The excitement over the start of the NFL season is overshadowed by the death of Garrett Reid, Andy Reid’s oldest son.
The Saints and Cardinals kicked off the NFL preseason Sunday in the Hall of Fame Game, but the result seemed even less important than usual. The same will hold true of the Eagles’ preseason game Thursday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Even if the Phillies were still in playoff contention, their games also would seem less meaningful this week.
There is a frequently repeated saying that fans live and die with their sports teams. That mantra seems inappropriate after someone literally dies with their sports team.
Garrett Reid, 29, was found dead Sunday in his room at Eagles training camp at Lehigh University. His funeral will be Tuesday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Broomall.
The Eagles must move forward. They must practice and compete for roster spots. But who starts at linebacker doesn’t seem very important this week. All that matters is the support for the Reid family as they deal with the tragic loss of Garrett Reid.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie indicated that Andy Reid might coach Thursday’s game against the Steelers. I can’t imagine Reid coaching Thursday, but Tony Dungy quickly returned to the sideline with the Colts following his son’s suicide.
Perhaps Reid will find comfort in his routine. Perhaps he will find comfort in the support he is certain to receive from the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field.
Sports allows us to gather as a community. It creates a bond among those who root for the same team. We’ve seen that bond unite divergent parts of our community, particularly during championship runs and, all too rarely, during championship parades.
Sports also serves as a unifying element during difficult times. In the wake of the terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, the Flyers stopped their preseason game so fans could watch President Bush’s speech on the video screen. The emotion from the Phillies’ first game back after the 9/11 attack is still palpable to those who were there in person, and even those whose connection to the community that night came through their televisions.
That sense of community should be present during Thursday’s game against the Steelers. It will be the largest public gathering of Eagles fans since Garrett Reid’s death, allowing fans to share their emotions and offer a show of collective support for Andy Reid and his grieving family.
Even as Garrett Reid’s death reminds us of the relative unimportance of wins and losses on the playing field, it also reminds us of the positive role sports can play in fostering a feeling of community, both in good times and bad.
On second thought, perhaps Thursday’s preseason game against the Steelers won’t be so meaningless after all.
CHOOCH TO DL: Carlos Ruiz’s terrific individual season may have ended when he was placed on the disabled list over the weekend due to plantar fasciitis. Ruiz is expected to miss 4-6 weeks, which means the earliest he might play would be early September. If he can’t play until mid-September, it doesn’t seem to make sense to bring Ruiz back for the final two weeks of the season.
Ruiz is batting .335 with 14 homers and 58 RBI. He is one of the Phillies’ few bright spots during this dismal season.
CARTER EFFECT: During PhillyPhanatics.com’s Internet Blog Talk Radio show Sunday, I asked my colleague Ron Opher which former Phillies outfielder would have a bigger effect on his new team. After some thought and consideration, Ron picked Shane Victorino because of the Dodgers’ obvious need for a leadoff hitter.
While acknowledging that Victorino fills a void for the Dodgers, I’m leaning toward Hunter Pence making more of an impact. The Giants don’t have a lot of power. Buster Posey and Melky Cabrera are the only two Giants in double digits in home runs (16 for Posey; 11 for Cabrera). The Giants’ lineup has also been hurt by Pablo Sandoval’s recent trip to the disabled list.
Even if Pence doesn’t put up huge numbers, as he did Sunday with two doubles and three RBI during the Giants’ 8-3 win over the Rockies, his presence in the lineup should benefit the rest of the players. He might create a domino effect, similar to how the addition of Jeff Carter improved the Los Angeles Kings’ offense across the board. Whether Pence’s move to California helps produce a championship, as Carter’s did for the Kings, remains to be seen.
GOING BOWLING: The Philadelphia Soul crushed the Jacksonville Sharks, 89-34, to earn a trip to ArenaBowl XXV, which will be held Friday night (10:30 p.m.) in New Orleans. The Soul will face the Arizona Rattlers, a team they did not play this season.
The Soul have been steamrolling opponents during the second half of the season. My one concern would be how the Soul, who haven’t had many close games, will react if the Rattlers keep the game close until the end.
APPEAL REACTION: It would be interesting to learn the honest opinions of Penn State officials upon hearing that the Paterno family intends to appeal the NCAA sanctions against Penn State. On the one hand, as I’ve written previously, the Penn State administration and Board of Trustees seems to want to put the Jerry Sandusky scandal behind them as quickly as possible. On the other hand, some may be pleased to see the Paternos stand up to the NCAA.
The NCAA basically threatened Penn State with the “death penalty” for its football program if it did not accept the NCAA’s sanctions. Penn State was not in a position to object. But the Paternos, operating outside the university structure, are able to make the arguments that some within the administration may have liked to make but were afraid to make due to potential repercussions to the university.
LACK OF COMMITMENT: Roman Catholic wideout Will Fuller changed his commitment over the weekend, choosing Notre Dame instead of Penn State. He isn’t the first recruit to change his mind about Penn State, but what will raise the ire of Penn State fans is that Fuller reaffirmed his commitment to Penn State one week earlier.
Without getting into the specifics of the Fuller situation, shouldn’t the NCAA place a deadline on when players can switch schools or will it allow other programs to poach Penn State players and recruits right up until the start of the season?
ON THE RIGHT TRACK: I didn’t make a specific prediction for Sunday’s Pennsylvania 400, but I centered my preview on Jeff Gordon and wrote that Gordon is “the driver with the best chance to make the Chase with a late run.” Gordon won the rain-shortened Pennsylvania 400, moving into the final berth for the Chase for the Sprint Cup with five races remaining before the Chase begins.
SPIRIT OF COMPETITION: Despite my criticism of the Olympics in last week’s Fish ‘n Chips, I’ve enjoyed the competition. I’m still not enjoying the presentation, which I’ve dubbed the Hallmarkification of the Olympics, but the competition has been terrific. Whether it’s basketball, beach volleyball or swimming, I enjoy competition. In that sense, the Olympics has been a success.
OLYMPIC STARS: As Michael Phelps exits with another huge haul of medals, gymnast Gabby Douglas leaps onto center stage as the United States’ newest Olympic star. Douglas won the all-around women’s competition, upstaging her more heralded teammates and competitors from around the world. Douglas will be featured on cereal boxes – coming soon to a store near you – and has a fantastic nickname: The Flying Squirrel!
SPORTS OF SORTS: Did you know that trampoline is an Olympic sport? I did not.
I propose that trampoline and badminton be removed from the Olympics and assigned to a new competition: the backyard Olympics. Other events could include horseshoes, ring toss, hamburger/hot dog eating and beer drinking.
Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for more than 23 years, sends his condolences to the Reid family, hoping they find the strength to carry them through this extremely difficult time.