a red-hot bout with the grim reaper

Constantly I come into contact with sport fans who associate the life of a professional athlete with that of a certain easy-going lad named Riley.

But is the climb worthwhile?
Sometimes I wonder.

Nose broken eight times.
Leg and arm broken.
Several broken bones in hands.
Ten cracked ribs.
A skate-gash across the throat near my jugular which nearly dropped the curtain on me, required sixteen stitches to pull together.
Another skate-gash near my mastoid.
A four-square-inch slash on the thigh which resulted in gangrene and a red-hot bout with the Grim Reaper.
Two smashed knee cartilages.
More than 500 stitches in my face and head, and another 150 in the rest of my gnarled anatomy.
Innumerable routine injuries include sundry sprains, pulled ligaments, twisted muscles, black eyes, bumps

You will appreciate, therefore, that my appearance cannot be classed as aristocratic.

Has it been worthwhile?

It cost me plenty to become a tough athlete, but I’ve reaped plenty of dividends in thrills, happiness and financial security. A career in the Big Time is worthwhile because, to make a success of it, you must build your body, think clearly and lead a regular life.

• from “You’ve Got To Be Tough” by Lionel Conacher as told to A.W. O’Brien, Maclean’s, September 1, 1936; excerpted, edited, and poemized.

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