|Bryce Weiler talking to the Arkansas State women's basketball team.|
The Arkansas State’s women’s basketball team has had a long day: the 70-mile drive from Jonesboro, Arkansas, to Memphis, Tennessee. The flight to O’Hare. The journey downtown. Now they are on the second floor of Giordano’s on Rush, waiting to try that institution’s notion of the famed Chicago deep-dish pizza.
But first-year coach Matt Daniel has one more hurdle for his Red Wolves.
‘‘I didn’t tell my kids at all. I wanted it to be a surprise,” Daniel says. “I wanted to catch them off guard.”
The surprise is his dinner guest, a 28-year-old man from Downstate.
‘‘Everybody listen,” says Daniel, standing up. “This is Bryce. Bryce is a friend of Coach D’s. He’s also going to do radio tomorrow with Mr. Merritt. He has an interesting story about his background. Listen to what he’s saying, OK?”
‘‘Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” the young man begins, speaking over the clatter of the busy restaurant, his shoulders hunched, arms straight down at his sides. “My name is Bryce Weiler. I was born four months premature. I was born at one pound, two ounces. Being born at such a small weight, doctors first thought that I wasn’t going to be able to survive at such a small weight. But after they realized I was a fighter, they decided to . . .”
His friend Maggie Walsh silently steps behind him, takes him gently by the shoulders and repositions Weiler two steps to the right.
‘‘. . . They were going to do whatever they could do to try to save me. I became blind, maybe too much light, maybe too much oxygen, caused the retinas to detach.”
The team listens attentively, even as the spaghetti course arrives, prelude to the cheese tire that Giordano’s considers deep-dish pizza. When Weiler asks for volunteers to try his collapsible white cane, two players leap up.
Blind sports fans are not unknown — Craig Lynch was a blind Cubs fan who ended up reporting from the press box for 30 years. Others are scattered across the country.
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|Bryce Weiler, right, and Keith Merritt broadcast a DePaul-Arkansas State women's basketball game.|