THE SPORTS WORLD PAUSES FOR TRAGEDY

My original thoughts for this week’s blog was going to be on the longevity of today’s ballparks.  That is going to have to be a discussion for another day.

As a sports fan, my world was turned upside down this morning when I read a Facebook post that I thought was a hoax.  “I am in shock and sad by the news today about one of my favorite players, Jose Fernandez Miami Marlins pitcher, Rest in Peace.

Journalist that I am I immediately went into fact checking mode.  I googled “Jose Fernandez death hoax,” and as I was doing that I got a notification from ESPN confirming what had happened.  I went back on Facebook and the New York Giants were reporting this unthinkable story.

So shaken, stunned and distraught I went upstairs to my room, handed my wife my phone, and said, “I can’t even talk right now, read what I just got from ESPN.”  We were getting ready to head to Hard Rock Stadium to see the Miami Dolphins home opener against the Cleveland Browns, but again, today got turned upside down.  The Fernandez story took center stage and punched both of us, all of South Florida and the baseball world in our collective guts.

As we headed south on Florida’s Turnpike we were listening to one of many sports talk stations down here.  They were supposed to be carrying a Dolphins pregame, but like my blog, the morning turned upside down as the boating accident that occurred at Government Cut took center stage.

The Florida Panthers took to social media as well as their team website with a statement consoling Fernandez’ family and the Marlins organization.  The Dolphins and Heat followed moments later. The Dolphins also added that they would ask for a moment of silence prior to their game.

Once we arrived at Hard Rock Stadium things didn’t get any easier.  Our tickets were on the Club Level which included indoor air-conditioned concession stands with tables to sit and eat.  As we were eating our lunch neither myself or my wife could tear ourselves away from Facebook and Twitter as reactions unfolded.  Football seemed secondary.  The fact that this was the Dolphins home opener was definitely put on the back burner.

The urge to follow the story continued as we got to our seats and watched the Dolphins and Browns warm up.

Before today’s colors were posted the Dolphins held their moment of silence and tribute to Jose Fernandez.  His picture was on the video boards with his dates of birth and death, but while we stood in silence the video boards went dark.  My wife and I looked at each other as we both wiped our eyes.  It was a gripping moment that gives me goosebumps writing about it.

Today’s football game was a three-hour diversion to what really mattered.  Although the Dolphins won 30-24 in a back and forth game that took overtime to settle, Jose Fernandez still took center stage.

At Citi Field in New York and at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, fellow Cubans Yeonis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig paid homage to their countryman.  Jose Fernandez jerseys hung in the Mets dugout in Flushing as well as the Dodgers dugout at Dodger Stadium.  Jose was looking out for his Cuban brothers.  The Mets defeated the Phillies 17-0 and the Dodgers clinched the National League West on a walk-off home run in the tenth inning.

There was no baseball at Marlins Park in Miami today.  As soon as the news broke, the Marlins announced the cancellation of their game with the Atlanta Braves.  A banner paying tribute to Jose Fernandez hangs from the outside of Marlins Park.  Inside the Marlins home a memorial was constructed on the pitcher’s mound.  Fernandez’ hat, his number 16 and flowers adorn the mound where Jose had so much joy, and gave Marlin fans so much happiness.

Jose Fernandez lived his life and enjoyed it.  Major League Baseball and the Miami Marlins lost a rising star today.  The Cuban community in South Florida and beyond lost an ambassador.

Today’s events just goes to show how brittle life is.  Life is short, live it while you are here to enjoy it.

Rest in peace Jose Fernandez, thanks for the memories.  Thanks for all you did for the Marlins, the community of South Florida and the brotherhood of athletes everywhere.

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