Sitting in my wheelchair under Friday night lights while my friends played out our childhood dreams was four quarters of torture. Smelling the fragrant emerald grass of the spring diamond without throwing some inside heat was a cruel tease. I was hard to sit and watch.
If absence makes the heart grew fonder, my heart swelled with passion for sports. I fell in love with every game. My love of sports was childlike at first, puppy love in a kennel of barking dogs. Maturity brought an aesthetic, however, that allowed me a great appreciation for the artistry and creativity of physical expression. Baseball is ballet, football is elegant and boxing is the sweet science. Soccer is, indeed, the Beautiful Game.
Finally, on one undefined day, it felt okay to just sit back and watch. Sports is performing art. Sports is visual art. What music could be more melodic than Vin Scully poetically describing a Dodgers game? What sculpture was more stylish than Diego Maradona chistling his way through the entire English side? What French meal more fragrant than the hotdog stand at Petco Park?
Although I cannot swing for the fences, I can marvel in the skill and recognize the greatness of the big, buff guys who launch drives out of major league stadiums. I watch in wonderment as men the size of cattle with the speed of leopards slide through holes made by moveable mountains of manhood to score touchdowns. I hold my breath as men with endless wingspans fly over the hardwood toward the nets.
As a kid I had the beautifully unoriginal fantasy of making the final shot in the fleeting seconds of the championship games, looping the film in my active mind because trying it was not an option.
If I could have played sports I think soccer, boxing and baseball would have been my favorites. In my imagination I do not need to be an athletic specimen, a Bo Jackson superman who could do anything better than mere mortals. But I am sure that with some practice on those cooling evenings as the sprinklers chattered across nearby fields I could learn to take a curveball to right field, rocket the ball back post from a cross and counter a right hook with a punishing haymaker to the chin.
College further inspired my love of athletics. Through exploration came enlightenment. I discovering other ways to participate in the games I love. Cerebral palsy is supposed to be a detriment to the mind and motor skills. I caught a break. Only my motor is a lemon. My mind is as good as the mind of Albert Pujols, Manny Paquiao, Peyton Manning, Usain Bolt, LeBron James or Leonel Messi. Maybe better.
Shakespeare wrote, “All things are ready, if our mind be so.”
So while the big guys are flipping tires to prepare for the next football season, and the tall guys are ramming home missing shots and the lithe guys are running down fly balls on Coach Jerry Bartow’s sanctuary of verdant American paradise, I am also in training at Southwestern College. I am training my mind to be an All-Star, All-American, All-League, Pro Bowl sports writer. Fair warning, the other folks in the ring better be on their toes because I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. I can hit a 3-2 slider over the Green Monster. I can outrun the entire secondary on a screen pass.
I am getting my mind ready so that all things are ready. Like the Colt .45 in the Old West, education in the 21st century is the Great Equalizer. My playing field is level and all things are possible. Someday I will also be a recognizable name in the sports pages, whether they are on paper or electronic, alongside the Pujols, Manning, James and Messi of the next sports era. I am getting ready so I can play, too.