Colts head coach Chuck Pagano’s ongoing recovery from his stunning leukemia diagnosis in September appears to be going exceptionally well (and remember, his is one of the most treatable forms of leukemia, so there was ample reason to believe it would). He was released from the hospital after less than a month. Barely a week after that, he attended a Colts staff meeting. And yesterday, in maybe his biggest step so far, he went to Lucas Oil Stadium and attended the Colts’ game against the Dolphins.
It, of course, was a hell of a game to attend. Pagano’s Colts won their third straight, prevailing 23-20 and solidifying their status as a surprising playoff contender halfway through the year. Pagano’s young franchise player, Andrew Luck, put in his most impressive performance to date, throwing for a rookie-record 433 yards. Pagano was feeling awfully good about all this – and he didn’t just watch the game and leave. No, when it was over, he let his squad know just how proud he was to be a part of it, with a locker room speech that’s about as good as it gets:
That kind of raw emotion makes it tough not to be a Colts fan – not to mention it’s a nice reminder of why we like sports to begin with. It can feel dumb sometimes, devoting this much thought and caring to stuff that doesn’t impact us directly. An illness like Pagano’s is often said to put things in perspective and remind us of how little these games really matter.
And to an extent that’s definitely true. But look at Pagano: the guy’s still in the middle of battling for his life, so he can watch his kids grow up. What’s more important than that? And he sure looks like he cares about these games. Granted, the game’s his livelihood, so he’s naturally more wrapped up in it than we are, but seeing that kind of passion definitely makes one feel justified for their passion.
Look, too, at the crowd who watched the Giants play the Steelers yesterday (and went home disappointed). Some of those people were undoubtedly just hit pretty hard by a hurricane. And my friend, who’s battled APL himself (indeed, the reason I can identify so closely with Pagano’s current struggle), was right back to caring about sports more than ever, in not much time after he got out of the hospital. So yeah, it’s tempting to say sports don’t really matter sometimes. Yeah, they’re a diversion. But if you have any doubt that there’s something to caring this much about watching people we don’t know play games… watch Pagano’s speech again. See if the doubt persists. I have my doubts that it will.