Leaving a football stadium isn’t supposed to be painful. But it was for me this past Friday night at Biggersville.

The Lions had just beaten Baldwyn and I had conducted my post-game interviews. I was leaving and had just passed the concession stand behind the home bleachers when it happened.

Yes it was nighttime and dark but there were lights around illuminating the concrete walkway that led out of the stadium and into the parking lot.

So it’s not as if I couldn’t see what was in front of me. Rather, it’s what was below me that proved dangerous.

As many times as I have entered and departed the Lions Den (the beloved nickname of Biggersville’s stadium) one would think I would know the routine by now as well as the lay of the land. But I forgot about that step-up – the one that ultimately got me.

Yes I tripped and yes, I fell..straight down and forward with a crowd of people around me. My hands caught the pavement first before my left ankle caught the concrete as I timbered down. I lost control of the supply bag I was carrying which contained my play-by-play notebook as well as a smaller notebook for players and coaches comments. There were extra pens, a brush and other items that went flying as the bag hit the ground in front of me.

A young person that appeared to possibly be a student gathered all the supplies back in my bag while two or three adults assisted me and pulled me up.

I’m a fairly big man after all. I needed the help. And I was grateful to everyone that came to my aid, asked if I was OK and told me how sorry they were that such a thing had happened to me.

The fall also aggravated my already-aching back so when I woke up the following morning I was sore and nursing several bumps, scrapes and bruises. It truly hurt, more so the next day than when the fall originally happened.

When I got back in my truck outside the stadium, after embarrassing myself in front of Lions fans, I was thinking about the pain associated with the fall. But the entire experience I had just been a part of paled when two words suddenly appeared in a mind bubble.

Tess Lancaster.

I couldn’t get her off my mind. I kept remembering the unthinkable pain and suffering the recent Alcorn Central graduate is enduring now, and will continue to endure the rest of her life, because she was attacked by five vicious pit bulls in her rural Alcorn County neighborhood in August.

I spoke with Tess’s dad, Alcorn Central head volleyball coach, Eric Lancaster this past week and he updated me on how Tess is doing and what might be next in her recovery: be it more surgery, facial exercises and other forms of therapy, as well as the continuance of a daily home routine that isn’t so routine anymore.

Tess is a brave young lady and a fighter. She will hopefully be OK and will continue to heal both physically and emotionally. She is surrounded by a loving and caring family that sees to it she gets what she needs every day.

I cannot imagine, and will likely never know, the pain and suffering Tess has been through over the past couple of months. But I know this from her mother’s posts and daily reports on Facebook: Tess will do what it takes to get better. Yes, she will complain from time to time but wouldn’t we do the same? Yes, there are days she really doesn’t feel like or want to get out of bed because she knows what lies ahead that day. But wouldn’t we do the same?

I’m a sports editor who was a little banged up because I forgot to raise my foot and make that step. I’ll be fine. But Tess Lancaster has suffered much more than I ever have at this point in her recovery..a recovery that will take years, not a day or two as in my case.

Remember when 9-11 happened? Things like sports and everyday problems and petty differences weren’t so important anymore. There were “bigger fish to fry” as the old saying goes. Our perspective is extremely important to our growth as a human being. We’re supposed to learn from the hard times and the mistakes we’ve made. But how soon this nation forgot our pledge to stand united and not let insignificant everyday issues come between us. We became consumed again with our own problems.

To this I say, ‘remember Tess’.

Remember Tess when we fall down and scrape ourselves up a bit. Remember Tess when we feel sorry for ourselves, no matter the reason. Remember Tess when we feel like our problems are just too big for us.

Remember Tess. She’s an inspiration. She’s a brave soul with a huge heart. She’s a person who will not let her suffering define her life. She will, with lots of grit, passion and determination, endure more surgeries, therapy and learning to live life normally again. She will hopefully, some day, be able to make that drive down to Starkville to attend Mississippi State and work hard to earn that degree that was put on hold following the attack.

I say all this with certainty because I feel, with proper medical and family support, along with the Lord sustaining her life long enough, that it will happen for her.

I hope we take a step back and realize that when we’re feeling down, hurt, depressed, angered, shocked, or any other form of emotion, that we remember Tess Lancaster and others that are going through the same type of hardships.

Remember Tess.

Til next time…

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