Thursday, December 28, 2006

MSD Top 10 Miami Sports Stories of 2006: 5.

Well, it’s late December which means it’s the time for television shows, magazines, websites and blogs to present their obligatory 2006 Best Of … lists. And the MSD is no exception. So, here is the Miami Sports Dude’s Top 10 Miami Sports Stories of 2006. I’ll be counting down the top ten from 10 to 1 in the next two weeks. And remember, there is to be no wagering of any kind ... and now, on with the countdown ...

#5. Hurricane Tragedy

Sports is where most of us go to escape our everyday lives. It’s a hobby for some, an obsession for others. But all in all, it’s a harmless getaway. A place to go and be entertained, a place to go and have our thoughts and opinions heard. A place that sometimes mirrors our lives – the hardships as well as the triumphs that encapsulate our existence. Sports is escape. When our world is all about our jobs, our bottom lines and the outside world is all about wars, killings and struggles, we go to sports to help us reconnect with ourselves – a reminder that there can be joy found in even the most mundane things like debating who is the best at a certain sport, or a bunch of men running around and throwing a leather ball into a cylinder, or tackling each other and going after an oval “pigskin,” all while wearing uniforms (or helmets) with our home town name on the front – an extension of who we are and what our community is all about. So when this story hit the air waives on a Tuesday night in November, it suddenly made the cruelness of the real world clash with the escapism that is sports.

It was the kind of story you pretty much hear every day. A senseless killing on the streets of Miami is not exactly all that shocking and rare. But this murder put a face to the tragedy. And the University of Miami football program will never be the same. It was truly the most senseless of all tragedies. A good kid, with a bright future – a kid who never got into any trouble and was known for his goodwill and friendliness – was gunned down and murdered. And just like that, a life was swept away forever. A mother lost her child. A father lost his son. A son lost his brother. And a community, an entire fan base, lost a friend.

University of Miami defensive end Bryan Pata, a popular figure on campus, practiced on the afternoon of Tuesday, November 7th and was shot and killed later that night at his apartment complex. He was 22 years old.

Miami police ruled the shooting a homicide. To this day, they’ve yet to name a suspect or have divulged any information about being close to finding a suspect.

All killings are tragic. But it’s especially tragic when the victim was someone who stayed out of trouble, was beloved by teammates, coaches and fans and came from a loving, supportive family. Pata was expected to enter this year’s NFL draft and become a ferocious pass rusher for an NFL team. But his future was snuffed out like a match drenched in water. Suddenly and without warning.

There were reports and rumors about an argument with another man outside his apartment complex, but police have continually denied that they have a suspect. The family also hired a private investigator.

And while the crime itself remains unsolved, Pata’s teammates were forced to move on without him. They played their final games in his honor and looked to pay homage to his memory at every opportunity. Even Pata’s own MySpace page has turned into an ongoing, living tribute.

Pata’s future seemed limitless and his ferocity on the field made him a popular and well loved player to UM fans. For them and the rest of the sports watching country, he was a football player who happened to be shot and killed. A promising NFL draft pick and future professional football star.

But he was much more than that.

Pata's mother, wearing her son's Number 95 jersey, arrived at the apartment complex, the scene of the crime, and collapsed. She said Pata was not only a promising NFL draft pick, but an honorable son.

"My son's a very good son (who) never had a problem with nobody," Jeanette Pata said.

Bryan Pata.

A warrior on the grid iron.

An honorable son to a grieving mother.

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This has to be the best tribute on Bryan Pata by a blog or newspaper that I’ve read. Very poignant and heartfelt. And the whole thing does put some perspective on real life. I’m a HUGE Canes fan and alumnus so it was really like losing a member of the family. Very sad. Thanks.

-Scott G.
Thanks Scott.
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