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Saying "Thank You" to the sport I love
By JAMES LACERENZA, MOP Squad Sports Staff Writer
Sep 10, 2006 - 12:30:00 AM

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It’s funny how certain things in your life help get you through the good and the bad. For me, that’s always been wrestling. I was born 11 weeks premature, and about a year after coming into this world, was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy. My first memories of wrestling came at the age of three, when I’m certain I was exposed to WrestleMania VI. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked. Through Al Wilson, Katie Vick, “The MVP”, Glacier, Johnny Polo and tons of other “Wrestlecrap”, I’ve stuck it out and watched. I may have hated some of the ideas Vince McMahon, Eric Bischoff and others came up with (the way the WWE handled the “Invasion”, anyone?), but I’ve never stopped watching and never will.

As a child, I couldn’t play many sports - I was a great goaltender in middle school - all you had to do was shoot the puck, and it probably got past my wheelchair. I played a year of baseball on a traveling disabled team, but the rules were, pardon the pun, retarded. Everyone had to score, and there were no outs, so no one “won” or “lost”. In my later years, unbeknownst to my working parents, I was mentally and physically abused by the live-in nanny we had at home. To this day, I will never eat broccoli and most vegetables because of her.  My “independence day” came January 9, 2000, when we fired her ass. She did teach me one very important thing though: writing, and having good penmanship. I’d write so many essays for her during the week when I should have been concentrating on school, all for ridiculous reasons like not properly combing my hair. I would later parlay that gift into writing for my high school paper, “The Round Table”, where I interviewed game show announcer Randy West, television personality Marc Summers, and yes, WWE Superstar, Mick Foley. There’ll be more on him in a second.

My childhood was filled with a lot of other kinds of pain - namely, the kind you find in the operating room. I had three surgeries by the time I was 11 - I have scars all over to prove that my legs and back were opened. After I had my back operated on, I was in my hospital room one day. I was supposed to go for aquatic physical therapy - instead, a nurse chastised me for watching WWE Superstars. And when I was operated on my hamstrings, I brought a WWE pog into the operating room for good luck. (Anybody out there remember those?)

In April of 2003, I attended my little sister’s communion. I really didn’t want to go to the ceremony, much less the celebratory lunch our family planned afterwards. I felt weak as we piled into my dad’s SUV, and by the time we got to the hotel, I was out of it, literally. I felt like I was jumping out of my skin, and the room was spinning - nothing seemed real to me. I remember going to the bathroom, and my dad said I was “as white as a sheet”. I really thought I was going to pass out and die in that bathroom! Somehow, I made it through the day, but I was shaken. Not long after, a psychiatrist diagnosed me with panic disorder and depression. I take seven pills a day just to feel “normal”. I hate using that word. Thankfully, I’ve been anxiety free for many months, and though I still regularly see professionals, I’ve been getting out a lot lately. Recently, I went to eat in a restaurant for the first time in three years, then saw my first movie in five, and it snowballed from there to take my biggest leap yet. As fate would have it, it involved wrestling.

For months, my friend Chris, who has severe cerebral palsy, had been bugging me to come up to his place in Long Island. Chris is a huge wrestling fan - his basement is literally a WWE shrine, and he knows Mick Foley personally. As a matter of fact, not only does Foley watch pay-per-views with Chris almost monthly, but Mick even mentioned him in his blog! Chris was the guy responsible with getting me those interviews with Mick and Marc in my school paper, and we sent gifts to each other back and forth in the mail, especially during the time my mother was terminally sick with colon cancer. She ended up losing her battle in March of this year, and I miss her everyday. Anyway, Chris is an inspiration if there ever was one - I can’t help but cry when I see his name scrawled on a Christmas card. I finally made “the big jump” Summerslam weekend and went to visit him. Boy, am I glad I did. His family was so sweet to me, and we both made each other’s day. I even got to sit in the seat on their couch normally reserved for Mick that night since he was wrestling Ric Flair. I plan on going back to meet Chris over the holiday season to see my first live wrestling show since 1995.

On the occasions I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Mick, he’s been a pleasure. What you read about him, and wrestlers in general, are true: they have such big hearts, especially for special fans like me. As a matter of fact, I got my first kiss from a girl thanks to WWE Diva Maria Kanellis last January during the WrestleMania 22 mall tour. It was literally a 15 second interaction as we posed for a picture and I politely asked for a kiss, but her bubbly personality was in full force. “You want a kiss?” she asked. “Sure!” was her reply. Seconds later I had a memory to last a lifetime. So, if you’re reading this, thanks, Maria.

One thing Mick could not help me with, however, was getting a summer internship with the WWE this past year. Ever since I was privileged enough to be a guest with a group from my high school back on June 1, 2005, my goal was to get that internship, to cope with the loss of mom, and more importantly to get out. That day, and the day I met Chris are the two best days of my life so far. I felt no anxiety. I was all smiles. From getting a private concert with longtime musical director Jim Johnston, to having lunch in Vince’s boardroom and meeting one of my idols, “Good Ol’ J.R.”, Jim Ross, everything was so magical. I wanted to recapture that day, but Chris’ dad told me, as did Mick a few days later, “Vince doesn’t really want the boys to do things like submitting resumes for internships”. I was crushed. But not defeated. Next summer, I’ll tap into every resource to get my foot in the door to WWE. And if I scratch that door, I’ll just repeat what I said the day I toured headquarters and was bumping into everything with my wheelchair: “Don’t worry, Vince will pay for it!”

PS: During my free time, I like to volunteer my time to the less fortunate, including those served by the Muscular Dystrophy Association, The Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Kids in Crisis and The ARC, to name a few. My idol, Jerry Lewis, once put it best: “I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, or any kindness I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

Copyright 2007 - MOP Squad Sports

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