Along with millions of other college basketball fans, I was watching the Louisville/Duke game when Louisville guard Kevin Ware went down. I was at work, so it was a sequence of glimpsing the game while getting my job done. So I saw Ware go up to block the shot, but I didn’t see him land.
The next time I looked up at the screen, I saw a bunch of Louisville players on the floor, motionless.
I saw a Duke player walking to his bench covering his face. And I saw people in the stands crying. I didn’t know what happened (no sound on the TV), but I knew it was something horrible. Then I saw coach Rick Pitino and players Russ Smith and Chane Behanan crying.
Uh oh. This is really bad.
When CBS went to the replay, I just knew I had to look away. I always do that when I know a gruesome injury is on the way. Then the camera showed Ware on the ground. His upper body was moving, so my first thought was, “He isn’t paralyzed.”
Then I saw one of the bravest things I ever saw at a sporting event.
While everyone else was overwhelmed with grief, Luke Hancock, the Louisville guard/forward went to Ware, held his hand and comforted him while doctors worked on the shattered leg.
I wish I had that kind of bravery, to see a person with a horrific injury and be able to run to his side and keep him calm while the doctors did their work. But I know I don’t. Because I’ve been in this situation before.
About six to 10 years ago, when I lived in Belgium, my wife and I decided one day to get in the car and drive from Brussels to the coast. We had no particular destination in mind. We were just going to head west. So I got behind the wheel and drove along the highway and I saw a sign for Ghent, a historic medieval city in Flanders and decided, “well, might as well stop here and see what’s up.”
So we get off the highway and drove along the outskirts of town. We turned a corner, and there was a car stopped in the middle of the road, a broken motorcycle on the street and a group of people standing around a body.
We stopped, got out of the car and went over to see a man bleeding in the middle of the street. I don’t know how the accident happened. I don’t think anyone around us could have told us, because we didn’t speak Dutch, the language of Flanders. But the guy was bloody, in obvious pain, and no one was helping him.
And I didn’t know what to do.
But my wife simply went straight to the man’s side, got on the ground, placed his head in her lap, stroked his hair and spoke soothingly to him, telling him things were going to be all right. And she stayed there with him until an ambulance arrived, which seemed to take forever.
I just wasn’t able to do that. I didn’t go far from my wife’s side, but I just wasn’t able to get beyond my fear, and fear is what it was, to do what she did.
We don’t know what happened to that man on the street. The ambulance arrived and took him away. We got back in our car and drove to the coast. I think we went to Dunkirk. The rest of the day wasn’t memorable.
More than likely, the biker was hospitalized, healed, and back on his motorcycle riding through the streets of Ghent within a few months.
But you know, he probably remembers that when he was bloody, broken and in pain on the street, a woman he had never seen before and speaking a language he probably didn’t know, took his head in her lap, spoke softly and gave him comfort until help arrived. And chances are he wonders, did that really happen? Or was it just a dream? Some kind of religious angelic vision he had in his moment of suffering.
That incident was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw Luke Hancock beside Kevin Ware during a basketball game in Indianapolis, thousands of miles away from Ghent.
I’ve read a couple of poignant reactions to the Kevin Ware injury today. Bob Valvano, who does commentary for Louisville basketball games during the regular season had a moving Facebook post. You can read it here.
And on the site Card Chronicle, commenter Chick-Stratino’sUrDaddy, posted this tribute to the Cardinals and Luke Hancock.
They’re both worth reading.