Wednesday, August 14, 2013

No. 295 – Fight Fire with Fire

Performer: Kansas
Songwriters: Dino Elefante, John Elefante
Original Release: Drastic Measures
Year: 1983
Definitive Version: None.

When I was a kid, I had great eyesight. I would amaze Dad by reading road signs from a quarter-mile away, maybe even farther. I had my eyes tested at one point, and I had 20-15 vision.

That changed. I don’t know that any one thing caused this change, but cracking a windshield in a car crash my junior year of high school couldn’t have helped. The thing is the change in my eyesight didn’t happen all at once.

I didn’t even notice that anything was amiss until my sophomore year at Wabash. I’d always been a back-of-the-room type of student, but now I noticed that if I sat too far back, writing on the chalkboard was just a tad out of focus. I didn’t give it a lot of thought, but I also didn’t want to do badly in class, so I moved forward. In college, there’s no shame in that.

After I took over as the voice of Wabash basketball, however, I really began to notice a problem. At the Albion game in December 1983, jersey numbers on the far side of the court were a bit fuzzy. It didn’t affect my call of the game, and it didn’t really bother me.

The turning point was the Mt. Vernon basketball tournament in Gambier, Ohio, over Christmas—the aforementioned ice-storm tourney. As I mentioned, the press box was situated about 15 feet off the floor behind one of the baskets.

When teams were at the other end of the court, I really struggled to read the numbers of Wabash’s opponents. (I recognized the Wabash players by now, so I didn’t need to read blurry numbers.) I had to squint to see who was who, and I think it did affect the broadcast a bit, although I did my best to cover it up.

As the next semester began in January, it was unmistakable that I was having problems with my once-immaculate vision. If I wanted to become a broadcaster, it was absolutely necessary that I at least see what the heck was going on and be able to describe it accurately.

So one weekend in late January, I drove home to Columbus to go to the eye doctor. Sure enough, I needed glasses. I placed my order, and a week or two later, in February 1984, they arrived in the mail.

The difference was immediate and dramatic. After I started to wear glasses, I could see (ahem) how much my vision had deteriorated and how I didn’t really notice it until I started to call basketball games.

Not only was I able to read clearly the numbers on the jerseys of players anywhere on the court, but my grades also improved dramatically that semester. They went from a 3.2 in the fall to a 3.6. I think that had more to do with figuring out a successful studying gameplan, but the classroom improvement (I never got below a 3.5 from then on in any semester) very well could have been because I now could see what was going on.

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