Assoc. Sports Editor
It was a Saturday night when they took me. By both of my arms, I was escorted through the revolving doors of the bright, utopic paradise. After checking me in, they continued to guide me through the windy pathways that eventually led me to my own room, where a freshly made bed and an outfit just my size greeted me. I spent the night being strolled around like a king, with a mere press of a button between me and instant room service. It seemed like a night too good to be true. On Sunday morning, I was awoken by a hot meal, served with some fresh juice and a pearly white smile from the housekeeper. But as I lifted the cover to my breakfast, an unfortunate truth arose with each and every bit of it I revealed.
On the menu wasn’t a heaping stack of pancakes of a sizzling pile of bacon; it was chicken broth, served up by the oh-so-generous food department of Lancaster General Hospital.
As I looked around, reality sunk in more and more. I turned to my right and saw my girlfriend with her forehead stuck to her knee as she attempted to sleep in the plastic chair next to me. On my right hand, one IV was hooked into me, and, as I rotated my head a couple degrees westward, I saw another one sticking out of my forearm. Threading my fingers along the cords, I noticed the antibiotics and steroids that were pumping into me.
It was as if my dream had never even happened.
In fact, when I collected my conscious memory from the night before, I realized that I had lived through one of the most nightmarish nights of my life, thanks to a little thing called Pancreatitis – look it up.
But, with this newfound acknowledgment of the situation I was nestled into, what was I to do with myself? To keep my mind off the stomach pain and lightheadedness, I had to avert my attention to something else, whether it was to create my own carnival ride by controlling my bed to go up and down like an Escalade driven by Tupac or to play a little game of whack-a-medicine with the dangling bags from my IV.
After some considerations, I exerted the maximum energy I could to grab the television remote and turn on channel 25, ESPN, which began a partnership that grew stronger and stronger as my three-day stay at the five-star Lancaster General continued.
The first day of our relationship wasn’t quite the honeymoon that would be expected. As I tried to pay attention to my pixelated muse, my eyes failed to remain open. Seconds, minutes and hours went by as I intermittently napped and slurped on my orange gelatin – again, compliments to the chef. All the while, ESPN remained live and destined to attract my attention. She tried on different outfits: SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, NFL Live; but nothing seemed to work.
After a while, the nurses would try to get me up and walking because of the risk of getting, say, blood clots in my legs or pneumonia in my chest, so I did. I shimmied out of my bed-mobile and interlocked elbows with the nurse as we meandered our way to get another gown, socks and a towel so I could wash off. Suddenly, though, another lady in scrubs passed us with an irritated look on her face.
“He bit me,” he said, seemingly holding back an expletive with her teeth. In the distance, I could hear yelling, and I made out the words, “Now, was that nice to bite her?” I didn’t know whether to feel worse for the patient or the nurse; nevertheless, we ventured back to my room for – a measly attempt at – a shower. After being wrapped with plastic bags that read “Hazard” around my arm and hand like I was in a Hazmat unit, I hobbled into the shower and haphazardly got myself clean with my one set of uncovered fingers.
And then it was Monday, which kicked off with a prick from the nurse.
“You aren’t afraid of needles, are you?” she asked. I answered, “No,” and, with a sigh of relief, she explained how the last patient tried to bite her. He was at it again, I thought, but why? Turning on ESPN later for a rekindling of our dormant relationship that morning provided me with a possible explanation.
He was a Jets fan.
“BREAKING NEWS” panned across the screen in the latest edition of SportsCenter. Tim Tebow, a quarterback signed by the New York Jets last year, had been ousted by the team, which has been riddled with poor quarterback play by their six – yes, six – at the position.
A decorated Heisman Trophy winner and National Champion at Florida University, Tebow hasn’t quite hit his stride while playing in the pros, chalking up below-average quarterback ratings and constantly being scolded for his awkward throwing motion. It was really unfortunate, I thought. He was an extremely passionate, kind and likeable guy; but, for some reason, General Managers across the National Football League didn’t feel the same about his run-first playing style.
Will he take another snap ever again? Will he switch to another position in order salvage his career? Or will he take “Tebow Time” over to Canada, eh? All I know is that, whatever course he takes, he deserves another shot, wherever and whenever he plays again.
Now entrenched into SportsCenter’s hour-by-hour-by-hour-by-hour coverage, I watched without a care if I had seen the same highlights, read the same quotes or listened to the same interviews two, three, four times already. ESPN had achieved in getting my attention, and it held onto it through the next day – with the help of Jason Collins, a backup center in the NBA, who was black and straight his entire life… until now.
Collins, who has hopped from team-to-team over his now dilapidating career, came out on Monday as the first athlete in all of the four major sports to be homosexual. While I swallowed my upgraded “full” liquid diet, which consisted of blended chicken noodle and chocolate pudding, I learned more and more about the man who had been hiding this secret for so long. But, most of all, I came to appreciate his courage.
Some may think that he is just trying to get attention, and some might dismiss his story because they’re disgusted, but, in my mind, there is no denying that this was a step in the right direction for sports. Just like race, ethnicity or religion, nobody should feel anxious to share who they really are. Some may disagree, but that’s beside the point. With this action, Collins has opened the door for more like him to feel comfortable expressing their true selves.
And as one door opened for gay athletes everywhere, my stay at Lancaster General Hospital was soon coming to a close. Tuesday rolled around, and the doctors said it would most likely be my final day. So, just as ESPN had swiped me off of my feet and helped me stay up-to-date with the latest sports stories, our time together was about to be cut short.
There were much happier things to reflect on, though. I was able to walk on my own, the medicines were helping to quell the pain and I had the best supporting cast anyone could ask for throughout this whole ordeal. No, it wasn’t ESPN; instead, it was, of course, family.
I had balloons with bandaged emoticons on them, “Get Well” cards and a cycle of visitors that continuously fed me with smiles – not to mention spooning me my liquid diet, which was, by then, anteed to “soft” foods like pancakes and mashed potatoes.
All-in-all, my dream, indeed, had turned out to be quite the nightmare; but, with a semblance of civilization outside the opaque windows of the hospital via SportsCenter, and, especially, the support of my family, I’m glad to say that I am officially checked out of the Lancaster General Inn Express.
And, hey, the room service wasn’t bad either.