The Game Won't Wait
as seen in The Denver Post
October 17, 1984
Written by John McGrath
The Game Won't Wait
There is something callous and indifferent about a football schedule. For a man-made product that bends to network-television muscle the way a willow twig bends to the wind, these things are rigid as redwood when confronted with more humane concerns.
"Oct. 20," reads the seventh line of the Colorado football team's 1984 schedule. "Nebraska at Boulder."
Forget about the porcine point spread for a moment, and about the footnote from the record book that tells us that the Buffaloes have beaten their more gifted Big Eight neighbors precisely 11 times in 42 tries. Forget about the game-day formalaties.
If the world were just, or if football schedules had a heart, Colorado and Nebraska would put off playing Saturday afternoon at Folson Field. "Go home," kind and wise old men would say at each turnstile. "Please."
If the world were just and if football schedules had a heart, Colorado and Nebraska would meet when and only when Pat and Ed Reinhardt Sr. could sit in the stands and watch their boys trot onto the field from opposite sidelines; John Reinhardt from Nebraska's; Ed Reinhardt Jr. from Colorado's.
When they could watch their boys marching to the beat of a different bass drummer, and feel-indeed revel-in a peculiar joy afterward; that it mattered not which team won, but that two young men, as brothers, had been able to square off on each's own terms, as opponents.
It's as if John, a senior, and Ed Jr., a sophomore, saw the same destination, and decided upon different avenues. They were aligned in spirit, and yet independent in procedure: Brothers.
"We had been looking forward to this game for two years," their father, Ed Reinhardt Sr., was saying Tuesday morning. "Ever since Eddie signed his scholarship to CU, we were thinking about this game."
The two-year wait ends Saturday. But only John Reinhardt, a reserve nose guard for coach Tom Osborne's Nebraska defense, will be in uniform.
Ed, John's younger brother, will be fighting for his life from a hospital bed, where he has spent the last five weeks in a coma after colliding with two University of Oregon defenders on Sept. 15.
In this battle, conventional collegiate alliances were shelved as soon as Ed Jr. was rushed to the hospital. His side is fortified by prayers, love and modern-medical technology. His opponent: Time.
As the hours and days elapse, the prayers are whispered. They come from places the Reinhardt family never knew, and from voices they never heard. There are so many prayers.
And so it is amid this profound human dilemma that the schedule, impervious and impersonal to the end, decrees "Kickoff!"
It is amid this dilemma that what recently promised to be among the most joyous of afternoons for Pat and Ed Reinhardt Sr. now lurks as a symbol of the fragility of the human body, and the injust code--a code that in a split-second puts a healthy 19 year-old athlete to the ground--to which it must abide.
Ed Reinhardt Sr. knows this better than any of us. He knows, too, that sitting in the stands at Boulder surely will be a haunting experience.
But he'll go, if he can, because he must: One of his sons is playing.
"I've got a lot of feelings about this," he said by telephone from the intensive-care unit of Sacred Heart Hospital in Eugene, Oregon. As he talked, doctors and nurses were undergoing last-minute preparations to transfer Ed Jr. home, by specially equipped plane, to the CU Medical Center in Denver.
"It's not easy, John is playing against the team that means so much to Eddie. I don't know what to think, or what my reactions are. I really don't. I guess I'll just let it happen. That's all I can do; Let it happen.
"I'd like to be there. Right now, though, we've got to make sure one of us is here with Eddie. And our other son (Tom, a senior at Heritage High) is playing Saturday afternoon, too. We've got three places on our minds."
A concerned parent-and yet one with conspicuous sense of fair play-Ed Reinhardt Sr. declined to offer any post-facto preaching about the dangers of football to either Tom (who is entertaining college-football scholarship offers) or Matt and Paul, both 13 and future high-school prospects.
"Ever since the boys began playing football, I've supported and encouraged them," Ed Sr. said. "I think it would be a little hypocritical of me to tell them now, after what's happened, to quit."
His voice paused. The medical technicians were ready to wheel Ed Jr. out of the hospital and into a waiting ambulance for the trek home.
"You know," his father said, "the whole time Eddie was growing up, I never saw him quit. Basketball, football, whatever, he never quit. Never."
On Saturday afternoon, while one of their sons lies in a coma, Pat and Ed Reinhardt Sr. will be at Folsom Field in spirit, if not in body. For there's a game to play, a schedule to keep.
And Eddie never quit a thing in his life.