It’s a curious thing that, for the majority of my life, Super Bowl weekend has caused me to wonder about the health of a person whom I’ve never met, and likely won’t ever meet.
This all began at the age of 16. That year, as a high school junior, I took Anatomy with a teacher, Mary Cabell, who was something of a school legend, largely because of her knowledge of the subject, coupled with her wry (and occasionally caustic) sense of humor.
She made every topic instantly relatable with a one-line “case study” of any injury, illness, or treatment, to which she attached a familiar name of someone ( often a celebrity, fellow faculty member, or one of my teammates who tore an ACL under the “Friday Night Lights.”) of someone who was, in her words, “ill and afflicted” with that condition.
One day, I don’t remember if we were talking about the lymphatic system, or the digestive system, or something else, but I was anticipating the name-drop of the ill-and-afflicted human subject.
She surprised us by revealing that years earlier–when she had taught in Ohio–one of her students was (then future) Hall of Fame running back, Larry Csonka, a member of the Miami Dolphins teams that won two Super Bowl championships. This included one season in which they were 17-0, still the only undefeated team in NFL history.
I assumed that Csonka was that day’s ill and afflicted subject. Though Csonka was still playing at the time, I couldn’t think of any illness that he’d had.
Then she told us that when Csonka was in her class, his sister was the victim of a violent knife attack from which she would lose her spleen and her pancreas. There were a few gasps in the room. I mouthed the words “Holy shit.”
Actually, I said the words….a bit louder than I intended.
Thus, from the time I was 16, I’ve periodically wondered about Csonka’s sister. Was she still alive? If so, was she in good health?
Because of that one undefeated season, it seemed there was always a few moments of highlight footage featuring Csonka, during Super Bowl pregame shows. So, at least once a year, I flashed back to that long-ago anatomy lecture.
After a years-long waning of my interest, and steady increase in my disdain for the NFL, and the NCAA, I stopped watching football, over a decade ago.
Though I still wondered about the health of Csonka’s sister due to occasional reminders that were not football-related.
A few months ago, I stumbled upon some news.
I entered a bookstore, and on the shelf of new releases I saw Csonka’s recent memoir “Head On.” Though I don’t watch football now, its past history has quite a nostalgic allure.
I thumbed through the book for a few moments. Looking for mentions of Csonka’s teammates, Bob Griese, Mercury Morris, Jim Kiick, Bob Kuechenberg, Larry Little…. I was about to close the book and reshelve it when I spotted this (paraphrased) family update in the epilogue:
“My sister completely recovered from the stabbing, and to this day is still a horse nut.”
I smiled as if I’d received good news of a health update about family member, or close friend.
It was great to learn that she remains undefeated. I hope that her streak continues for many years to come.