Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Common Ground

I really just wanted to hug him.

I so wanted to break protocol and break free from the pack of staid, straight, reserved and oh-so-objective reporters who had crowded into that little room for the story of the day. The too sad story of the day.

I wanted to throw my arms around him and pat him on the back and tell him, "I understand." Because I do. And if he just wanted to cry, well that would have been OK too.

And not because I was the only girl in the room and he is this rich and famous professional football player the whole world knows, but because he is just Ed.

Actually, to me, he's still Edward, the talented boy who was one of the best high school football players I had the great fortune to cover, with mad improvisational skills on the field and usually ready with a good quote after.

He's Edward, the little twerp who refused to remove his sunglasses the day a photographer and I went out to do a story on his mad skills as a track star.

He's Edward, who made me half freeze to death while watching him compete in the local Punt, Pass and Kick competition early one Saturday morning, long, long ago.

Edward, who became Ed Reed and one of the best football players the University of Miami had ever seen and then an All-Pro Baltimore Raven.

Edward, the guy who spent a good hour or so sitting with me under a pine tree on the hottest day of a summer, talking about how much it was starting to hurt just to play all those games but how hard it is to walk away.

But on this particular day, he was just Ed -- a local guy who had just lost a brother. And that I could relate to.

I wonder what we both wouldn't give for five more minutes with our brothers, both of whom died with water in their lungs. To slap them upside the head and say, "What in the HELL were you thinking, man?"

Mine for drinking too many Buds and driving off into the rainy night without buckling his seat belt.

His for taking off when the deputy just wanted to know whose car that was and then jumping into the cold, cold dark Mississippi River and never coming up.

What we both wouldn't give for one more hug.

So yeah, all you cool, professional reporters and crusty cops. Excuse me for trying to be inconspicuous as I wiped that tear from the corner of my eye. And excuse me for just wanting to hug the boy I used to know, who has grown into a wonderful man.

To me, he's just Ed.

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