Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A Night With Chuck And John

To watch "When The Game Ends," click HERE

John Bullis is a Texan.

He's high-strung, high-energy. He's laughing, now and always. When he's not laughing, he's smiling. Or chuckling. At worst, he's smirking.

He was a college hockey player, at Wisconsin-River Falls. He always seems to be moving fast, like he's always on skates, on a large sheet of ice that encompasses his whole world. He glides while the rest of the world walks.

No matter what, he never seems to be still. He bursts into a room, and he bursts out, leaving behind yet another blast of energy.

Chuck Dibilio, it appears at least, moves at a slower, quieter pace. He's from Nazareth, the one in Pennsylvania, the one near Allentown and Bethlehem and a bunch of other hard-working, blue-collar towns.

Maybe it only seems like his pace is slower because everyone seems to go through life at a slower pace than John Bullis.

No, Chuck, from what TigerBlog has seen at least, goes at a slower, more reserved pace. He seems uncomfortable in the spotlight, even if it has found him for much of his young life.

Up until a few months ago, John Bullis had never heard of Chuck Dibilio, and vice versa. And yet now, a short time later, they have bonded, while TigerBlog has taken a few steps back and observed and wondered why.

What is it about them? They're from different schools and different parts of the country. They have different backgrounds. They have wildly different personalities.

And yet they appear to be kindreds, almost brotherly.

Why? Maybe it's because both are completely genuine. What you see from one is what you get. What you see from the other is what you get. Or maybe it's because everything about them seems to come from the heart. Maybe that's it.

Bullis is a filmmaker. Dibilio is a Princeton senior.

When Bullis first came to work at Princeton, TigerBlog told him that he'd like to see him make a documentary each year. When the time came to do the first and choose a subject, TigerBlog thought of Dibilio.

At that point, Bullis didn't know the name and TigerBlog didn't know the person. Now they both know Chuck and his whole story.

Bullis was the creative force behind "When The Game Ends," the Princeton Athletics documentary that debuted last night to a packed Taylor Auditorium in the Frick Chemistry Building. The documentary told Dibilio's story, and it did so to what appeared to be great reviews.

Dibilio came to Princeton in 2011 to play football. He broke every rushing record at Nazareth High School - broke records set by his father, interestingly enough - and he then became the only Ivy League true freshman ever to rush for more than 1,000 yards.

Then, two months later, he had a stroke.

That was nearly four years ago. It was during reading period in January 2012, actually.

Now it was a Tuesday night in reading period 2016. And here, crowded into a 250-seat room in the chemistry building, was a gathering of Princetonians - alums, friends, fans, athletes, coaches, staff - as well as some visitors  - like Chuck's family, his therapist, his high school football coach - to see the story of how a 19-year-old hit physical and emotional bottom due to a stroke and then made his way back.

It's a story of resolve and determination, with some heartbreak to go along with it.

Chuck nearly died on the night he had his stroke, and then he had to learn to read, write and speak all over again.

Ultimately, he had to deal with not being able to return to football. Had he played his four years without a scratch, he very likely would have graduated a year ago as the all-time leading rusher at Princeton, and maybe in the Ivy League.

Instead, he took this wild detour. And there it was, on the screen, for the whole audience to see.

TigerBlog came away from this project with enormous respect for the filmmaker and his subject.

Bullis wove his story together with interviews with people from every area of Chuck's life. He did so in a way that told the story while also capturing the incredible emotions that were in play, from Chuck's time as a healthy football player through the stroke and now today, as Chuck sits on the verge of graduating from Princeton.

Last night was a great one for Chuck and John. Chuck, because of everything he had overcome to get to this point in his life. John, because of the way he told the story.

When it was over, there was a long and loud ovation for the two of them. A well-deserved one.

Then there was some questions from the audience, mostly for Chuck, about his health, if he worries that it could happen again, how much he misses football, even what play he would call if he could suit up for one more play.

For John, there was a single question, about his experiences in filmmaking and had he made anything like this before. The answer was yes, he did, as a senior project in college, about his best friend, a soldier, who was killed in Afghanistan.

Here, for one of the few times TigerBlog has known him, John Bullis slowed down. He didn't laugh. He didn't smile. He took a deep breath and thought deeply. Then he answered.

He talked about the loss he felt, and how doing that project had forced him to relive what had happened over and over. And how Chuck had done the same with "When The Game Ends."

It was the perfect insight into what TigerBlog had seen from the two of them. Kindreds, as he called them.

Kindreds indeed.

1 comment:

steven feldman said...

beautifully written article