43 Brothers for the Coach's Son - by Jerry Price

They've been told to wait there, but they haven't been told why. Now Nick comes into the room, and the emotion is immediately noticeable.

It's hard to put your finger exactly on what it is you sense, but it's distinctive.

It's not one of sadness. It's not one of obligation. It's not superficial in any way. These are not college students going through the motions.

Then it hits you, smacks you in the face.

It's responsibility.

Nick Bates and his dad are part of their family, and as such they have a no-questions-asked responsibility to be there for him, for them, for each other. They are going through a tough time, the father and son, and when does family matter more than that?

There are no answers as to why it had to happen to Ann Bates. The unfairness of it is incalculable. The sadness of it is also unable to be overstated.

Her sickness and death brought out the very best in Chris Bates, and there isn't a player in his locker room who doesn't feel the way that Cunningham does.

As you look at Nick, you wonder how it will be for him in the years to come, growing up without his mother. What will his memories of her be? Will he be able to completely grasp just how special she was?

And will he understand how strong his father has been for him?

At the same time, you look at him and his father, and you know they'll be okay, the two of them, with their extended family close by.

And that's why you didn't need to ask Nick the other question, because the answer is so obvious.

So you kept it inside.

"Hey Nick," you say yourself. "What do your 43 brothers mean to you?"

And you know already know the answer.


Jerry Price is Associate Director of Athletics and Athletic Communications at Princeton University.

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