Friday, August 17, 2012

Death, Dying and the Blue Jays

Middle aged man suffers cardiac arrest after 7th inning stretch

Tom Szczerbowski / US PressWire

Last night's game against the White Sox was stopped in the bottom of the 7th inning with the Jays at bat when a fan went into cardiac arrest. EMS officials attempted to revive him in the stands, and from eyewitness accounts it appears that Kevin Youkilis told the 3rd base umpire to stop the game.

The fan was carted off the field while EMS officials continued to perform CPR. Ambulances could be heard around the Rogers Centre. The man died later in hospital, according first to CityTV news (which released a breaking news release on Twitter). The game was delayed by about 5 minutes while the matter was attended to.

Paul Attfield of the Globe and Mail writes:

"It was not a good sight. It was bad," said Chicago third baseman Kevin Youkilis. "I could see the guy pumping on him, doing something where I just knew it was happening too long. I said something to [third-base umpire] Mark [Wegner] and finally I was like 'We've got to stop this thing.'"

The game was halted for approximately four or five minutes while the man, who appeared to be middle-aged, was lifted onto a cart and taken from the Rogers Centre field and on to hospital. The incident – the second at Rogers Centre this summer following another cardiac arrest on June 29 - certainly left an indelible mark on the players Thursday night."
  I have a few thoughts on the incident. First, a caveat. I did not know this man's circumstances, did not know the man. I was not on the field or near him. I listened to the incident as Mike Wilner described it, then read news stories as they broke last night.

That said, it puts baseball in reality. Baseball is just a game. It's a huge game and a multi-billion dollar industry in North America, Latin America, and Japan, but it is just a game. Tragedy has been seen on the field before. There was the child who watch his father fall to his death at the Texas Rangers July 7, 2011. There was the man who fell to his death while sliding down a staircase rail at Coors field in May of last year.

People attend baseball games for entertainment and because they are fans of the game. This man who died probably was a fan of the game. He had great seats along the 3rd baseline and was watching a pretty good game. Whether the man had a cardiac arrest at the game or at home watching the game, or on a Monday morning going to work, or during sex, the man was probably due for a cardiac arrest. I am not trying to be callous here, but the powers that be chose this time in this man's life for a heart attack. He was due. No specific event at the ball game caused him to have a unique event that he wasn't going to experience in the near-term anyway.  

The Toronto EMS crews did what they did for the guy and he received the best of care. 

We are all going to die. Life is short. As a fan of the game, dying at a game due to a cardiac arrest is not the worst way to die. There are plenty of tragic ways to die. They're lingering deaths like cancer. There's meaningless deaths like suicide and being hit by a drunk driver. There are withering deaths like Alzheimer's, dementia, senility and on so on. Cardiac arrest at a ball game? Sounds like a perfect way for me to go. My only wish is that it happens while Toronto is in the World Series.

Still, fans, when you're living your life and feeling frustration or elation about your team, whoever it may be, remember that baseball is just a game. What goes on in your day-to-day life is your choice, and what you focus on in life is your choice. If you choose to make a game where 25 overpaid men on 30 major league teams throw around a ball and try to hit a ball with a 2-3 pound wooden stick, that's your choice. Fandom has its rewards and its frustrations, that is for sure.

The man's death put a little bit of perspective on my own life, and certainly, it put some perspective on the 20,000 fans, staff, and players at the park. Perspective and reflection is a good thing.

Now go, and live life.

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