A Tittle Tale For Verica

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Marc Verica had a rough outing against UNC.

Marc Verica shuffled off the field Saturday, his shoulders slightly slumped. His head tilted toward the ground. Boos trickled down from the stands clad in his own colors.

Sports aren’t supposed to go this way. Not for anyone. No one dreams of being Y.A. Tittle, kneeling in an end zone, helmetless and spent. Yet, that’s all I could think about Saturday when Verica solemnly trotted to the sidelines.

Tittle, in the 1964 photo by Morris Berman, a photographer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, droops on both knees, bloodied and without a helmet. Tittle, in the final season of a formidable career, suffered a concussion and cracked sternum on the play; he finished the season as the Giants posted a 2-10-2 record but for all intents and purposes, his career was over. He had just thrown an interception that was returned for a touchdown at the old Pitt Stadium and was knocked to the ground by a Steeler. The picture says it all. There’s no comfort. Only dejection. Only soul-crushing torment etched on a sullen face.

In the years since, the photo has come to symbolize the agony of defeat. The days when sports kick you in the gut, leave you lying in pain, and feeling alone. Battered. Beaten.

So when Verica trotted to the home sidelines Saturday in obvious defeat, that’s all I could think about. The side of sports that no one dreams of. The heart-wrenching pain. The days when a hug from mom and dad may not be enough.

And as Verica left the field, boos cascaded down. The kid whose father had a recruiting shot at Notre Dame cut short by a broken leg absorbed those jeers even though he’s been thrust into the most unenviable of roles as a Cavalier, a guy who no one had ever heard of that rose the depth chart in 2008 and tried to play hero in what is an ongoing Greek tragedy in terms of wins and losses. Rained down a player that’s given every ounce of grit and gumption to his team for his entire career. Always dedicated to the team, always trying to do the right thing, always trying to be better. Always accountable, even on this day when he crumpled into a chair to be surrounded by cameras and recorders.

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