The first thing Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin asked when he woke up in a Cincinnati hospital was who won the game. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me set the stage. Last Monday night, I — along with millions of other people — sat down and watched football. I’m in the Fantasy Football League and Cincinnati Bengals wide his receiver Tea Higgins is one of my players him. In that game, Hamlin tackled Higgins in his most routine play. He was watching it as he looked up at the fantasy football player running and hopefully scoring me a lot of points. Hamlin got up after the tackle and collapsed. It was terrifying. When I saw Tua Tagovailoa go down earlier this season, my first thought was that it must be a concussion. Her husband, who was sitting next to me on the couch, said, “Heart arrest.”
For the next hour and a half, I was glued to ESPN, texting back and forth with a crying friend. It was so traumatic if you didn’t see it. I kept hoping he would give me the thumbs up. I was hoping they would say he was knocked out, but it was coming. What we do know now is that on the field, Hamlin underwent nine minutes of his CPR before being loaded into an ambulance and taken to a hospital in Cincinnati. He is awake and responsive as I write this.
After he collapsed, NFL management was informed that they had instructed the players to recover for five minutes and then continue the game. I looked at her husband and said, “How can you play this game?” My friend texted ‘why don’t they cancel this sooner? The NFL later denied giving a five-minute warning, but it was what was said while watching live. -Walking over to McDermott head coach and saying, “We’re not playing.” They literally just watched their teammate die. He was resuscitated, but he was dead in the field. Both teams left the field. A good deal of time passed and the NFL postponed the game. In the report, ESPN commentator Ryan Clark said the NFL has become desensitized to injuries.
i am very upset about this. When I woke up and heard what Hamlin said, I was horrified. How insensitive was he to his own injury prioritizing the outcome of the game? He perfectly understood why Hamlin’s first thought upon waking up was, “Did I win?” And maybe he and athletes like him understand this in a way that I absolutely cannot.
But what I understand is: Under no circumstances should we be so desensitized to injury that we as a society put gaming before human life. My fantasy football league sent me a note about how points are awarded if the game is not replayed, but I don’t really care. who cares? Lucky Damar Hamlin is alive. In fact, he is not so lucky. He is alive for a very specific reason. There were people in that field who did exactly what was needed to save him.
On Dec. 22, Utah Representative Melissa Ballard introduced a bill requiring Utah youth sports training and information materials related to seeing cardiac arrest warning signs. She, like my husband, understands that sometimes her heart stops—football, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, whatever. And the most important thing you can do is shock and get your rhythm back. To do that, someone on the ground needs to know exactly what’s going on and do the right thing right away.
No matter what happens in the Utah Legislature during its next legislative session, I hope they pass Ballard’s bill. And I really hope they don’t calculate the cost. Don’t ask anyone, “How much does it cost to put this defibrillator in a rural school?” Here in Utah, we can’t be deathly insensitive. Hamlin is alive, has equipment on the field, and first responders can reach him quickly, so he has a fighting chance. He can’t expect every school in Utah to have NFL-level medical personnel, but he can definitely make sure kids have a fighting chance with an on-site defibrillator.
Leah Murray is the Brady Chancellor Emeritus Professor of Political Science and Academic Director of the Orane S. Walker Institute for Political and Public Service at Weber State University.