You cannot help but feel sadness for Journey Brown, a delightful young man whom everyone felt had an incredibly bright football future.
That football future has been taken away from him by a heart issue.
Thankfully, Brown will get to go on and enjoy what hopefully will be an incredible life’s journey, because doctors were able to diagnose his ailment in time.
Brown has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. I’ve heard those words many times in my life because of a tragic sports incident that played out 30 years ago.
I still cry thinking about and watching Hank Gathers play basketball. He was Superman on the court for high-scoring Loyola-Marymount, leading the nation in scoring and rebounding in 1988-89.
Gathers had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. He collapsed during a game early in his senior season of 1989-90, then returned to play at the end of the season.
Gathers threw down a vicious dunk on a half-court alley-oop pass on March 4, 1990. As he walked back up the court, he collapsed and died.
I was in high school at the time, and I loved, loved watching Gathers and Loyola-Marymount play. It remains to this day the most entertaining sports team I have ever watched.
What we learned from the Gathers situation is you don’t mess with heart issues in sports. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can be deadly for athletes who perform at high levels, and you just can’t mess around with that.
According to Heart.org: “(Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) has been cited as the most common reason for sudden cardiac death in young people and athletes under the age of 35.”
To know that Journey Brown has the same ailment — and I don’t mean this as a pun in any way — it breaks your heart.
A self-described “goofball,” Brown had this to say in a video interview from early October, when he would have already known he had been diagnosed with the heart issue.
“Life’s a party, you’ve got to live it up,” Brown said.
You can watch video of Brown’s interview below.
The crazy and yet wonderful part about Brown’s story is that his heart condition was caught in time — all because of COVID testing.
“It was discovered through a routine COVID-19 test,” coach James Franklin said.
The coronavirus has destroyed tens of thousands of lives in this country, and in an almost unbelievably ironic turn of events, having a test very well might have saved Brown’s life.
Had his ailment not been diagnosed and Brown played football this season, you just never know what could have happened to him from a health standpoint.
I shudder to even think about that.
Life is not fair, and that’s a lesson we all learn to various degrees at some point or another.
It absolutely is not fair that Journey Brown can no longer play football.
But, as Franklin said, he will go on to be a success in life no matter what he does, and let’s hope his life lasts a long, long time and he gets to enjoy many other wonderful things off the football field.