I met Teddy after he'd had a double lung transplant. I only have one fuzzy memory of this being a thing that impacted my senses directly. We probably watched an Amaker-era game against Illinois at his apartment; I remember Teddy lugging around a canister of oxygen, like he was a 90-year-old smoker. He was not. He had cystic fibrosis.
The thing I do remember vividly is Dave's inability to shut up and solemnly take in an Amaker-era game against Illinois, which… yeah. First terrifying indicator of mortality in a kid who was barely 20 or annoyance at someone talking during a basketball game, and I remember one of these things clearly, the other dimly. I even think Michigan was way ahead for most of the game.
After that, Teddy got better, mostly. When they do a transplant they have to shut off sections of your immune system, so every once in a while I'd hear that Teddy had been in the hospital for a week fighting off something or other that would have been a couple of days of mucus for someone with an immune system at full capacity. You hear those things and have a tremor, and then you file it away because the first intermission is ending.
We went to the Joe once for a Michigan hockey game. I met his brother, a maniac extrovert, and drove home his car because it was something with three letters like Geo or Ion or something and apparently cars with really short names also come with front-wheel drive and bicycle tires. Teddy didn't feel comfortable driving that thing home, so I did it. Guys in the back seat yelled at me to do things other than I was doing, because only Teddy and I knew the special terror of trying to maneuver that thing through anything other than a velodrome. When we got home, haggard and spent, I drove my Jeep home from his apartment and rolled my eyes at myself.
Events like that eventually solidified a picture of Teddy in my head: he was one of life's Donnys.
He had a hangdog way of saying "no" that stretched and depressed that single syllable, which he usually deployed after someone took a shot at him. His friends called him "ladylungs." He was a sweet, calm person who was stepped on by his friends for humor value. Many groups end up with a version of this person. A Donny.
Teddy died Sunday.
Apparently, lung transplants just up and get rejected even after you've had them for years. I know this now. I've read all the relevant wikipedia articles. I didn't then, but when he went into the hospital six weeks ago I heard he wasn't coming out until he'd had a second transplant. That combined with a second fact—there was one place that had done a second transplant in the US—to paint a clear picture. He was on and off lists, got pneumonia, was heavily sedated as his lungs once again betrayed him, and finally there was no way out.
Like the rest of my interaction with his disease, it happened away from me. I was insulated and relied on second-hand reports. I don't know if that's good or bad. The funeral will be a shock.
I had a phase a few months ago where I thought boxing was really interesting all of a sudden. I didn't really know why then. I just watched some boxing, and found it interesting.
I think I figured it out thanks to two images from the recent Pacquiao-Marquez fight. The first is this shot of Filipinos reacting to the Marquez knockout:
If you really like sad Filipinos there are many similar shots out there. The second is the knockout itself, which I encountered when I jumped into the Grantland piece about the fight:
Twitter blew up with GIFs immediately after the knockout so I'd already seen what happened but this shot and the accompanying article made me feel like an idiot for forgetting about boxing and not finding some way to watch the fight.
And then I noticed Marquez had a beer's name on his genitals. Maybe you have just done this as well. When it happened to me the photograph reconfigured itself into a splash of corporate logos covering literally every available surface in the shot save the ref and the boxers' skin itself—and anyone who had a passing familiarity with the idea of boxers in the mid-aughts knows that Golden Palace made even that a billboard for a time.
Marquez is still there, damaged. A guy in a suit is craning his neck to see Pacquaio. A ringside photographer in red is too shocked to do his job even though that would also consist of looking at what has happened. Rows further back every mouth is agape. The sea of logos recedes again. A real, archipelago-crushing thing is still there.
I understand my temporary boxing fascination better today. Eventually it comes down to two men in a ring. Despite the legendary loathsomeness of everything surrounding those two guys, they can overcome it. Judging outrages are at least evidence that what happened inside the ring was worthy of getting mad about, and people get mad and fume about the things that are so deranged and greedy about this thing they love and then they sulk for a bit and then go on and get on with it because sometimes it's worth it anyway, and when else has anyone in the background of those pictures felt like that?
The core of the thing is still there, whether it's boxing or football. Before there were hundreds of thousands of people who were obsessed with men running into each other, they still ran into each other. The answer to "why?" is always "tribalism" or "I don't know, some people are strange." They didn't have much motivation. Life was short and could have been spent in a mine, I guess.
Anthony left, Teddy right
Here is the thing that caused me to combine Teddy's obituary with an already-developing post on trying to focus on the core of the sporting activity that has made said activity a worldwide thing people do or watch.
We went to open skate at Yost one day with some other people. At Yost, I discovered that ice skating is not quite entirely unlike rollerblading. Since I can do the latter, that was unfortunate. While I had the ability to stay upright, it was only just. Never in the history of gliding has there been a less elegant demonstration of it. There have been uncontrolled bathtubs sent down ski hills who made a better show of it. I was not good.
Teddy was, and this was a shock to me. I don't know. I must of assumed he'd spent the 20 years before the transplant in a bubble. He had evidently spent many of them on skates, and here was the second shock: placed in an environment of comfort and advantage, Teddy was no Donny. He was a dick, in that way you are to your friends. People must think that way about me outside the context in which I am worse than an unguided bathtub. I smiled tightly, and took it, and filed that one away nice and clear.
I related this story on Sunday and found that Anthony, who'd played on various teams with him for the last few years, had stories about misconducts Teddy had acquired—plural. And that the normally serene, "no"-deploying Teddy would on occasion (just on occasion) curse blue streaks at refs. He remained fundamentally Teddy, so the fact that he of all people was the one to acquire misconduct was a never-live-it-down-type situation.
Anthony told us that late, when Teddy's lungs had started going, he remembers a phase in which he couldn't get to pucks he used to—his game was always speed—and how he was downhearted after the game, apologizing to the team for something grim and outside of his control.
That's the thing, though. When we take something as plainly artificial as putting metal on your feet to skate around a perfectly manicured ice sheet so we can put a rubber disk in the right place, things are or are not. Ambiguities are ruthlessly hewed away and people do or do not. And it is unfair that when college kid under extreme duress does something bad that there is a hot flash of anger and wonderment that anyone could be such a holistic-complete-total failure, just like it was unfair that Teddy blamed himself for his lungs. When I heard that I thought about Marquez, and Manny Pacquiao, and if Pacquiao would had the same inevitable/bizarre reaction when he came to.
It is real no matter how many barnacles attach themselves. The thing does this to you. Watch or play and it transforms you. I'll avail myself of that for as long as I can.
I mean, I just realized every interaction in this post is about sports. I heard Teddy was in the hospital as I walked to Yost. And when Anthony asked a heavily-sedated Teddy if he was going to listen to the hockey game Friday, Teddy's eyes un-rolled and got real big and he solemnly shook his head "no" and I laughed when I heard that because I saw that South Park too and I knew what that "no" sounded like even if his lungs wouldn't let him speak.