A sickening quiet fell over the boisterous college football stadium. As the final 100 seconds of an NCAA playoff game came to an end, the game was stopped during a TV timeout that lingered uncomfortably longer than normal.
The loyal fans in the stands stood in concerned silence, looking down toward the first row of seating. Players from the home team and their cheer squad turned to face the stands and most dropped to their knees in prayer.
An ambulance quickly made its way from the opposite side of the field as a parade of first responders made their way up the bleachers to offer assistance. Event security set up a perimeter and university staff formed plans.
Yet there was no panic, not amongst anyone. In fact, the calmness of the moment was eerie. Players inquired about the person being treated: “Was it a man or a woman?” asked a hulking 19-year-old defensive lineman.
But in those long 20 minutes there weren’t a lot of answers and no one was willing to speculate, rightfully so. There were reports that a fan collapsed while walking down the stairs and may have suffered a heart attack.
It was reported that CPR was immediately started in the brief few moments before the professionals arrived to resume treatment. EMTs worked seamlessly through treatment options, trying to save the unnamed person.
It was a surreal moment for all involved, clearly most so for the player who had come off the field and would learn that it was his father who was being loaded into an ambulance. He hugged his teammates then left the field.
It was a moment when a football game was clearly a secondary matter. Yet the game, which had all but been decided on the scoreboard, needed to be finished on the field as a national TV audience saw the scene unfold.
In that moment, the coaches and players gathered en masse on their sideline. Across the field, their opponents remained on one knee. After a prayer led by the coaches, the home team was urged to, “Finish this like champions.”
It was all they could do to honor their teammate. The final 1:40 was played out unremarkably. Then both teams and their fans gathered at midfield in prayer for the player and his family – as a man was still fighting for his life.