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10/17/2006 - 7:04 p.m.

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INSANITY AND INSPIRATION

Being insane does not make something inspirational although there seems to be something American about confusing the two. And when it comes to sports, well, we just seem to lose our heads for a good sob story mixed with insanity. I saw evidence of it today.

The article was in the sports section so I am not sure why it caught my eye. I have not really read the sports section since Dale Hoffman, a local sports columnist and a wonderful writer, retired. Maybe it was the picture of the kid. Maybe it was the headline "Worth the Risk." Whatever it was, I read it—and I was appalled.

Most likely, it was the words "pectus excavatum." FogieKnight has pectus excavatum. He had surgery as a toddler for the condition and still lives with it. His ribcage goes in where it should bow out although the surgery made sure that those ribs could not go in too much. We've often joked that his heart is in the wrong place—and it actually is a bit out of position. It doesn't limit him much but Day and I have both learned to be careful in hugs with where we place our heads. (Kat is much taller and therefore does not have to worry about it.)

Whatever drew my eye, I read the piece. Teens, I understand, are impulsive and sometimes boundaries need pushing. So I was not surprised that the kid would want to do it. What amazed me was that his family, his team, and the columnist all seemed to think that we should be inspired by his stupidity. Forget words like "Injured or not, that is the spirit of a true competitor" or the coach's statement that the boy is a "source of inspiration for the team." The truth remains that this kid is not just playing through pain. His situation is such, given the complications of his surgery and the medical problems, that he is risking his life each time he goes out on the soccer field.

His family apparently is soccer-crazy. I guess you'd have to be. The article suggests that he is not even that good of a soccer player. So he gets to play his senior year despite the problems. Big deal. Soccer cannot be his life forever. He's apparently not good enough for that. So the question is not whether he will give up playing on a soccer team. The only question is when and whether he'll die first.

Can you imagine being the poor kid on the other team if something goes wrong. Wham! You collide with him or kick the ball at him wrong and you've killed him. Sure, people will tell you that he died as he wished to or that it really wasn't your fault but that would be a lot for some other high school kid to live with. Sometimes our obligation to be sensible is not just to ourselves.

If the kid went out and committed suicide, we all would shake our heads. If he played Russian Roulette with a real gun, we'd arrest him afterwards. But this kid plays soccer and if it is for a sport it must be okay.

Me, I'm thinking very teenage myself. I'm giving a eyeroll and saying, "Yeah. Riiiiiggghhht."

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