So, I did not get much chance to post additional thoughts yesterday thanks to a surprise text about a pending commitment. As most know, the Ducks picked up another commitment Friday when three-star defensive tackle Mohamed Diallo committed to Oregon. There was other, more tragic news, however, which seemed to dominate most of the headlines.
The story that is the life of Colt Lyerla was once again thrust into the spotlight with his escape from a minimum corrections facility in Washington County. He was later found having suffered from an overdose. it reminded me of a story i wrote not too long ago - in fact, it really is like a combination of two stories I wrote; one was subtitled 'Insidious Fall' and the other was simply called 'The Tortured Soul.'
I think Colt Lyerla is a tortured soul at this point. He was raised in a very unstable environment and several teachers with whom I and others have spoken admit that Lyerla was basically advanced through school despite the reality that he was not ready. Many knew he was not ready to move on, but none wanted to upend his future. Some in his youth treated him like a piece of meat. Those that tried to help simply got to him too late.
In 'Tortured Soul' I was really responding to the suicide of Robin Williams. I mentioned that far too often those that make our world a better place in which to live - the artists - were those that suffered the most from the quiet torture of self-doubt and self-hatred. We see their talents, be it music, acting or comedy, and we think that they have these wonderful lives. I think that the truth is that we are not seeing a waste of 'God given talent' we are seeing a waste of humanity.
In Notes from the Underground, the existential masterpiece by Dostoyevsky, I think he is trying to tell us that things are not as they might appear to us. Deep inside their souls and minds, many men, be they twenty or forty, believe themselves diseased and unattractive. "I am a sick man.... I am a spiteful man." Men, in their most raw state “know better than anyone that by all this I am only injuring myself and no one else. But still, if I don't consult a doctor it is from spite.”
I think that this is where we find Colt Lyerla. He despises what he sees in the mirror; his memories are flawed by mental illness. I have said this before, pundits everywhere will say that 'this is not a football story.' Except, you know what, it is a football story.
If Colt Lyerla had not been an athletically gifted young man, had he been a kid who barely graduated and worked in a gas station, would any of this have ever entered our consciousness? I have said often that athletics is a window into the soul of our society. We see in athletics all of the good that can exist, the beauty. But we can also see into the darkness of our heart. We see tragedy and we suddenly offer our 'hopes and prayers' that he gets some help. We need more than hopes and prayers, we need to be the change that provides hope.
The insidiousness of drugs.
The problem is deep and insidious. It is the darkness of a nation that no one wants to admit. This is a scourge that threatens our security.
Yes, the Colt Lyerla story is a football story. But we can make it more than a football story. It can become a life altering story if we allow ourselves the opportunity to grow and learn about ourselves.
Chip Kelly and the Ducks athletic department did everything in their power to help Colt Lyerla. Do not think for one minute that Chris Herren was brought in for any reason other than the education of Colt Lyerla.
Herren's story is powerful; and scary all at the same time. Talent did not solve his problems. Money did not solve his problems. Drugs did not solve his problems. Knowledge is what it took to solve his problems.He needed knowledge that he could not get on his own. He needed help.
Many people without the intelligence and acumen of Herren have fallen under the same spell and not made it out alive. Where is our compassion for their plight?
When we see a story like Colt Lyerla or Chris Herren, we get very serious with our "hope" that they can get straightened out. And, you know what, this only reinforces the wrong message. Why wait until a football or basketball star gets in trouble for drugs to care? There are kids, everyday, who get into trouble for the first time. That is when we should care.
We should care not when it starts to destroy the life of a football star, but when it starts to destroy the life of a human being.
We should care every single day.