One one thousand….. What happened? Two one thousand……. Where am I? What’s going on? Three one thousand…. Who am I? I’ve often been asked what’s it like to have a concussion. What goes through your head as your laying on the ice with your brain spinning inside your skull? I tell them you don’t feel anything, not at first. It’s as if you’re in a dream, you see what’s happening and you try to tell your body to do one thing but it does the opposite. You’re a foreigner inside your own body. Your numb and it feels like your senses are going haywire. Then when I finally get back to the bench and off the ice, my head is in a daze while my world is spinning like a top. I know what’s happened, I know the damage that’s been done, but I sit there, hands in my hands saying over and over again “this can’t be happening, not again”. For those of you who don’t know I am an addict. I’ve been addicted to sports as far back as I can remember. From football, baseball, to hockey I’m hooked. Hey you ever want to talk to me? Bring up sports I can talk your ear off for hours. For me hockey was more than a game, it was my soul mate. On that sheet of ice life made sense. Growing up I was a chubby kid who always finished last in the races on land was now a green and black streak flying down the ice. The boy whose massive frame awkwardly bumped into everything was now a wrecking ball on legs whose bone crushing hits would bring a roar from the home crowd. Out on that ice I could vent the frustration of being picked on in school and prove to everyone that I could do something special.
There was really only one person who truly understood my love for the game and that was my father. I can still remember him taking me to practice at 4 o’clock in the morning so that I could work on my skating and slap shot. Most of my friends thought I was crazy, but when you love something that much you will do anything for it. When I wasn’t playing I was watching hockey, and when I wasn’t watching I was without question talking about it. When ever we got the chance, my father would take me to the Beast of New Haven games which still are some of my fondest memories. Heck every year for Halloween I was a hockey player, didn’t think outside of the box much did I? Then the game I had loved for my entire life, began to turn on me. It started with the first concussion, then the second, then the third. I kept going back, I couldn’t stop. It’s like being in a relationship with a difficult partner. You try to make it work and you really do love them. Yet no matter how many times they knock you down, you still go back. The illusion that it will be better if I give it one more chance that never turns in fruition. People ask why do you keep going back? You know there’s something better out there for you right? That was my relationship with hockey. I could feel us growing apart. My body was holding me back and despite my mind telling me to stop, my heart kept telling me to go. Was it stupid to go back and play? Of course, but when we look back on our past we give ourselves the illusion that we would have made the right choice. I can’t blame myself. I loved the game and being an adolescent at the time gave me this false sense of invincibility. I thought nothing could hurt me, nothing could stop me, they were wrong, I was right. When I look back on my life there are certain things that the concussions have cost me. I can’t remember certain memories or my eighth grade year of school. Remembering people’s name has become a challenge that embarrasses me every time I get a name wrong. Concussions cost me the opportunity to play high school football, the dream of running out onto the field in front of the entire school on a saturday. The eruption of the crowd once I made a sack or a huge hit is a sound that never reached my ear drums. It was the same story different sport. Another attempt to push myself harder resulted in another shot to the head, another blow to get up from.
A few years ago I had to get up from the hardest knockdown of my life at the time. Halfway through my sophomore year I was cut from baseball. I was angry, not only because I felt I hadn’t gotten the rightful opportunity, but because it was another blow in my sports life. I still remember thinking what now? What now? Sports had defined my first twenty years of existence, and now they were gone. Through all the turmoil and bad breaks I had endured throughout my young life I knew that there had to be a greater purpose for me. I still remember a quote from Rocky Balboa. In the movie Rocky said “nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you’re hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward”. I knew that I had been knocked down before, I had to get up once again.
After my baseball career ended here in college, the question that I had to answer was what now? After a few weeks of drifting through classes and college life, I happened to learn about the college radio station. After inquiring about a sports talk show, I was given the an assistant position with the stations sports talk show High and Tight Sports Talk. After learning the how to operate the equipment and set up a show, my mentor Jeremy Menard handed me the reigns at the beginning of my junior year. Now I have my own show, Rich Sports Talk, along with this blog and couldn’t be happier. Now instead of playing sports, I realize that I can talk about them with great insight and varying opinions. Reporting sports and entertaining people has become my mission in life. I realize that I have the gift to make people laugh and feel joy. If I can make someone feel just a little bit better about their life when they read my articles or listen to my on the air, that is the greatest reward. After years of being angry because I felt cheated and betrayed by my own body, I now feel blessed for the gifts I do have. Instead of feeling like a broken shell that was never whole, I finally feel at peace. If anything the concussions and being out of sports has given me one of life’s greatest gifts. That is with perseverance, and to just keep moving forward, you will accomplish your dreams, even if you don’t know what they are yet. For anybody out there who feels slighted or cheated, this maybe life’s way of testing your resolve. Trust me the road is hard, but for those who can take the lumps and get to the end of that road, I promise you that you will reach your goals.