[OBITUARY] Jack Reyna, the oldest son of former U.S. international Claudio Reyna, died Thursday from a brain tumor. He was 13.
Named after Claudio’s grandfather, Jack was born in 1999 while his father played in Scotland for Glasgow Rangers. One of my more vivid memories of Claudio’s career is a rare peek into his family life, when Jack was only a few years old and playing in the lobby of the team hotel – I forget which -- with goalkeeper Kasey Keller.
They were pushing a tiny toy jeep back and forth across a section of the hotel lobby, oblivious to guests chatting on cell phones while they rushed to the elevator and staff members struggling with huge carts. At one point three members of an airline crew walked by, two of them towing wheeled suitcases, and one of Jack’s return “passes” skimmed through the forest of legs and luggage right to Keller.
“He must have it in the genes,” I thought. “Just like his dad.”
Usually far away from reporters and outsiders, the players' families interacted and shared their common experiences in games and tournaments around the world. They spend enough time together to feel like a second family.
Thinking of Jack also made me think of Keller’s children, twins Cameron and Chloe. Since they were born about the same time as my son, whenever we talked I’d bring up the subject of raising kids, hoping to get some insights from a man who raised twins while living in places as diverse as Madrid, Duesseldorf, and London, not to mention Seattle. He always has a good story of inspiration and/or exasperation to share as he tried to express how much fuller is his life as a father.
I can’t think of Clint Dempsey without remembering him talking about his sister, Jennifer, who died suddenly of a brain aneurysm at age 16. Houston coach Dominic Kinnear, who I’ve known for more than two decades, lost a brother and his mother to inoperable brain tumors when they were relatively young.
It’s too easy to forget these figures we see as heroes and villains, winners and losers, are also human beings who suffer through the same personal tragedies and triumphs as the rest of us. That’s why I never downplay or ignore the importance of family, even though many times when a player or coach cites “family reasons” for a decision, there’s a tendency to snicker. A dying parent, or a sick child, can consume even the strongest personality but fans might only see a diminished performance and react accordingly.
While I give my deepest condolences to Claudio, his wife Danielle, and the rest of their family, I hope we can all keep in mind the games we watch are just that, games, and those who regard them as life and death – or even more important, as per the view of former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly – just can't see the bigger picture.