How Sports Made a Friendship Beautiful

  It is said that to “honor the dead, one must live.”  A statement I will continue to live by because today marks the third anniversary of the death of my best friend, Lex Coller. The same Lex Coller whose name will forever be pronounced “Collar,” something I’ll never understand.  The same Lex who I could describe with every cliché in the world (lights up the room for example) and it would do no justice. It’s the same Lex who broke me out of my social shell and drove me to be the best.   It’s the same Lex that I am forever indebted to.

It’s strange the things you remember about people.  For example, when I first became friends with Lex, he wore khakis and a gray polo with the collar popped (that’s about 10 years before the Jersey Shore movement).  I also remember how I got in trouble in fifth grade for cheating on a library assignment and the first one to make fun of me for it was him. “Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time,” which had us rolling because it’s usually him getting in trouble. Or the times he would come over and ask me to come to a party with him, my countless answers of “no” never discouraged him.  He bothered me until I finally said “Alright, FINE” and I haven’t looked back since.  Every friend I have since 11th grade, I owe to Lex Coller.  But, the things that will forever be in my heart, what will never push me as far, are the rivalries we had when it came to sports.  That no matter how much better one of us were than the other, you knew damn well we were practicing until we could finally win. 

 Name it: Air hockey, X-box, real hockey (where it all started), basketball, Around the World, baseball, pool, poker, crazy 8’s, horseshoes (where we had Ali-Frazier battles), jailbreak, football, and beer pong. We even had a period of competitive darts.  We’d stay up until four or five in the morning playing Halo 2 because one of us would be a level 21 and the other a level 20 (the one thing I forfeited to him, he was just too good).   One time in NHL 2001, he was playing a season with Philadelphia Flyers.  I decided I’d be the St. Louis Blues.  I laid the smack-down on him so badly, that he turned off the game so he could save his perfect season.  My trash talk lasted only minutes because we started competing in pinball. (For anyone wondering, I’m laughing as these memories flood my brain, the hilarity of them all.) Imagine it a rivalry comparable to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, just without the immense talent.

In the winters before we were 16, we played hockey at Gloucester Township, a few miles from our houses.  When we would play each other, I’d get a ride from him and his dad, Big Man.  We’d joke and have fun until the truck stopped.  We weren’t the best anyone had ever seen, but there was no way we’d let the other one win.  No one wanted to be the subject of ridicule and be insulted for losing.  It was to the point where our respective families got involved, with his mom such saying “Chazz-man, you alright? I heard you lost.” It would be answered weeks later by my mom, “Hey Lex, I heard you got your ass beat.”  It was all out of love.  It pushed us to get better.  I can’t count all the times we’d battle in the corner and when the play was no longer with us, we’d give each other a little punch to the helmet and smile.  We’d trade hat tricks and when it wasn’t the other’s turn, “you’re not that good” and “I remember my first hat trick” were the “congratulations.”  I never played better than when I was against him and I’m sure it was the same for him.  Everything was to another level, and yet, it never strained our friendship.  I’m thankful for that.  We would eventually meet in the championship two years in a row. He won the first year; I won the second, a good ending to our hockey careers.

During the summers, at 10 am, he’d be calling my house, saying be ready for horseshoes because he was on his way (as was standard with him, never asked, just did everything. I miss that.).  So I’d get up, get dressed and head out into the backyard where we would battle it out.  I remember at first he was bad, so he adopted the overhand way I throw (if it’s any testament to how we were, he made a horseshoe pit in his backyard days later so he could practice. Guess who else started practicing?) When he polished up his throw, we’d play one-on-one, each player getting four “shoes” to throw in a game to 21, best of seven.  It reached six or seven games more often than not.  We’d play at night, the only light we had were spot lights that completely ruined your field of depth (it also was kind of scary not seeing the horsehoe in the air). There were constant “clanks!” as the shoes struck the stakes.  There would also be the groan when a ringer would bounce off.  We’d joke and ask each other if the neighbors were tired of hearing it yet. 

I could go on and on about the fun we had in our 12 years as friends.  Like the times when he’d be Eric Lindros and I’d be John LeClair and together we would take the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals, where a pass from Lindros was the cause of the game winning goal by LeClair in game seven. Or how we’d play jailbreak and Lex would hide for so long, that the other team would just forfeit, leading to an all-on-one mass search.   There is no cap to the stories I have and no love lost.  So, although my friendship was cut short, I experienced enough that allowed me to grow as a person and become better, something I owe to Lex Coller.

 Who knows, maybe I’ll write a book one day detailing everything about it.

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  • By Coming Next Week « BLUNT SPORTS TRAUMA on April 2, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    […] I haven’t had greater volume since I started.  Thank you to everyone who commented me on my ”How Sports Made a Friendship Beautiful” column and I appreciate everyon who said they enjoyed it.  However, next week it will be back to […]

  • […] How Sports Made a Frienship Beautiful […]

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