My Take on the Tragedies and Untimely Passings of the Last Few Days

April 15, 2009 |

The shocking sports world deaths started on April 9, shortly after midnight when Nick Adenhart a 22 year old Angels’ rookie starter was cut down by a drunk driver before his career could ever really begin.  It is a difficult thing to deal with when a person so young dies in such a sudden and unexpected way.  After pitching arguably the best outing of his major league career Adenhart’s life was over.  Being from Maryland I am sure that some of you reading this article may have known him, or known of him, so I don’t mean to offend anyone or diminish the tragedy his death represents but all too often people who are famous become a big news story upon their deaths. 



It is not the fault of the person who passed, it is the national mainstream media conglomerations and their ever increasing need to sell sorrow in order to expand their bottom line.  I know that the media is not inherently bad or unjust.  I do not wish to attack the media in any way because I would like to some day be a part of it.  The media is naturally biased toward negativity because it sells.  We buy into it and reinforce their need to tell us all the bad things that are occurring (one of the main reasons the economy is doing so poorly is because they continue to tell us how bad it is, but that is a story for a different time).  We should take moments like these to focus on the good things about the person’s life and how best to remember them as an individual.  Most of the stories I have seen on Nick Adenhart have been about the tragedy of his death, or how it is affecting his team negatively, or even how it fits into the long line of tragedies throughout the history of the ball club.  What I haven’t seen enough of are positive stories about who he was as a person or even stories about his family.



Without getting too political or personal I would like to share something that I care deeply about, and one of the reasons that I proudly sport my 4th of July Orioles hat.  Because the mainstream media always has an agenda they choose not to focus on many of the positive stories of heroism and valor surrounding the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Regardless of one’s political leanings the truth remains that young kids, even younger than Adenhart, are dying over there every day.  Many of them have bright futures, some even futures in professional sports.  While I have this forum I would like to share the story of my friend who died in Iraq because he too was cut down before the prime of his life at 22, and he too had dreams of playing baseball.



Corporal Jason Dunham was a close personal friend and we grew up together playing sports.  Jason was a physically gifted athlete and he excelled at soccer, basketball, and especially baseball.  There was a period of time while he was in Myrtle Beach, SC that he impressed scouts at a tryout for their AA team.  Due to his military commitment he could not pursue it any further, but having not played since high school I thought that was pretty impressive.  The economic circumstances where we grew up forced many of us to look to military service as a stepping stone toward financing higher education or earning money in order to improve our situations.    


As a marine Jason was the best of the best at what he did, however he was cut down when attempting to stop escaping Iraqi insurgents after a firefight.  As Jason searched the vehicles for weapons an insurgent leapt out and attacked him.  Jason subdued him but in the melee the insurgent was able to release a grenade amongst the crowd.  Without a moments hesitation Jason leapt onto the grenade covering it with his helmet and body.  The blast would eventually take his life, however he was able to save the lives of those around him.  He had volunteered to stay in Iraq to see his squad through and protect them; unfortunately he had to do so by sacrificing his own life.



The Medal of Honor was presented to Jason posthumously for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving his country.  He is a true hero and should be celebrated as such along with all of the other men and women who work tirelessly for the causes of our nation.  These individuals never receive the recognition they deserve from the public at large because their stories are seldom told (what Britney Spears eats for breakfast is more important I guess).  The USS Jason Dunham is a DDG 51 class destroyer which is currently being constructed was also named in his honor.




I am sorry that this is just a blog because I would love to tell you more, but if you would like to read more about Jason and his heroics I suggest picking up the book The Gift of Valor – A War Story by Michael M. Phillips, a staff reporter for the Wall Street Journal.  It is a nice tribute to him and all of the other Marines he served with in Iraq.  You can also google his name and you are sure to find articles concerning his courageous actions.  This is but a small tribute for someone I knew who died before their time.  Thank you for sharing this cathartic journey with me so close to the anniversary, RIP JLD.



The following link is to an anecdotal story that I found on a message board which basically sums the point I am trying to instill.



I don’t want to leave out any of the other tragic passings so in an effort for equal time here are some more thoughts.



Harry Kalas also passed away suddenly on April 13.  I best knew him as the voice-over narrator from NFL Films, but he also had a Hall of Fame career as the play-by-play announcer for his beloved Phillies.  The only good thing that one can take from a death such as this is at least he died doing something he loved.  He wouldn’t have called games for almost 40 years unless he loved doing it, Harry your voice will be missed.



Mark Fidrych passed away on April 13 as well.  I best knew him by his nickname “The Bird” because his career was cut short by injuries.  Some say the brightest star burns the fastest and maybe that is what happened to Fidrych’s career.