Friday, January 20, 2012

Get Well, Chuck

TigerBlog can't see without his glasses, so he wasn't 100% sure he was seeing the words of the early-morning text message correctly.

When he put his glasses on to confirm the words, he believed what he was seeing even less.

Chuck Dibilio, the 2011 Ivy League Rookie of the Year in football, had suffered a stroke? At the age of 19?

No way. No chance. TB had to be missing something.

All fall, TigerBlog was like every other Princeton fan, on the edge of his seat every time Dibilio touched the ball. And now he was being helicoptered from Princeton Medical Center to Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, for emergency surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain?

Dibilio ran for 1,068 yards as a freshman, earning first-team All-Ivy honors to go with the Rookie of the Year award. A six-time Ivy Rookie of the Week, he was a threat on any play to do something big, and he routinely turned two yards into 10 or 10 into 30.

He ran for 135 yards at Harvard. He went to Franklin Field and put up 130 yards.

As Princeton heads down the rebuilding process, Dibilio was the cornerstone of the program.

And now he was in a hospital with a stroke?

No wonder the words were so unbelievable.

TB would guess that everybody who hears the news goes through the same quick progression that he did: 1) this can't be true, 2) how is his health, 3) what is his prognosis, 4) will he be able to play football again, 5) how could anyone be thinking about football now.

The first thought is how he's doing, which isn't completely known at this time, though his father suggests some early positive words. There is no question that anyone would wish him a full recovery, even if it meant the end of his football career.

TB thought of Tedy Bruschi, the New England Patriots linebacker who suffered a stroke and returned to play in the NFL. Now on ESPN, Bruschi appears to be the picture of great health and physical condition.

And he thought about Jordan Culbreath, another Princeton running back who battled back from a life-threatening disease and returned to the football field. Culbreath is as inspirational as any athlete TB has come across in his quarter-center around here.

TB is hardly a medical person. He has no idea about any of this stuff, so all he can do is what everyone else can do, which is to keep Chuck Dibilio and his family in his his thoughts right now.

TigerBlog doesn't know Dibilio more than from a few postgame interviews and some interaction in Jadwin. He seems like a nice kid, one who took his success and the expectations that grew along with it in stride.

Now he's in a hospital bed.

The unfairness level of that is off the charts.

TB just glanced up and looked out the window as he frequently does, where outside sits the football stadium. TB can see the last booth on the end of the press box, from where he does the public address for home games.

He envisions three more years of watching No. 23 with the ball, of saying things like "Princeton touchdown by Chuck Dibilio" many times over.

He hopes with all his heart that Dibilio hasn't been robbed of that opportunity as a football player.

More than that, though, he hopes that this is just a minor setback for him in his life, that when he looks back through the years and tells the story, it starts out with "I'm fine; I'm lucky they caught it in time."

That would be the perfect ending to this story, one that began with words that TB didn't want to believe, words he doubts anyone else wanted to when they first saw them as well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is shocking to see such a young and promising athlete have a stroke. Chuck's health is most important and although he is a very gifted athlete I would hope he would feel blessed to be able to recover and not even think about playing football again. The risk totally outweighs any thought about playing a contact sport again. Thanks for a great year and your health is the most important consideration for your long term future.