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Why Jimmy Garoppolo Was a Hero Against the Green Bay Packers

A hero is a wonderful concept.
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Jimmy Garoppolo's play against the Green Bay Packers moved my dad to write.

My dad, Lowell Cohn, the iconic Bay Area Sports writer who wrote for 40 years and then retired from the newspaper business almost five years ago, never writes sports columns anymore, although he does a weekly show with me on YouTube.

This week, my dad prepared a written oral essay in honor of Garoppolo's heroic performance against the Packers. It's such a good essay, I transcribed it for you:

LOWELL COHN: "I don't root at all. If the 49ers win or lose, it doesn't matter. I still maintain professional distance. But I want to say I was deeply moved by how Jimmy Garoppolo played against the Packers, and I was emotionally touched by it. I know you probably think I'm crazy for saying this, but let me talk a little about it.

"Grant and I were both English majors. Grant was at UCLA. I was at little Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, and then I came to Stanford and attended their graduate school in the English department, so we're all in as literary critics. When I look at a game, any kind of game that I used to cover, and I think Grant feels the same way, it's not just a game. We look at it as literary critics. It's a play, like one you would see on Broadway. It has all the Aristotelian unities. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. It has a problem -- who's going to win? It has suspense -- you don't know. It has a resolution at the end -- someone wins, someone loses, sometimes it's a tie. 

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"In this game, I looked at Jimmy as the main character in the drama. I understand there are a million other ways to look at it. You could look at any other player. For me, I sort of identified with him and identified him as the protaganist, and a protaganist trying to be a hero. So was he a hero in this game?

"A hero is a wonderful concept. In this game, Jimmy wanted to be a hero, but what stood between him and heroism was himself, because he's not good enough. Grant and I both think he's a C quarterback -- we call him serviceable. He can do some things very well, but he can't throw down the field and he limits the offense. He had to overcome his own limitations, his own failures, his own mistakes.

"But he had to overcome other things: His coaches' bad calls, the team's bad play, sometimes the good play of the Packers, and the fact that life is very tough, in real life and on a football field. The offense had scored nothing in the first half -- they were down 17-0. They began to come back and they scored a touchdown before the first half ended. What I saw was a guy on a journey. The journey was, 'I want to win. I want to win for the team and I want to win for me, and I want to overcome all the obstacles, mostly me. I want to overcome who I am.' I see that as a very heroic thing to do.

"In the comeback, Garoppolo showed courage, bravery, persistence and, if you look at this as a story, he showed pureness of heart. He had one intention -- to win. And here's the thing. He did win. In spite of everything bad he did, in spite of the fact that he's not that good, he handed the team a victory. That growth, what he did in the game, I find beautiful. He handed the team a victory with only 37 seconds left.

"At that moment, he became the hero he had wanted to be. And then the team gave it away. In terms of a story, it's what makes it so poignant, because in a sense they betrayed him. Now, of course, they lost. I'm looking at it from his point of view. They betrayed him, and at that moment it became serious. He went from being a hero to a tragic hero. 

"And I loved that game for that reason."