Sports, life hard to predict
AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 But it did Saturday evening to Thomas Herrion in the 49ers’ dressing room at Invesco Field at Mile High, as he suddenly collapsed and never regained consciousness. Such a death on a stage as high profile as the NFL results, inevitably, in widespread scrutiny, for not only its sheer implausibility but also for its discomforting reminder of the numbing fragility of life. When any human being expires prematurely, it always is accompanied by much hand-wringing, soul-searching, head-shaking and philosophical-rationalizing. On ESPN’s Sunday morning Sports Reporters, the participants brought up the training camp death of Minnesota’s 340-pound Korey Stringer a few years ago, and were critical of the trend in recent years in the NFL as well as college and even high school of so many monstrous, 300-pound linemen. The intimation was that Herrion’s weight contributed to his death, and that he might never have died had he only kept it below 300. But how, then, does one explain other deaths that happen in sports where athletes have normal physiques? Thomas Herrion’s passing is yet another frightening reminder that there are no guarantees for anyone in this world in which we all arrive involuntarily and seldom depart voluntarily. Why certain people with great promise and kind hearts depart young and others with no redeeming qualities whatsoever live into old age is one for theologians, medical scientists and philosophers to figure out, and far beyond my limited comprehension. In a more uplifting scenario Sunday, a former left handed pitcher for the Long Beach State 49ers, Jason Vargas, dispensed an extraordinary effort against the Los Angeles Dodgers, limiting them to six hits and striking out seven in nine innings for his fourth victory with the Marlins since being called up last month against a mere one loss. Who during the 2004 college baseball season ever would have envisioned Jason Vargas making a dramatic impact in the big leagues in 2005, while his more celebrated teammate, Jered Weaver, still would be stuck in the minor leagues? After all, Jered Weaver was the National Player of the Year for the 49ers, going 15-1 with a 1.62 ERA and 213 strikeouts in 164 innings. He was selected in the first round by the Angels, and there were those who thought he’d wind up pitching in Anaheim by late last season. Alas, he and his agent, the notorious Scott Boras, got into a serious contract dispute with the Angels, and Weaver didn’t sign with them until this past June hours before he would have gone back into the amateur draft. Meantime, Vargas, who had a far less appealing 7-6 record with the Dirtbags with a 4.14 ERA and, 90 strikeouts in 110 innings, was taken in the second round by the Marlins. “Troy Buckley (Dirtbags pitching coach) and I spoke to Jason Sunday night, and congratulated him on his tremendous performance against the Dodgers,’ related Mike Weathers, coach of the Dirtbags. Obviously, he’s pretty pumped up. I’m not amazed at all by what he’s done because we knew all along that one day he would be in the majors.’ But in 2005 and before Jered Weaver reached such a plateau? Who could have foreseen such a surprising development? But there was Jason Vargas, who also was a DH for the Dirtbags and led the team in batting with a .354 average with 33 RBI and five home runs, receiving hugs and handshakes from the likes of Dontrelle Willis and A.J. Burnett and Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Delgado and Josh Beckett after his terrific outing Sunday. And where was Jered Weaver? He was immersed in obscurity in Little Rock, where his Arkansas Travelers were hosting the Frisco Roughriders. Weaver has posted a 2-1 record with a 4.91 ERA with the Travelers after going 4-1 with a 3.82 ERA with the Cucamonga Quakes. In retrospect, Jered Weaver and Scott Boras made a terrible miscalculation in trying to squeeze the Angels for more money, which they failed to do, for it needlessly kept Weaver sidelined for more than 400 days. In the meantime, Jason Vargas signed quickly with the Marlins, honed his skills in the minor leagues last summer and now finds himself in the middle of an interesting National League wild card race with the Marlins. He also is receiving major league wages, and now has a year credit in his major league pension. Jason Vargas upstaging Jered Weaver? At least for the moment, he is. It always has been my most hallowed theory that one never knows what lurks around the corner for any of us, and the weekend destinies of Thomas Herrion and Jason Vargas are vivid proof. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! It has been repeated so often that it’s become trite to say that athletics, with its maddening uncertainties, is a graphic reflection of life, although it happens to be true. Two weekend events in different sports that occurred far apart could serve as classic examples, with one, the Thomas Herrion death, having tragic overtones and the other, the Jason Vargas complete game pitching victory for the Florida Marlins, rivaling a storybook saga. Death is not a condition one normally would associate with a 23-year-old, 310-pound football player who had performed in just one series of an exhibition game that his team, the San Francisco 49ers, had played against the Denver Broncos. Death for someone that age normally occurs from an automobile accident, or a drive-by shooting, or a drug overdose, or even from suicide, but it isn’t supposed to strike a hulking, healthy man trying to earn employment as a guard with the 49ers.