Thursday, June 24, 2010

Taylor-made ending?

(Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images)

Amid yesterday’s whirlwind sports day – the dramatic, last gasp victory for the U.S. Men’s National team, the never-ending John Isner-Nicolas Mahut match at Wimbledon, an unbelievable TCU comeback over FSU in the College World Series, and a thrilling 9-3 Appalachian League victory by the Burlington Royals over the Greeneville Astros* – came quiet word that Taylor Twellman will not be returning this season.

(*Yes, I’ve adopted another distant professional sports team. On my visit to North Carolina for my cousin’s wedding, I stopped by the closest professional baseball stadium I could find, as I am wont to do whenever I travel along the Eastern seaboard. The closest one happened to be Burlington Athletic Stadium, a rustic looking ballpark that was actually built in Danville, VA. After a few years, it was disassembled and shipped to Burlington, where it has since stood.

Now, I loved the ballpark. But the people working there – it was about six hours before gametime – were some of the nicest people I’ve ever encountered at any stadium or arena. They opened up the souvenir stand for just for me, even though the small stand – which was essentially a standard-sized backyard shed – allowed me to roast at 400 degrees for five minutes. At least it felt that way. But anyway, that left an impression with me. An impression that has led me to happily cheer for the B-Royals this summer.)

Sadly, the official end of Taylor’s season is a surprise to very few. Twellman, who’s dedication and commitment to the team has never wavered, has certainly tried his damnedest to get back on the pitch. You could tell that wanted to help his club - a club that obviously missed his uncanny goal-scoring abilities. So he did whatever the doctors would allow him to do. He hit the stationary bike. Climbed the stairclimber. He undertook a regiment of light sprints and passing drills. He jogged. In short, he did everything but scrimmage with his fellow teammates.

And yet, it appeared as if there was progress. The team publicly held onto the hope that Taylor Twellman would return in 2010. He would not only return, but he would help this very team this very season. He would score. He would change the game by single-handedly shifting the opposition’s attention to him, leaving teammates completely unmarked. Of course, nobody seemed to know exactly when, but the hope that he would do all of those things this season certainly remained. All he needed was time.

But the amount of time required for Taylor’s bruised brain to heal would not come this season. According to the team’s press release, he suffered a setback last month, at a point in which it appeared he still had not even scrimmaged or participated in full training. This would lead many to believe that Taylor, despite his best efforts, the reports of progress, an optimistic attitude, wasn’t even close to stepping back onto the pitch when the setback emerged.

In light of that, it seems that the prospect of Taylor Twellman, the face of the franchise, ever returning to playing professional soccer again is all but gone. Based upon what little information about Taylor’s condition has been shared, it appears as if the symptoms that continue to plague him could very well remain a part of his life for good.

Returning to the pitch, where errant elbows and flailing forearms threaten to inflict greater damage, is a risky proposition. Combine that idea with Taylor’s well-documented score-at-any-cost attitude inside the 18, and we’re talking Russian roulette. The brain is just too fragile an organ.

Let’s face it: brain injuries are very different than leg injuries, arm injuries, torn tendons, and lacerated spleens. You can repair a broken leg, a torn ACL, or a dislocated elbow. Through the miracle of modern medicine along with the guidance of a seasoned medical staff, almost any injury can be repaired to like-new condition.

And athletes do their part, too. They dig deep. They will themselves to recovery, many times. All of those tired clichés that bounce around every locker room all park themselves in the forefront of a recovering athlete’s mind.

Unfortunately, head injuries do not obey the law of cliché. Hard work doesn't always ensure success. Time does not heal all wounds. There isn’t always a way, even if there is a will.

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