Deaths leave a mark on Kentucky football

By Jeff Zurcher

(U-WIRE) LEXINGTON, KY. — When it’s all said and done, nothing really can be said or done to explain it.
Death is like that.
It cheats. It lies. It always has bad timing.
It just ain’t fair.
When it’s all said and done, football is merely a kid’s game. It’s something you start doing in the backyard. Drawing plays in the dirt. Piling on the ball carrier. Having fun.
So other than statements like “I about died in practice yesterday” or “We killed that team tonight,” you don’t usually associate football and death within the same sentence. It seems crazy to seriously consider them both simultaneously. You keep them each in their own corners, looming there like heavyweight fighters.
You never think the bell will sound and that the two will collide in the center ring of your life. You have too many other important things to do, like relishing in your seventh victory of the season and starting to think about playing Tennessee in seven days.
But the bell did sound, and we all felt the noise. An awful clanging that ripped ears, minds and spirits. A coarse racket that will echo on for days, even years. A sobering, mournful tolling that makes us realize that all the things we thought were important are insignificant.
Like football.
Ask any man on the team, and he’ll quickly tell you that he’d gladly trade all the wins this year and ever for Artie Steinmetz — because Artie’s death is by far the biggest loss this season, one the team can never avenge. There will be other chances to beat Arkansas, Georgia and Florida, but there will never be another Artie.
That fact hurts worse than anything.
At its core, football is about friendship. Think about it. Kids first play football to be with their buddies on the playground, after school, on Friday nights.
It really isn’t any different at this level. Sure, heading off to bowl games is great. Playing in front of thousands of people is part of it. And setting all kinds of records can’t hurt. But look closely, and you’ll realize the best thing about playing college football is having 100 brothers to hang out with.
Even though you may realize this, you probably won’t ever truly understand until you’ve actually been a part of it. Something about bleeding, sweating and vomiting with the same people every day forges a unique bond. So does sharing in big victories and humiliating defeats. So does crying together.
And yeah, we cried for the loss of Artie and Scott Brock. Cried for their families. Cried for Jason Watts in the hospital. Cried for his family.
We cried, because death sucks.
This column originally appeared Wednesday in the Kentucky Kernel. Jeff Zurcher is a safety on the Kentucky football team.