Thank you to a sports community that is there in the worst of times

Ah, Thanksgiving. The football is great. The food is overrated. And no matter what they taught me in elementary school, pilgrims and Indians didn’t celebrate the holiday by socializing at an outdoor table in late November and sharing food in mutual admiration.

But the gratitude is real.

I know because I feel it every year. And because just the other night I came across a social media post by Kristen Glasser, widow of murdered cop David Glasser. It filled my heart with love and inspiration.

“Happy birthday in heaven, Dave! We celebrated you today with friends and family. Even made a recording of Fireball for you. Miss you so much! Love you forever!”

Glasser’s death in 2016 rocked our community. Responding to a domestic incident in the middle of a weekday afternoon, he was ambushed by a suspect who was armed and waiting in a parked car. Glasser was 35 at the time and left behind a loving wife and two children.

“There’s a misconception out there that it’s going to get easier,” Glasser said. “It doesn’t. You just have to learn to live with the grief, absorb the grief, allow it to be a part of your life. You learn to integrate it.”

Glasser was a big sports fan. He loved the cardinals. He loved listening to Sporttalk radio. He was a big guy, charismatic and cool, the kind of fan that other fans flock around. His death shocked us all.

But her last post had a different vibe. It included images of a cemetery where Glasser’s family and friends gathered for their annual balloon launch on David’s birthday, the cathartic act of writing loving messages on balloons and sending them skyward. And yes, there were fireball shots.

“It’s weird,” she said. “Some years it’s still hard and I’m going to burst into tears when we launch these balloons. This year it was more of a joyful thing.

“You take it one day at a time. you insist A light slowly begins to shine and you laugh again. We’re in a really good place now. It’s nice. I’m happy. And my kids are doing really well.”

After Glasser’s death, the cardinals aligned themselves strongly around the cause and the Glasser family, and honored the fallen officer. My band held a benefit concert and dedicated “My Hero” by the Foo Fighters to her late husband. I remember Kristen leaving in the middle of that performance. Maybe we were upset. Or maybe the emotions and sense of loss were just too great.

However, my heart ached for her and her family.

It took six years for the light to return. That’s why her contribution was so strong. It is a testament to the strength of family, the power of eternal love, and the resilience of the human spirit. It’s a credit to the community that stood by Kristen in her time of need. It’s proof that we can lift each other up and help each other to a better place.

“We’ve been blessed with the amount of support we’ve received,” she said. “Because it was so public and the police were involved, the community was there for us. It was overwhelming in a good way. I think of other widows who have lost their husbands in different ways. And when they don’t have that support, it just breaks my heart.”

***

If the time frame is six years, then Casey Langen still has a long way to go. Your journey has only just begun.

Her husband, Mike, was also a die-hard sports fan and was omnipresent on Twitter. He loved the Bills because his mother was from New York. He loved the Dodgers because his father was from California.

“He held her for his life,” Casey said.

Mike Langen also loved Sports Talk Radio. He regularly thanked his favorite personalities for getting him through a particularly rough week, and there were many. In fact, in the last message I received from him, he even called me his “hero,” but I knew better. He sent the same message to all Arizona Sports hosts.

He was a kind soul who did as much for us as we did for him. He also struggled with mental health issues and suffered from extreme social anxiety and depression. He suffered a series of physical setbacks earlier in the year, catching up with COVID-19, breaking his foot and later his wrist. Unbeknownst to his wife, he began self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, which ultimately led to his death.

Mike texted Casey at 7:40 p.m. on the night of October 20, saying that he loved her and that he would be home in an hour. At 9:10 PM, Mike still hadn’t returned, and Casey knew something was going terribly wrong.

He never made it home and left a widow and four children: Riley 16, Brady 12, Colby 10 and Eleanor 8.

Like Glasser, his death rocked the close-knit world of Valley sports fans.

“It’s been a roller coaster ride,” she said. “The kids are doing much better. It’s gotten to a point where there’s less crying and fewer things that trigger emotions. But it’s so strange. And it’s so new. I go outside and see my husband’s truck and it makes my heart sink. I have to stop myself from texting him about 100 times a day.

“The kids and I are figuring this out together right now. My 16 year old was amazing. He makes sure the doors are locked at night, makes sure all the little things get done. He’s so up to date. And the other night my daughter and I went out and ate cheeseburgers and listened to Michael’s favorite band. We just sang and cried.”

After Mike’s death, Casey was stunned to discover he had over 5,000 followers on Twitter. A GoFundMe account in his name has raised over $15,000 which has been a godsend for Casey and her kids. You can find the link here.

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the love, empathy, and strong sense of community in this ephemeral, mad, divisive sports city. I hope Casey Langen finds the same strength that helped Kristen Glasser on her journey back to the edge of normality. And that in six years she will send balloons into the sky with a wistful smile and toast her husband’s honor.

Reach Bickley at [email protected] Listen to Bickley & Marotta on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

Penguin Air



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