Six weeks after seeing the worst with Danny Farquhar, we witness the best
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Danny Farquhar’s ruptured brain aneurysm and rapid recovery have touched many people, most of whom have never met the White Sox pitcher. Their cards, texts, tweets and prayers came from all over the country.
Why did this particular crisis have such an impact?
There are plenty of convenient answers. He’s a professional athlete, and Americans worship at the altar of sports celebrity. He’s only 31. He’s married with three young children. Decent explanations, all of them, but they don’t fully satisfy.
There’s something more visceral here, something that better explains the outpouring of support he has received from complete strangers:
We saw the crisis happen.
We saw it play out — live, if we were watching the game on April 20, or via a replay bombardment in the days that followed.
It’s one thing to watch an athlete get injured on the field of play. We take that for granted. We’ve seen the warrior being carried off on his shield so many times, we’re almost numb to it. This was a seemingly healthy pitcher collapsing in the Sox’ dugout at Guaranteed Rate Field for reasons that weren’t clear to us. We could see teammates and staff lift his limp body.
It’s hard to watch someone so strong become so vulnerable in a matter of seconds. We didn’t know what we were witnessing until after the fact, but not knowing didn’t erase what we had seen.
If a pro athlete could be so vulnerable, what hope was there for us mere mortals?
A lot, he reminded us Friday night.
Six weeks after he collapsed in the dugout, Farquhar threw out a ceremonial first pitch before the Sox-Brewers game on the South Side. He walked onto the field to cheers from fans. Teammates and coaches were waiting for him near the mound. The medical team that had saved his life was there, too. He raised his Sox cap to the crowd, revealing a zipper of staples from his surgeries.
Then he fired a strike to teammate and friend Nate Jones. It was the first time he had thrown a baseball since the day he went down.
He had survived. No, he had more than survived. Here was a sudden-life victory.
“One day we’re all going to go, but you’d like for it to not be as young as I am with three kids, one who’s 6 months old,” he said. “You look at everybody differently.”
We couldn’t take our eyes off him Friday night. Plenty of people have survival stories, but we don’t know them. We knew this one, and we and Farquhar could be grateful together. That’s what this was — a communal outpouring of gratefulness.
We had seen the worst six weeks ago. Now we were witnessing the best.
“For the fans to see him just reconnects him with them because he’s been out of sight recovering,” Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “It’s nice for them to see him and know that he is on the right path and he’s recovering really well. They get to put their eyes on him again and know that anything is possible.”
Renteria called Farquhar’s recovery “miraculous,” and maybe it was. According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, about 40 percent of the people who suffer a ruptured brain aneurysm die. Of those who survive, 66 percent have some permanent neurological issues.
Try as we might to raise up our athletes, a brain hemorrhage doesn’t seem to see a distinction between us and them.
“We’re the same as everybody else,” Jones said. “Sometimes people put us on that pedestal, and sometimes it takes something like this to happen to let everybody know that we’re human.”
Farquhar said he hopes to pitch again. He has been going through rehab, and his doctors have cleared him to begin throwing. Don’t count him out, his family says.
“From the moment [doctors] told me every issue that was going on, I was like, ‘It might be a rough road, but it’s one that’s going to end in doing what he loves and him doing it his way,’ ” his wife, Lexie, said.
I can’t tell if we’re more desperate for heroes these days or if the media are more preoccupied with finding them. If 10,000 people die in an earthquake, network news will focus on the one story of survival. I think it has something to do with wanting to feel in control in a world in which, if we’re honest with ourselves, we have little to none.
So we came to cheer Farquhar, to applaud his survival, to feel the warmth of his smile. And maybe to pray for more good outcomes for whoever might need them.
There’s more than enough ugliness to go around these days. Sometimes you just want to feel good about something. Friday night was one of those sometimes, and Farquhar was that something.
Sun-Times sports columnists Rick Morrissey and Rick Telander are co-hosts of a new podcast called “The Two Ricks: Unfiltered.” Don’t miss their candid, amusing takes on everything from professional teams tanking to overzealous sports parents and more. Download and subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts and Google Play, or via RSS feed.