It Is Only A Game


A painful reminder of just how insignificant the game is in the grand scheme of life unfolded Sunday afternoon on a lonesome stretch of Interstate 10 midway between Indio and Blythe, Calif.

Payson High School boys basketball coach, Mike Loutzenheiser; Gilbert High School baseball coach, Matt Guiterrez; my sons Gerry and Ryan; and I were returning from Los Angeles where the previous day we had watched the University of Southern California humiliate Arizona State University 45-7.


A deadly rollover in the California desert put new meaning on the truly important things in life.

None of us were in a cheerful mood.

Looking back on the Sunday drive, I wondered how we could have been so consumed by a football game.

It just wasn't that important.

Speeding through the desert, Matt -- who was driving -- suddenly muttered "oh, oh," braked and pulled off the side of the interstate.

As the car slowed, we could all see a one-car rollover had occurred only yards in front of us.

I saw a woman pulling herself out of a demolished compact car resting on its roof top. Hysterically, she ran to what I first thought was a doll lying on the desert floor.

As the five of us --ith cell phones in hand calling 911 --ushed to the scene, I could see the form lying in the blowing desert sand was not a doll.

It was about a 3-year-old girl.

Cuddling the little girl, the mother sobbed, "my baby, my beautiful baby." As Gerry and I approached, we both sensed the girl was not breathing and probably in full cardiac arrest.

Images of CPR training flashed through our minds. But, this was not practice on Rescue Annie, this was a precious little girl. The sight of her limp, lifeless body tugged at our heartstrings and strained our emotions. Gerry yelled "15 and 2, 15 and 2" remembering CPR training in which 15 chest compressions are performed for every two breaths.

Hunched over the victim, we worked what seemed like an eternity trying to keep the girl alive. I wondered, "will help ever come ... where is the help this girl needs?"

The tragedy was extremely rough on Gerry, Matt, Ryan and Mike -- who all have daughters about the same age as the victim.

I also have two granddaughters about her age.

Just when it seemed help would never arrive, firefighters showed up to take over life support. As we moved away to allow them to reach the girl, I suddenly realized she had been clutching one of my fingers the entire time we had huddled over her: clutching it almost like my granddaughters do when I take them for walks.

Now that help was there, tears filled our eyes and sorrow consumed our souls. What we witnessed was a life-changing event.

Mike took to a knee to pray for the girl. Gerry, who had battled heroically to save her, walked away consoled only by his own thoughts and prayers.

As paramedics placed the tiny girl in the ambulance, we realized we had done what we could, and it was time to leave.

I took one last glimpse at the wreckage. What I saw will always serve as reminder of the lesson learned that day -- football is just a game.

Monday morning I called the California Highway Patrol and talked to the accident's investigating officer.

Sadly, he told me the young girl died at a Blythe hospital from massive internal injuries.

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