Sports is supposed to be an escape. A way the every day person can get away from their typical job and life’s hardships and simply enjoy the wonders of athletically gifted men and women. A way to unite a city, or a group of people. But often times real life works it’s way into sports. We see the constant stories of drugs, cheating, domestic violence. Sports which is supposed to be an escape has become a big business. Teams move, schools leave for money, players are traded or released if not meeting expectations. But today there was a story that brought life into sports and showed that it’s not always about the money.
By now many have read or heard of Devon Still. If you did not here is some background. Still, a defensive lineman for the Cincinnati Bengals, was released recently by the Bengals. He was a second round pick out of Penn State University and had high expectations coming into the league as a former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and All-American. Due to various injuries Still’s career did not take off quite as expected in his two years since being drafted. This past off-season he underwent back surgery and faced a tough rehabilitation during the off-season. But Still and his family would face an even tougher situation. His four year old daughter Leah was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in June. Obviously his focus went from football to his family. He missed rehab time and skipped OTA’s with the Bengals. Already under scrutiny for not playing up to his second round potential and coming off an injury Still was putting his professional career on the line.
For those that do not know NFL contracts are not guaranteed. And if you are not with a team you do not have insurance. So when Still was released last week there was concern in regards to how his family would handle their daughter’s battle with cancer. Now the Bengals could have easily said good bye to Still. It’s nothing new for a league that cuts players on a daily basis if they are not helping the team. Teams are constantly turning over the roster, looking to improve each of the 53 spots on the team.
But last Saturday Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis met with Still to discuss remaining with the team, albeit on the practice squad. This would mean that Still would still draw a pay check and more importantly remain on NFL insurance. Still will not have to travel with the Bengals and can remain at home with his family as well. Still can still pursue his professional career but do so while keeping the focus on his family during this tough time.
The Bengals, a team that was once known as the worst organization in the NFL, rose above the typical business of sports and acted with their heart. Sports often gets a bad reputation for being greedy and arrogant. But sports can be so much more as well. It is truly about being part of a team, a family. Sports gives you a platform to show you can be better and do better. I hope more companies see the compassion the Bengals showed and start taking their employees into account. With all of the jobs being sent overseas, all of the downsizing, companies have forgotten about their most important asset; employees. In a time when sports is linked to so many bad stories it was a pleasure today to see the good that it can also bring.
If you would like join Devon Still and his family in their battle against Pediatric Cancer you can pledge money for every sack the Bengals record this year at http://www.pldgit.com