To conjecture is to be human: Reactions to the Damar Hamlin drama

Kent Kroeger
12 min readJan 21

By Kent R. Kroeger (January 21, 2023)

A factory worker in Lesotho receives a COVID-19 vaccine (Photo by United States Agency for International Development; as a work of the U.S. government, the image is in the public domain in the United States.)

Disclaimer: I am NOT an anti-vaxxer. Quite the opposite, at the earliest opportunity during the COVID-19 pandemic, I scheduled Pfizer/Moderna vaccinations for myself, my wife, my teenage son and my in-laws. I did the same for the first and second boosters. Nonetheless, I still contracted the Omicron variant (BA.5) last spring and spent two days with a fever hovering around 104°F. I genuinely believe, if not for the Moderna vaccine, I would have died.

I never took this virus lightly…and still don’t. Irrational as it may be now with the far less virulent Omicron variant, COVID-19 still scares this crap out of me.

But that doesn’t cloud my ability to think objectively about the COVID-19 vaccines and whether the CDC pursued the most prudent policies during their rollout…

When Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin fell to the ground after a relatively routine helmet-to-chest hit from Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, many of us understandably thought: ‘This is not normal’ summarizes the dozens of social media posts that started rolling in on my phone minutes after Hamlin’s collapse.

The American College of Cardiology estimates that approximately 100 to 150 sudden cardiac arrests, resulting in sudden cardiac death (SCD), occur in competitive sports each year in the United States. This estimate exists prior to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. So, the fact this could happen to an NFL football player in 2023 (without a deadly outcome) is not outside the realm of possibility. Any reference to the COVID-19 and its vaccines is unnecessary in order to explain Hamlin’s misfortune.

And, predictably, some in the political class used Hamlin’s case to nurture seeds of doubt into about safety of the anti-COVID mRNA vaccines.

One such person was conservative commentator Charlie Kirk, who on Twitter wrote: “This is a tragic and all too familiar sight right now: Athletes dropping suddenly.”

Kent Kroeger

I am a survey and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion (You can contact me at: