Chances are you’ve read a story similar to the one of Madison, Ind., and its high school football coach Patric Morrison. If you haven’t, maybe — god forbid — you or someone you know is living one.
You see, Madison, Ind., is a working class Rust Belt town where the jobs have moved out and drugs have moved in. Worse yet, the opioid epidemic that has opened up a franchise in this southern Indiana town has brought a disturbing, depressing companion: a suicide epidemic. It’s a sad, familiar story in these times we live. So, yes, you’ve probably read a story like this, but (hopefully) you haven’t read or, worse, lived, an example quite as bad as this one.
Written by Juliet Macur for the New York Times, this story has as more “Holy cow that is depressing” details packed into its 2,500 words than I previously thought possible — a young mother kills herself and leaves behind a drug-addicted infant, another has to cut down her daughter from the noose the girl crafted out of the family’s basketball hoop. It’s all there.
But it’s not all depressing. That’s where Morrison comes in. This passage boils it down perfectly:
Curry Morgan, a 2015 Madison graduate, had returned from college to visit. He wanted to thank his former coach. Morgan is a junior biology and neuroscience major at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, on an academic scholarship, with plans for medical school.
His father was out of his life by the time he was in kindergarten. His brother was addicted to pills and sold drugs. His mother died of liver disease two days before his senior year. The day of the funeral, Morrison ended practice early and dispatched buses of teammates so they could support Morgan.
Afterward, when Morgan didn’t have a place to live, teammates offered couches. At graduation, Morrison collected money to pay for Morgan’s cap and gown and class ring.
“I was scared people would treat me differently because of my family circumstances, but Coach Morrison, he wouldn’t let that happen,” Morgan said. “Sports is the reason I’m resilient. It’s the reason I’m where I am and not selling drugs right now.”
Morrison’s story is yet another brutal reminder that high school coaches’ biggest opponent is not the one they face on Friday nights.