Great guys fighting courageously against adversity is the narrative of every great sports movie. Rudy, Hoosiers, Bad News Bears, Mr. Carter, Miracle, My All-American, Bend It Like Beckham, Rocky, Hoop Dreams, and every other great sports movie circle that territory.
The story of Josh Speidel trumps Hollywood. Thirteen months ago this Indiana All-Star basketball player from Columbus North High School was living the dream,
He had his final month of high school basketball and a college career at Vermont to look forward to when the car he was driving last Feb. 1 was involved in an accident that left him in a coma fighting for his life.
Josh continues to fight to recover bit by bit from the brain injury that immediately recalibrated the priorities and goals of a kid and his family on that tragic night just over a year ago. It has also prompted some much-needed (in my case) internal examination for those who follow his ongoing battle to regain complete functionality.
Here are the 10 reasons Josh’s fight is the best story of the past year:
10. The Speidels have learned how strong they are. Thank God I have no idea what it’s like to get the phone call parents fear most – the one telling us to get to the hospital because our child’s life is in danger. With that call, everything in the Speidels’ life changed. If the Speidels had dark moments when they questioned their faith, no one could blame them, but we have never gotten wind of any. By all accounts, they clung together, focused all attention on helping Josh, and continue to move forward in love not bitterness and grief. No one would ever invite this level of adversity, but learning – as the Speidels have – how deep your reservoir of faith and strength is something few of us ever discover – thankfully.
9. Every time we see Josh, he’s a little better. Seeing Josh graduate high school then spend time with his Indiana All-Star teammates, we saw one Josh. Then we saw him a couple of weeks ago at a Vermont game, he looked much improved. The family says he is becoming more and more his old self, and that is great news each time we hear it.
8. Friends of Josh’s now understand no one is indestructible. The ignorance of youth brings many dividends – some good and some awful. Respecting our own bodies and valuing our lives comes late for some. Because of Josh’s travails, his Columbus North classmates and AAU teammates have a deeper understanding that a life-altering moment can exist around every corner. Living in fear isn’t the answer. Living in appreciation is.
7. As of this writing, the #JoshStrong fundraiser has generated $78,002. With medical calamities come great expenses, and because of a Go Fund Me effort, the Speidel Family has received over $78K to offset expenses, which I am sure will continue to mount.
6. Every time parents hear Josh’s story, they hug their kids a little longer and tighter. It takes great discipline to not be annoyed on occasion by your kids. The episodes of yelling can outpace the i love yous unless we monitor our behavior as closely as we try to control that of our kids. It’s sad we need Josh to remind us of the fragility of our children, but we should be thankful for everything that prompts us to release the anger and embrace the love we feel for our kids.
5. Each time someone writes about Josh, we hear of more touching generosity. In Teddy Greenstein’s excellent piece in last Saturday’s Chicago Tribune, we learned of the weekly letters of affirmation former Vermont coach Tom Brennan writes to Josh. That’s nice, and is hopefully repeated by many others.
4. The Speidels have learned of the love and compassion we have for each other regardless of proximity. Of the 585 people to donate to #JoshStrong, it’s likely the Speidel Family has met less than half. Everywhere Josh goes, people are eager to show him compassion through standing ovations and private messages of hope and strength.
3. Contrary to most news stories, this one features only good people. When we watch TV news, we see murder, mayhem, swindles, and a malevolence that motivates fear in our minds toward our fellow man. Josh’s story does the opposite. Going through life as a trusting sap is irresponsible, but being reminded that 99% of people we see on the street everyday are good and decent has been a wonderful Josh-prompted reminder. In Greenstein’s piece, Josh’s Dad is quoted as saying the accident has not been without blessing, “We’ve seen how good people are – their spirit and generosity.”
2. It has reminded all of us that each day is a gift. Health is fleeting for us all. Whether we learn through disease or injury, the lesson of being grateful for today pays each of us a serious visit through afflictions to family, friends, and ourselves. When we see Josh, we are made aware again of what his life was like prior to that February 1st crash. Making today your masterpiece is a moral imperative that basketball coaching legend John Wooden extolled relentlessly. Josh is a walking and talking reminder of that lesson.
1. The final chapter might be the best of all. Brains are mysterious operating systems, and guessing where Josh’s progression might end is impossible. That means that a nearly full recovery might be the end result, and how wonderful would that be for all who are emotionally invested in Josh’s ongoing challenge?
Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sports talk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-6p, and writes about Indiana sports at kentsterling.com.