Unless you’re a hardcore soccer fan, the name Christian Eriksen most likely doesn’t ring a bell. Eriksen is from Denmark, playing professionally for Italian club Inter Milan and for his country in various tournaments. It was in the latter role when during a game yesterday in the Euro 2020 tournament (the name a carryover from last year when the event was postponed due to COVID), Eriksen collapsed on the field, reportedly suffering cardiac arrest, during the first half of a game between his native Denmark and Finland. CPR was administered on the field while Eriksen’s teammates shielded him from public view. At last report, he was awake and talking, albeit still in the hospital.
Incidents of athletes going into cardiac arrest during competition are rare. One of the most recent examples prior to Eriksen came when St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester collapsed on the bench after a shift on the ice in a February 2020 game. He recovered, but has since retired.
Incidents such as this quickly place sports into perspective. Sports are meant to be entertainment, athletes doing that which we can only dream of doing. Athletes themselves become woven into the fabric of a fan’s life, sometimes excessively so. We cheer and boo, praise and criticize. We sometimes forget there is a human being at the other end of the equation, one whose life has the same dignity and worth as ours. Being an athlete does not somehow eliminate a person from deserving the same consideration with which we wish to be treated.
We live in a society where demonizing those with whom we disagree has become second nature. Social media has played a not insignificant role in this; immediate access to celebrities in assorted walks of fame giving rise to the illusion that being on the same platform somehow both elevates and validates any given individual’s opinion compared to anyone else’s regardless of the parties involved. While an argument can be made that we are equal to each other in many ways, there is no such equality when it comes to areas such as athletic performance. A balding middle-aged fat guy in the stands can criticize an offensive lineman’s efforts to keep Aaron Donald from flattening his favorite team’s quarterback, but could he do any better? Yeah, didn’t think so.
It’s little wonder why an ever-growing number of athletes are jumping off social media. Be it excessive snark or worse, the illusion of anonymity social media offers has emboldened society’s pus-filled underbelly to say things online to athletes that were they to meet in person would never transpire. The principle of “be the better” is a sadly scarce commodity.
Hopefully, Eriksen will make a full recovery, although if past incidents are any indication it is likely his soccer career is over at age twenty-nine. Eriksen has two children with his partner. While certainly, Eriksen’s fans at Inter Milan and in Denmark will lament his absence should he no longer be able to play, this is more preferable than words can express to his children no longer having their father.