Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A PSA for everyone before the MAAC Tournament

If you have been paying attention to the content churned out by this site, you will notice a significant dropoff in the coverage of certain schools compared to what I have done in years past. Trust me when I say this, it is nothing personal, and you have a right to know why that is, and where I have been.

In the almost six years in which I have built this site from a spur-of-the-moment creation into a reputable college basketball media outlet, those of you who know me well know that my first love is the broadcast side of the media, having been a play-by-play announcer since 2007, calling pretty much any sport and any game I can get my hands on while waiting ever so patiently for a bigger break and an opportunity.

Sometimes, opportunity knocks in places you would never expect, and as a result of circumstances that are less than desirable for anyone involved; which leads me to my next point, but first, let me give a little background if I may.
In the middle, Manhattan play-by-play announcer Christian Heimall doing what he does best, on the call as the Jaspers hosted Iona three weeks ago. On Christian's right, that would be me. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Restivo via Big Apple Buckets)

Since I started covering Manhattan College in 2012, I have become something of a regular presence at Draddy Gymnasium, and as a result, have gotten to know and become close to some great people over the years in Riverdale, one of whom is Christian Heimall.

Christian and I met on November 21, 2012, shortly before Manhattan hosted his alma mater, Hofstra, in an early-season affair that was one of the first games I covered that season for this site. I had actually seen Christian a few days prior when he called a women's basketball game at my alma mater, St. John's, but had yet to introduce myself. That mistake was remedied prior to the Hofstra game, as Christian and I exchanged a few war stories during our brief, but detailed, careers in the industry, even mentioning the common connection we shared in Ralph Bednarczyk; who was not only instrumental in jump starting Christian's career at WRHU, but also for helping me get my start as a professional when opening the door for me to call St. John's baseball while I was still looking for a job in 2010, two years after my graduation.

Long story short, Christian and I hit it off right away, and nearly three years later, I consider him not only one of my closest friends in the industry, but also like a younger brother of sorts (I turn 29 in August, he turns 26 in April) in an unforgiving business where nearly everyone is out for themselves. I never once thought anything would keep someone as talented and as enthusiastic as Christian away from the headset, (except maybe a better opportunity) but fate, as it always seems to do when you least expect it, intervened.

Prior to Manhattan's game against Rutgers in the Holiday Festival on December 14 at Madison Square Garden, Christian had informed me that he had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma the previous week. You never want to see anyone you know, much less someone close to you (AND younger than you, for that matter) go through something like this, and my first reaction was one of complete shock that I still feel even long after hearing of it. I wish this was all just a bad dream, but sadly, life doesn't work that way. The good news is that by his doctors detecting it early and ensuring a 95 percent survival rate, Christian is most likely going to beat this thing and be back in the broadcast booth on a permanent basis sooner rather than later. However, the bad news is that he has been very limited in his availability as he undergoes treatment to, as he so eloquently put it, #BootStompCancer.

I apologize for having digressed as long as I have, but this is where my absence from the site comes in. As Christian has been undergoing his medical treatments, I have been blessed, honored, and privileged to fill in for my good friend as the voice of Manhattan men's and women's basketball over the past two months. The circumstances are something neither myself, Christian, or anyone in the Manhattan athletic office would ever wish upon any of our worst enemies, but nonetheless, the show must indeed go on.

With that said, I will once again be on the call for the Jaspers at this weekend's MAAC Tournament in Albany while Christian continues toward a full and speedy recovery. As a result, this site will not be posting any MAAC Tournament-related articles, previews, or anything of that sort, as I will be using the weekend to prepare for the biggest opportunity of my eight-year career to date. Therefore, I close by offering my sincerest apologies for the lack of content as of late, and hope that you can all understand just why that has been the way it has.

And to my friend and brother in arms Christian Heimall, a fellow NASCAR fan like myself, I say this, knowing he will recognize and appreciate this analogy:

It's my honor to be the Cole Trickle to your Rowdy Burns this weekend, brother. I just hope I can win our equivalent of the Daytona 500 the way you did last year. 

Get well soon, my friend.

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