MOVED TO DIARIES - LSA
Just wanted to share something I've been meaning to write, but didn't really have a chance to do until now.
The date was November 26, 2016. I watched in stunned silence as Curtis Samuel scooted into the end zone to score the game winning touchdown in OT, giving OSU their 12th win in the last 13 years. As the OSU fans spilled out onto the field (several of them being my friends, as I grew up in Dayton OH, less than an hour from Columbus) I walked out of the room I was in with my hands over my head and in complete shock. The look of pure disappointment, and anger, must have been very apparent on my face because my friend said to me “Hey, do you think this is the best place to be walking around looking like that?”
I realized what he meant immediately.
I was in the ICU at Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda MD.
Two days prior, on Thanksgiving day, I had found out that my teammate Jason Jablonski, who had been fighting leukemia for over four months, had taken a turn for the worse, and that a fungal infection had taken hold of his body. Jason was a rising firstie (senior) at the United States Naval Academy, and also one of the captains of the men’s ice hockey team. Several teammates and I scrambled to get flights back the next day, in order to support the Jablonski family, as well as Jason. Although he was heavily sedated, and could not speak to us, optimism was high that he would fight off this fungal infection. In my mind, there was no question that he would. In fact, I was more worried about The Game than I was about whether or not Jason would fight it off. Jason had beaten T-Cell A-L-L leukemia into remission, this was simply another roadblock on his road to recovery.
After The Game, I was in a pretty sour mood the rest of the day. Needless to say, I told everyone that the refs were a joke (because they were!!!), that J.T Barrett was short of the first down (because he was!!!), and that I hated the city of Columbus with a burning passion. As the gloating text messages began rolling in from my friends back home, I truly felt like this was the worst day I’d ever had. We’d lost AGAIN. This time in absolutely agonizing fashion. How could life get any worse?
The next day, Jason Jablonski passed away.
Everyone loses, and will lose, people close to them in their lifetime. Grandparents and parents to old age. Friends in the military in combat. These all make some sort of “sense”. Jason’s death made no sense. A vibrant young man, who had a bright future ahead of him, and who had recently been selected to become a future Navy Pilot. Why would life take someone who had so much to give to the world? I think that decades from now, I’ll struggle with the answer to this question.
The weekend of November 26th taught me a lot about perspective. I realize I’m only 21 years old and that I’m nowhere near done growing and learning. But I learned an important lesson that weekend. The lesson? It’s just a game. The Game, although it’s huge one, is still just a game. I’m not saying I won’t get upset about losses or bad calls in the future- I most definitely will. But at the end of the day, as much as we all hate to hear it: we always have next year. Watching your favorite team lose a game is hard. Losing a friend/teammate/brother is magnitudes harder
Michigan football will always mean a lot to me. It always has. Even though I grew up in Ohio, and don’t attend the University of Michigan, Michigan football gives me something to look forward to- especially during those long school weeks in the fall. However, I look at it differently now. Experiencing those huge wins (UTL, vs. Florida in the Capital One Bowl, 2011 vs OSU all come to mind), is not just a euphoric experience for me- but for all Michigan fans everywhere. Just like the heartbreaking losses are experienced by us all as well. We have a community we can fall back on: somewhere to celebrate together, grieve losses together, and just talk about a topic that we all love and look forward to.
The weekend of The Game will have a new meaning to me for the remainder of my life. To me, it’s a reminder that win or lose, we all have these communities to fall back on in times of hardship. Whether that be a fan base of a sports team, or a group of people brought together because the death of a loved one. Having people share that burden helps- talking (or writing) about it helps too. To me, the weekend of the Game will transcend just the game itself. It will be a constant reminder to remember Jason, as well as those close to him who will inevitably be struggling during that time of year.
In passing, here’s a quote about Jason from a member of the hockey team: “Jason, or Jabs as we liked to call him on our team, was one of the strongest willed people I have ever come across. He lived his life with a burning passion that radiated outward. Jabs never let anyone in his sights have a bad day, always bringing the people around him up and making them feel valued. At the same time, he was quick with one of his signature sarcastic jokes or a snide remark to keep the people around him humble and remind us that we are all human. In the hours following his passing, stories began to come out as the team huddled together desperately trying, and inevitably failing, to make the smallest shred of sense of the tragedy that had occurred. Story after story poured out, some funny, some sad, some downright embarrassing, but a common thread shined within every story: Win Every Battle. Jabs won every battle he ever came across by living each day like a warrior, attacking each obstacle ferociously, yet never forgetting to bring along the people next to him. This manifested itself in every area of Jason's life, from never being outworked on the ice, volunteering his free time to help out others, and unrelentingly fighting for his life in a cold hospital bed. Jabs did not find victory at the end of every battle, yet he still managed to win every time, charging towards every obstacle with a warrior mentality and never giving anything less than his maximum effort. No matter the place or the circumstances, Jabs won every battle he ever came across.”
Forever our brother.
Win Every Battle.