Thursday, January 26, 2017

Yordano Ventura and defying death

On some level, it's sad when anybody dies, even a complete stranger. Yet it's even more tragic when life is snuffed out at an early age. Little children aren't supposed to get cancer and other horrible diseases -- but they do. Fine young men (and women) march off to war and come back in boxes. For various reasons, they and others were denied the chance to ever experience full adulthood and whatever they might have accomplished along the way. Truly sad indeed.

The vast majority fly beneath the public radar, and the grieving is confined to their friends and family. Yet when somebody "famous" passes away, it's newsworthy. Was that person better and/or more deserving than anybody else? Of course not, but such is the nature of our species that we will publicly mourn the loss of a "notable" we never met more than we would the next door neighbor we have known for many years. It's just the way most people are. And everybody's last day is coming -- it's just a matter of when.

However, there are times when we do some stupid things and put our lives at risk unnecessarily. This is particularly common in young males. Yours truly was no exception. Among other crazy stunts, I once rode a motorcycle going 140 MPH, at night, swerving through traffic, with a fellow rider three feet away from me in the same lane. Things come at you pretty fast at 140 and there's not much time to react if something unexpected were to happen, and likely nothing one could do about it anyway. (Heck, helmet or not, blow a tire at a buck forty and you'll probably tumble for a quarter mile breaking every bone in your body). It was funny back then but, by all rights, neither of us probably should have survived to tell about it. Yes, we were experienced riders and knew each other's moves like we did our own, but three words. We were lucky.

Even more so lucky, we're both still around decades later, having been fortunate enough to experience so much more life. Somewhere along the way, I began to be aware of my mortality. I'm not Superman, never was, though I thought so back in the day. It's a miracle I lived through that stunt and a few others. "By the grace of God", for those so inclined -- and I am.

Others weren't so lucky, and their "number" came up. Bang, you're gone. Forever. You shouldn't have done that, whatever it was, and now you're dead. No mulligans.

Yordano Ventura's number came up, innocently enough, while merely driving a car in his native Dominican Republic. Baseball fans knew him as a star pitcher for the Kansas City Royals. He was only 25. Details of the crash remain sketchy (was he drunk?), but he's gone. Could and should he have done something differently? Perhaps. It's no secret that the Dominican Republic is an unsafe place to drive. Other motorists routinely go way too fast, are inebriated, and otherwise ignore traffic laws. Basically, it's a free-for-all on the roads. And after all, Ventura was a multi-millionaire as a professional baseball player. He could have had a qualified driver tool him around in a limo. Then again, unless Ventura was driving extremely recklessly himself, unknown (but he wasn't wearing his seat belt), it's a sad state of affairs when one gets snatched away while performing the mundane task of simply driving their car. But it happens.

This comes not long on the heels of an eerily similar incident in the Dominican which took the life of St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, who happened to be a friend of Ventura's. Small world.

Still fresh in the minds of many is the boating accident which claimed the life of Jose Fernandez, a pitcher for the Florida (Miami) Marlins, along with a couple of his friends. Fernandez was only 24.

His case appeared to resemble my motorcycle scenario described above. It was purely reckless, but he didn't escape it intact. Bang. This is not to speak ill of the dead, but Fernandez did a lot of things wrong that wound up sealing their fate. First, they were piloting a boat capable of great speed, at night, in waters they were not familiar with. Obstacles such as rocky reefs lurked in the darkness. They found one. Later on, it would be revealed that Fernandez was far over the legal limit for alcohol consumption and had cocaine in his system. So add it up and what did you have? A young macho male, in a fast toy, who was drunk and high, and didn't know the territory. He likely thought he was the Man of Steel too, like yours truly once did. It was a recipe for disaster which became his last meal indeed. Though this scenario was not as dangerous as, say, playing Russian roulette, nevertheless, when one tempts fate, sometimes they come up on the short end. Suddenly. Long shots occasionally come in.

But what is one supposed to do? Live in a biosphere while perfectly healthy? Life is for exploring and that requires risks. Nothing is completely danger-proof. People get struck by lightning. A tree falls on their house in the middle of the night, or a car crashes into their bedroom as they sleep. Somebody fires a gun a half mile away into the air, and that bullet has to come down somewhere. If it hits you in the head, guess what? Case closed. It's a helluva way to check out, but weird stuff just happens sometimes. It's fate. How many "close calls" have we all experienced in our lifetimes that could have, and sometimes should have ended tragically? Likely a bunch. But if you're reading this, you were one of the lucky ones like myself. Knock on wood, as they say.

Many complain about this and that, and perhaps rightfully so. Life can be hard sometimes. Another way of looking at it is -- every day you wake up is a GOOD day. You can handle whatever comes your way -- somehow.

The people we see in the obituaries had a BAD day.

Enjoy it while you can because, like Yordana Ventura, you never know if a BANG is in your near future. Five seconds before it happened, Ventura likely wouldn't have believed it himself.

May he and the others R.I.P.

It's just sad......

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