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Damar Hamlin’s life-threatening medical emergency brings out the best in the NFL community

There are many, many valid criticisms to direct at the National Football League, but the community it creates can be pretty special.

On Monday night, everyone watching the tilt between the Bills and Bengals witnessed the scariest thing I’ve ever seen on a football field. Bills safety Damar Hamlin got up after what appeared to be a routine tackle on Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, took a couple of steps, and immediately collapsed to the ground.

It turned out that he’d experienced cardiac arrest. Medical personnel performed CPR for over nine minutes, and they had to use a defibrillator to restart his heart. Hamlin remains at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center in critical condition in the ICU, with no updates on his condition expected before Wednesday.

It was a nightmare situation. But it also brought out the best in the NFL community of teams, players, and fans, and that started with the Bills, the Bengals, and their head coaches, Sean McDermott and Zac Taylor, who wisely made the call that the game could not continue on Monday night while players, coaches, referees, and everyone watching in the stadium and at home were still reeling from what we witnessed and concern for Hamlin’s well being. At the time of this writing, no plans have been made to reschedule the game.

ESPN, which carries the Monday Night Football broadcast, navigated this unprecedented situation as well as anyone could have. Booger McFarland, Ryan Clark, and Scott Van Pelt all stood out to me for the way they shepherded viewers through the situation with honesty, empathy, and sincere emotion.

Coley Harvey’s reporting from outside the University of Cincinnati Medical Center added crucial context, and brought us scenes like this, of Bills and Bengals fans gathered to pray together for Hamlin and to offer each other what little comfort there is to give in such a terrifying situation.

As of Tuesday, every single NFL team, including the Falcons, have changed their Twitter profile pictures to show support for Hamlin and his recovery. It’s a small gesture, but one that demonstrates the community this sport builds.

Current and former Falcons players, and people around the world of sports took to social media to offer prayers, share support for Hamlin and wish him a full and fast recovery.

Bills fans are known for being a charitable bunch — as a matter of fact, they started the trend of giving to opposing players’ charities to acknowledge or celebrate things that happened on the field. Fans of other teams followed their lead, stepping up to show support for Hamlin by donating to a fundraiser for his foundation; money he hoped to use to buy toys for children in need during the holidays.

His fundraising goal on Go Fund Me was $2,500. As of Tuesday evening, the donations have reached nearly $5 million. Go Fund Me confirmed to SB Nation late Monday evening that all of those donations will go directly to Hamlin’s foundation.

Our love, support, and best wishes are with Damar Hamlin. All of us here at The Falcoholic are wishing him a full recovery, and our hearts are with his family — including his teammates and the greater NFL brotherhood — as we all await updates on his condition and prognosis and hope and pray for the best possible outcome.

But seeing the NFL world rally around this young man and his teammates — seeing fans giving generously to his foundation, seeing people from all over the world offering prayers and support and encouragement — it’s a reminder of how wonderful the community around the NFL can be, and a reminder of why we love this sport in the first place.