Tag Archives: sports

Is Your Brain a Time Bomb?

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In 1989, when I was a junior in high school, I was struck in the head by an eight pound ball of iron. I suffered a Grade III concussion, a brain contusion, and brain swelling. I survived the incident but to this day suffer symptoms. This post is intended to raise awareness of the long-term effects of brain trauma and Post-Concussion Syndrome for the millions of people who endure living with a wounded brain.

Sensitivity to Light

If you’ve ever had a migraine, you understand how sensitive you are to bright lights. Imagine that times forever, and you’ll get an idea of what photophobia is like. Prolonged exposure to bright light gives me a skull-splitting headache, and it’s a relatively common symptom of severe concussions.  I can’t spend more than five minutes outside without sunglasses, and sometimes, even indoor lighting can be an issue, especially fluorescents. You know, the kind used in virtually every public building ever. So sometimes, I have to wear my sunglasses indoors, as well. No, I’m not trying to emulate the Blues Brothers. I just want to pick up some chips and salsa without feeling like a marching band is practicing inside my skull.

Years ago, some friends took me to an outdoor art exhibit. Naturally, I wore my prescription sunglasses so I could enjoy the day and not end up curled in a corner whimpering. We got invited to an after-party, and because my regular glasses were at home, I was stuck in shades long after dark. Some hipster quipped about the Terminator terrorizing the party, and it drew quite a laugh from the crowd. There’s no explaining photophobia in that moment. There’s only skulking away alienated and humiliated, having just been owned by a hipster.

Headaches Become a Fact of Life

You know those people who refer to every little headache as a migraine? Not the people who suffer from real migraines; a real one will put the strongest person in bed. I’m referring to the people who call the slightest tension headache a migraine. Yeah, I dislike those people. For a full year after the accident, I lived with a constant headache. Some days, it was a dull ache, others a sharp, piercing ice- pick. On bad days, it pounded my skull so violently I questioned benevolence in the universe. After that first year, the headaches became less and less frequent, but I came to know them the way an aficionado knows cigars. To this day, I also get occasional sharp, blinding pains near my scar.

After that first year, once the constant one faded, I learned to ignore most headaches and accept them as my reality. Today, I still rarely acknowledge anything less than a skull-pounder and even those barely slow me down, so whenever a co-worker rubs their temples and whines, “I have such a migraine” I have to squelch the desire to laugh at them. A real headache debilitates you. A real headache puts you in bed and makes every sound and light a test of your will. People who have suffered brain trauma know that any headache that doesn’t land you in bed is merely a nuisance, hardly worth announcing to the world.

Swiss Cheese Memory

Amnesia is a common Hollywood trope for head injuries, but what they never show is the inconsistency of cognitive dysfunction. Since the accident, some days, my memory works flawlessly and I’ll remember the stat line of the punter for the 85 Bucs. Other days, I’ll forget your name as I’m telling you mine. Others, I lose my car keys twelve times. On really bad days, I stare at my keys trying to remember which one goes to what.

Once, I met John Rhys-Davies at a Sci-Fi convention and got to have a real conversation with him. We talked LOTR and Sliders and the back injury he suffered on the set of La Femme Musketeer. The encounter was nearly perfect until, as we were about say farewell, he quoted a line of Shakespeare. As an English major, I scoured the splotchy patches of my memory for the play’s title and noticed the flicker of disappointment on his face. I wanted to explain about my injury, wanted him to know I wasn’t just a dumb bumpkin, but once more the moment was lost.

Sleep Disruption

Insomnia is a frequent condition after a brain injury. Some nights, I merely have difficulty falling asleep, but once I do, I rest through the night. Some nights I sleep for twelve hours. Some nights, nothing works. On those nights, especially when a few string together, I crave rest so badly, I contemplate hitting myself in the head to see if that will allow me to sleep. Of all the side effects I endure, I feel this one has the most stigma. Go-getters are early risers, but my internal clock has shifted so obtusely noon is now the crack of dawn. None of my friends or family understand why I don’t just sleep like a normal person, and no matter how many times I try to explain that I can’t because of the injury, I still feel like they’re judging me. I look fine. That injury happened years ago. Surely I’m over it by now.

When I got my assistantship teaching assignment in grad school, the department had assigned classes alphabetically, so guess who got two 8:00 AM classes?  Guess how many of my “friends” jumped at the opportunity to trade with me?  For my final year of grad school, I ran on three hours sleep a night, at most. If there can be any positive spin, at least I had time to grade all those papers.

 Nobody Can See the Mark

One of the most difficult aspects of head trauma is that no one can “see” what’s wrong. Even standard imaging techniques like MRIs and CT scans can only detect the subtle changes to the brain while it’s in a resting state. If neurologists can’t detect it, how can the average person? If I come to work on an hour’s sleep because my insomnia kicked in, I sometimes hear whispers through the grapevine that I stayed out all night drinking. If only. When I wear my shades in my office with the lights off, those whispers escalate. If I turn down 8:00 AM assignments, I’m simply lazy. After explaining the accident for the zillionth time, I watch their eyes travel up and down my body, searching for some physical sign of impairment, and even after I show them my scar or let them touch the dent in my skull, the doubts still linger in their eyes.

A few years ago, a colleague slipped and fell on a patch of ice in the parking lot. She had no visible injuries but suffered a concussion from the whiplash of the abrupt fall. Because she “looked” fine, our superiors couldn’t grasp why she couldn’t handle her usual workload. But I understood. All those tiny blood vessels and axons and synapses, as fragile as snowflakes, were violently shaken in a way nature never intended. I reassured her that in time she would find herself again and adjust to her new reality because I had managed to do so, and I spoke up for her with our superiors. Still, because we show few if any external signs of damage, they have a hard time grasping that our impairments are just as real as someone who has lopped off a finger. 

It Forces You to Change Your Life

When you’re in a crowd, your brain is able to process almost all the information subconsciously while you consciously focus on whatever you’re doing. For me, however, crowds are a nightmare. When too many people are moving in too many directions and having too many conversations, my brain becomes overloaded and within a few minutes, I can become completely disoriented. You can try to avoid crowds, but just like light, you’ll soon realize crowds are everywhere. So I take back roads with less traffic, shop during off hours, and work jobs that offer solitude. I don’t often go to live sporting events or concerts or even restaurants because the cacophony of noise and motion still completely overwhelms my brain a quarter of a century removed from the accident.

The worst example of this sensory overload occurred at another convention where I was attending as a guest author. I arrived a night early to get my badge, find my panel rooms, and have a plan, hoping to avoid the crowds as much as possible. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same plan because as the escalator deposited me into the lobby, I found myself in the middle of at least two thousand people, elbow to elbow. Within seconds, my senses were overwhelmed, and I struggled through the throng to find an exit sign.  The disorientation was so bad I had to withdraw from the convention and spent three days at home to recover. Isn’t there a line somewhere about the best laid plans?

It Also Changes Your Personality

Many people know about Phineas Gage, the railroad worker who underwent a major personality change after suffering a brain injury. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t take a tamping iron fired through the skull to make a difference. After the injury, I became much more introverted and quiet. Like many who’ve suffer severe concussions, I’ve battled depression. Mood swings are common as well.

Not long after the accident (I think I still had my stitches – all 36 of them) my pickup truck stalled and wouldn’t refire. I tried and tried and tried to start it, and with each unsuccessful attempt, my frustration escalated. In a fit of rage, I hopped out of the truck, grabbed a shovel from the bed, and proceeded to beat on the hood until I couldn’t lift the shovel again. Before the accident, I rarely lost my cool, but in that first year after, I was a walking rage machine. Today, it takes quite a bit to push me to that point because I’ve learned to check the cauldron of emotions as they course through me, but if I do reach it, something will probably get broken.

Also before the accident, I was highly analytical and serious-minded with a nearly photographic memory. Afterwards, while much of my analytical ability remained intact, in addition to the memory issues, I became much more creative and free-spirited. While neuroscience still can’t fully explain why this happens, one plausible theory is that it’s akin to Frontotemporal Dementia. Because of the rewiring that occurs, the interactivity within different regions of the brain changes, resulting in a fundamental shift in cognition. More than likely some mechanism that inhibited creativity was damaged by the accident, which “turned on” my latent creative skills. In extreme situations, this can lead to Acquired Savant Syndrome, such as the case of Alonzo Clemons, who suffered a brain injury at three and developed a profound mastery of sculpting despite not being able to tie his own shoes.

Your Brain Becomes a Time Bomb

The weird thing about concussions is once you’ve had one, you’re more likely to get one again; after your first concussion, your chances of getting a second go up 400 freaking percent. And subsequent concussions can be catastrophically bad, even if you don’t have apparent permanent damage from the first. This is because if you only damage a small number of neurons, your brain figures out a way to work around it. The damage is still there, but you don’t notice it, which may falsely lead you to believe that your brain is as healthy as it ever was. Since those connections never heal, another concussion can destroy enough of them your brain can’t work around it any more, leading to more serious problems. Another complication that can arise is called Second Impact Syndrome, where after a concussion, even the slightest bump on the head before the brain has sufficiently healed causes it to rapidly swell inside the skull. Though rare, the mortality rate for SIS is about 50%, and the permanent disability rate from it is nearly 100%.

I cannot stress this point enough. People who have suffered severe brain trauma have to accept that their brain should not be exposed to additional risks. I struggled with this fact for years because I had been a competitive athlete, and after the accident, I felt compelled to continue to prove my toughness. Today, a quarter of a century removed, I recognize the folly of that thinking. Just surviving the incident is tough enough. Your body may still be strong and virile. Your muscles and bones may not have suffered permanent damage from the head trauma, so you sometimes may believe yourself still capable of competing in the sports you love. But your brain is permanently injured. You have to accept that fact and not expose yourself to further damage.

In college, I drove a delivery truck on the weekends. It was a refurbished moving truck with one of the rear doors that slides up like a garage door. One night, the door didn’t open fully, and in the darkness I couldn’t see it as I stepped up into the cargo bay. My forehead slammed into the aluminum guard full force. As I crumpled to the wooden bed (luckily falling into the truck and not three feet down to the concrete parking lot) my final thought before I lost consciousness was that I had just killed myself. Later that night, when I finally made it home, I couldn’t figure out how to make a tub hold water. Fortunately, I recovered with no further permanent damage, but from that moment forward I became much more protective of my head.

Your Health Becomes an Uncertainty Forever

Since brain damage can manifest symptoms in countless ways (or not at all), I constantly find myself wondering every time my eyelid twitches if it’s just normal body behavior, or if it’s my nervous system starting to break down. Having a concussion puts you at much higher risk for diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The Mayo Clinic found that even a mild concussion made you four times more likely to develop Parkinson’s, and another study found that three or more concussions made you five times more likely to suffer early-onset Alzheimer’s. Additionally, multiple concussions can cause Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which is the degenerative brain disorder that has prompted the NFL to address the concussion issue. And until neuroscience progresses further, there’s no real way to predict if you’ll get it until you start exhibiting symptoms.

Ever since the accident, if I hold my arm a certain way, my left index finger pulses involuntarily. For twenty-two years, I thought little of it, other than slight embarrassment when it occurred while I taught. Three years ago, my left hand began trembling more frequently and would occasionally cramp in a way that drew my fingers together in a twisted knot. I began experiencing other symptoms that mirrored MS and Parkinson’s. For six or seven months, while doctors ran test after test with no answers, I lived in absolute terror that the accident had slowly degenerated my brain to a lethal point. It turned out to be an unrelated issue concerning gluten sensitivity, and today, I won’t say I’m back to normal, but as long as I completely avoid gluten, I do fairly well with it. But the lingering effects of that scare are that I can no longer tell if I’m aging normally or degenerating more rapidly than my peers. I now fear every sharp pain near my scar, pains I ignored for twenty-two years because they were simply my reality. And where I once shrugged off the memory lapses, I now question if my recall is worsening or if I’m just imagining it. Those fears are real, as real as any of the other side effects, and living with those constant concerns for my brain’s health can become rather tedious.

You Slowly Gain Acceptance and Adapt

Despite all these limitations and discomforts, over time, I’ve learned to accept my reality. The process wasn’t easy, and for the first five or six years after the accident, I wallowed in self-pity over everything it had taken from me. Then, one day, the epiphany struck me that I was lucky just to be alive. I’ve since learned, through years of trial and error, to find pleasure in the things I can still do and let go of the things I can’t. I’ve learned to appreciate the little things because I know firsthand the fragility of life.

I’ve learned to stop trying to conform to society’s expectations of who it thinks I should be and embrace the reality of who I am.  I’m one who has survived a trauma that should have killed me, and that fact alone is pretty special. I’ve carved out my niche based on the skills the accident unlocked, and I’ve learned to be grateful for each and every day regardless of how many times I lose my keys or misplace my sunglasses because I’m simply still here.

If you’re living with the effects of Post-Concussion Syndrome, please know you’re not alone. Please know that you can carve out a fulfilling life if you learn to work within and around your limitations. You’ll never again be the person you were before your trauma, but in time, you can find the new you, one who is a survivor, one who discovers new talents you never knew you had, and one who finds pleasure in the little things. In time, you too can learn to operate within the boundaries of your wounded brain.

D.A. Adams is bestselling author of The Brotherhood of Dwarves series and a survivor of severe brain trauma. You can follow him on Twitter @authordaadams

A special thank you to Chris Radomile, who assisted with the development of this article. You can follow him on Twitter @raddystuition

Wednesday Night Ramblings

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The zombie apocalypse has already occurred; it just wasn’t how Hollywood had envisioned it.  Instead of decaying corpses feasting on human brains, we have cat memes, sports fanaticism run amok, celebrity worship, and puppet show political “debates.”  Meanwhile, our infrastructure is quite literally crumbling around us and our civil liberties are disappearing almost as fast as species are going extinct, but the masses are so distracted by the bright and shiny locomotive, they refuse to acknowledge the approaching ravine.  It sickens and frustrates me.  I feel like Plato’s prisoner, trying to explain the sun while the cave dwellers measure shadows cast on the wall by firelight.

I write about our imploding educational system, one or two people notice.  Someone posts a video of cat attacking paper, two million views.  Our elected officials refuse to negotiate or compromise for the betterment of our entire economy, people shrug.  A football player goes through a slump, fans go to his home to berate him.  Our priorities are askew.  We deserve the impending corporate shackles soon bound to our ankles.  We deserve this Huxleyan nightmare we’ve built and all the soma that comes with it.  I’ll catalog a few more of the failings of our system, just to fulfill my goal of illustrating to the outside world that some of us fought against it, but I’ve given up hope of enough people in this country noticing or giving a damn.

Tennessee Volunteer Ramblings


Breaking News: Vols Fans Anxiously Await Naming of Next Coach They’ll Hate

The excitement around Knoxville is palpable as football fans await Athletic Director Dave Hart’s scheduled press conference to announce UT’s next head football coach. Talk radio is abuzz with rumors and speculation on who the next scapegoat will be, and some fans have already created signs for the home opener calling for the coach’s resignation.

“It’s just great to have so much anticipation,” says Slosh D. Frat III, a third year freshman and lifelong fan. “Since Dooley got fired, I haven’t gotten to hate a coach for a whole week. Knowing that there’s a new guy just days away. Well, I just almost can’t stand it.”

Asked if there’s any chance he’ll like the new coach, Slosh was contemplative.

“If it’s Gruden, I’ll give him until spring ball before I turn on him. Other than that, I’ll pretty much start screaming for him to be fired that afternoon.”

Other Vol fans echo the sentiment.

“We have a tradition to uphold,” says Iggy Norant, long-time talk radio enthusiast. “Around the nation, we are known as some of the loudest, most uninformed sports fans in college athletics. ESPN has long heralded us as the dumbest, and we have to keep up that tradition. I’ve been a part of running off two head coaches and one coordinator already, and I can’t wait to run off the next guy!”

When asked how the fans’ rabid and rampant intolerance for rebuilding a program mired in mediocrity might impact future recruiting, Norant was incredulous.

“Recruits don’t care who the coach is!” he bellowed. “They come here because of the school’s tolerance of criminal behavior.”

Officials at the university were unavailable for comment, as they were conducting a seminar warning the student body of the perils of butt-chugging. However, in a prepared statement, the school states that it is ready to fire the next coach as soon as boosters give them the approval and the funds to pay off the buyout clause.

Amid the speculation, two names have surfaced as leading candidates for the position.  Jon Gruden, Super Bowl winning coach and current Monday Night Football color guy, is considered the fan favorite because of his deep ties to the university, including his marriage to a former UT cheerleader and his cousin’s best friend’s neighbor’s plumber helping institute butt-chugging on fraternity row.

“Jon’s practically an alum,” beams Norant.

However, one name has both sports fans and scientists excited.  According to an unnamed source with close ties to important people associated with big-time boosters, geneticists at the university have cloned General Robert Neyland from hair fibers and plan to have his growth accelerated in order to have him ready for recruiting season.

“I’m not sure who this Bob guy is, but he doesn’t have much experience at the SEC level,” Norant said.  “We fans will have him on a very short leash.  It would be kind of cool to have a coach with the same name as the stadium, though.”

With that, Iggy Norant excused himself, stating that it was time for him to call into the first of the five talk radio shows to which he’s a regular contributor.

Derek Dooley Ramblings


Tennessee fans, you don’t deserve a winning team.  You simply don’t.  The bile and venom spewed at Coach Dooley over the last three years is shameful and disgusting.  The vast majority of you are classless, short-sighted jerks who disgrace the legacy of the program with your behavior.  If UT fires Coach Dooley Monday, which likely they will, you will get what you’ve asked for, and more than likely, you’ve condemned the program to at least another five years or more of mediocrity.  Virtually no reputable coach with any sense would want to come to the university given your win-now-or-else absurdity.

First, a little history lesson for you.  After the National Championship season in 98, the program slowly began to erode.  The first major warning sign of this erosion for me was the Peach Bowl after the 2003 season.  At the end of a disappointing 14-27 performance against a mediocre Clemson team, many players were seen on the sidelines joking, laughing, and talking on cell phones.  For me, this raised alarm bells about the team’s character and commitment.  Coach Fulmer seemed oblivious to his players’ lack of passion for competition.  I wasn’t in the locker room and don’t know if he addressed it, but if memory serves, no one was released from the team.

Then, in 2005, the erosion of talent and dedication bottomed out.  The team went 5-7 overall and 3-5 in SEC play, missing its first bowl game under Coach Fulmer.  The team was slow at the skill positions and weak along the lines, and the players simply couldn’t execute.  Of course, you refused to acknowledge that anything was wrong with the talent.  Instead, you blamed Randy Sanders and ran him from the program in one of the most tasteless and ridiculous smear campaigns I’ve ever witnessed.  Coach Sanders bled orange and loved the university.  Today, because of you, he refers to it as “that place.”

In 2006, the team went 9-4 overall and 5-3 in the SEC, which on the surface was respectable.  However, the team was 2-4 against ranked opponents.  In 2007, Coach Fulmer seemed to have it back, going 10-4 and 6-2, winning the SEC East and taking LSU to the final gun in the SEC Championship.  However, the losses included Cal 31-45, Florida  20-59, Alabama 17-41. More alarmingly, the wins included beating South Carolina by 3, Vandy by 1, and Kentucky by 2.  Very easily, that team could have been 3-5 in SEC play.  In 2008, the team did go 5-7 and 3-5, and Coach Fulmer lost his job.

Enter Lane Kiffin.  Remember him?  He came in full of bravado and promises.  He landed some incredible talent and had the team looking competitive against ranked opponents for the first time in several seasons.  There was optimism and momentum surrounding the university.  Do you remember how that ended?  January 12, 2010, Kiffin called a press conference late in the evening to announce he was leaving the school to take the USC job.  In the middle of recruiting.  After one season.  Can your short-sighted-ness fathom what that did to a program already on the decline?  Much of his first recruiting class left the university.  Most of his second recruiting class followed him to USC or bolted to other SEC schools.

So in the midst of turmoil, UT began looking for a new coach.  Will Muschamp turned the job down, flat out.  So did Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher.  Do you remember that?  I wonder if the treatment of Coaches Sanders and Fulmer had anything to with their decisions.  Maybe it’s just me, but if I were a coach looking at potential jobs, the last place I would want to land is a school with a loud, obnoxious, ignorant fan base with a history of running off coaches.  But I digress.

During this turmoil, Tennessee hired virtually unknown Derek Dooley, and some of you started asking for his head the next day.  Coach Dooley immediately went to work and salvaged what he could from the recruiting class, including keeping Tyler Bray.  He also started rebuilding Tennessee’s image.  For most of Coach Fulmer’s tenure, the team was notorious for the sheer volume of arrests.  It seemed like every weekend, often after games, 2-3 players would get busted for disorderly conduct or worse.  Then, it turned out some of Kiffin’s recruits were felons-in-training, so the program was not only sub-par on the field, but rife with off field issues.

Coach Dooley vowed to clean this up and implemented measures to hold players accountable.  He began to build the character of these young men as much as their football skills.  He also recruited some fine talent.  Given the mess he walked into, he did a commendable job righting the ship.  He brought pride and passion back to the program.  The young men on his teams play for the Tennessee Volunteers, and they compete hard in every game.  Yes, they are not quite up to SEC standards yet, but it’s not from lack of effort or lack of hard work.

I can’t defend Coach Dooley’s win-loss record.  It’s awful.  I can’t defend some of his coaching blunders.  They are glaring.  What I can do is remember a young Bill Cowher making his fair share of blunders with the Steelers.  I can also look up the records of some of the greatest coaches in history and see early poor records.  I’m not saying Dooley will ever be the next Bear Bryant.  What I am saying is that Tennessee fans will never have a Bear Bryant as long as you continue with your hot-headed, crude behavior because you’ll never attract the right coach and then you’ll never give him time to build.  Win now or else.

To Coach Dooley, I’d like to say thank you.  Thank you for doing things the right way.  Thank you for soldiering through an absurd situation.  Thank you for being classy and dignified in the face of adversity.  I’d also like to apologize for the behavior of the ignorant buffoons who will probably run you out of town.  Please know, some of us saw the positive and appreciate the job you’ve done.  Some of us understand that college athletics is supposed to be about more than money and wins.  Some of us would love to give you one more year before judging you.  Good luck, Coach Dooley, whatever the future holds for you.

Wednesday Morning Ramblings

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A dull thud tapped me on the forehead, like someone had taken their palm and bumped me playfully.  The next thing I knew, I was sitting on the ground with two shotputs in my lap, which strange because I’d only been carrying one.  I rolled them away and tried to get my bearings, but everything was a swirl of colors and sounds.  Then, I felt a tickle on my eyebrow, like sweat was dripping, so I reached up to wipe it away and pulled back a hand coated in blood.  That’s when I knew something bizarre had happened.

On this day in 1989 at roughly 3:30 in the afternoon, I nearly lost my life.  An 8 lb. shotput had struck me on the right side of the head just above the hairline. I suffered a nasty laceration, exposing my skull, a severe brain contusion, and at the time, when they still graded concussions, the highest grade concussion on the chart.  Fortunately, it had hit me on the hardest part of the skull and didn’t fracture or even crack the bone.  Also, because of the angle, it mostly glanced off my head instead of impacting with full force.  I spent three days in the hospital, lost 20 lbs. from the trauma, and literally nearly died.  To this day, I live with some symptoms of post-concussion syndrome.

For many years, I wallowed in self-pity for everything the accident took from me: mostly the opportunities to play college football and join the marines on an ROTC scholarship.  Then, one day I woke up and realized that I was fortunate simply to be alive.  Today, as I mark the 23rd anniversary of the day that changed my life, I want to focus more on what the accident has given me, namely an appreciation for my life and my creativity.  Without those, I wouldn’t be the man I am today, and I’m fairly happy with that man.

In terms of appreciation, I see each day as a blessing, as time I’ve been granted by grace.  Even with all the turmoil and difficulties of the last five years, being alive and on this earth allows me the opportunity to learn and grow and laugh and love.  I’ve gotten to experience fatherhood, and if it took enduring that accident a hundred times to have my sons, line me up.  In terms of creativity, I’m convinced that at least in part, the injury awakened some part of my brain that had mostly been dormant.  At the very least, it forced me to turn my attention away from athletics and towards writing, so I see now that the accident has given me far more than it took.

Not too long ago, I found Bobby, the boy who had mistakenly thrown it, and got to tell him, after years of needing to share this, that I had never harbored any ill-will for him, even during the worst of my headaches and the darkest of days.  We were unsupervised kids, and even if he had had been trying to hit me, there was no way he could have done so on purpose.  It was just a dumb, fluke accident.  I hope he knows in his heart that he wasn’t to blame, and I hope he doesn’t carry around any misplaced feelings of guilt.  Bobby, if you happen to read this, I love you, man.

So today, as I remember that day and the subsequent years of symptoms, I ask all of you to do one thing.  Contact those you love most and tell them how you feel.  Don’t wait.  Do it now because you never know what split-second, dumb fluke could end their or your life.  Embrace your darkest moments, for even those days are blessings.  None of us are promised anything on the other side; everything beyond this world is pure speculation, so cherish each day on this earth.  Any day above ground is a good day.

Thursday Afternoon Ramblings


Dear sons, I wish I could describe for you just how much I loved playing sports as a kid.  I didn’t really blossom as an athlete until about 14 or 15, but I loved sports, even when I was a chubby, uncoordinated kid without much skill.  My sport was football, and my position was nose tackle/defensive tackle.  I know I didn’t have the size or talent to ever play pro ball, but if not for my accident, I think I could’ve at least made the roster for a small college.  One of the only things that nags and gnaws at me is the fact I’ll never know the answer to that question.  Was I talented enough to play college football?  I don’t dwell on it often, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it from time to time.

I want to share with you one of my fondest memories from the eight years I played.  It was my junior year of high school, and I was 15.  From a couple of years of intense weight-lifting, I was strong beyond my years and had earned a starting spot as the right defensive tackle.  We were playing Cocke County, at the time one of our biggest rivals because our head coach was originally from there and couldn’t stand losing to them.  The left guard who blocked me that night was 5-6 inches taller than me and was pretty athletic.  Play after play, we battled like we were in a street fight.  One play he would beat me, the next I him, and the next, we’d stalemate.  It was without a doubt the most intense one-on-one matchup of my football life.  I left everything I had on the field and played an extremely sound game, giving up hardly any rushing yards to my side.

In the end, we lost the game, but as the teams were shaking hands, he pulled me out of line and hugged me like an old friend.  “That was the most fun I ever had,” he said.  “You’re a warrior, man.”  I thanked him and told him he had played a great game, but in the moment, the sting of the loss hurt too much.  I walked back to our dressing room and sat down outside against the brick wall.  Then, I just started crying.  And I cried pretty hard, too.  I couldn’t believe we had lost that game, and losing hurt, especially after I had played one of the best games of my life.  Several of the Cocke County fans had gathered outside our dressing room to taunt us, and when they saw me crying, they really let me have it.  Some of my own teammates gave me a hard time, too, yelling at me to stop, but I didn’t care.  To this day, I’m not ashamed of crying after that loss because when I really care about something, I give it my all, and when you give your all and still come up short, it’s painful.

I sometimes think about that left guard and wonder if he remembers that game as well as I do.  I wonder if he remembers how hard we battled play after play after play, neither one willing to quit, neither one willing to back down.  I wonder if he ever looks back on that game and feels the way I felt out there on the field, like I’d never been so alive.  I hope he does, and I hope that you both one day will get to experience something like that, even if you have to suffer the same sting of defeat, because that memory is one of the most fulfilling of my life.  As old age takes me and my brain begins to fade, I hope the memory of that game on that night against that guy will stay with me until the end because the memory of feeling that alive and that present in the moment isn’t experienced very often, and it’s a pretty amazing feeling.

Monday Afternoon Ramblings

This is what end of semester Monday has done to me!

I would love to write a full entry today, but the end-of-the-semester-crunch has me worn down.  I hope to get a good night’s sleep tonight and be able to write the humorous follow-up to my recent Education Ramblings tomorrow.  Until then, please come join my new Facebook page, “Fire Tennessee’s Fair-Weathered Fans.”

That’s all for now.