I was in Colorado a couple years back and was exposed to the wheelchair community a little bit through my sister Renee Lee’s Adaptive Recreation Opportunities programs at the City of Fort Collins.
“We’re doing wheelchair rugby tonight, want to come along?” she said.
Wheelchair rugby’s been around awhile (1977). It’s a Paralympic sport, but I’d never seen it up close and personal, so I jumped at the chance.
What a crazy sport. There is a reason the documentary called quad rugby “Murderball.”
Four guys on each team, eight chairs on the floor at one time, one ball. The goal is to get it past end line on the other end of the basketball court. I’m sure there’s rules, strategies and whatever, but to an able body watching from the sidelines, it seemed like an organized train wreck.
They got a rolling start and rammed into each other. They slapped at the ball, they knocked each other into the stands. It truly was game-on and this was just the recreational level.
At one point, two, three chairs upended, bodies went sprawling across the floor. Before I could ask, the game stopped and players from both teams gathered ‘round to help where they could. Some of these guys were quadriplegic, so it wasn’t easy getting back in the chair. But the chair community takes care of its own.
Here’s a bunch of people that looked like they’d eat their young during the action, gathering the chair and helping the guy they’d just sent flying back up off the deck. It was a lesson learned in an unlikely situation.
It also made me realize how many opportunities for the paraplegic and quadriplegic community have been developed over the past couple of decades.
It makes me proud to see Moses Lake senior Spencer Kimbro taking his game to the next level at the University of Alabama. Kimbro owns the Washington boys para-athlete state record in the 400 meters (55.97 seconds). He competed at the Pan Am Games. His passport even has a Qatar stamp. Now Spencer is going is going to play NCAA Division I basketball next year.
“As soon as I got there I just fell in love with the campus. I enjoyed playing with them and just meeting the guys,” he told the Herald last week after signing his national letter of intent. “It just felt right to be down there.”
Memorize these two words, dude, “Roll Tide.”
Alabama is one of 12 universities in the country that sponsors wheelchair athletics. The Tide’s men’s program won the national championship in 2013 and the women’s team is the defending national champions.
Being a Yankee, Spencer probably ought to learn a few words from “Sweet Home Alabama,” especially the line, “... And I hope Neil Young will remember, a Southern man don’t need him around anyhow …”
I’m hoping Spencer might try his hand at wheelchair rugby if he has a little spare time down south. Or at least check out the Academy Award nominated documentary “Murderball” that captured the spirit of some of the most competitive and relentless athletes on the planet.
Wheelchair bound, I don’t think so.
“Sweet home Alabama,
Where the skies are so blue.
Sweet home Alabama,
Lord, I'm coming home to you, here I come.”
Rodney Harwood is a sports writer for the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org