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With this topic, I am setting a distance from my typical narrative as a medical consultant, while reaching into my roots as a sports fan. I have the privilege of working part-time at the NBA (National Basketball Association) as a per diem medical director of events like the NBA Global Games, NBA All-Stars and finals. For the past six years, I’ve traveled to different parts of the world and the US with the league. Because of this, I’ve been exposed to countless fans; different races and ideologies… all different but equal. We all speak the same language: the passion for the game.
My duties with the league consists of developing the medical logistics and coverage for mass participation events. This involves visiting hospitals and emergency medical services to recruit and organize plans with their managers in the event of an emergency. Besides my credentials and trying to maintain a professional demeanor, I always carry a limited number of complimentary tickets for the event… just in case. I do not see it as a bribe, rather as a gesture of appreciation for their services in order to consolidate the universal passion for sports. Enthusiasm takes on another level; it goes beyond the financial gain by rendering the requested services for us; they are now part of the collective frenzy that precedes a large-scale sporting event.
I see this passion in their people, no matter their social strata. I like to walk through the cities I visit and dine at the most authentic and colloquial restaurants and cafeterias. By doing this, I get the opportunity to talk with the people and exchange ideas. Obviously, there are issues and topics I do not know or are beyond my scope as a visitor. What makes me equal, regardless of country, is the language of sport: Chinese or Spanish, French or English. Suddenly I have the same right to speak, to be heard and considered. It is perhaps the part I enjoy most when traveling with the league. There is respect and admiration for the universal principle that governs the passion for sports. Ideological differences are put aside; it is time to enjoy the beauty of the game.
A year ago, I was assigned to cover a regular season game in Mexico City. It coincided with protests following the unfortunate “Massacre of Iguala”, where dozens of medical students were killed for publicly demonstrating their condemnation of drug trafficking. Thousands of demonstrators headed to the capital, where the game would take place. I saw how these demonstrations sometimes turned violent and to some extent, dangerous. In addition to the excellent work of the NBA’s security team, identifying ourselves as basketball ambassadors certainly helped to strengthen our solidarity with the community and protect our security. We were able to find a common language; despite the collective outrage following a horrible act against a group of innocent medical students. Suddenly tempers calmed, we are all equal once again l. As the game starts, everyone merges into a hug or cry; all sweating their team’s shirt, like the athlete who leave everything on the court for his fans.
I found myself finishing these notes on my return from Spain 3 months ago, where I provided medical coverage in a pre-season game between the Real Madrid and the Boston Celtics. The energy and enthusiasm in the stadium served as a constant reminder of how happy I am to live in an instant, the perspective of a fan and having one of the best jobs in the world! Next stop: I do not know … Here I am, waiting for the next adventure. Long live the passion for the game and sports!
William Felix, MD is board certified in emergency medicine and sports. Currently he is working at Florida Hospital Health Park Lake Nona and as medical consultant for the NBA. For more information, call (407) 930-7800 or access http://www.sportsmedicinelakenona.com