Grief Into Sports Triumphs And Tributes


Star Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s son died this week. A man allegedly beat his 2 year old son to death. He will grieve, and it appears he will play football while grieving. To the layperson, the concept of playing a game while grieving makes little sense. No one would want to go to the office on the day their son died. Great athletes are different from us in many ways, and this is one of those ways. Games are their milieu. Teams are their temporary families. The playing field is where they pour out their emotions, where they honor those they love. History overflows with athletes who perform, and perform well, while emotionally stricken. Perhaps the best example of this was provided by one of the most emotional players of his generation, Brett Favre. On Dec. 21, 2003, Favre told his teammates in a meeting that his father had died and that he planned to play the next night, against the Oakland Raiders on Monday Night Football. Favre played brilliantly at times, and at times his receivers seemed to channel their devotion to him by making spectacular catches, and the night ended with Favre in tears. Favre honored his father by playing football.


Joe’s Walk for Change. Not long after Joe Bell’s teenage son killed himself, the 48 year old with two artificial knees set out to walk from Oregon to New York City so he could spread the word about the child he loved, about the evils of bullying, about parents’ responsibility. Bell figured it would take two years to complete his planned 5,000 mile trek, his memorial to son Jadin, with a message about loving gay children and holding bullies to higher standards. He certainly changed one life last week, just before he was struck and killed on a lonely Colorado highway – 18 months and thousands of miles short of his destination. The life Bell changed belongs to Lincoln County Sheriff Tom Nestor.  “I only knew him for a very short time,” Nestor said in an email he sent to the Oregonian newspaper and later to the Los Angeles Times, “but this man had to of made a huge difference in everyone he met. He made me realize how important basic humanity still is. I will pass his story on to many people.”,0,4562323.story


The Dallas Cowboys unite in grief, playing less than 48 hours after learning that Jerry Brown, Jr., a practice squad linebacker, had died early Saturday morning in a one vehicle crash.  The teammates’ anguish was compounded by the knowledge that Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent, whose best friend was Jerry Brown, Jr., faced criminal charges of intoxication as the driver of the car that crashed.  In the Cowboys’ emotional 20-19 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, Cowboys’ defensive end Jason Hatcher grabbed the No. 53 jersey of Jerry Brown Jr. and  held it above his head.


After tapping the golf ball into the final hole of the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania, 32 year old Justin Rose raised his fingers to the sky in memory of his late father, Ken, who died of leukemia in 2002.  Ken had a massive influence on his son’s career.  “Father’s Day wasn’t lost on me today. You don’t have the opportunity to really dedicate a win to someone you love.  And, today was about him and being Father’s Day,” said Rose afterwards.  Rose was the first English winner of America’s national championship, The U.S. Open, in 43 years.


Grieving son channeled his grief into a 3,000 mile bike ride through Europe. By the end, he said he realized he wanted to find a way to both honor his father and devote himself to fighting the insidious disease that robbed him of so many precious years with his dad. The result was Bike For the Fight. The annual bike rides encourage people to donate to the Israel Cancer Research Fund, a North American organization that gives grants to top Israeli cancer researchers. “I started this at 23 with no experience at organizing anything,” he said. “But when you do something you believe in and it comes from a pure and honest place, people will help. People are looking to do good, you just need to show them how.”


The grieving partner of a soldier killed in Afghanistan is set to reach a poignant milestone – as she completes a 415-mile marathon challenge in his memory. She knows every mile she has run in the year-long challenge has raised vital funds and kept the memory of Captain Healey alive. She started the challenge with the London Parks half marathon on October 7 last year and has run marathons as far afield as Bermuda, Rome, Paris, London, Brighton, Manchester, Tenby and, just last week, Loch Ness.


Miss Michigan 2013, 20 year old Haley Williams, is looking forward to a year-long reign to share her platform, “Through a Child’s Eyes: Conquering Childhood Grief.”  Her platform is about kids overcoming tragedy and grief and realizing they can still live a happy life regardless of the traumatic experience they have had as a child.  Williams lost her father when she was very young and as she got older, realized she was still grieving and needed to try to work through her loss and grief.  Her platform is now helping children who are also going through what she went through as a child.


Participants in “Race for Grief” ran either a 10K or took a two mile walk to remember family members who had died.  “This is to help those who are grieving,” said organizer Lora Erickson, who lost a child 14 years ago.  Her daughter, Samantha, lived only five hours after her birth.  Erickson wanted to do something to honor the memory of Samantha and bring community members together to help others in their grieving process which she believes is a life- long process.–outlet-for-those-who-grieve?instance=home_news_1st_left


Vermont’s Kate Ryley learns of the death of a former teammate from Canada, Nik Zoridc, just before competing in the slalom.  Nik had lost his life after crashing in a World Cup ski cross competition in Switzerland.  While still grieving her friend’s death, according to her coach, “she stepped up and took the slalom title. She’s a champion!”


Eight year old Andy Murray hid under a table when Thomas Hamilton marched into the Dunblane Primary School armed with four guns in 1995.  Hamilton killed 16 children and one teacher before turning the loaded weapon on himself.  Murray knew Hamilton as his scoutmaster.  Yet, in 2013, Andy Murray, the child who dodged a coward’s bullets, became Britain’s first male to win Wimbledon in 77 years.  The year 1936 was the last time a British won at Wimbledon.


In 2010, the Virginia women’s lacrosse team had to put the tragedy of teammate Yeardley Love’s death (allegedly at the hands of men’s team member George Huguely) behind them and somehow focus on the NCAA tournament.  Both the men’s and women’s teams wore T-shirts in memory of Love before their games, and both opened with tournament victories.  The men defeated Mount St. Mary’s, 18-4 while the women beat Towson, 14-12.


Thirty-three year old Nicky C. Jones has experienced the loss of 19 loved ones including her mother, boyfriend who she described as “the love of her life” and 4 pets.  She has turned her grief into yoga and healing therapies to help others.


Still shell-shocked and numb from grief, Pat Nashek of the Detroit Tigers took the mound in the seventh inning in a game the Detroit Tigers would win 3-1 in October 2012, during a playoff game.  He retired two batters and got a win for his team and son.  Nashek’s uniform, the first time he had it on in a week, had a black patch on the sleeve with the initials “GJN” for his son, Gehrig John Neshek, who was born earlier in the week and died just 23 hours later, with the cause of death unknown.


After an airplane crash killed 37 players, coaches and support staff members of the Yaroslavl Lkomativ hockey team on their way to its season opening game last year, the organization decided not to play the Kontinental Hockey season with members from its junior club.  Instead, it gradually rebuilt the team with a mix of prospects and more experienced European and North American players.  As of November 2012, they were having a successful season so far with a 9-win streak.


A team turns grief into a win for their beloved coach. A Michigan youth softball team won First District title in 10 years for their deceased coach, Todd Barron, who died unexpectedly at the age of 49 years old from a heart attack months earlier in February 2013.


In 2008, Tara and Dwayne Cuff were rocked to their core after the tragic accidental drowning of their 11 year old daughter, Trava.  In her memory, her parents founded “Dolphin 11,” a swim advocacy organization whose goal is to provide inner-city children, and particularly African-American children, like their daughter, with access to water safety and swim instructions and encouragement to start lessons.


Merely hours after his mom, Sylvia, 53, passed away, grieving son, Nikki Monteclaro, mustered enough strength and courage to step onto the court in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament saying his Mom would have wanted him to play.  Her passing was a total surprise, especially to Nikko, who even asked his mother when she planned to watch his game just before she was rushed to the hospital.


Two grieving mothers get their inspiration to run marathons from their grief over the loss of their sons.  Jennifer Field lost her 17 year old son, Ryan Field, when he died in a Big Sur car crash in 2006, at the age of 17 years old.  His motto was “Smile, Find Your Passion, Catch a Wave For me.”  Seven months later, Lori Haines 9 year old son, Matthew Haines died of unforeseen medical complications.  The two women began walking together and then running.  In April 2013, they both ran the Big Sur International Marathon.


A safety campaign by the family of 30 year old Eilidh Cairns who was killed on February 5, 2009, after being knocked off her bike by a HGV {Heavy Goods Vehicle} wins a victory in a cyclists safety campaign.  The cyclist’s grieving family and friends have been fighting for action at the European level to improve safety for cyclists since her death in February 2009.  On April 15, 2013, the European Commission released proposals, partly in response to the family’s campaigning, which would allow HGVs to have rounded cabs to improve driver visibility, a move which it said could save hundreds of lives each year.


Serbian tennis player, Novak Djokovic, moved into the fourth round of the French Open after beating Bulgarian Grigo Dimitrov 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.  Djokovic then suffered the emotional blow of learning that the coach, Jelena Gencic, who nurtured his fledgling career had died in Belgrade at the age of  77.  The world’s No. 1 tennis player broke down in the locker room after the match.  His former coach, Jelena Gencic had noticed Djokovic when she ran a tennis camp when he was 6 years old and coached him for 5 years.


On March 13, 2012, an avalanche on Takhin Ridge near Haines, Alaska killed 35 year old helicopter ski guide, Rob Liberman, and his snowboarding client, 26 year old Nickolay Dodov.  A 60 minute documentary entitled “The Alaskan Way” is made by Ben Clark.  After meeting Rob Liberman’s mother, Katherine Gill, at a memorial service in Telluride, Colorado.  Gill’s profound grief affected Clark so much that he has given up extreme skiing and rock climbing.  Clark’s documentary ends with a message that appears on a blackened screen with the words “Is living the dream worth risking it all?” l


Grieving mother, Sharon Therin, said that motor racing at Greve de Lecq should not be stopped because of her son’s, Chris Collingwood’s, death after crashing during a motorcycling sprint event on Mont de Ste Marie in August 2012.  Ms. Therin said that Jersey’s long tradition with the sport should continue and that nothing should be cancelled following her son’s death.


Grieving dad, Richard Nares who lost a son, Emilio, to leukemia in 2000, recently set out from San Francisco in May 2013, on a 700 mile run to San Diego.  Nares says, “More than 12 years ago, I made a promise to Emilio when we saw runners outside his hospital room in Boston, where he was receiving radiation treatment, that I would run that city’s famous marathon.  I’ve since qualified for the race three times.”  In his current run from San Francisco to San Diego which he hopes to finish in 30 days, his goal is to raise $125,000 for ENF which helps bring low income children tot heir leukemia and cancer treatments.  Nares says, “ If my son could be so courageous in his fight, then I can run.”


A grieving couple, Stacie and Martin Richardson, whose first child, Ethan Jai, died when he was just days old, are launching a charity football sporting challenge on July 5, 2013, in his memory.  Called the “Ethan Jai Memorial Cup Football Tournament,” they hope it will become an annual event with money raised to be donated to “Tiny Lives,” a charity which helped the couple after their son died of Infantile Polycystic Kidney Disease and Glutaric Academia Type II, a rare condition which had only been seen seven times across the world when Ethan was born in March 2011.


Lukas Rosol completed an emotional tennis game at the BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy Tournament in Bucharest in April 2013, by brushing aside Guillermo Garcia Lopez 6-3, 6-2 in the finals.  During the ceremony, Rosol dedicated the title to his father who passed away 10 days ago.  Rosol said, “I wanted to dedicate this trophy to someone, so I found the energy.  I felt somebody was helping me from up top.  It’s not just about me.  My family has always supported me and my tennis.  I felt match after match, my dream was coming true.”


“That was for you, Dad,” said grieving Stoke midfielder, Charlie Adam, who hit the winning goal and dedicated it to his father by pointing his finger upwards and looking to the heavens in an emotional gesture when he netted on 46 minutes.  Adam’s dad, Charlie Adam, Senior, committed suicide in December 2012, in his home and had played football himself in the 1980’s and 90’s for several Scottish clubs and was a driving force in his son’s career.  Afterwards Adam said: “It’s been a tough time.  It’s the first goal I’ve scored since I lost my dad. It’s just great to score and when I’m on the pitch it’s always about him.  It’s an emotional thing when you lose somebody like that in your life.  But for me the only chance of getting on with life is on the pitch and I’ve managed to do that.”


Lisa Moore cared for her mother, Rose Beebe, throughout her Alzheimer’s journey putting her life on hold to take care of her mom as her mom had so lovingly done for Lisa all her life. For nearly five years, Lisa fed, bathed, bought groceries and medication, took her to doctor appointments, handled finances and made trips to the emergency room in the middle of the night. After her mother died, Lisa, a long time yoga devotee, was consumed with grief.  She decided to undergo 200 hours of intense study so that she could fulfill her dream to start a Hatha Yoga teacher training program through her studio, Harmony Yoga.  Lisa says, “I thanked God for giving me the strength to make my dream come true and I acknowledged Mom for being the wind beneath my wings. I know she would have been proud of my accomplishments.”