Putting football in perspective
Published: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 26, 2013 19:09
Last week, the community of Westfield-Brocton was shaken with tragic news.
Junior running back Damon Janes had passed away from injuries suffered from a helmet-to-helmet hit on Sept. 13.
I never knew Janes nor have I ever watched a Westfield-Brocton football game.
But for four years, I played high school football at Rush-Henrietta Senior High School in Rochester, and Janes’ death had me reflecting on my football career. I realized how lucky I am to be alive.
Being undersized, I did everything I could to find my way onto the football field. There was no better rush of adrenaline than exerting every last bit of energy into hitting someone out there and making a play. I sacrificed my body every day, doing everything in my power to make sure my team was on the winning side of the ball.
When I wasn’t playing center or long-snapping field goals, I was a ‘wedge buster’ on kickoffs. My job was to break up the front line of blockers protecting the kick returners. You had to be willing, no matter what, to sacrifice your body for the ‘big hit.’ Being a high-strung individual, I was a perfect fit for the position.
Until one game. One single hit broke my once-fearless mentality.
It was homecoming against our rival, Fairport, a game full of hostility. The only thing on my mind was running down the field and burying my shoulder into the chest of a Red Raider.
But we wanted to surprise the opposition. We called a ‘freedom kick’ – a surprise play in which we would try to catch the opposing team off-guard. We would break huddle and immediately try to recover the onside kick.
I was on the front lines. I lowered my head for a hit and my helmet connected with another player’s helmet.
Though I can barely recall the play, I vividly remember getting up from the pile and feeling out of it. But it was an important game and I wanted to keep playing.
And I did – not realizing the consequences that it could have led to.
Now, it made me realize I could have been Damon Janes.
I never understood how detrimental head injuries could be. It’s not something you think about when a play happens. The long-lasting impact never affected my play because I didn’t understand; I couldn’t put it all together.
Today, I question whether I’m experiencing post-concussion effects after experiencing five documented concussions.
Following Damon’s death, I feel that parents are going to be mindful of their children even playing pee-wee football.
I know that when I have children, I won’t let them play football. After what happened to Janes, I can’t imagine the tragedy that his family is going through.
Such a young kid with a whole life ahead of him abruptly ended because of a game.
Westfield-Brocton has announced it has canceled the rest of its football season in the wake of Janes’ death.
They realized that a teenager’s life is more important than a game of tackles and touchdowns. It sounds obvious, but we don’t often think this way.
We as a society must realize that Damon Janes’ life was more important than the game he played.