Under the Hat: A Community Mourns
I never met Damon Janes. But as a parent, my heart sank along with the rest of us to hear that the 16-year old running back had died just a few days after leaving a Friday night high school football game and collapsing.
The initial report said the injury could have come from helmet-to-helmet contact.
The small community of Brocton New York came together in its collective grief. A vigil was held on the field that included balloon releases and a memorial ride on Damon's motorcycle.
The district took the appropriate steps of canceling this week's homecoming game and offering counselors for students forced to deal with mortality far too soon.
Many have come to believe that with today's faster and bigger athletes that these kinds of tragedies are becoming more common.
The truth is exactly the opposite.
Twenty to thirty high school age kids died of sports related injuries every year in the 50's and 60's.
Today that number is two or three.
Much of the credit goes to improvements in impact absorption technology for helmets and pads.
But much of it should also go to dedicated coaches who teach kids to tackle with their heads up and who will not tell a woozy kid to man up and get back in there.
The tragedy of Damon's death will not alter our love affair with sports; just as we would not stop driving had he passed in a car accident.
Life goes on, even in Brocton and one day soon football will return to the field there.
I never met Damon James. But I can't help but believe that would be exactly how he would want it.