When I heard of what happened to Utah State forward Danny Berger, my thoughts immediately went to Hank Gathers, the Loyola Marymount standout who passed away in the middle of a basketball game in 1990.
Gathers had been diagnosed with an abnormal heartbeat but hated to take medication, preferring to play a risky game against time and his body. LMU's playing style compounded the risk Gathers undertook; Marymount's style of play was by far the fastest in the country at the time.
On March 4, 1990, Gathers collapsed during a game and didn't get back up. His heart stopped. An AED was used. CPR was performed. The ambulance arrived and carried him off the court on a stretcher. Both players and fans were in shock. Gathers' teammates wept.
There are significant, obvious differences between Berger and Gathers. Gathers knew his body was broken — Berger did not. In fact, we still are waiting to hear why exactly Berger collapsed, whether it's a heart condition or something else.
Also, Gathers passed away. Thanks to USU athletic trainer Mike Williams, Berger narrowly averted that fate.
Indeed, the vigilant and steady Williams is to be lauded as a hero for his actions.
Thousands of fans attend local college basketball games, many of them kids. To those fans, the athletes and coaches they see on the floor are heroes. Incidents like what happened to Berger, however, give us perspective on why we play the games we love, and, as ESPN writer Andy Katz writes, remind us about what a real hero is.
"Too often we hear about a heroic play in sports, but the term shouldn't be used unless it's heroism in its truest form. A dramatic play, even playing with an injury, isn't heroic. Saving lives on the battlefield, dealing with the aftermath of a terrorist attack in the seconds after an explosion, running into a burning building or putting your life at risk for someone else is heroism. So, too, is what first responders do every day in dealing with life-saving situations on the road, in hospitals and anywhere else.
"In sports, an athletic trainer has to do his job to perfection in a time of crisis. That's heroic."
Landon Hemsley is sports content manager for DeseretNews.com.
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