Column: A stark reminder of what's really important in life

August 30, 2019

The next time you feel the urge to heckle a kid for missing a tackle or boo an NFL quarterback for moving on with his life, think of Blake Bivens.

That should provide some perspective.

"Two days ago my heart was turned to ash. My life as I knew it is destroyed. The pain my family and I feel is unbearable and cannot be put into words," Bivens wrote in an anguished Instagram post that many of us woke up to Friday.

A minor league pitcher in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, Bivens is dealing with unimaginable loss.


His young wife Emily, gone.

His 1-year-old son Cullen, gone.

His mother-in-law Joan, gone.

"I shake and tremble at the thought of our future without them," Bivens wrote, the pain oozing from every word.

All three were killed this week in a tiny Virginia town, allegedly by an 18-year-old man who was Emily's brother, Cullen's uncle and Joan's son.

It was a shocking crime that defies explanation and, in all likelihood, will never provide the sort of clarity that might give Bivens a semblance of peace.

But it should be a stark reminder of what's really important in life.

At its best, sports can provide a respite from our troubles. Yet far too often, those who play the games, coach the games and call the games become a convenient target for our frustrations and failures.

We caught a glimpse of that last weekend when Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was booed in his own stadium after word leaked out that he was planning to retire. Never mind he endured years of pain to play a brutal sport that takes no prisoners. All that mattered to those misguided, alleged fans was that Luck's decision had likely dashed their team's Super Bowl hopes, or perhaps messed up their fantasy drafts.

Of course, it was all so insignificant.

Even more so when one stops to consider what life can really dish out.

So, the next time you're having a bad day at work because your favorite team blew a lead in the closing minutes or the referee blew a crucial call, think of these words.

"Emily, my sweetheart, you are the best wife and mother this world has ever seen. You made me into the man I am today and you loved me with all of my flaws. You brought our precious baby boy into this world and made our family complete. Your love and kindness changed countless lives, including mine."

The next time you want to yell at your kid for dropping a ball or gripe to the Little League coach because he didn't put your child in the game, think of these words.

"My sweet little boy, dada loves you so much! I can't breathe without you here. I finally understood what love was when you were born and I would have done anything for you. You have changed my life forever, you are my reason why. I long to hold the both of you again in heaven. I'm so glad you are with all your Great-grandmothers now, I know they are eating you up. This earth did not deserve either of you; you were just too wonderful to comprehend."

The next time you're mad because an 18-year-old decided not to sign with your favorite college team or your blood boils because you spot someone wearing a rival team's colors, think of these words.

"Joan you were the best mother-in-law anyone could ask for. You loved your family more than anyone I've ever seen. You raised the most wonderful girl in the world. I'm so glad y'all are still together. You were the best Nana this world has ever seen and I will never forget you."

The next time you feel the urge to unleash a torrent of expletives because the cleanup hitter struck out with the bases loaded or someone missed a free throw that could've won the game, think of these words.

"Skip you are a wonderful father and grandfather. We will get through this together as a family. We will not let the devil win! Thank you God for giving me the most wonderful family in the world! I've been blessed beyond belief."

Remember, nothing that happens in the arena holds a candle to the joys and sorrows of the real world.

Frankly, it shouldn't take a horrific tragedy to remind us of that.

Some final words to remember.

"Thank you to all my family and friends who have reached out to me during this time of sorrow," Bivens said, wrapping up the toughest social media post he'll ever write. "Thanks you @raysbaseball @biscuitbaseball for your support through everything. I am comforted by all the messages and well wishes. I'm not sure what is next for me, but I do know God has a plan even though I can't see it."

Hopefully the rest of us can see a bit clearer today.