ESPN’s E:60 Revisits Parkersburg Tragedy

ESPN gave us a heads up that they will be running another E:60 on the Ed Thomas Tragedy on Tuesday, April 13, at 7 p.m. ET.  Matt and I both played against Coach Thomas in high school, and we have all the respect in the world for him and his family.  If you haven’t heard the story, or would like to just revisit it please tune in for this E:60.  The press release is below, plus a quick video preview of the episode.

If you missed the episode catch it here

ESPN’s E:60 Airs Exclusive Interviews from Parkersburg, Iowa, High School Sports Tragedy

ESPN’s award-winning primetime newsmagazine E:60 will air exclusive interviews relating to a high school sports tragedy in Parkersburg, Iowa, in the episode airing Tuesday, April 13, at 7 p.m. ET.

For the past two years, E:60 has followed the story of Ed Thomas, the celebrated Iowa high school football coach who helped his town rebuild after a devastating tornado and was later murdered by one of his former players. In the aftermath of Mark Becker’s recent conviction for the killing, ESPN reporter Steve Cyphers goes back to Iowa for exclusive interviews with Jan Thomas, the widow of Ed Thomas, and members of the Becker family. The Thomas and Becker families, friends before the tragedy, have helped each other with the healing process.

“I’ve never come across a story with as many layers as this one has,” said Cyphers. “It went from sport to humanity in a heartbeat. Compassion and mercy are two words that that keep coming back and are most common in my mind, from the tornado through the trial.”

In her E:60 interview, Jan Thomas speaks about the loss of her husband and how the way he lived his life provided a road map for the compassion and mercy the community and the Thomas family have shown the Beckers. For the first time on network television, Beckers’ parents Dave and Joan speak about the agony of witnessing their son spiral into mental illness and react to the loss of their friend and mentor Ed Thomas. Other interviews include Aaron Thomas, who took over for his father as athletic director at the school and Scott Becker, Mark’s younger brother, who continued to play on the football team and had a standout season during his senior year.

Some excerpts from the interviews:

Jan Thomas: Put yourself in their shoes. But that had to have been devastating for them as well. That it would be for me if I had a son that did something like that, I would be devastated and I wanted her to know that I could separate that. It wasn’t them. It wasn’t Scott. You know, Mark did this and I felt bad because there is–all of the dreams they had for him and all of the hopes that they had for their son went out the window that day, too.

“I think he (Ed Thomas) would be very proud of how his boys responded and how the communities responded. And that’s what we want. We want unity. We don’t want people tearing each other down or–so I would say yeah, and I think that Ed is a guy that died with no regrets. He lived his life the way he knew he was called to live it, and I think that’s something for all of us. It’s not about how Ed died. It’s about how we are called to live.”

Joan Becker: “When I heard them say, ‘Pray for the Becker family’” or ‘Don’t forget to pray for the Becker family,’ I knew in my heart right then, I’m like, ‘Okay, God, it’s gonna be okay.’ If we would have lost their friendship and their support, I don’t think I could stay living in this community. I know I couldn’t. But they set the tone right there and if people weren’t sure quite how they were gonna respond, I think that made it okay for everybody else. ‘Okay, if they can do this, we can do this. You know we may have some–we don’t understand what’s going on here but, by golly, if the Thomas family can step up and support the Beckers, we can do this too.’”