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The curious case of Damar Hamlin

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By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

Call this a first. I have never written a sports column before (that I recall) but the Damar Hamlin incident has so many interesting facets that I could not resist.

First, there is the spiritual one. Immediately after Mr. Hamlin’s encounter, there were apparently widespread (I was not watching, I am relying on others' reports) calls for prayer.

While perhaps ironic, this is a good thing and probably had many attempting to communicate with the Lord God Almighty who may never have before (and there were probably some, as the The Mamas & The Papas sang in “California Dreaming” who…stopped by a church and “pretend to pray”).

Nevertheless, anytime an event can move masses to acknowledge God, this is, at least, a very good start.

Second, there is the financial/marketing aspect. It is reported that Mr. Hamlin had a “GoFundMe” account for raising money for children’s toys for charity.

As of early last Monday, before the accident, it stood at around $2,500, even after being in existence for a couple of years. By Wednesday noon, it was at approximately $6 million.

There isn’t a marketing manager in the world that wouldn’t like to create that kind of splash. People are altruistic if the motivations are in place.

I have been anti-football for a long time. This injury shows how humans push the limits on violence in sports in order to get their excitement. Why don’t we just get gladiators and lions? (I will answer my own question: PETA would be fearful the lions would be injured.)

I had already dodged violence in sports just a few days earlier. Laura and I were watching The Ohio State and University of Georgia game Saturday evening. Laura was rooting for Georgia, since we live in the South and have had two kids graduate from there.

I was secretly rooting for Ohio State (I have always like Woody Hayes – he is still coaching, isn’t he? I don’t follow the sport that closely) but knew better than say anything to Laura.

Then the final aspect of spectator sports, which I developed recently as a thesis is this. All we are doing when we watch spectator sports is competing against an unseen opponent.

This unseen opponent is perfect machines controlled by artificial intelligence. It is sort of like John Henry (“The Legend of John Henry’s Hammer,” Johnny Cash, 1963).

Think about it: Every sport's thought and move you have ever seen is competing against an imaginary, automatic and perfect machine. The first machine to excel at sports was Watson, the IBM computer that can beat humans at chess.

Now comes Golfi, that can make 70% of its putts and is starting to improve its long game. Golfi was developed by researchers at Paderborn University in Germany (source: USA Today).

For several years, “Spot” the robotic dog developed by Boston Dynamics, has been on the market (you can buy one for about the price of a Tesla). Spot’s abilities are amazing.
Sports are not going to go away, but there will continue to be improvements and competition against the unseen opponents.

For protection from issues like Mr. Hamlin experienced, it is not a far stretch to envision a form of kinetic armor, like that used on battlefield tanks, to protect the human body from such injuries.

But I’ll end where I started. A young man has been injured. I’ll invite you to pray with me for his speedy and full recovery.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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