Dick Harmon: Message in Super Bowl, Josh Powell tragedy?

Published: Monday, Feb. 6 2012 7:25 p.m. MST

It's a contrast for the ages, a reminder of how big an escape our sports create for us: Millions gather with families to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday and Josh Powell blows up his house and kills his two sons.

It's a heavy topic, I know, but it's worth exploring.

On Sunday, there was no denying the side-by-side weight of these two events on the American psyche. One was sandwiched in between news reports of the other, like slices of pizza hiding a horrific scab.

I didn't think of this dichotomy until I sat with my eye doctor Monday morning right before he clipped fragments of a seven-year old micro suture out of a corneal transplant on my right eye.

Dr. Matt Parson is a gifted surgeon and huge sports fan. He wanted to talk Super Bowl but stopped, hesitated, gathered his thoughts and spoke in reverent tones of death of the two Powell boys, a topic that remains on minds of many in Utah and throughout the country, dominating social media, TV, radio, newspapers and the Internet.

Parsons could not speak of one without mentioning the other.

He was right.

The two events are not related. They are contrasted. And somewhere in the revelry in Indianapolis and forensic ashes in Graham, Wash., there is a message.

What is the message?

"I didn't know about the Powell boys until we gathered to watch the game," said Parsons. "It makes you think about those you love and what they mean to you."

On TV, the Super Bowl coverage went forth with the crawler on the bottom of the screen chronicling news of the Powell murder/suicide.

The contrast is that we have a world of games and a world of real life, of what is dear to us and what is mere play, and it kind of all came together on that day.

The scene setters:

About 47.8 percent of American homes tuned in to watch Sunday's Super Bowl. A festive gathering with treats, food and drinks. Many parties were well-planned, carefully executed and passionately choreographed to enjoy a few hours with loved ones as the Giants beat the Patriots, Madonna sang and commercials competed for entertainment, all in high definition.

Two innocent little boys with their entire lives ahead of them were violently killed, their last breaths stolen by their father, a man who should have been their protector; someone who should toss them footballs, play catch and sit on a couch with popcorn to watch football's biggest game. Josh Powell's evil exit was the most high definition destruction of his sons one can imagine.

I'm not smart enough to color a pattern of philosophical messages to this Super Bowl Sunday, the victorious Giants and how utterly outrageous and despicable were the deaths of these two boys. Some would argue only a fool would try.

My children are married and have left the nest, but two of my grandchildren are the same ages as Charlie and Braden Powell, seven and five. Many times, they have excitedly run to me, just as Charlie and Braden did to greet their father on this fateful Sunday.

When children run to us, what do we give them?

If I get a message at all from the events of this Super Bowl Sunday, it is that I wish my grandchildren were with me, not in Houston; that they were here eating popcorn on my couch, and that they felt loved and safe. I wanted to hug them.

The weakest and most vulnerable among us must, at all costs, be protected.

We don't have to be quarterbacks like Eli Manning or Tom Brady in a Super Bowl to make that happen.

Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at dharmon@desnews.com

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