Okay. It’s nothing. Really. When compared to what has happened within this past week. Am a pro basketball fan with particular zeal and support for the San Antonio Spurs. Their most immediate opponents, the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers have each suffered devastating injuries, their star player [Paul for the Clippers and Curry for the Warriors] felled from playing, at least in the next two weeks, in the play-offs.
Injuries. Sudden setbacks. As I started in the span of things, it’s nothing. But it wasn’t nothing to me. And honestly, when it comes to reality, what mirrors personally should not be considered academic.
The shorthand is the summer of 1961. I played on a very good semi-professional team, Showboat. No, that’s not a personal name for me, rather of all things a lounge [carefully chosen but apt description] in Beaverton, Oregon. We were playing our last game before the semi-professional playoffs that would end up in Battle Creek, Michigan. I loved pitching and with all gratitude, mainly because of the mentoring of my father [who would often counsel, “Mark, it’s more important to be smart and crafty than speedy.”] I could get the ground-ball when it counted.
It was a “warm-up” game with the play-offs 4 days away. Scoreless in the fifth inning. First man up walked. I was next. I loved to hit, but the moment called for sacrifice—a bunt to advance the runner. The bunt defined perfection…slowly rolling along the first base chalk line, staying in play.
Then, I outthought myself. Never to be confused for a sprinter, as I ran [overstated] up the first base line, the first baseman grabbed the ball before I got there. My mind sprinted, thinking that if I stopped maybe the first baseman would be wanting to chase me back to home plate. Ah, what a great idea I applauded myself. Because if that happened maybe the runner would end up on third base.
I can still remember the “snaaaaaaapppp!” in my right knee. Collapsed, an easy out. Runner still on second base. Couldn’t straighten my knee.
About 4 hours later, lying on a hospital bed the orthopedic surgeon gave the verdict, “Torn cartilage; we’ll operate tomorrow.”
In those days with arthroscopy an idea not manifest, the surgery took a while and the hospitalization more than a week. Hey, this was 1961, all right?
The team never faltered…and ended up winning the Semi-professional baseball “World Series” in Battle Creek, Michigan.
No, there was no parade in Portland. Simply a nice article announcing the team’s victory. I have no idea if business for the Showboat got better. Wasn’t my kind of venue.
Yet, I remember the emptiness—“should have been there tossing my slider, an almost certain double-play pitch”—sitting in the Portland hospital.
Thought of that this morning. Of course. 1961. Yet, I was there in mind and heart but not literally. And the hurt. The fear I would never play again. It never leaves me.
Of course injuries are monumental to the Warriors and the Clippers.
But, then, a moment I read about this morning. When Chris Paul [CP3] was in the trainer’s room, the entire team went in that room to be with him. For me that was so vital. He really wasn’t alone. And, for Curry, before he got on the bus to leave the Houston game, players circled with him to be supportive and prayerful.
For me? It was my parents and sister…they knew how badly I was hurt—far more emotionally than physically…and I eventually recovered…and of all things, made it the next summer to Battle Creek.
Why share this?
Because I know so many these days…people hurting. Family, friends, neighbors, colleagues. So much worse than a broken bone…for many it’s the looming stalk of cancer, it’s the emptiness of not having an office to get to for employment, it’s the dread of being told your son or daughter won’t continue their marriage…so much. So many.
All I can ask…of each of you…if you are hurting, don’t forget those in your life who matter…and don’t stiff-arm them away. All I can ask…of each of you…no matter your personal injuries, don’t give in…and whenever and wherever you can…be in that training room with your friend, your family…to let them know they [he/she] matter.