As I wrapped up my interview with Anna Fire Chief Tim Gothard on Monday concerning the passing of AFD firefighter Andrew Fassett (you can read about it elsewhere in this paper) it struck me how tight bonds can be. It was evident talking to Gothard that the brotherhood is strong in these firefighters. When he spoke of his men taking shifts standing with Fassett in the hospital and later by his casket at the funeral home it literally gave me goose bumps.
The brotherhood is strong with these men, as it is with so many others. When a police officer goes down, the effect is felt throughout his department and many, many others. The same can be said of firefighters and armed forces personnel.
It’s not just these professional public servants and soldiers who feel the bond of brotherhood. When one of my closest friends on my hockey team passed, current and former teammates showed up en masse in our black hockey jerseys and filled that funeral home. And I know that when I die I can expect to look down and see a crowd of black hockey jerseys there for me. And this is just an adult recreational hockey team I’m talking about — imagine the bond between men and women who risk their lives for a living.
That sense of brotherhood emerges from something coded into men’s DNA (and I’m not being chauvinistic here, there was a female player wearing one of those hockey jerseys at that funeral.) If one of my teammates calls me at 3 in the morning broken down on the side of the road, I’m going to throw on some clothes and take care of it. If one of my guys gets shoved into the boards from behind, his teammates will have his back. We can’t help ourselves, that’s just the way it is, you accept it as a fact of life.
Maybe it’s engrained into us from an early age. I can remember being in first grade and on my first soccer team (that’s right, league champs) and being taught teamwork first and foremost. The number one sport in this country is football and it’s basically 10 guys making sure one guy scores or working together on the other side to ensure that one guy doesn’t score. There is nothing more satisfying in the sports world than watching one Dallas Cowboy running into the end zone with an escort of guys with stars on their helmets acting as his escort. These guys live and die as a team, no matter how much they bicker and shout on the sidelines. Hey, I’ve been part of some locker room — ahem — “discussions” but I would never let another player from another team get away with it.
That primal need among grown men to bond and form these brotherhoods isn’t reserved solely for sports, or even good guys for that matter. Undercover officers, and even the few journalists who have managed to infiltrate outlaw motorcycle gangs say these guys are among the closest, most passionate and loyal group of people you will ever meet. That bonding is not always defined by social, economic or racial lines, it is something that has always happened and will continue to happen to a group of people working toward the same goals.
I’m sure early cavemen had these systems form within their hunting groups. The more some things change, the more some things stay the same.