Oct 27, 2018; Ames, IA, USA; The Iowa State Cyclones celebrate with Iowa State Cyclones defensive back Greg Eisworth (12) after his interception against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones beat the Red Raiders 40 to 31. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
This post isn’t for everyone, or perhaps even public consumption. However, I write what I know and often include what I feel. I work with a special group of people on this site and consider the readers, posters, listeners, and critics a part of the team I work with. Often, Chris Williams shares his heart and shares his platform to aid those facing life-altering circumstances and in need of help. At times, those lives end sadly, but they are known — made public and consoled in the outreach of thousands of brothers and sisters made so through their connection to Iowa State. I am thankful for my position here where things can be expressed germane to sport and life.
I have been facing, and face, the aftermath of a tragic loss at present. I know, unequivocally, that each person reading this has faced, the same, similar, or will do so in the future. There is no special position or status that I have, just one of ordinary joe and perhaps relatable to many.
I write to share one perspective that relates to sport, in my case football. It is a silly game where many are far to passionate about results and processes without understanding the entirety of what that process is. I do not claim to “know” the entirety of the process. But, there is an overlooked, but, perhaps a most important part of that process that I hope to expose.
The principal in my circumstances has suffered a tremendous loss of a most loved one. The detail I will share is that he and I share a bond as old, ex-athletes. Football players at the collegiate level. Small town boys who bucked the odds to give their life and health and passion to their teammates and program. Because of that, there are knowing nods, words said, experiences shared that no one around us understands. When we attend or watch games together, it is quite comical to those around us as we sit with arms crossed pointing and talking in code. It is a bond I cherish.
The greatest part of participation in the “process” that is collegiate athletics is the inexplicable bond of brotherhood that occurs behind the scenes, in the locker room, at a party, in the dorm, on the bus, in the hotel, in the meeting room, in study hall, in the weight room, running up a hill, trying to knock the snot out of your best friend, and wearing the colors on Saturday putting forth everything you have to be victorious for each other first and for those donning your colors and holding the fort down Sunday to Friday.
As I sit close to the “process” of grief and healing, I see that through long absences, through lack of presence, through lives made gloriously or struggled through, regardless, the voice of a brother heals. The bond forged in fire burns hotly through it all for many reasons, but not the least of which is the knowing nod from one who knows, who has seen, who has heard and gathered unbreakable love through great vulnerability.
It is knowledge of a time long gone, but an experienced shared. It is a deep knowledge that you once fought for each other, together, and that you can rely on them in the darkest and most desperate circumstances. Regardless of distance and time, when that voice is heard or that embrace occurs, then you know you aren’t alone and there remains a reason to fight on.
What I speak of occurs in every sport, in many other walks of life where trauma is faced. It is also not isolated to gender but is universal to all. And, it is enduring, a building block of sports participation.
I enjoy that and endeavor to live it out in support for those with whom I share. As a low-level spare with a penchant for picking up schemes and understanding for the movement of the game, that bond still exists.
George Conditt and Kevin Lazard share that bond. My guys who wore the yellow pants and gave everything we had only to fail at a high level, never stopped fighting. I talked with Coach Jon Fabris and through his travels, he still is fond of his time at ISU where no one ever gave up. Matt Nitchie, Doug Ragaller, Doug and Paul Skartvedt, Mike Sparks, James McMillion, my brother, Jeff Cole, Kelly Iverson, Matt Straight, Kevin Marcus Robertson, Andrew Buggs, Nick Clausen, Dan Watkins, Sundiata Patterson, Kevin Caldwell, Johnny Livingstone, Gene Williams, George Tsiotas, Dan Dostal, Angelo Provenza– just visit old rosters. Those names mean certain things in history and sporting lore. Many long forgotten. But, to me, to my friend, they mean a life of support and a bond that is lasting and can always be relied upon. That is what is being built on sports teams throughout the country.
In 2009 I, and many, lost the presence of Coach Ed Thomas. He lives today in the knowledge and brotherhood that he masterfully lead and created in a program. My Twitter bio says — Faith, Family, and Football. A phrase pilfered from his foundation which I was honored to help found. Many who experienced that bond through that program remain cornerstones in my life, through distance and silence. Faith and Family are large general terms defined in individual circumstances but are bound together in football for us. I endeavor to teach my boys and assist them in gaining the foundation of becoming men through their participation in sports. To teach any who will listen to lessons learned and a path to cohesion and bonding that seeks the highest and best use on the field and the enduring foundation to a life worth living. A life where you don’t always win and that presents challenges bigger than trying to tackle Eric Bienemy and Lew Montgomery. Equipped to keep fighting in the trenches regardless of the setbacks and challenges set before you. Because you are never alone.
I have only this voice — for now — but hope to share with those of you who coach and lead more in the future. As you watch the Iowa State programs moving forward, it is my opinion that we have coaches in place that lead a brotherhood, that engage in building and bringing together young boys who will leave with much more than what they came to Ames with. We have talented players who are striving the same way at all levels of sport.
I hope there can be an appreciation for what sport provides and is capable of in the lives of many and that many can be touched and motivated by it as I have witnessed and shared. Love is the core. Love hard. Love with passion and effort. Love the Cyclones, and know that those boys and girls love each other.
I am proud of and am the least of participants in college athletics. Am old and washed up. But, what remains is special. Seek the same as it can be established in many ways. And practice brotherhood in life.
Loyal son forever true.