More reasons than ever to give thanks this year

Photo by Jim Hague The Kearny cross country team, spearheaded by standouts Aislinn Sroczynski (l.) and Erika Alzamora, give some sportswriters reasons to be thankful.
Photo by Jim Hague
The Kearny cross country team, spearheaded by standouts Aislinn Sroczynski (l.) and Erika Alzamora, give some sportswriters reasons to be thankful.


By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

As some of our readers may know – and others may be totally oblivious – I have spent this entire month at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, working diligently to try to get my legs back in working condition.

I’ve had a tough go, battling a rare form of neuropathy that has weakened my legs and caused me to fall countless times since the end of the summer. I fell at Red Bull Arena. I fell at the Prudential Center. I fell hard at a high school football game and landed on my back, temporarily ending my ability to cover sporting events.

After a series of falls, causing the Kearny Fire Department to come to pick me up off the floor and the ground, hospitalization was the only recourse.

So here I’ve stayed, since the beginning of November, working with the great Kessler medical staff to try to get better.

And I have improved immensely. My right leg, which was virtually useless when I arrived, is now a little better than half strength. I am walking upright with the help of a walker and no hint of falling. I’m on the verge of getting my walking papers out of Kessler, more than likely this week.

So yes, I should be home for Thanksgiving, which is my favorite holiday.

It’s special to me for a lot of reasons.

As a child, Thanksgiving meant going to Pechter’s with my father to get the bread for dinner, then stopping off at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City to see St. Peter’s Prep face Dickinson in their annual gridiron rivalry.

As a teenager, it meant coming home from Marquette University for the first time since the summer and seeing my friends again, then having dinner with my family. It was always such a festive time for me.

So this year, it has a special meaning. I’m coming home. I’m healthy again. I hope I don’t fall.

So I am thankful for a lot of things, but mostly, I’m thankful for the great people that I deal with on a regular basis here with The Observer, namely the athletes, the coaches and the administrators.

I’m thankful for Kearny athletic director John Millar and his dutiful assistant Barbara Brooks, who are always willing to lend a helping hand, every single time I call. Whatever the request, they are there to help, whether it’s getting athletes together for an 8 a.m. photo shoot or getting a kid on the phone to be interviewed.

I’m thankful for Jim Cifelli and the Kearny girls’ cross country team, who get so excited every time I’m around to do a story or a picture. With athletes like Aislinn Sroczynski and Erika Alzamora, energetic, bubbly, wonderful young ladies, how could you go wrong? They’re a joy to write about.

I’m thankful for the entire Rusek family, the first family of West Hudson soccer. Sure, the Harrison boys lost a heartbreaker last week to Newton in the Group II state semifinals, but it was a great season for the Blue Tide.

And two weeks ago, when head coach Mike Rusek told his players about my illness, the team decided to dedicate the game to me — and they won. Where in the world does something like that happen? The Harrison soccer program is not only very good, but they’re very classy at the same time.

I’m thankful for Lyndhurst’s great litany of coaches and administrators, people like Butch Servideo, Joe Castagnetti, Kim Hykey and Tom Shoebridge, who go the extra yard as coaches and also greet me with a glad hand as a friend first and a coach second.

I’m thankful for Kearny football coach Nick Edwards, who I saw as a teenager playing baseball and have watched him grow and develop into a fine young man and a coach.

I’m thankful for the good people of Nutley, like athletic director Joe Piro, soccer coaches Mike DiPiano and Marcellino Marra and football coach Tom Basile, who are also extremely giving of their time to their athletes and then still take the time out to assist a local sportswriter in need.

I’m extremely thankful for the friendship and loyalty showed to me by Queen of Peace athletic guru Ed Abromaitis, the guy who has been through the wringer more than any other wet towel. Abro is constantly willing to assist and make sure that his athletes get the proper recognition.

I’m thankful that QP decided to honor my good friend, the late Ralph Borgess, by naming the practice field outside the school after him. I miss our Sunday morning conversations about football. The coach was the best human being I knew and I’m glad his name will live on now in posterity.

I’m thankful for the North Arlington girls’ soccer coaching staff, namely Sharon O’Brien Romer and her mother, Anne, for taking the time to send me a get well card at Kessler. That was such an amazing display of warmth that I am forever grateful for.

I’m also thankful to the hundreds of local readers who have sent texts, e-mails, messages via Facebook, you name it, wishing me good health. People like Joe Pollari of R&R Sporting Goods, who couldn’t have been more generous with his offers to help. I can’t begin to thank everyone.

I’m thankful for this newspaper, The Observer, for giving me the opportunity to continue to work through my illness. Without having The Observer to motivate me, I might have lost my mind over the last few weeks.

And I’m thankful for my family and friends, who have been so incredibly supportive through this tough time. It’s good to know you have friends when you’re down.

So yes, this is a special Thanksgiving. I’m coming home again. That’s a lot to be thankful for.

Thank you.

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