When the news of Roy Halladay’s death broke this afternoon, I immediately wrote it up. That’s my job: to cover breaking baseball news, even the most painful topics. I pulled up his career stats and awards, found a good photo of him, and then, as I refreshed my memory on his illustrious career and began to see his name on social media, I found myself crying.
But then I pulled myself together, published the article, and did some more work. In an attempt at dark comedy, one of my coping mechanisms, I tweeted something about needing to protect David Ortiz at all costs. And then I got up and took a shower.
But this pain in my heart persisted. And as I stood in the shower, I began to realize why: I’m not a Phillies fan, but Roy Halladay’s passing broke my heart.
I began to think of kids like me, who grew up loving baseball more than anything, but for whom it’s the Phillies, not the Red Sox. For them, it was Halladay’s perfect game and no-hitter that thrilled them, that they still cherish and remember. It’s his Cy Young awards and 8 All-Star games and the fact that he deserved to be on a championship team but never got all the way there.
It’s unbelievably tragic when the sports world loses someone as remarkable as Roy Halladay. He’s the kind of player most fans admired, even if you hated him for striking out your entire lineup. When I texted Joe that Roy had died, he said, “He was my go-to starter in early MLB video games.” Joe’s a Red Sox fan, but game recognizes game. Roy Halladay was one of those players who was so good that you simply respected his skill, even if you didn’t root for the Blue Jays or the Phillies. He was one of those players, and now he’s gone.
The bittersweet truth is that we deify our heroes. They’re human beings, but we put them on these pedestals, and when they fall short, it often hurts us as much as it hurts them. When they’re gone, especially when they leave us as suddenly as Roy has, the pain is unbearable. I made a joke about protecting David Ortiz from harm, but in all honesty, I’d be completely destroyed if anything ever happened to him or any of my other heroes. I was heartbroken when Johnny Pesky died. I only remember Roy Halladay in vague moments and statistics, and yet I feel like the world is already darker without him.
The whole baseball world is mourning today. I’ve seen tweets from players on every team. It’s all anyone is talking about. And Roy Halladay deserved that. He deserved to live a long and happy life, and now he deserves to be remembered as a father, husband, teammate, and friend, in addition to being an incredible pitcher.
At the very least, Roy Halladay’s passing shows us how special sports are when they’re played by people who bring us all together. In times of pain and heartache, we’re all united as one, mourning and celebrating a life, no matter who we root for.