Jonathan Birdsong

Being a longtime sports fanatic, as well as a co-host of on an upstart sports podcast, I was instantly overwhelmed with sadness upon hearing about the tragic death of Kobe Bryant. It’s that side of media, that I personally loathe covering. If you savvy yourself to be a know-it-all, as I do, being one of the first people to report background or “insider” information, from a this-is-not-gossip vantage point, comes with its feelings of omniscient euphoria. Plainly stated, I enjoy reporting good news. 

Tragedy changes everything. And on this day, I did not relish in being the “intellectual sports windbag guy.” 

Supplying objective commentary about winning or losing an athletic contest between two teams or competitors is as easy as retelling your favorite childhood nursery rhyme to me. The histrionics of certain eras of professional basketball and football are topics I daily debate. However, on that day, those barbershop style deliberations of who the G.O.A.T. is instantly became lesser. 

I’ve been around many locker rooms and practice facilities, and I’ve learned in sports emotions run both high and low. Like films, sports can provide some escapism — a release from reality. As a culture, sports invariably are free flowing with extraordinary acts of physical ability and unimaginable feelings. The cheers of joy, orchestrated by the winning team, often are followed by the sorrowful tears of the loser. We laugh, and we love in sports. We might even be a little spoiled by sports culture as it pertains to mortality, as star athletes play and compete well past their prime into their late 30s and 40s. We learn from buzzer beaters and missed field goal kicks to expect the unexpected. 

But, tragedy changes everything. And sometimes we don’t get to see one of our heroes grow old. And a happening such as this can change one’s life perspective negatively. Maybe even shake up your faith a little. Bad things do happen to good people. “Life is too short,” has resonated in my most recent conversations. And in that moment on Jan. 26, 2020, I just wanted to hug everyone that I had called, texted or could not physically get ahold of right away. Mend a few fences. Tell them how much I love them. Have a serious Hallmark moment.   

The after events have given me a heightened sense of urgency of how pleasantly and purposefully time is spent in the present day — the value of living your truth. To make sure dreams are bolstered by genuine actions, and potentially make a difference in someone’s life. 

Kobe Bryant’s career as a basketball player is unforgettable. Patterning greatness, he found himself flying just as high as many of his hardwood heroes. I will always remember the career stats. The championships. The time he went for 81 points. The Mamba Mentality. His beautiful family.  

I’m not one for memorials, so no need to tie a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree as it pertains to the 26th of January in the coming years. Instead, I will forever marvel at Kobe’s early self-actualization. How he properly used his awareness, time, talents and determination to be better. How he focused on a given process, and trusted the hard work he put in. I will remember how he excelled. 

Jonathan Birdsong is cohost of Crossroads Sports podcast and pop culture enthusiast. Contact him at jonathan_e_birdsong@yahoo.com.

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