Archive for Thursday, December 30, 2004

Column: ‘Only the Good Die Young’

December 30, 2004

The recent death of NFL defensive lineman Reggie White made me look at the special people in sports in the country and this community that we have lost in the past year.

My inspiration for this column came Monday morning when I woke up to ESPN talking about the passing away of White. I was shocked to hear this news, since he was only 43 years old and just retired after the 2000 season.

He was an ordained minister who just happened to be nicknamed "minister of defense". He left the game as the NFL's all-time sack leader, which was passed by Bruce Smith. His actions and statistics on the field are great, but it's his actions of the field are what makes him a great person.

White worked in the offseason with inner-city youth, while also fighting to stop the burning of churches in the South. He dedicated his life to football and helping the communities he lived in. But White was not the only athlete to have his life taken in 2004.

Baldwin City was struck with an event similar to White's death on June 13 with the untimely death of 13-year-old Krystal Bateson. She died in Winfield while at a softball tournament with family and friends. She died of a genetic heart problem, which affects the lining of a heart valve.

The people that knew her best said was always happy and had a great laugh. She also had a love for animals and her friends. She also played basketball, was involved in 4-H and was an outstanding student at Baldwin Junior High School.

The loss of Bateson hit the town hard, but another athlete's death spread across the country.

Pat Tillman was an NFL player who had the chance to sign a multi-million dollar contract, but instead decided to become an Army Ranger. Tillman was killed in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004 during a gun fight.

A person like Tillman is very rare in this day, as most people take the money and the fame first. He chose to defend his country and keep it out of the spotlight. If America were full of Pat Tillman's, it would a much less greedier and self-centered place. His brave actions cost him life.

Another athlete that was very kind and caring was Shawn Trager, a former Baker University football player. Trager was killed on April 13, when a tractor-trailer struck the car from behind.

Trager was a freshman football player, who had made many friends at Baker. I didn't get a chance to know Trager, but everyone I asked about him, said he was a special person who was very kind to everyone.

But Trager was not the only loss for the Baker community, as Renee Sudduth was killed in a car accident on U.S. Highway 59 on Dec. 20, 2003.

Sudduth had been working in the university's admissions office recruiting high school students. She graduated from Baker in the spring 2003, and was considering attending graduate school.

I had the chance to be on the track team with Renee for three years while also watching her play volleyball for three years. She was a phenomenal athlete who also excelled in the classroom.

She was a friend and was incredibly nice to everyone. She had a great sense of humor and loved life. She was a great team leader and role model for athletes.

All five of these people are excellent role models who were more concerned with helping others than achieving individual success. I think everybody wishes athletes were more like these individuals. And maybe Billy Joel was right, "Only the Good die Young."

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