It isn’t often anymore that I stay up and watch an entire Sunday or Monday Night Football game. Last night was an exception. And it wasn’t just because the game between New England and Baltimore was tremendously important, with the loser taking on a second loss just three weeks into the season.

It wasn’t just because, early on, the replacement referees showed they would not be able to keep control of the game. That remained true to, and beyond, the final play of the night. As an unaffiliated watcher, I find the replacement refs to be excellent entertainment.

Those things mattered but what mattered most was watching Baltimore receiver Torrey Smith play. As many of you know, Smith’s younger brother died in a motorcycle accident early Sunday morning. After spending the wee hours with his family, Smith returned to the Ravens and suited up for the game. He caught six balls, two for touchdowns. He made a couple important grabs late to help set up the game-winning field goal.

Prime time games have a way of drawing these special moments. The most famous is Brett Favre’s performance in Oakland after his father’s death. It seems like there were quite a few when I was a kid, when, under the bright lights and with Howard Cosell narrating the action, and athlete would have a huge game under circumstances most people would crumble beneath.

I don’t know why we’re drawn to these games. We certainly make more of them that we should. Perhaps it’s because we can’t imagine functioning under the same pressures. I know 18 hours after my mother died I wasn’t capable of doing much other than cry. There’s no way I could have gone to a normal job and crunched numbers or sold widgets, let alone performed at the highest level as a professional athlete.

I suppose there’s some great message in there. We can rise above anything when we have the support of those around us. Or honoring those we love can push us to do great things. Or something, I don’t know.

I just know I had to watch Torrey Smith last night. And I’m glad that I did.