Risk vs. Reward

As many of my friends and family know, I love sports.  My favorites are baseball, hockey, football, and the real football (you know, the one where a player kicks the ball a majority of the time — some call it soccer.)  Throughout my life, I have played organized baseball (Little League,) street hockey (intermural in high school and middle school,) and basketball (intermural in middle school.)  I’ve also played pick up games of the above sports, along with football, soccer, and tennis.  I have played these sports despite having limited vision.  I really enjoyed playing these sports.

I was told by my parents (okay, more my mom than my dad) to be very careful while playing.  My mom always brought up the subject to my eye doctor (who happened to be a family friend and more importantly a Flyers fan.)  By the time I was in fifth grade, I was told not to play football (which was usually Kill the Guy with the Ball) anymore unless it was touch.  When I began having additional trouble in seventh grade (more on that in a minute,) one of the specialists I saw at Children’s Hospital made this statement in a letter to my local ophth: “Unfortuneately, David seems to be athletic…”  It went on to say that I should stop playing most of the other sports I loved playing.

One Sunday while I was in seventh grade, I went across the street to play basketball with my friends Billy, Joe, and Kurt.  I was the smallest of the four, because I was the youngest.  The others were two grades ahead of me.  I didn’t mind playing rough, I actually enjoyed it.  At some point, an elbow may have been thrown.  There may have been a hard foul (it was 32 years ago, who remembers the trigger.)  Whatever happened, Kurt and I came to blows.  I was holding my own until Kurt landed one in my left eye (that’s the good – only – eye.)  I turtled quickly.  Joe and Billy pulled Kurt off of me.  Our afternoon of basketball was over.  Later that evening, when my eye wouldn’t stop hurting, we called our family friend.  He told us to come over and he’d take a look.  My dad ran me over to his apartment.  He took one look at my eye and said let head over to the office.  So, dressed in his PJs, Dr. Starer drove with us over to his office.  He noticed nothing damaged from the punch and said the pain was probably not in my eye but around it.  He then checked my IOP.  It was higher than normal (he always liked to see my IOP between 8-12.)  Thus began three years of instability in my left eye which ended on 20 May 1980 with my first trabeculectomy (it was my 11th eye surgery overall.)  I like to believe that without playing hoops that day and getting into that fight, it might have taken months to notice the increased IOP.

As my vision has worsened over the years, I play less and less sports.  I miss it.  The other night my daughter wanted to practice pitching.  She is trying to get the mechanics of windmill pitching so that she can pitch for her team at FCS.  I can’t see well enough to catch her, but I want to play…  I noticed that she is sometimes scared of hitting the batter.  I thought I could be the batter and try to distract her while she pitched.  Over time, my theory is, she would block out the batter and just throw to the catcher’s glove.  My wife was nervous.  My daughter was nervous, but she liked having me out there.  Since I wasn’t going to swing, I decided I’d square around to bunt.  I wasn’t sutle either.  I’d jump from my batting stance as I’d get ready to bunt, usually while she was in mid-windup.  I’d offer at pitches I thought were good, but I never laid down a fair bunt.  I did make contact with five or six pitches however.  Did I almost get hit?  Three or four times.  Two pitches came close to my head, but missed.  Did I have a helmet on?  Nope.  Was the reward worth the risk?  You bet!