The Weekly Take

First week of September, information was released regarding two completely separate cases.

Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs died July 1. His body was found in a hotel room where the team stayed during a road series against the Texas Rangers. The game was canceled, but what happened to him was left up to our assumptions.

Unfortunately, Flagstaff can relate to this situation more than we would like.

NAU football offensive lineman Malik Noshi’s body was found in his local home July 7. No details of the player’s death were released. The public was left with their imagination as to what actually happened.

Ironically enough, informative and clarifying statements were released in the same week in regard to both athletes, showing unsettling parallels.

Skaggs’ death was ruled accidental. His cause of death was asphyxiation — he choked on his own vomit. Fentanyl, oxycodone and alcohol were all found in his system. The beloved 27-year-old MLB pitcher overdosed, and all the world could do was accept it.

The Flagstaff Police Department said there was no sign of foul play in Noshi’s death. His cause of death was listed as acute fentanyl intoxication, but he had traces of alcohol and cocaine in his system, according to the Flagstaff coroner’s report. The 22-year-old Lumberjack overdosed, and all we could do was accept it.

The similarities are disturbing. I love Angels baseball. I love NAU football. The fact that both of these teams and communities are experiencing great losses that are nearly identical shows a deeply rooted issue in society.

Fortunately, the sports world receives press, and stories like Noshi’s and Skaggs’ can be heard and seen. The major downside is how many stories are not being shared.

There are children who are raising themselves without parents. There are mothers and fathers who are growing old without their children. There are friends who are trying to move on without their best friend.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, fentanyl was responsible for 59% of opioid-related deaths in 2017. In 2010, it only caused 14% of these deaths.

Statistics are easy to share. However, once you put a name to a number it makes things more difficult.

Skaggs and Noshi were talented athletes and loved by many. These athletes died too young. They had families who will know them from memories. For most of us, all we are left with is what we’ve learned from their deaths.

Do not let these athletes’ stories go unheard. If we are going to talk about them, let’s talk about this epidemic that has taken over and how we are going to lessen the number of people living life without their loved ones.