I suffered from the same high school jock envy that a lot of other males suffered from. After all, who didn't want to belong to a group (the football team) held in the highest regard, and whose members seemed to have the pick of just about any girl on campus? It was the ultimate young male testosterone trap, and I fell into it like a ton of bricks. Or at least I wanted to. My eyesight was pretty bad in high school, and the eye doctor kept waiving the specter of detached retinas and early blindness in front of my parents. I thought at the time the doctor was just full of it. Maybe in retrospect he wasn't. The upshot of the diagnosis was I merely stood on the sidelines, looking with longing at a sport my parents wouldn't allow me to participate in.
It's been nearly three decades since I graduated from high school and headed off to college, and so much has happened in my life that that painful period has lost all its sting. But today I was reminded of what I could have had, if, in an alternate reality, I had gone on to be a high school football jock, and furthermore, had been successful enough to be a pro.
I came across an on-line article about Dave Pear, a 56-year-old retired Super Bowl champion with the Oakland Raiders. The article about Dave was titled, appropriately enough, "Former NFL star Dave Pear is sorry he ever played football". I'll let you read all that he did and what happened to him, but I will quote what he lives with now.
"My life is simple," he says. "It's hard to get out of bed, but eventually I do. I try and do a little walking on the treadmill. I take naps. I go to physical therapy once per week. I read my Bible."My life, in comparison, is almost perfect. Though I feel a few very minor aches and pains brought on by decades of running, I'm still quite active physically. When I get up in the morning I have a great job to go to, one I can actually look forward to. So far I've had a great life and a great marriage, and I've got a wonderful family with two really good kids.
He is, in basic terms, a train wreck -- a football-inflicted train wreck. Pear walks with a cane and, often, simply doesn't walk at all. He suffers from vertigo and memory loss. Over the past 18 years, he has undergone eight surgeries, beginning with a Posterior Cervical Laminectomy on his neck in 1981, and including disc removal and rod fusion in his back (1987), arthroplasty in his left hip (2008) and, earlier this year, four screws removed from his lower back.
This is not to revel in another's pain and suffering. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy. No, sometimes you have to be brutally reminded of all you have to be truly thankful for. And at this specific moment, reading about Dave Pear, I am very thankful indeed for my life, imperfect though I may think it is at other times.