Listen, I was as shocked as anyone else when I heard the unfortunate, increasingly surreal news about Jose Fernandez. I am not going to pretend I was more familiar with his work than any other extremely casual baseball fan, but one look at a face that never ceased to display a seemingly endless amount of youthful exuberance shows you exactly how detrimental his absence will be. One look at the stats and one skimming of a scouting report provide plenty of context to just how much potential will never have the opportunity to be realized. One quick read of a life story that almost seems too daunting to be true shows you the true character of a man that was taken from us far too early. "Only the good die young" is generally just some empty phrase that people use to feel better about losing someone close to them, and it rings false in this instance too. The world didn't lose a good guy in the wee hours of a late September morning, by all accounts we lost a GREAT guy.
The death of a player who beat unimaginable odds to make it to this country and become a Major Leaguer provides us with an all-too-depressing realization - our favorite athletes aren't as mythically untouchable as we'd like to believe. It makes sense why we usually feel that way. After all, how many supernatural sports figures became nothing but a memory before they even began to sniff their prime? My recollection on a Monday morning might be limited, but the only losses of this magnitude that I can remember off the top of my head are Len Bias and Sean Taylor. That certainly speaks to how rare it is that those that provide us with entertainment through competition become victims of this all-too-fragile thing we call life.
However, maybe we shouldn't let ourselves be fooled by the rarity of such tragedies. The demise of 24 year old superstars with blindingly bright futures should never seem imminent, but maybe we shouldn't act as if they are impossible. As morbid as it sounds, anyone with an ounce of life experience has stood over the casket of a person that doesn't look old enough to have a diploma, never mind an obituary. Not everyone passes away in their sleep after living the fullest of lives. It's an unfortunate reality, but it's a reality nonetheless - even for those with transcendent skills and a perseverant past.
It's a cynical truth, but it won't be too long before we are able to watch baseball without thinking of Jose Fernandez, his effervescent smile, and his contagious love of the game he abruptly left behind. That's just a fact of the matter. Sports are much like life in that they do - indeed - go on. With that in mind, let's make sure the disastrous end to his existence isn't for naught. Obviously his loved ones and teammates should be the recipients of our thoughts, prayers, and every other intangible, compassionate gesture of sympathy. However, there are undoubtedly a bunch of people out there with the name 'FERNANDEZ' emblazoned upon the back of their Marlins jersey that feel like they just lost a friend. On behalf of those people, take an extra couple of seconds to appreciate the performance of your favorite athlete(s) every time they take the field of play. If the latest, greatest pitching ace to own the mound proved anything, it's that it could potentially be their last.
R.I.P. Jose Fernandez. Forget his abilities for a second, because it's his infatuation with a sport he overcame so much to be a part of that is just as irreplaceable...