Message to the Players on the Alabama Football Team and All Athletes
By: Larry Burton
Time has passed since the death of a great young man, a wonderful athlete and an inspiration to all who learn his story, John Servati. Yesterday, both Les Miles and Nick Saban chose to start their press conferences by mentioning this young man and making sure that this man’s sacrifice gets more notice than might be normal. Both men have seen the impact that a man such as this can have on their teams and the people in their lives. Both felt the loss of Servati without really knowing him themselves, but each knew him as the kind of man there may be too few of.
By now, all Alabama fans know that during the recent storms that hit Tuscaloosa, John Servati was with his girlfriend it a room he thought was safe, but tornado proved to be stronger. In the last moments of his life, Servati saw the walls collapsing and realized that his girlfriend and he were in immanent danger. Seeing that neither could escape in time without the wall falling on them, Servati made an instantaneous decision that was selfless and in character to the way he lived his life.
In those last few seconds, he used his body as a human brace, giving the love of his life the precious few seconds to escape before physics took over and allowed the wall to crush his body. He made the only decision he felt he could. He made it quickly and his actions saved a human life.
To the students of the University of Alabama athletic department, I have one simple question. Are you the kind of man or woman who can make the right decision when something bad could affect the life of a friend or your own?
Every week it seems we as fans, press members and just society at large are dumbfounded by the stupid antics and bad decisions that many of you make. The DUI’s, thefts, fights and even “forgetting” to pay for your purchases at a grocery store make us wonder why the disconnect in your brains occurred. Most times there are others present that could intervene, but they do nothing. We wonder why good people did nothing to stop such behavior and keep a friend from making these mistakes.
When you sit by and either watch or participate as your team mates and friends break your university’s rules and even more alarming, break the law it is like you did those things yourself. If you know that your friends are going to do or have done things they shouldn’t and you say or do nothing to stop it you’re letting yourself, your friend, your team, your university and everyone associated with you down. For all your sports heroism and bravado, actions such as those make you a coward. They make you false a friend. They make you a bad team mate. They make the fans who cheered for you, the parents that raised you, the coaches who work with you and the friends you have with a stiffer spine look at you and become ashamed.
Many of you have months, weeks, days or hours to consider your actions and what you will do. Some of you will only have a second. Like the young man we’re talking about, John Servati, you will know what the right decision is. The question is, will you act as quickly? Will you make the right decision? Will you think of the goodwill and lives of those around you? No one is asking you to sacrifice your life, but can sacrifice some of your comfort and do the right thing?
The world of college sports has lost a member of it’s own, he left friends, team mates and loved ones, but he left something else far more important. He left an example of a man who not only made the right decision in a time of crisis, but made it knowing he would pay the ultimate price for that decision. And he left a legacy for others to follow.
To the men and women of Alabama teams and to all athletes everywhere I give the following message. Live your life under the realization that your actions and decisions affect much more than your own life. Live your life knowing that your actions and decisions can save others. Maybe you’ll never save a life, but you can save their standing on the team, their reputations, their character and maybe help them mold their own decision making abilities. You can save them from failing and making mistakes that could ruin their lives.
Be accountable, not only to yourself, but to your friends and team mates.
Right now, people look up to you, team mates count on you and your parents and loved ones go to be each night thinking of you, hoping you are both safe and living lives as the kind of person they always hoped you would be. Live your lives to be worthy of that trust, friendship and love that others have in you.
When that moment comes and I assure you it will come, both small and large moments will happen and I ask, what will you do? I pray that maybe you will think of your responsibility to yourself to do the right thing. I hope that you remember that those around you are counting on you to make that right decision. I urge you to think of others and how your decision affects them. But mostly I hope you remember John Servati and what he did without hesitation or remorse.
Do that and John will have died helping more than just his girlfriend. Do that and you’ll give not just his death, but his life more meaning. But more importantly, you’ll also give your own life and those lives around you pride in doing the right thing. Do that and to someone in your life, you’ll be as big a hero as John Servati to the one you help and it may just be you.