From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 8, 1999

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / September 8, 1999

Athletes are used to working against a clock. It’s part of their professionwhether it be a Michael Johnson trying to break the world record in the 400 meters or a John Elway leading another fourth-quarter comeback in the final seconds.

The clock does not necessary have to operate on seconds and minutes. Itcan be a Sergio Garcia trying to catch Tiger Woods down the stretch at the PGA Championship. Or it can be a baseball team trying to rally in the ninthinning.

But all of us, whether athletes or not, operate against a clock everyday.

This clock is not on any field. Nor do we ever know what quarter we are inor how much time is left. It is the clock of life, one that we take forgranted everyday.

Three short years ago, Fritz Shurmur was the architect of the Green Bay defense that would help the Packers to the Super Bowl title that following January. This spring, Shurmur followed Packer coach Mike Holmgren toSeattle where they hoped to accomplish the same feat with the Seahawks.

Sadly, Shurmur never got that chance, succumbing to cancer at the age of 67.

Nancy Bennett followed her husband, former LSU defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, to his new job at Kansas State this year. Over three weeksago, she was struck by lightning while jogging near the school’s campus.

She died from her injuries two weeks ago, leaving behind two children.

Former Kansas City Chief linebacker Jaime Fields was out driving the other morning southeast of downtown Los Angeles when he was struck by a motorist who ran a red light. Fields was pronounced dead on the scene atthe age of 29.

Careers can end suddenly even when the athlete thinks he’s at the top of his game. Just ask Cleveland’s Chris Spielman who announced hisretirement two weeks ago after being momentarily paralyzed in a game the previous Saturday.

Spielman was lucky in that he will be able to go on with his life afterwards. The same cannot be said for a Mike Utley or a Darryl Stingley.Maureen Connolly, the youngest player to win a tennis grand slam, was horseback riding when she was hit by a truck. Her leg was broken and hercareer ended at the age of 19. She would die of cancer at the age of 34.Decades later, another rising tennis star, Monica Seles, was stabbed by a spectator at the German Open. Seles later returned to the game but wasnever the same.

In 1966, Sandy Koufax went 27-9 with a 1.73 ERA and 317 strikeouts buthad to retire after the season because of arm trouble. J.R. Richards wasone of the top pitchers in baseball in the late 1970s for the Houston Astros before suffering a stroke in the bullpen.

San Diego quarterback Stan Humphries was forced to retire just a couple of seasons removed from a Super Bowl appearance because of a series of concussions.

Sometimes we have a hand in stopping that clock. Len Bias was on top ofthe world, having been selected in the first round by the Boston Celtics in 1986. Two days later, he was dead of intoxication from cocaine.But more often than not, that clock remains out of our grasp. Make everymoment count because this is a game that can end at any time.

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