tampabay.com

Marcum: 'What else can happen?'

Caroline Wiren's death is the latest shocking news to hit the Storm.

By DAVID MURPHY
Published May 18, 2007


TAMPA - Late Wednesday evening, Tim Marcum paused by a dasher board at the St. Pete Times Forum and shook his head.

"What else can happen to this team?" the Storm coach asked.

Heading into tonight's game against Arizona, it is a pertinent question. Though the Storm has propelled itself into the playoff race, its recent success pales in comparison to the off-the-field tragedies that have struck over the course of the year.

In the summer, a popular doctor who volunteered on game days died of heart failure. In the fall, an adverse reaction to anaesthesia nearly killed owner Woody Kern, who had to breathe with a ventilator for nine days.

A month ago, Marcum attended the funeral of an old college teammate who committed suicide. The next week, fullback Torrance Marshall's father died.

Now, the team is dealing with the news that Caroline Wiren, a former co-director of the Storm dance team and the wife of linebacker Nyle Wiren, died after giving birth to their first child.

"You realize how insignificant winning a game is, " Marcum said.

Reminders of that insignificance will be everywhere tonight.

Immediately after the team learned of Caroline's death on Wednesday, it ordered commemorative stickers featuring a heart and Nyle's No. 44. The team will donate 50 percent of ticket sales from its three remaining home games to a memorial fund for the couple's newborn son.

"We're overwhelmed with sadness and sorrow for Nyle and his family with Caroline's passing, " Kern said in a statement. "But the baby's life goes on, and we hope to support Nyle and his family as they prepare to raise and develop a beautiful child."

"Family" is a common word with many professional teams, particularly in the Arena Football League, where players are not as isolated by fame and socioeconomics. So when Wiren sent a text message to friend and offensive coordinator Pat O'Hara on Wednesday morning with the heartbreaking words, "She's gone, " the impact was felt throughout the team.

Wide receiver Terrill Shaw said he immediately thought of the two times he had watched his wife give birth.

Wide receiver/linebacker Lawrence Samuels, the only player who has been in Tampa Bay longer than Wiren, thought of the baby outfit he gave to Caroline and Nyle two weeks prior.

Marcum, meanwhile, drove to St. Joseph's Women's Hospital and gave his player a hug.

"When he's ready, I'm sure we'll all be able to sit down with him and see what we can do to help him, " O'Hara said.

Moments after a postpractice workout with quarterback Brett Dietz on Wednesday evening, Samuels took off his helmet and walked toward the locker room at the St. Pete Times Forum. For much of the past decade, Samuels and Wiren have been the face of the Storm, and as he took stock of the team, he did so in a hopeful tone.

"We're going to be all right, " the veteran said.

David Murphy can be reached at dmurphy@sptimes.com or 352 848-1407.