Thursday, September 1, 2011

Lowest Common Denominator

by NiNY

The sad news of Wade Belak's death yesterday has sent the NHL community into another tail spin - sadly similar to the two that we've already endured this ill-fated summer.

And, by in large, I've seen grace and respect emerge from the potential for poor taste and ugliness in people's responses.

But, among that grace and respect, comes a new round of the How Do We Qualify And Quantify This? exercise that is both a predictable and frankly not even an unreasonable by-product of going through a death (much less a series of them) like NHL fans have.

And I'm not trying to say that we shouldn't do...that.

But I do want to say that such an exercise makes it easy to standardize and, once standardized, view the deaths of these three men through a lens that is sufficiently academic as to mitigate the human factor in them and their deaths. And that would be a shame.

The lowest common denominator here is that three men are no longer with us. The means of their death, indeed the factors in their lives that may or may not have accrued to cause those means to be attractive to them, are immaterial against the backdrop of that baseline: that three men are dead.

People die all the time. According to NIMH, in 2007 suicide was the 10th-leading cause of death among Americans, with an overall rate of 11.3 suicides per 100,000 people. With an additional 11 attempted suicides for every suicide death.

Wikipedia tells me that in 2005 there were 22,000 Americans killed due to accidental overdoses.

These are real numbers of real Americans and the common theme - maybe the only common theme - is that they all died.

All I want to say is that sometimes the fact that someone has died is all we need to focus on.

There isn't an epidemic of NHL players - fighters or otherwise - dying. That does not make three, or two, or even one death acceptable. I'm absolutely not saying that it does. Could it be the tip of an iceberg that will continue to expose itself as we go along, presenting as an actual issue? Sure. But you can bet it will be dealt with if that happens.

I don't think I'm somehow a better fan for trying to light that fire now, if my trying to light it is at the expense of simply recognizing it and experiencing it for the simple sadness that it represents. It's okay to just be sad.

Maybe engaging in the exercise is a way of coping. And, if so, I'm not trying to take anyone's coping mechanism away. But that seems like an odd action to try to fit into the Kubler-Ross model. To be honest, if anything, it seems like an obfuscatory action - the pro-academic-thus-de-humanizing mentality - which would suggest the Denial stage. "I don't want to face the pain and sadness of this, so I'm going to hold those things at an arm's length by studying it instead." Again, that's not wrong; it's just....

I'm saying, let's just mourn and celebrate these three men. That's hard enough, given the alternative of celebrating without having to mourn them.

Sure, let's find out - to the fullest extent possible - why each of them came to their ultimate decision. And, if there's something to be gleaned from it - for the protection of others, great. I'm all for that.

Tragedy can exist in a vacuum. And we can treat it in a vacuum, too.

And that's okay.

I'm sad that Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak are dead. I can't begin to comprehend what their families are going through. My daughters are Belak's daughters' ages - and that's added an element of sadness to his death that I didn't experience with Boogaard and Rypien.

But I don't need to make the process harder by going through the self-flogging exercise of analysis of the game of hockey, or aspects of the game of hockey, or specific roles created by those aspects of the game of hockey to be sad..

I just want to be sad about it for a while.

So, that's what I'm going to do.

1 comment:

Ms. Conduct said...

Great post. I did that with Boogie. I was just straight up sad. No analysis. But man, I just can't fight the urge to analyze at this point. And worry for others in the same line of work.

All I can think is "How can we better support these guys?"