Apr 192017

A man named Bill Lyon has been one of my favorite sportswriters. 

He long wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer and still does from time to time since his retirement several years ago.  A masterful wordsmith, Lyon’s manner of writing makes me envious as I now attempt to hack my way through this thing called prose.  Seemingly able to effortlessly turn a phrase and to captivate his audience with the telling of a story, Lyon has a special gift.

Just to give a quick impression of his talent, I quote a small snippet about him from an article by a current Philadelphia Inquirer sports columnist, Mike Sielski.  Sielski is telling the story of the time Lyon reached out to him, at the time a college kid and aspiring sportswriter, and invited him to join him on the job of covering a Phillies game.

From Sielski’s article:

“Then the game begins. The Dodgers’ starting pitcher is Hideo Nomo, an international sensation who is dominating the National League in his rookie season. He lasts three innings. Gregg Jefferies becomes the first Phillies player in 32 years to hit for the cycle. Jeff Juden, the Phillies starter, hits a grand slam, throws a complete game, and conducts his postgame interviews with a cowboy hat on his head and an unlit cigarette dangling from his lips. Daulton tears the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on a seemingly innocuous slide into second base. The Phillies win, 17-4. It is the kind of game that can overwhelm a sportswriter. How do you capture so much? In the press box, the college kid glances at Bill’s laptop and watches these words materialize on the screen:

This all begins to unfurl, this night of madness, at 8:16, when, to a firestorm of flash bulbs from the stands, Nomo pretzels himself into that bizarre contortionist’s windup, stretching like a man just awakening from a long nap, then pivoting until he is turned halfway around, and from that bewildering posture the ball suddenly emerges, hot and hissing.

Bill writes the entire column in 45 minutes. Some things are beyond explanation.”

Lyon, as mentioned at the beginning, still writes from time-to-time for the Philadelphia Inquirer.  However, a good many of his columns over the past year have very little to do with sports coverage. 

Rather, they are his personal accounts of dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.

His first article was published last June.  The series has continued on through his most recent piece published just this past Easter Sunday.  Throughout the series, Lyon tells of his travails battling this terrible disease and how it brings pains and humiliation to a man who once prided himself, and still tries to, in his strength and abilities.  Amongst many stories, he tells of times like when he can’t find his way home when driving a route he has done so many times before and describes things like the constant danger of navigating the steps he had automatically and flawlessly handled thousands of times before in his home of 42 years.

Lyon has been humbled by this disease.  Yet he also maintains a defiant spirit and refuses to give into the affliction.  He balks at any thought of conceding defeat and vows to fight to the end.  He denies his nemesis (whom he calls “Al”) from gaining full control of his life and keeps on going the best that he can.

I was saddened when I read Lyon’s first article in this series where he publicly revealed the battle he is fighting.  I had never met the man and knew very little of him beyond his sports writing.  Yet it was still disheartening to hear such bad news from a man that I had a respect for in some regard and felt like I knew in some way.

I now find myself rooting for Bill Lyon in his battle.  His attitude and outlook has been inspirational as he wrestles with this harrowing condition.  I don’t know where the man stands before God or in any religious faith as I can’t recall any references of significance to such in his writings.  But I pray that God would strengthen him in his journeys and that if it hasn’t happened yet, that he would come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Why do I write about Bill Lyon today?  I really don’t know.  I don’t have any cogent application or attempted lesson to impart, and I don’t have some specific grand topic to put up for discussion before the community.  I had been thinking about writing about Lyon for a couple months now but really wasn’t sure where to go with it.  I still don’t know where to go with it.

Maybe there was a need to tell this story for someone who needed to hear it for some reason unknown to me.  Maybe there was some kind of need of my own to put my thoughts about Lyon into written form that I have not yet recognized.  Or maybe I’m just grasping at something to fulfill my weekly article.  I’ll leave it up to God to decide.

In the meantime, God bless all those who are either personally stricken by Alzheimer’s or similar debilitating conditions, or care for people close to them with such conditions.  May God have mercy.                   

  4 Responses to “Kevin’s Conversations”

  1. Thank you Kevin. I really enjoy your writing. It’s refreshing to hear this “slice of life” story from the real world about a disease that many folks are dealing with. My mom is starting to show symptoms.

    Lord have mercy on Bill Lyon and all who are stricken with this terrible disease. Lord please help those who surround these beloved folks care for them.

  2. This is beautiful in it’s own way, though it defied a title. 🙂

    I remember Lyon from The Sporting News when The Sporting News was the sports bible of America.

    He was a great writer…and now he is fighting against the Fall to be one until the end.

    May God be with him…

  3. Thanks, JoelG & Michael.

    Michael: I’ll work on something more title-friendly next time. 🙂

  4. Thanks Kevin. Sometimes it’s just as fulfilling to read a humanitarian piece. No title or pointed application needed.

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