Canzano: You can see a lot through glassy eyes
Utah's Logan Fano is out for the season.
I could have told you last Friday night that Logan Fano would be out for the season. The University of Utah defensive end hurt his knee during the first half in the 21-7 loss to Oregon State. I had a good look at the injury from my seat at Reser Stadium.
Fano cried out in agony as he twisted himself and OSU quarterback Aidan Chiles to the turf. Chiles must have heard the scream as he was being sacked. Because the freshman whipped his head around in a peculiar way and looked back at Fano as he fell.
I’ll never forget that.
I typically sit in the press box on game day. But on Friday we bought five tickets to sit in the first row of Section 129, immediately behind the Utah bench. I was there to write a column about my 77-year-old father-in-law, who emigrated from Taiwan and was watching his first college football game.
Speak for yourself.
He left the stadium thinking it was the greatest football game ever played.
My wife and two youngest daughters were beside us. They watched as Fano — a 6-foot-4 freshman — was helped to the sideline by teammates in the first half. Eye black was smeared on his face. His hair was soaked with sweat. But it was the look in his eyes that said it all — Fano knew he was done.
I noted to my wife that it was a group of Polynesian players who ushered Fano to the medical tent. Those same teammates motioned to each other, twisting their legs and pointing at their knees when others walked over to ask what happened.
Utah has had a brutal football season when it comes to injuries. Starting quarterback Cam Rising was in street clothes on Friday. One of his back-ups, Bryson Barnes, was speared by an OSU pass rusher and went to the hospital after the game. Star tight end Brant Kuithe (knee) has been out. Running back Micah Bernard is done for the season, too. Coach Kyle Whittingham will tell you “it’s that time of the year where everyone has injuries” but Utah has been snakebit this season.
Our seats on Friday were located in front of the team’s small, mobile pop-up tent near the bench. The tent went up, then down, 14 times during the game with players dipping inside to get privacy and treatment.
My youngest daughter is 7. She hung over the railing and watched as the tent was closed around Fano. The middle daughter, age 9, asked some questions about what was happening. I explained that they were likely giving him some pain medication and immobilizing his knee joint.
Beyond that, Fano was in agony.
He cried out from inside the tent. He slammed his fists repeatedly against what sounded like a metal table. Everyone could hear it. My wife pulled out her phone as we waited for him to emerge, Googling “Logan Fano,” and shared with the girls that the injured player was a transfer from BYU who had previously torn his ACL.
I don’t know if you’ve had a knee surgery. I’ve endured three. I had a micro-fracture surgery on my right knee. I also ruptured both patellar tendons in separate incidents nearly 24 months apart. I was playing pick-up basketball at 24-Hour Fitness when the first tendon ruptured. The second one came as I was coaching CYO track and teaching my oldest daughter and her fifth-grade teammates footwork on the high jump.
There’s a strange kinship among those who have suffered a major knee injury. We can’t help ourselves. Anytime I see someone on crutches who has endured a surgery and the subsequent rehabilitation I have to ask. Strangers did the same with me. Apologies, but none of us can help it.
The blessing of a first knee surgery is that you’re ignorant and in shock. The surgeon may tell you about the procedure but you don’t comprehend the journey ahead. The room spins. You can’t grasp how difficult it will be to get all the way back to 100 percent, if that’s even possible. But when the second knee injury happens — you know it all in an instant.
I remember lying in the high-jump pit, oddly calm and aware after my second tendon rupture. A young group of track athletes stood there, puzzled as to why I was unable to stand. I pointed to my kneecap, which was now located mid-thigh. Then, I told them to go get another coach and pulled my phone out. I texted my wife, then my surgeon.
“Are you sure it’s a rupture?” the surgeon asked.
“Yup,” I shot back.
We agreed to meet at the hospital.
Fano has a brother on the team. Spencer Fano plays on the offensive line. During practices they’ll sometimes line up against each other. I find that interesting. Late in Friday’s game, Spencer suffered a foot injury. He ended up in the medical tent, too, with his shoe off. It’s been that kind of year for Utah.
Logan Fano emerged from the tent after about 10 minutes of treatment. My wife and kids were draped over the stadium railing, waiting to make sure he was OK. Fano’s head popped out. Then, he stood and someone handed him crutches. We were heartbroken. But then, he did the most interesting thing.
Fano turned and looked up at my two daughters. Then the player who just found out he’d suffered another season-ending ACL knee injury looked at my wife and said, “I’m sorry you guys had to hear the language. I apologize, sorry.”
She told him: “It’s OK. Good luck.”
The kids have heard worse.
Later, Fano posted on social media that he’s ready to attack the surgery and rehabilitation. He vowed to get healthy.
“How many people can say they got a sack and tore their ACL at the same time?!” he wrote.
It was James Truslow Adams who wrote: “There is so much good in the worst of us.” Fano gave us one of those moments on Friday night. Here he was — injured, frustrated, facing another surgery, and months of tough ACL rehabilitation. Fano was done for the season. We all knew it. And in that moment he emerged from the tent and apologized? To us? His parents would have been proud.
Our two little girls had glassy eyes as Logan Fano hobbled off into the night. My wife’s eyes were drippy, too.
I took a peek and then looked away so she wouldn’t see mine.
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