We hear about it all the time, a story that "transcends the game" and brings us to a more personal level. Too often have we become accustomed to these sorts of stories being tragic and disheartening, where we see players, coaches, and their families dealing with issues that are more important than anything on the football field. We learn about the tragic effects of concussions sustained by former players, and how it has negatively impacted their lives. We hear about players who have lost someone near and dear to them, like Torrey Smith, who hours later have the guts and heart to still come out and play this game we love so much. Sometimes we hear about the darkness that can still torment a professional athlete, even though he is wealthy beyond many of our dreams, and loved by so many as in the case of Junior Seau.
Panther fans are no strangers to these tales, as we have felt the brunt of many right here at home even in our short existence as a franchise. Dark times like the murder surrounding Rae Carruth, sad times like the death of Sam Mills to invasive cancer, and trying times like our own owner, Jerry Richardson, receiving a heart transplant.
But there is often a silver lining...
One of the things that makes humanity so special, is the ability for something great to rise up from the ashes of defeat and devastation. The resolve of the human spirit is like nothing else on the planet, and possibly like nothing else in the galaxy. Take the tragedies listed above...
- Out of the horrible circumstances surrounding the murder of Rae Carruth's wife at the hands of a pair of insidious henchmen hired by Rae himself, a child was born. A child with a long and hard road ahead of him that he meets with a smile. Chancellor Lee Adams was rescued from his dying mother's womb, and although he lives with several disabilities, he is able to forgive his incarcerated father for his wrong doing and face life with an optimism that we can't find over a damn football game, at just 12 years of age.
- While Sam Mills is deceased, he has provided inspiration for generations of Panther fans, coaches, and players with his heartfelt locker room speeches, summarized by the words "Keep Pounding" that the team proudly keeps as it's motto. There are also memorial scholarships set up in his name, as well as local charities which carry on his message. One only needs to walk past the bronze statue of him outside the stadium to know what kind of impact he had on this franchise.
- Finally, the owner of our beloved franchise, Jerry Richardson, was the recipient of a heart transplant that saved his life. I save this one for last, because for only the cost of one human heart, Jerry has touched so many others, and perhaps his greatest work is yet to come...
The good deeds of Jerry "Big Cat" Richardson sometimes go fairly unknown, except to us Panther fans who are well aware of his charity, generosity, and unbreakable spirit. Perhaps more than any other owner, Jerry brings a personal touch to how he approaches team ownership. He connects with fans on an unprecedented level, small things like personal emails and phone calls to PSL owners thanking them for their support or to answer their concerns, all the way up to huge gestures of kindness like attending the funeral of a fan who died of a sudden heart attack while leaving a game whom he had never met. Our own Jaxon wrote at length about the intangibles that make the Big Cat great in a personal piece during the summer.
But never has a potential tragedy hit as close to his heart, as the one affecting Greg Olsen right now.
Greg and his wife, Kara, have recently found out about a potentially deadly heart condition afflicting their unborn son, TJ, one of two twins Kara will give birth to in a matter of weeks. I cannot tell this tale with any great degree of justice, so I will instead show this video, first posted by Panther fan in GA, detailing the hardship they are facing...
If that story does not touch your heart and make you choke up a little, perhaps you need a heart transplant of your own.
First I must commend the bravery of Greg Olsen to continue to give it his all week after week on the football field. A lesser man may have fallen into a deep depression, or at a minimum taken a long repose from football that would be totally understandable. Instead of doing that, Greg is currently on pace for his best season as a pro, something that regardless of the adversity he is facing off the field seems to remain a top priority to him. Thank you Greg, you are a warrior, and you have earned the undying support of all that this message reaches. Keep Pounding, Thor.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the bravery of his wife Kara, who shoulders the daily burden of carrying twins, knowing that one may or may not survive a week from birth. I'm sure discussing the ailments of her unborn son at length in the above interview was extremely difficult. I could not watch the video with dry eyes, I can only imagine what she is going through.
To Greg, Kara, and TJ above all, from all of us at CSR... Keep Pounding.
Last but not least, we come full circle to JR and his big heart. Where a simple phone call or letter might have sufficed for another owner or man of his standing, JR instead cleared his schedule for two days to accompany Greg and his wife to Boston on a charter jet at his personal expense. While we all know about the personal relationships JR has fostered with long-time players like Steve Smith, you cannot help but be amazed at his dedication to a person he has only known personally for a year. You don't hear about many CEOs of billion dollar corporations shuttling their employees cross-country in the company jet to receive treatment for their spousal ills. Truly a great gesture from an even greater man, who knows what it means to be a little short in the healthy heart department.
Greg Olsen certainly appreciates it too. Would he and his wife have gotten to Boston just fine without JR's help? I'm certain they would have. Would TJ receive all the medical care and attention that he needs regardless? You bet.
You can be a hero without doing something heroic. A helping hand, a caring heart, and an open ear can move mountains in the eyes of man.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to remember why you're a Panther fan. On the field we've enjoyed some decent success, but we have yet to win a Super Bowl. We have endured our fair share of bad seasons, devastating losses, "Towelgate," and even ridicule for our following. A Steelers fan I work with, that no matter how bad his team loses, or what kind of turmoil may be happening, can (and will) point to his placard of six Super Bowl championships mounted proudly on the wall behind his desk. Meanwhile, I don't have anything to point to, until now.
Tomorrow, I think I will hang a picture of Jerry Richardson behind my head. That way whenever my co-worker points to his plaque and says "six" I can point to mine and proudly say "one."