Time For Us All to Step Back
High school football player’s death sends small town grievance deeper
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 15:10
As I was scrolling down the WDAY sports page early Sunday afternoon, something caught my eye that sent chills down my spine. No, it wasn’t a headline on how the Bison annihilated the No. three ranked team in the country or on the Concordia Cobbers’ heartbreaking loss against Bethel. Amidst all those headlines, the one that jumped out to me was an article titled “South Carolina high school football player collapses, dies.”
I dove into the article and was stricken with sadness and grief when I was finished.
Ronald Rouse, an 18-year-old senior lineman for the Hartsville (S.C.) Red Fox football team, collapsed during the second quarter of Hartsville’s homecoming game. The 6’3”, 320-pound Rouse called a timeout and then collapsed as he walked towards the sideline. Four doctors and two trainers were able to revive him after several minutes and he walked with assistance to the sideline.
Rouse was talking to his father on the sideline when he collapsed again. Doctors used a defibrillator this time but attempts to revive him again failed. Rouse died in the emergency room of sudden cardiac arrhythmia. He was one week short of his 18th birthday and the third Hartsville High School student to die since April-- one suffered a seizure and another was killed in a car accident.
The whole sequence of events is shocking and downright devastating. The fact that Rouse was revived, talked to his father, and then collapsed again is nothing short of mind numbing. Not to mention, this tragic event was the third in this town and occurred during a football game, in front of his best friends, fans and family, is truly heartbreaking.
Football, a passion in Rouse’s life, did not kill him. An enlarged heart did. His condition could have killed him when he was singing and dancing (something Rouse loved to do), fooling around and making people laugh with his buddies or doing his best to cheer up a classmate who looked sad.
Instead, Rouse’s condition decided to take action during an athletic event. Sports are supposed to be some of the best memories for high school kids, memories that will last a lifetime. For the players on the Hartsville football team, the memory of that night on the field may never escape them. But their memories with Rouse off the field should always overshadow that night.
And that’s how it should be. Too many times, athletes, fans and boosters think the results on the field are the most important thing in the world. Whether it is high school, college, or the professional level, sports are often considered a second religion. Many need to recognize that there is more to life than sports and it is unfortunate that events like this make these die-hard sports nuts to realize it.
Sports, no doubt, bring people together. Communities unite to cheer on their team and teammates form a second family on and off the field. Sports are very important in many people’s lives. But sometimes, we all need to take a second and step back to realize the most important things in life: friends, family, a home and so on.
Hartsville lost a family member and a friend during an event everyone loved on that Friday night. The grieving process has been and will continue to be difficult.
As for the football team, they will play again this week. Why? Not because they think football is life, but because that is a way of bringing the population of 7,700 together. The outcome won’t matter for this undefeated team. The only thing that will matter is giving everyone something to cheer about.
In a small community where young losses are being grieved, the Hartsville football team will go back out under the lights to cheer up the emotional community members, something Ronald Rouse was so good at doing.