Mark Kram Jr. | Philadelphia Daily News | 2002
Cold fear gripped George Khalid Jones as he boarded the Acela Express in Newark that summery day last July. Over and over he pondered: What would people say when he showed up in Washington at the funeral? Would they spot him in the crowded church and whisper among themselves, “There he is. The guy who did it!” He could feel their eyes upon him, the anger, the accusation, welling up from behind shiny pools of tears. And what would the widow say when she saw him? Would she become hysterical and scream, “You killed my husband! You killed my husband!” She would be there with her three children, suddenly fatherless because of him. How could he ever face them? How could he ever face any of them?
“George, come along with me to the funeral,” Lou Duva, his promoter, had told him. “View the body, see the family, and go to the reception. Go down there and let people see you.”
Two weeks had passed since Jones had stopped Beethavean “Honey Bee” Scottland in the tenth and final round of their light-heavyweight bout aboard the retired aircraft carrier USS Intrepid on the Hudson River in New York. Carried unconscious from the ring on a stretcher, Scottland underwent two surgeries at Bellevue Hospital Center: the first to gauge the pressure building up in his brain, the second to drain blood in an effort to relieve that pressure. He lingered in a coma for six days, during which Jones found himself overwhelmed with an ever-deepening anxiety. Nightmares filled what few hours of sleep he could get, spooky harbingers of the phone call that would finally come on July 2: Scottland was deat at age twenty-six of a subdural hematoma, a rupture of the veins between the brain and the skull. Uncertain if he could bring himself to attend the funeral seven days later, if only because of the profound shame that had enveloped him, he agreed when Duva told him simply, “George, this is the right thing to do.”
Writer bio: Mark Kram Jr. was a senior sports writer specializing in feature stories for the Philadelphia Daily News for 26 years. In 2013, Kram received the the PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing for his book, “Like Any Normal Day,” about the impact of a debilitating injury on two brothers’ lives.