LSU_Wayde_Sims_presser126.092918

Memorial display showing LSU basketball player Wayde Sims, seen in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, home of LSU basketball, after a press conference there by LSU men's basketball head coach Will Wade and Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Joe Alleva, after the shooting death of Sims, 20, in the early hours of Friday morning, Sept. 28, 2018.

Wayde Sims loved his school. He loved his hometown. He had, as his coach Will Wade reminded Friday, a Tiger tattoo on one bicep and a 225 tattoo for Baton Rouge’s area code on the other.

In Sims' biography in the LSU basketball media guide, it says he picked LSU because he wanted to stay close to home and because the team made him feel like part of the family. He picked the number 44 because it was the number his father, Wayne, wore as a Tiger from 1987-91.

Wayde Sims was what Baton Rouge can be. Talented. Full of promise. Joyful. His death is what it can be as well, gunned down in an argument in the street early Friday morning.

Friday was appropriately gloomy in Baton Rouge. A gray sky hung like a shroud over both the crime scene near the Southern University campus and on LSU’s campus, where video boards at its athletic venues bore the image of Sims, his name and the years bracketing his all-too-short life.

Twenty years old. Not a life, really, but a fragment. For his family and the athletic families at LSU and University High (where Sims won three state titles and a state player of the year award), that life has been replaced by the minutes and hours and days of grief and attempts to come to grips with something so mindless. A vain attempt to make sense of the senseless.

The news is unfortunately crowded each day with such deaths. Often, we in the sports world convince ourselves that because our days are filled up with games and transactions and hirings and firings that there is some sort of extra layer of security there, that the gritty, dangerous tentacles of the real world are restrained behind some invisible barrier.

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Then, we are jarred back into painful reality by something like Sims’ murder. Or by the news last week of a promising young golfer, Celia Barquin Arozamena, who was killed by a homeless stranger while playing a round alone on a golf course near Iowa State, where she was completing her degree. Or by the shooting of former Saints star Will Smith in a traffic incident turned tragic in 2016. Or by the death of former Glen Oaks High standout Ryan Francis, then a 19-year old basketball player at Southern California, who was shot and killed in 2006 while riding in a car at 3:30 a.m. in Baton Rouge. The list is seemingly endless.

But at LSU, anyway, this is something new. No one who gathered for the hastily called, heart-rending news conference at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Friday — across the hall from the LSU practice gym where Sims was supposed to practice with his teammates Friday morning — could remember an incident of an athlete being slain while still competing at LSU.

Another dreadful first. The bodies pile up, and we wish there could be a news conference called to announce a breakthrough in the treatment of dementia or some form of cancer. Or of the cancer of gun violence that eats away at our society. A pox on all our houses.

I am a parent. Two daughters and a son. And like a lot of parents, I worry a little bit every day they go out in the world beyond the wings of whatever protection you delude yourself into thinking you can provide from the one person with bad intent lurking among a crowd of people who do not wish to do them harm.

The uneasy bargain we strike between overprotecting and letting go constantly taps our temples and reminds us that it just takes one flash of anger, one moment, one forever consequence. One person to turn a movie theater or a school or even a street fight with fists, which Sims was apparently involved in, into something marked by deadly force. You see the blurry video of the incident that takes Sims' life, and you wish you could reach through the screen and wrap your arms around him and pull him away from the harm you know is coming.

So, hold your loved ones close today, tell them to take care, and treasure the smiles and kindnesses as Wayde Sims’ family and his LSU family are trying to do now. The young man who overcame some firm discipline from Wade this past season to be a friend who was ready with a joke and to drive teammates to the store because they didn’t have a car.

And send out an embrace for those families, too, the ones for which there is now a void that can never be filled.


Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.​