Forgive me. Whenever I write about my birthday from now on it will be a little big creepy and weepy, filled with a new appreciation for life.
These days were not promised to me. It’s been four and a half years since suffering a stroke that partially and temporarily robbed me of speech and movement. It was a shock to the system and a sign that I wasn’t taking good care of myself.
It also changed my outlook on life.
God placed a ticking time bomb inside my head that would some day explode. Thankfully it woke me up and did not take me out.
Today, I turn 62 years old and if there is anyone more grateful to see the sun rise I’d like to meet that person. Today isn’t promised to anybody. No one knows that better than me. The last 1,200 days were not promised.
Someone text me the other day asking if being in sports media is stressful and hazardous to your life. I never thought that way. However, giants in the industry all died too soon and died too young.
ESPN baseball writer Pedro Gomez died at age 58. Basketball writer Sekou Smith died of Covid at age 48 and Yahoo NFL writer Terez Paylor at age 37. My God. He was just a baby.
Shortly after I got sick I was devastated by the death of Detroit Free Press columnist Drew “Boodini” Sharp, 56, a man who I’d know for about 30 years.
I never viewed sports journalism as stressful while I was in the game. But as I think back on it my views have changed. We face a hard unforgiving deadline every day and many journalists are juggling writing careers with broadcast careers. Days are packed and there remains little time for relaxing and giving your mind the day off.
There is the daily stress of interviewing athletes and coaches who may or may not be in the mood, performing in front a public that grows more critical and trying to figure out how to squeeze two full time jobs within a 24 hour period.
Add being on the road where we often get to bed at 2 in the morning to sneak in a few hours of sleep before boarding a plane for an 8 a.m. flight. And we ate and drank while enjoying merry time with associates in the field and taking advantage of expense accounts. For the most part sports writers are not eating healthy salads and drinking bottled water.
It is that night’s special in a restaurant that is more likely to appear on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives than Men’s Health. That’s the life I lived. That’s the life I enjoyed and would not trade for anything in the world.
However, it lit the match of my ticking time bomb. An MRI or Cat Scan of my brain shows a network of big and healthy blood veins. However, there is one on the back side of the left side of my brain that is feeble and narrow.
Blood flow through this area became sluggish landing me in the hospital. Doctors said if it became clogged I’d be dead now or severely limited. That trouble spot will never go away. But I keep it as clean as possible with medication and a new diet.
What is left behind?
A 62 year old man that appreciates every conversation and every interaction — whether it is good or bad. Some of my most rewarding times are mentoring middle school and high school students at Detroit PAL. I am in talks with administrators at my alma mater, Central Michigan University, to give weekly talks virtually until the pandemic passes so we can meet in person.
My life has been enhanced recently by appearing twice a week on the Woodward Sports Network. The people are nice and they allow me to let it rip and act like a goofball. It has helped me.
One of my doctors wants me to do what I used to do in moderation because writing and talking make me happy. The problem is when I do too much my blood pressure spikes. I get tired and broken down. My head pounds.
I am a year older today and one step closer to dancing with my daughter Celine at her wedding. One step closer to helping her move into her first real apartment in Chicago next fall and one step closer to guiding my son Brandon during his first baby steps after he navigates Michigan State University.
And this empty nester thing with wife Abs is working out, even when she turns into Dr. Fauci and yells at me for sneaking out the house.
And I am one step closer to fedora night at Comerica Park this summer. That’s if we are allowed in the ball park.
I love you. I cherish you and I need you.
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