I was in a car accident once, and the only way I know how to tell the story begins the night before, at my friend Justin’s house.
It’s Saturday night in the coastal town of Beverly, Massachusetts. The sea air filled my friend’s home. I do not remember why he was having a party, but I do know that the Patriots were having their first preseason contest in defense of their miraculous first World Championship, and that he had ample beverages remaining from his brother’s wedding. Actually, I think that’s why he threw the party … because he could. Anyay, I’d already decided to make it an early evening, so I abided by his rule that more than one drink meant I had to stay the night.
My plans changed, however, when I learned that some other friends of mine may be coming, and hell, I had met a pretty girl anyway, so I cracked my second beer with kickoff. It turns out that my other friends could not make it, the pretty girl was only interested in talking football, and the Patriots lost to the (… gimme a minute to look it up …) Giants (… gimme a minute to consider the cosmic implications of all that … gimme a minute to be sick … ok, we’re good). Well, I figured, a night out is a night out, so I should make the most of it and go out to the porch, where I was stung by a yellow-jacket resting on the ledge. I was able to locate him, look him in the eye and squash him, but only after he put a small hole in my forearm, and made me the center of attention for a couple of minutes. The night progressed, I had fun, and have vague recollections of my buddy’s girlfriend vomiting and cursing at him.
I awoke with a sizeable erythematous patch on the inner aspect of my left forearm. Throughout the day it grew larger, and I figured that I needed evaluation, especially in the light of recent news reports of infections on the coast from similar circumstances. Unfortunately, I needed to go to the emergency room at my local hospital for this because it as Sunday and walk-in clinics were closed. I was treated for a mild cellulitis and sent on my way.
I then was making a left turn onto my street, the same left turn I made nearly every day of my life, against an oncoming car making a left turn to the opposite side. We waved each other on, and as I made my turn, GMC towing a fishing boat with a cooler in it (no accusations, but let’s consider that for a second) speeding in the breakdown lane tagged me on my passenger side, lifing the car slightly, thrusting my leg out the window (somehow) and sending me idling nearly into a furniture store until I found the good sense to throw it into park. I was ok (and comically brought right back to the same ER from which I had just been discharged), but Little Bandit was dead.
I recounted all those events in my head leading up to the precise moment when my car and his were attempting to occupy the same space and time. Why did I go to the party … I was invited. Why did I stay … friends, football (gonna be sick again), pretty girl. Why did I get stung by the bee … I was resting my arm on the ledge. Why did I go to the hospital … stung by the bee. Any number of things could have happened differently … hospital waiting time more or less, pharmacy waiting time more or less, one more or one fewer red light, stopped for a snack along the way, dog in the road, anything.
Because of all these variables, for a while I was in absolute disbelief that my car had been britalized. When that faded away, and after the policeman who for some reason was in my backyard had given me a citation for reasons I still cannot comprehend, I was left only with one feeling – I wish that hadn’t happened. It was one of the first times that I had no control over something that did not go my way in such a profound manner. A million little things came together. There was no way to prevent it, no way to have “tried harder” to avoid it, and nobody with pins in a likeness of me trying to make it happen – what happened, happened, and I wish that it hadn’t happened. There was nothing I could have done differently. It happened.
Obviously, life went on, and good things and bad things continued to happen. I’m sitting under my screen porch writing this on my day off 6 years later, no bruises or any other sequellae from the incident, although I am more cautious when turning onto my parents’ street. I drive a nicer car. I married a prettier girl. That feeling, however, I’ll never forget. It was worse than the sound of metal crunching and tires squeeling. It cast a shadow. It was palpable. It hurt.
Sunday morning was the culmonation of 7 long months of waiting. Football could not return to me quickly enough after the, um, unpleasantness. I went to work, but had plans. To commemorate the occasion, I was even going to try a new twist on my Never-Fail-Best-around-and-I-Dare-You-to-Prove-Me-Otherwise Hot Wings. I just wanted, more than anything, to see Tom Brady throw a pass, maybe a slant route to Welker, or a 20 yard bullet to Moss. Unfortunately I was working, and needed to finish a few things prior to lighting the grill.
My lovely wife gave me the bad news when I called to tell her I would miss the first quarter. My brother and I had spoken at length on this very topic, as recently as last month. Everyone gets injured, even someone with a 3 rings, even an MVP, and especially someone with a bull’s-eye on him for having done all that and nearly run the table on a remorseless wrecking machine of a football team. He was due. It was due.
“You’re not going to want to watch this,” she said with a fleck of trepidation in her voice. “Brady’s hurt.”
Stage 1 – Denial – Well, it can’t be that bad. Paul Pierce looked like he was done and was hitting 3s from the locker room in no time.
Stage 2 – Anger – They must have done that on purpose.
Stage 2b – call from Nick while I was going home – Why is Matt Cassel in the game?
Stage 3 – Bargaining – Well, if he needs 4 weeks off, one of them is the bye, and we can lose 3 of those games and still be a 10-6 or 11-5 team, win the division and make the playoffs and get that 4th ring.
Return to stage 1 after watching the play for the first time – No not that bad, he’ll be back.
Stage 3 again – Right?
Stage 4 – Depression (after seeing it from another angle) – this is bad. We’re screwed.
Return to stage 2 again after seeing that little hiccup lunge from what’s-his-name into Brady’s legs – I swear loudly, forgetting that the windows are open, and my wife reminds me that it’s Sunday.
Stage 4 again …
…for a while …
Stage 5 – Acceptance – We can still make some noise this year. He can rehab, and come back even stronger, sure, not with quicker feet but with a stronger and sharper arm, and his eyes will be the same, right? Yeah, next year, and this year will sure be interesting to watch.
Stage 5a – run the list of free agent QBs
Return to stage 4, and then back to stage 5.
As you can see, Sunday was a busy day for me. By the end, after I hurt my arm punching my heavybag, I had that same feeling from a Sunday 6 years earlier – I wish that hadn’t happened. It was just as heavy, and I felt just as powerless.
The sun rose and set, and rose and set, and rose again. Life will go on.
There is a lot of hatred out there on the internet. A computer screen and a million miles of cable separating people make them think they can spew whatever they want. True or not, people who do not watch this man play every week seem giddy about it. Karma, they say. A certain Herald writer wrote today of losers on couches not knowing what to do with themselves (I hope that was intended to be satire, although if it was, it was so poorly executed that he really needs to find another line of work). I can understand not rooting for him if you were born under the star of the Steel City, but to hate the man? To quote Josephine from Tombstone – “[He was] Better than all of you … I don’t understand any of this, I only know it’s ugly. You’re all ugly. And he was beautiful, he tried to put something fine into your ugly world and you killed him for it.” Not exactly a perfect fit but you get the idea.
Here’s why I like Tom Brady – he’s the best ever (wait 10 seconds for Colts fans to get mad and curse at me … 4 .. 3 .. 2 .. 1 … we good? OK) but he does not care. His favorite thing to do is play football, and he does it better than anybody. He keeps trying to better himself. He says that all we can ask for is an opportunity, that’s all that can be given to us, and we need to do the rest. He made the most of his opportunity. He has more talent than anybody and does not waste a drop of it. It is a pleasure to watch him do his job, then something happened, and I wish that it hadn’t happened. A million little things could have gone differently and number 12 would still be throwing for us, but there is nothing we could have done differently. It happened.
We have a new team to root for. We’re back to where it all began. We are underdogs again. This time, however, we know what winning feels like, and how to get there. Before, it seemed impossible, and now we know that it is. This season will have more twists and turns, and will likely leave us without that shiny silver trophy again, but that’s no guarantee. A million little things brought us to this moment, and now we have to deal with it. We still have an opportunity, and that’s all we can ask for.
Medical fact of the day: The mechanism for a Terrible (or Unhappy, or O’Donoghue’s) Triad is an outside force inflicted onto the lateral aspect of the knee affecting the ACL, MCL, and medial meniscus while the foot is fixed on the ground in external rotation.