On a boat ramp in Clearwater, Florida, an SUV is parked with an empty boat trailer attached. A one-day parking receipt, which expired on Sunday, lies on the dashboard. Wedged beneath one of the windshield wipers is a note that reads, “Please contact the Coast Guard. Someone was worried about your welfare.”
The SUV belongs to Marquis Cooper, an avid fisherman, loving father and linebacker for the Oakland Raiders. His SUV will not rest on the boat ramp much longer. Soon, someone will have to retrieve it. His boat was found 35 miles off the West Coast of Florida, floating face down with one of his best friends, Nick Schuyler, sitting atop the capsized vessel.
In the near future, someone will plant Schuyler in front of a camera and will ask him to recant the events surrounding the final time he saw his best friends.
The Florida Coast Guard has not called off their search. Those brave men and women will continue to scour the infinite and ever changing waters of the Gulf of Mexico in hopes of providing three separate families some much needed closure.
Hope is all that there is at this point. Cooper’s father, Bruce, has all but said aloud that he fears he’ll never see his son again. As a sports reporter in Arizona, Bruce is comfortable in front of a camera. In an interview this morning, he spoke in a calm manner that was in stark contrast to the violent waters that currently hold his son captive.
Somewhere, in the Gulf of Mexico, three warriors are fighting the battle of their lives. Glorified gladiators on the football field have now become soldiers waging a private war that they may never live to speak of.
The names of Marquis Cooper, Corey Smith and William Bleakley were seldom spoken by the national media prior to February 28th, 2009. Now, they have become celebrities in the most existential theatre of reality television: a news drama that might never have a proper ending.
If the Coast Guard calls off their search, three brave men will be remembered by their families and former teammates.
As a member of the Raider family, Marquis Cooper will never be forgotten. Al Davis will see to it that Cooper’s life is honored not only for his performance in Silver and Black, but more importantly for his friendship and loyalty to the men he went to work with on Sundays.
However, the inevitable moment of silence at the Raiders home opener in 2009 will never be able to return a husband to the embrace of his wife, nor will it be able to replace a father’s kiss on his daughter’s cheek.
I cannot pretend to have cheered Cooper’s name loudly on Sundays. I will not lie and tell you that I would be authoring this piece if he were not a Raider. I may never meet him or his family. My hope is that he will one day be reunited with his loved ones. Now hope has become a burden on the hearts of his family. Each minute that passes brings the realization that they may never see Marquis again.
By the day’s end, I will have returned to my trivial activity of scanning the internet for Raider news. I’ll post some sarcastic piece that will lampoon my favorite team and will no doubt garner a mixed response from those who read it. My life continues despite the dearth of hope that will have set in for the families of three men lost at sea.
Even though I am so far removed from being a part of this tragedy, I believe my hope may be of help. Presently, hope has taken its toll on me. At this point, I am hoping for a miracle. I am hoping to see #95 covering kicks for my favorite team in 2009. I am hoping that he will become a symbol of the impossible and not a reminder of the inevitable.
I bid you and your friends a safe journey, Marquis Cooper, wherever your travels might take you.
Chris Shellcroft – Die hard Raider fan and believer in the impossible