended. In the 100s of sporting events I have attended in my lifetime, I have seen my share of scary moments and serious injuries. I was at the Bills game where Tight End Kevin Everett was paralyzed covering a kick, watching in stunned silence with the rest of the crowd as former Miami Hurricane lay motionless on the turf. When I was nine, we happened to be at the Clint Malarchuk game where his neck was sliced by a skate and he was seconds from death on the ice. In the pre-internet age of the late-80s, we had no idea of the severity of Clint’s injury until we got home and saw the late local news. Even with that, what transpired on Monday Night was a new and surreal experience I hope is never repeated. When you go to any game, rooting for one team or the other, there is always the 50/50 chance you will leave the game disappointed, but the feeling as the silent and shaken crowd slowly made their way out of the Former Paul Brown Stadium, is something that you could never prepare for or expect after football game. As someone who spends nearly every day celebrating the sport and its history, I tried to put what happened in some sort of historical context. I knew about all the past horrific injuries over the years. Darryl Stingley, Dennis Byrd, Mike Utley and the tragic on-field death of Chuck Hughes in 1971 all came to mind as we watched distraught players helplessly watch frantic medical teams resuscitate Damar Hamlin.

Bills pray as a team moments after Damar Hamlin was taken off the field in and ambulance by medical personnel in the first quarte of the halted game on 1/2/2023.

NFL Games just do not get postponed for injury. Especially in modern times. This time however it did and rightly so. This is something that will stick with me as a spectator and as a football fan for a long time. It really puts it all in perspective and makes you rethink how we feel about athletes and the risks they take. Essentially putting their lives on the line for our entertainment. A sobering moment that I hope fans don’t forget, the next time they need to tweet insults at opposing fans or players. There is more to the game than rivalries and wins and losses. There are humans under those helmets. I am just hopeful Damar will pull through and live a full and meaningful life beyond football, which is what is most important at the moment.

Game program and souvenirs.