I’ll be honest with all you rabid sports fans: I’m not much of a sports guy. While my peers were playing on various ball teams in high school, my recreation was listening to heavy metal, going to concerts and getting into trouble. In adulthood, I’m always happy when the Boston sports teams do well, but I don’t stay up late to watch games or banter with colleagues about sports.
I still have an admiration for athletes, especially those who rise to the occasion despite heaping piles of adversity. A good example is Boston Red Sox player Jonny Gomes.
Since the Red Sox are my home team and are in the World Series, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to hear about Gomes. Here’s a kid who survived a car accident as a teenager while his best friend, who sat beside him in the backseat, was killed. Then, at the age of 22, he suffered a heart attack.
Yet here he is, playing professional baseball. In the World Series, no less. Tonight is game six at Fenway Park, and it could be the clincher.
When I was a kid fighting severe Crohn’s Disease, my fifth-grade teacher suggested I write to a fellow suffer: Rolf Benirschke, who at the time was playing professional football with the San Diego Chargers. He actually had severe colitis, a disease with many of the same effects as Crohn’s Disease. He wrote me back, and for a while we were pen pals.
Even at that early age, it was clear that I wouldn’t be getting into sports with the enthusiasm of my classmates. But the fact that a grownup had been through what I was going through and had made it to the top of his profession thrilled me and inspired me to stop feeling sorry for myself.
I also lost a best friend to a violent death and know how that can damage one’s soul. To get past that experience as a teenager, as Gomes did, is truly something to behold.
I’m pretty sure there are kids out there today who are being inspired by Gomes the way I was inspired by Benirschke.
May he enjoy many more years in professional sports.