For me, the best reasons for being a journalist are finding out something new and submerging yourself in different experiences.
Last Friday that philosophy was forever carved into my memory. I participated, along with a crew of other local media representatives, in a charity basketball game for the Ontario March of Dimes.
Sounds easy? It wasn?t. The media team took on the Sudbury Rolling Thunder?an established wheelchair basketball squad?in the gymnasium at Ecole secondaire MacDonald Cartier.
The Rolling Thunder first took on a team of high school students. Then it was our turn. It didn?t take the media team long to be blown away by The Thunder?s impressive skill and passion.
The media had the privilege of watching the Sudbury Rolling Thunder dismantle the rowdy, energized students. We stood on the sidelines like cattle awaiting a slaughter. At the final buzzer, the Thunder had pummeled the students 32-8.
There was a break in the action while the media got accustomed to the wheelchairs. I?ve been in a wheelchair twice before and it wasn?t to have fun.
Besides my obvious inexperience in a wheelchair, I knew I was going to be no help at all. I never really played basketball in my life. I am five-foot-ten and weigh 190 pounds. I was raised in the North and played ice and ball hockey my whole life. I was surprised at the agility of the wheelchairs. I also found out how easy it was to tip over backwards in one, as would a few of my media counterparts.
One moment you?re cruising along with a big smile on your face and then bang, you?re flat on your back staring up at the ceiling wondering how a ball got stuck in the roof beams. By the time our game started there were over 500 boisterous students screaming and stomping their feet. Our only hope for respectability was if the Thunder were tired. They weren?t.
The whistle blew and the action was under way. In an instant there were 10 people jolting around the court chasing a basketball through sheer madness.
Getting a handle on the wheelchair was tough enough, but playing basketball while actually in the wheelchair, with trained athletes hounding me proved to be a difficult task, albeit a fun one.
Maybe the Thunder were a bit tired or just taking it easy, but nonetheless after the first period we were only down a few points. We ended up getting crushed, but put up a much better fight than the students.
The real winner here was the Ontario March of Dimes. The event raised about $1,000, including over $500 from students who paid one dollar to watch us get humbled. Sudbury Rolling Thunder were great and showed wheelchairs are only a word when it comes to athletics.