It's Just a Football Game

It's just a football game. For all the madness that has surrounded the University of Miami football program this year, it's just a football game.

For all the "Fire Larry Coker" chants in the stands following any one of Miami's two home losses this year, it's just a football game.

For all the "Go Back to California's" that quarterback Kyle Wright has endured from the so-called Hurricanes fans, it remains, only a football game.

Miami has lost four football games this year and could very well lose the next three and finish with a miserable 5-7 record this year and not make a bowl game. But there is no doubt the ‘Canes would rather go 0-12 than have to endure the tragedy that occurred last night in Kendall when senior defensive tackle Bryan Pata was murdered last night in front of his apartment.

No team has endured more tragedy over the past ten years than Miami. In 1996, linebacker Marlin Barnes and his friend were killed in his on-campus apartment by his friend's ex-boyfriend.

Safety Al Blades and linebacker Chris Campbell both died in car accidents just a few years ago.

And now Pata. Another 22 year old gone and for what?

I can't even read the newspaper or watch the news anymore because almost daily it's about another young person being killed, and most of the time in a violent way. Miami has gone from being a nice city to a daily war zone. This may not be Iraq, but it might as well be as yet again, another baby has been taken from us.

Sure, he was a 6-foo-5, 280-pound baby, but still a baby at the young age of 22 with the world in his hands.

Having known and covered Pata since he was a senior at Central High School, Pata was one of the nicer kids you would ever meet. He may have had a hardcore exterior, a big and burly guy with dreadlocks at times, but this was not a hardcore kid.

He was as jovial as it got, always smiling, always joking around. He was always one to be happy to give an interview.

Remembering his senior year at Central when the Rockets were No.1 in the state and facing a mega match up against rival Northwestern the following week, Pata was ruled to be ineligible because he had been out of the eighth grade for five years.

The Rockets were forced to forfeit their first five games, but yet, they managed to win their final five games, including a 20-10 win over Northwestern, and squeak into the playoffs.

For as bad as the players who kept playing may have felt because their season was flipped upside down, no one felt worse than Pata as he spent numerous days over that week in tears. From what his former high school coaches had told me then, Pata took the forfeits very hard. He put the onus on himself. He never passed on blame to others just like he didn't pass on blame to others when he was late to a meeting by a minute and didn't start Miami's game this year against Louisville.

Unfortunately, tragedies like the murder of Pata have become all too common, not just in Miami where they are at an all-time high, but all over the country.

Kids who have not come close to the primes of their lives are being taken away by senseless acts of violence. However, few had the promise of Pata who was likely to be drafted in the NFL following this season and future dreams of being an FBI agent.

It just goes to show that while fans, experts, media and the like critique the job that Coker has done, rip on Wright for the interceptions he's thrown, please remember football is just a game.

Nothing more. Nothing less. It remains just a game.

May God be with Bryan Pata and his family.

Rudy Rodriguez-Chomat can be reached at rudy@canestime.com

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