Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Legends and Tragedy

Originally, I wasn't going to write anything today.  It was just another Wednesday, or so I thought.

Turns out, it's the five year anniversary of the passing of Angels Pitcher Nick Adenhart.

I know I've said a few things about Adenhart, his passing, his potential, drunk driving and the man who killed him in the past, nothing that really needs to be retreaded here.

I saw him pitch his final game, in person, just hours before his untimely death.  I was there two days later for the teams tribute to him and a seemingly meaningless game against the Red Sox.

But I think I've gone over all of that before, and even five years later, just thinking about it puts my heart in knots.  What meaning is there behind drudging up these feelings five years later?  I'm not sure, but as fate would have it, another significant figure in my life passed away recently.  The Ultimate Warrior.

For those not familiar with early 90's professional wrestling, Ultimate Warrior was supposed to be the next big thing.  Wrestlemania VI was the passing of the torch from 80's legend Hulk Hogan.  Hogan lost the WWF Championship to him that night, in what was probably the most entertaining match either of them ever had.  Though personal demons, ugly contract disputes and legal battles put Warrior's rising star on pause, he was still a hero to hundreds of thousands of kids who grew up at that time.  I was always more of a Hogan kid myself, but I still grew up admiring Warrior (a name the man originally known as Jim Hellwig would later legally adopt).

The timing behind Warrior's passing was almost as strange as Adenharts, if not at a completely different place in his life.  Warrior was recently inducted into the (now) WWE Hall of Fame, then made appearances at Wrestlemania XXX and Monday Night Raw.  All of that in a 72 hour time frame, after leaving the business altogether in 1998 and having burned most of his bridges as WWE.  Recently, he had been willing to come back to the company to receive this honor and become an ambassador for the company.  He got to reconcile with those he had hurt (or hurt him) over the years, even Hogan himself, whom he had not spoken to since their time together in WCW in 1998.  He got to mend his life, reconnect with his favorite part of the industry (the fans) and say his peace without even realizing it.

These are Warrior's final public words (in his Ultimate Warrior persona on Monday Night Raw):
“No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own, every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others, it makes them bleed deeper and something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized. By the story tellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him and make the running the man did live forever. You, you, you, you, you, you are the legend markers of Ultimate Warrior. In the back I see many potential legends. Some of them with warrior spirits. And you will do the same for them. You will decide if they lived with the passion and intensity. So much so that you will tell your stories and you will make them legends, as well. Ultimate. You are the Ultimate Warrior fans. And the spirit of the Ultimate Warrior will run forever!"

Less than 24 hours later, Warrior collapsed walking outside of a Arizona hotel with his wife and was declared dead soon after.

It's eerie.  The man got about as much closure as someone could without knowing their fate.

So five years since Adenhart's passing, what people are still talking about are what could have been.  Inserting a legend where there wasn't one, but probably would have been one.  Adenhart had a ton of talent, and probably could have been one of the best pitchers in baseball had he lived.  I remember reading an article by a local sportswriter (its really bugging me that I can't remember or find out who) days after Adenhart's passing that he wouldn't be able read the results of the Cy Young voting for 2011, 2012 and beyond without thinking of what could have been.  Adenhart was already a legend, and we have been passing on stories of that legend for 5 years.  We have made Adenhart a legend, I just wish he would have been able to make himself a legend like Warrior did.  He had the talent to.

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