Earlier this week, I was tagged on a Facebook post by a former high school teammate. I was asked to paste the following information on to my personal page. It now reads: "I have been nominated to list the 10 athletes I have enjoyed watching the most. One athlete per day for 10 consecutive days. No explanations, no reviews, only pics." I'm sure there is a name for this Facebook phenomena; if there is, please let me know what it's called. I can't say I have ever participated in one of these lists, but this was one I did not want to miss.
On Day One, I posted a picture of Bryant Young, a star defensive tackle for the San Francisco Forty Niners. Young, aka "B.Y." an All American at Notre Dame was drafted in the first round, as the seventh overall pick. He is also one of my Dad's all time favorite Niners.The stats will help you understand why, but sports writer Gary Peterson paints a fuller picture. He writes
He stood 6-foot-3 and weighed an immovable 291 pounds during his years as an awe-inspiring defensive lineman for the 49ers.
He was as pleasant as a summer breeze off the field. He quietly commanded total respect on the field.
For decades the 49ers’ most prestigious honor has been the Len Eshmont Award, which exemplifies the “inspiration and courageous play” of an original 49er who died before his time. B.Y. won the award. Eight times. In 12 years.
The Giants have the Willie Mac award. The Niners have Len Eshmont award. To think that B.Y. won the award 75% of the time he was with the organization makes me wonder—Should it be renamed? The Len Eshmont and Bryant Young Award?
I would be lying if I wrote that this award means more to my Dad than a Super Bowl title (B.Y. has one from the 1996 season!) but to him, it points out what is most valuable in a teammate and athlete.
When my Dad broke his femur in February, I was looking for words and ways to make him feel a little better. I reminded him that B.Y broke his right leg as well. He reminded me that B.Y. suffered a non-compound fracture of the tibia and fibula of his right leg when teammate Ken Norton's helmet crashed into him. I apologized to my Dad for conflating their injuries, but I did remind him that B.Y. came back to play nine more solid seasons in the Red and Gold. I think he liked the comparison.
This Facebook activity says "no explanations, no reviews—only pics." When it comes to B.Y. I don't think an explanation is necessary; the reasons I am a fan are obvious (and how much do I love that he met his wife at Notre Dame?!). But part of the joy of sports / being a sports fan is the discovery and sharing of connections that aren't so obvious. For example, my admiration for B.Y. connects me to my Dad, the person who has instilled my love of sport more than anyone. He has been one of my greatest teachers when it comes to football, tennis, sports stats and fandom. What people might not know is that he often says the same about me. For example, in reading further about B.Y. I came to learn part of his story that my father did not know. I knew I could be the teacher, but I wasn't sure if he could handle the content.
On October 11, 2016 Bryant and Kristin Young's oldest son, Bryant Colby Young II died of pediatric cancer. Colby—as he was known—had a brain tumor the size of a golf ball. Though it was removed, the cancer was too far gone. His story is captured in this video here. I urge you to watch it.
This is one of the most tragic and yet beautiful tributes I have seen. The love of the Young family and their sincere, deep faith in Christ is what allowed them to endure his death and celebrate his life. Colby loved football and basketball, but his passion was cooking for his family. He carried a profound wisdom beyond his years. I have a feeling he was a good brother to his sisters and took some ribbing from his little brothers. He looked up to his father and it's apparent that his father looks up to him then and now. The Young family's willingness to carry this cross, to surrender and to offer their testimony is pure gift for all of us. I wish more people knew of BY and Kristin's story. Please share the video.
During COVID, I have found that I have needed a good cry around every four or five days. Inevitably, something will cause the storm to break and I'm able to let out disappointment, loss, sadness, fear and anxiety. If you are in need of a lightning bolt to get the flood to break, let it be Colby's story. He is no doubt with God in heaven, doing all the things that he once loved to do. The video closes with these words from John's Gospel. Thank you Colby for your witness to the Gospel and the love of Christ.
All B&W photos are from Kristin M. Young's website