Inspired by a pity party

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By Brad Spencer

Sports Editor

I had Mike Powell on the brain for a good few days last week, still do apparently — since he's the topic of this column.

Sprawled out on my couch with a belly full of greasy potato chips mixed with about seven Oreo cookies, washed down with a diet Pepsi, I was whining about a sore knee, a stretched Achilles tendon and a jammed thumb I suffered while playing basketball. I was delicately leafing through my Sports Illustrated when OPRF's head wrestling coach appeared on page 58.

I knew about Powell's disease, Polymyositis, wrote a column about it in 2009. That was back when the coach didn't want a story done about him. He didn't want to talk about himself at all. He didn't want sympathy and he didn't want anyone's help either. I think his exact words were, "I'm not looking for a pity party."

Polymyositis saps the energy from you, turns you physically into mush. It can kill you. Powell has been living with it for three years now.

I read the SI feature by Chris Ballard twice, both times trying not to let it affect me. I do this from time to time, turn my head away from a news story about a kid being murdered or some other horrible thing taking place that has no immediate connection to myself or my family. It's what some of us do in order to enjoy the here and now and avoid the there and then. Worrying can be burdensome.

A few hours later, my nose was running, throat throbbing, head floating listlessly in a bowl of paste. A common cold. Which made me even more useless than I was before. I spent most of the weekend zombie-like, the only energy I could muster focused on coughing and hacking, then blowing my nose and doing it all again.

I was in bed, sipping warm soup, and filling a trash can with a lifetime supply of tissue. I was tired, weak, annoyed, you name it.

I thought about Mike Powell, every day waking up to the same depleted energy. This has to be close to what he goes through, I thought.

Now, stay with me here because this next part might get a little confusing, but then I thought about thinking about Mike Powell and what that meant. Here's a man who dedicated his entire existence to being physically tough, who coaches a sport that demands every last exertion of strength and effort. He's battling a disease that is determined to take all that from him.

But as the SI story informs us, Powell has already accepted the fact he's not the same person physically that he was three years ago. He's smarter now, spiritually richer, much more in tune with everything in life. He's a changed man, maybe even healthier mentally than he was, which is quite inspiring.

On Monday morning, I woke up feeling better, re-energized, alive, back to feeling 100 percent. The cold had run its course or my body had fought it off, I don't know which, but I was back.

And yes, I thought about Mike Powell again. But I did not pity him.

I pitied the disease he's living with. I'm certain it picked the wrong man.

Email: Twitter: OakParkSports

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