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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died at the age of 71 on July 7, 1930.
July 7, 2016
On Friday afternoon, my son cracked his head open. He was playing on the
playground at his camp with a bunch of other kids. The game was, using
nomenclature four-year-olds are uniquely skilled in creating, called
“No, YOU’RE the Doodie-Doo.” The rules are very simple. When someone
touches you on the arm and says, “YOU’RE the doodie-doo,” you have to
fall down. If there were a Heisman for this game, my son would win it.
So, out in the playground, another boy, a sweet kid named Max, ran to William, tapped him, and said, “YOU’RE the doodie-doo.” William dutifully went down like a sack of potatoes. Unfortunately for William, there was a bench behind him that he hadn’t seen. And the back of his skull landed right on the corner of it.
We’re traveling to Buffalo to see family today, so my wife and I were both busy wrapping up a stressful week and packing for our trip when the camp called. William was in good spirits, they said, but there’s a lot of blood. He’s going to need stitches: You should come get him. When my wife got there – I stayed home with Wynn, our younger son — she discovered that William was giggling and happy, but that there was a disturbingly massive gash on the top of his head. William was handling this new development a lot better than his parents were.
I was not a heavily injured kid. I broke a toe chasing my sister around a coffee table once – which might the whitest, most bookish nerd injury I can come up with – but otherwise, I was never in a cast, never in a hospital, never sickly at all. I bit into a TV cord when I was 18 months old, electrocuting me and putting a welt on my lip that wouldn’t be surgically removed until I was five. Playing basketball knocked out my front tooth once, and another time it gave me a concussion when I went up for a rebound, got my feet kicked out from under me and landed on my head. But that was about it, except … I think I got my head cracked open, like, five times. It just happened, a lot. It happened from riding my bike – you didn’t have to wear a helmet to ride your bike in the ‘80s – it happened from getting hit with a baseball bat’s backswing, it happened from opening a door too quickly and smashing right into it. The cracking open of the head is a signature Leitch injury. It’s my superpower.
This experience did not help me deal with William’s injury. While my wife was at the emergency room with him, I fretted and paced and scowled and stared at my phone for updates. I cursed the camp, and their counselors, and the kid who tapped him during the doodie-doo game, and the whole damn world for being so cruel and indifferent that it might create a circumstance in which my beautiful son could have a hole put in his head. And mostly I was mad at myself. Sure, he was at camp. Sure, you can’t watch your kid all the time. Sure, cracking your head open is a fairly common injury and is easily resolved. But still: My kid got hurt. I should have done something. I should have been there.
Three hours later, William and my wife came home. She was haggard and upset. Him? He just wanted to know what the score of the Blue Jays-Indians game was. His hair was matted with blood, his shirt was dirty and torn and, most notably, he had two massive staples in the top of his head. “He handled them great,” my wife said. “I almost vomited.”
If you dare, here is a picture of the staples. If you think it’s too much, just skip on by. It might be too much.
He is very strong and brave.
The reason they use staples for little kids who crack their head open rather than stitches, my wife explained, is partly because it’s less painful but mostly because it’s a head injury. Staples are more likely to cause a scar, but nobody cares about a scar on your head: Your hair covers it up. You aren’t likely to ever know you even have one. Which made me realize that I must have a half-dozen of them, all over my skull, that I have never seen. One from the bat, one from the door, a couple from bike crashes. At the age of seven, they instantaneously became a part of my life forever. They outlasted the injuries, even the memory of my injuries. They just became permanent little markings that showed I had walked around the planet, that I had bumped into things, that I had gotten out there and lived. I might not know where the scars are. But they’re there.
William now has his own marking, his first. There will be a scar, and it will be there forever. He may never know about it, or why it’s there. But it’s a part of him. We might want to always keep him safe and unscathed and protected, but he’s a part of the world now. He is out there living. The scar is who he is, like arms or eyes or his snoring or the way he gets really excited when he sneezes. There are more to come. He’ll forget about those too, just like I forgot about mine. He’ll just keep moving forward. This is what we all signed up for. This is what it’s all about. Sometimes he’s gonna crack his head open. Sometimes they’re gonna put big-ass staples in his head. Sometimes you’re the doodie-doo.
Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. (This is an attempt to have an objective look at the value of my work in a way that I suspect will be difficult to sustain.)
1. Amazon’s Behind the Scenes NFL Show “All Or Nothing” Plays Like an Unusually Long Season Wrapup Video, Decider. My old friend Mark Graham is doing a terrific job with Decider, and I was honored to make my debut on the site. I definitely wore my critical hat more than my fan hat on this one. As a critic, I know this show is silly, overwrought NFL Pravda. As an Arizona Cardinals fan, I might watch it again this weekend.
2. The Dream Team Hangs Over Every USA Basketball Team, Sports On Earth. This column was based on a debate I had on Fox Sports Live, like, two years ago, back when I was a semi-regular on that show. There are many smart people that work for that network, and it has a production crew that is among the most competent I have ever worked with. I have good thoughts about my time there, and the people I worked with there. But man oh man has that channel become impossible to watch. It’s like they ignored all the good parts of ESPN and just doubled down on the bad parts. You almost — almost — feel bad for them. Poor Jay and Dan.
3. The Six Best Movies of the Year, So Far, The New Republic. My list rules, Grierson’s list drools.
4. The BFG: A Bedtime Story for Gramps, The New Republic. I’ve mentioned a few times how much more fun it is to write a positive review than a negative one. This review of a movie from Steven Spielberg — a filmmaker I deeply admire — brought me no joy.
5. The Race for the NL Wild-Card Spots Is On, Sports On Earth. You do not want to know the things I have been yelling in my house about Mike Matheny lately.
6. Most Surprising All-Star Starters of the Last 20 Years, Sports On Earth. In a slow sports summer, the MLB All-Star Game is a crutch I probably use too often.
7. The Best Canadian Athletes of All-Time, Sports On Earth. Can you tell I was ready to leave for July 4 weekend on Friday?
8. Favorite MLB Hat, Second Round Voting, Sports On Earth. Still going.
Just one podcast this week. I apologize to Alyson: The reason we haven’t had a podcast in a week is my fault, not hers. As I say every week: If you are the sort to subscribe to a weekly newsletter, I would have to think it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle to subscribe to one of the four (!) podcasts I do. Here they are:
The Will Leitch Experience, turns out we’re on a mini-hiatus, I think, because of all my travel. We’ll be back at the ASG..
Grierson & Leitch, this week discussing “Independence Day: Resurgence,” “The Neon Demon” and “The Rocketeer.”
Culture Caucus, on a bit of a hiatus as we find a new producer after the Tom Morello debacle.
Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, no new episode. Returning in August.
Also, I saw the new Woody Allen movie this week. Review will be coming in a fortnight, but whatever your thoughts about the guy, you had to admit, this is the only proper response from some stranger trying to take a selfie with you.
Have a great weekend, everyone.