by Kent Sterling
Perspective sucks. It’s earned through pain. Every sport parent suffers through the ignorance of taking each game a little too seriously. We think that the coach is an idiot because he doesn’t put our kid in the position where he can best succeed. We think that our kids need to get grittier. We think the officials are boobs because they call a charge on our kid instead of a block on the opposing kid. We leave games feeling good or bad based on our kid’s performance, until we are reminded that none of it means a damn thing.
Michael Pointer in this morning’s Indianapolis Star reports Kevin Massey, a sophomore at Franklin Central High School in Indianapolis who plays basketball is fighting for his life this morning at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital with a brain tumor. Two weeks ago Kevin told teammates he had a sore calf. The sore calf turned into numbness and that prompted a visit to the doctor, who recommended a trip to see a neurologist. Before the appointment, Kevin’s condition declined and he was rushed to the hospital, where the doctors found a bleed in his brain stem. The bleeding has stopped, they believe, and that will allow Kevin to begin radiation treatments soon.
Two weeks ago, Kevin’s parents might have hoped that FC Coach Mark James would see wisdom in choosing to dress Kevin for a varsity game. Today, they keep a vigil at Kevin’s bedside praying that God allows him to walk out of the hospital.
In deep, dark places parents don’t even like to admit exist, they know that life is fleeting and that children’s hospital are filled with sons and daughters of parents just like them, and that those kids are sometimes called to God. (I’m not a tremendously or even passingly religious man, but I cannot use the “D” word when talking about the worst case scenario for those kids. I hope you’ll excuse my using God’s name/image/etc… for my own fear-based purpose, but I can’t think of a more apt phrase despite my own reluctance to believe in a deity that looks after us – ironically because so many kids are taken too soon.)
We might rage at officials and coaches to prove to ourselves that our children are immortal and not subject to the frailty we witness in Kevin. Denial is a wonderful tool, without which we might not make it.
Last night, I watched my son play a couple of minutes for Loyola against Valparaiso. He turned it over once, grabbed a rebound, and missed a three, and I could not have given a shit less. My kid was doing what he loved, at a time when most have tucked away childish things. He continues to work with faith and diligence, and the reward for that is not measured in minutes or points. The reward is the continued faith itself. He is a magnificent person, and I thank God or life or whatever manifestation of a higher power I can conjure, for the opportunity to watch him express that faith on the basketball court. We aren’t allowed to watch him in the classroom, so the court will have to suffice.
We think good thoughts for Kevin and his family, and hope for his complete recovery. We hope that Mark James finds the words to help the rest of his players through this tough time, and make this a time where they gain the wisdom that will make them good adults, parents, and perhaps coaches themselves. We also are thankful that it hasn’t happened to us.
Love can make you stupid, but it can also bring you grace. Being a parent allows us to run the gamut from being blissfully ignorant and idiotic, as well as vulnerable, fragile, and compassionate. Please take a moment to think about Kevin and his family. Maybe you have the means to write a check to help offset the enormous cost of Kevin’s medical cost (Mutual Savings Bank, 5630 S. Franklin Road, Indianapolis, Ind. 46239). Before you do any of that though, grab your kid tonight, hug and kiss him or her, and be thankful you have the opportunity to do it. If you are fortunate enough to have a kid in sports, theater, choir, or any other extracurricular activity, watch minus the pride, anxiety, and fear of judgement and failure. Just watch your kid do his of her thing and enjoy it for what it is – an expression of faith, love, and joy.
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