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Tragedy makes Bucs kicker Bryant one of us

Bucs kicker Matt Bryant has spent considerable time doing charity work involving children.

BRIAN CASSELLA | Times

Bucs kicker Matt Bryant has spent considerable time doing charity work involving children.

Hug your child. At a time like this, that's really all you can do.

You can try to imagine Matt Bryant's pain, but down deep, you realize it is unimaginable. Still, the thoughts of parents losing their 3-month-old son, as Matt and his wife Melissa did on Wednesday, will twist your insides and leave you numb.

You can try to think of the proper words to say, but really, words are powerless at a time like this. For the Bryants, for any parents losing a child, there is simply loss and pain and a hole that even time will not close.

You can light candles and you can say prayers. You can make donations and you can send flowers. You can shed tears and you can approximate perhaps an ounce of the tons of pain that the Bryants feel.

Then you can look around your home.

And you can embrace your children.

There is something about an unspeakable loss that touches us all, that bonds us through anguish. As of today, Matt Bryant is no longer simply a football player who kicks for the colors of the home team. He is one of us. He is a neighbor. He is a fellow parent struggling to endure the pain of losing Tryson, his young son.

Down deep, we are all aware that sports are an illusion, and that the people on the field lead lives that are very different from ours. Except for times like these. At times like these, we are all alike. We are all human.

And so a community grieves for the Bryants.

Around the Bucs' locker room, Bryant is considered one of the good guys. He was the team's Man of the Year in 2007 mostly because of his charity work with children. He raised money for All Children's Hospital, and he was the spokesman for a charity that tried to combat child predators, and he and Melissa were spokesmen in a fight against cystic fibrosis.

Life is cruel that way. A man works hard to make sure that fewer parents have to cry, and one day, the tears are his.

How does a man deal with this kind of loss?

The only answer is "as best he can.''

For now, the Bucs should encourage Bryant to take as much time as he needs for his family. Take a week, or two, or four or however many you need. Your job will be here when you come back. And they should tell any new kicker that that's the deal.

After all, some things are more important than games. Some things aren't even close.

Oh, football always has been important to Bryant. It was a tough job for him to get, and only a few weeks ago, it looked like it was going to be a tough job for him to keep. But that's a life lesson, too. You think you have it hard, and then something horrible happens, and you realize you have no clue.

Most of us grumble about our job and our workload, after all. Bryant could have done that this training camp. After all, he wasn't sharp, and his boss seemed to be considering hiring someone new, and applicants were showing up for his job. Turns out, that was a piece of cake.

And how about the difficult time Bryant had in getting his job to start with. He poked around three years waiting for a chance. He went to Europe to kick. He bounced around a little. Looking back, that wasn't that hard, either.

This?

This is hard.

If you are a parent, you remember those first few months.

You remember the dreams and the goals and the sweetness of watching a baby sleep. You remember the feeling of a baby against your neck and the warmth and the joy. Even the thought of having that ripped away from you is difficult to think about.

Today, the Bryants start trying to endure.

Keep them in your thoughts, won't you?

Oh, and hug your child.

Tragedy makes Bucs kicker Bryant one of us 09/24/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 29, 2008 3:43pm]

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