They’re the guys we ultimately hold responsible for a team’s wins and losses. We see them on the sidelines on Saturdays, hands flapping wildly, earpiece and microphone the umbilical cord between these sideline leaders and their field generals. The proverbial scapegoat, coaches receive all of the blame and none of the credit.

But in our haste to crucify those responsible for an 0-3 start, or to laud those who bring us a 3-0 season opening, we often forget that coaches – like the players they lead – are only human. They wake up, they put their pants on one leg at a time, and they don’t walk across the Potomac to get here. At the end of the day, they are just human.

They’ve got families, they’ve got kids and the truth is, they’ve got wins and losses of their own that are far more important in the course of a lifetime than any marked down in the record books.

Take Georgetown football head coach Bob Benson. Georgetown fans are upset with the team’s 0-4 start this season. So was I, until I saw Saturday’s Washington Post. There it was, on the front page of sports, in full color: Benson, his wife, Meghan Alexander, and their three-month old daughter, Hope.

Hope is dying.

She suffers from an extremely rare chromosomal anomaly called trisomy 13, or Patau’s syndrome, a condition that occurs in about one in 10,000 live births. Hope has an extra copy of the thirteenth chromosome in every cell in her body. She also has an extra finger on each hand and an extra toe on each foot, as well as a cleft lip. She was born blind, brought into the world through caesarian section after 20 hours of labor. Prior to her birth, the couple expected Hope to be a normal, healthy baby.

Now Benson and his wife, the field hockey coach at the Potomac School, have to face the fact that, based on the scientific odds, their daughter should not have survived even this long. Most trisomy 13 conceptions result in miscarriages and less than 10 percent make it through their first year of life.

He has had to accept the possibility that his only daughter – his only child – may pass away while he’s drawing up a Hail Mary for the Hoyas on fourth and long. And you can bet that every Hail Mary Benson calls – football-related or not – is for Hope, because he knows she is facing the ultimate fourth and long.

Yet Benson continues to wake up every morning, put on his practice shorts, kiss his wife and child goodbye and lead his players through drills and scrimmages. Every time he leaves home without his daughter, he has to face the possibility that she may not live until he returns home.

He and his wife split the duties associated with Hope, and there are many of them. Because Hope requires around-the-clock care, she recently became the Hoyas’ youngest and most dedicated fan. Two weeks ago, Hope made the bus trip with the team to Worcester, ass. to be with her dad when his team took on Holy Cross.

In the end, it doesn’t matter that the Hoyas lost that game. It doesn’t matter that they’ve lost the two games since then. Benson wore his headset as he paced the sidelines that day, but underneath it, and above all else, he was a human being.

We as sports fans put coaches like Benson on pedestals, because it’s easier to think of them as `good’ or `bad’ coaches than as human beings. Besides, this way when they win, they’re already in a position to be looked up to; when they lose, it’s an easy enough thing to knock them off their lofty thrones.

Bob Benson deserves to be raised on a pedestal. Not for the accomplishments of his team, but because of his record at home. At only 31 years old, Benson has dealt with more than many of us will deal with in our entire lives, and we should all be thankful for that. I think it’s safe to say that most of us wouldn’t have the strength to keep getting up every morning and coming to practice if we were in Benson’s shoes.

I have absolutely no doubt that Benson’s players have benefited from his example. He shows them day in and day out what it means to be strong – he is a human being displaying inhuman mental and emotional strength.

His extraordinary example will always bring Hope to the Hoyas.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.