The lede in the Damar Hamlin story is the fact that his life was saved, but there have been many exterior narratives that sometimes overshadow the most important part of the story.
On Jan. 2, Hamlin went into cardiac arrest and required CPR to have his heartbeat restored on the field during Monday Night Football. Less than two weeks later, Hamlin has been released from the hospital and miraculously returned home where he looks to continue taking steps toward a full recovery. ESPN play-by-play voice Joe Buck, who was on the call the night Hamlin collapsed, wants to ensure that his recovery remains the main story.
Buck recently joined Bryan Curtis of The Ringer on The Press Box podcast to discuss being in the booth during such a traumatic scene. Curtis asked Buck specifically what changed about his job as the broadcast transitioned from a sportscast to a newscast.
“Just be a human being,” Buck said. “This is about another person who is in terrible distress down on the field. I’m sure you’re gonna ask me about the five-minute thing with the league and I understand why you want to ask me that. I think the frustrating thing to me after this has kind of settled, is what took place on that field is overlooked. And it shouldn’t be.”
The frustration Buck referred to is the fact that Hamlin’s story is nothing short of a miracle thanks to the training staff on the field, yet there are additional narratives that sometimes overshadow what happened that night. Skip Bayless’s tweet has been an overshadowing narrative, the NFL taking too long to suspend the game, and the NFL taking too long to ultimately decide on canceling the game have been overshadowing narratives because the public often seeks to find a villain in any story.
“I’ve been told by people in the medical industry that even in an emergency room that might not have been handled as well as it was handled on that field, and that’s what saved his life,” Buck said. “To do that with that medical team that was down there, with that pressure, who knows how any of us would ever react in that intense of a situation, and they nailed it.
“That’s the main story,” Buck continued. “Throughout all of this and whatever has been the recounting of things in real time and everybody wanting to assign blame. ‘Did it take too long to cancel the game? Did the guys on TV screw it up?’ I feel like it was handled extremely well, I’m not talking about us, I’m talking about by the people on the field. That’s like landing a plane on the Hudson in my mind. That may be overstating it, but I’m not sure that it is and I think that has gotten lost a little bit.”
Part of Buck’s frustration probably comes from getting caught up in a back-and-forth with the NFL in the weeks since Hamlin collapsed on the field. Buck has maintained that the ESPN booth was told by the NFL there were plans to restart the game, while the league has denied offering that communication. The discourse is a very sidebar issue, but it continues to be a topic of conversation, one that Buck doesn’t want to overshadow the main story of Hamlin’s miraculous recovery thanks to an amazing medical team.