The Washington Post
Gimp: When Life Deals You a Crappy Hand, You Can Fold---Or You Can Playby Mark Zupan, Tim Swanson
College soccer star Mark Zupan had been out drinking one night and had passed out in the back of his best friend's pickup truck when his friend got in the driver's seat, decided to take the truck for a spin, and accidentally crashed it. Thrown into a canal and stuck in frigid water for fourteen hours, Mark was finally rescued and learned soon after that he'd broken… See more details below
College soccer star Mark Zupan had been out drinking one night and had passed out in the back of his best friend's pickup truck when his friend got in the driver's seat, decided to take the truck for a spin, and accidentally crashed it. Thrown into a canal and stuck in frigid water for fourteen hours, Mark was finally rescued and learned soon after that he'd broken his neck. He'd most likely be a quadriplegic and spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair, doctors told him. At first Mark's only goal was to walk again. When that proved impossible, he fell into the depths of anger and despair, retreating from the world and the people closest to him. But love, friendship, and a new sport, quad rugby (a.k.a. "murderball"), helped Mark create a new existence that's truly exceptional.
Gimp, the no-holds-barred memoir of a Paralympic athlete and the star of the Academy Award–nominated documentary Murderball, is an inspiring, defiant, and revealing celebration of spirit and will that confounds readers' prejudices by offering proof that a guy in a chair can still do amazing things: have sex with his girlfriend, party with his friends . . . even crowd-surf at Pearl Jam shows.
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Meet the Author
Mark Zupan is a Paralympic medal winner and the star of the MTV/ThinkFilm documentary Murderball. He lives in Austin.
Tim Swanson is the West Coast bureau chief for Premiere magazine. He lives in Los Angeles.
Read an Excerpt
GIMPWhen Life Deals You a Crappy Hand, You Can Fold -or You Can Play
By Mark Zupan
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Mark Zupan
All right reserved.
Kurt Cobain was singing about teen spirit. I cranked up the volume and pulled onto the freeway. The year was 1993 and Nirvana's Nevermind was still getting heavy rotation on the radio. That August in Coral Springs, Florida, was hot and humid beyond belief. Breathing felt like sucking air through a sweaty sock. Mashing on the gas, I angled my black Ford Mustang, which was loaded with clothes, CDs, and soccer gear, into the fast lane. This was a big moment in my life, one of those crossroads that misty-eyed adults are always telling you about when they reminisce about their youth, and I knew it. I was heading off to my first semester of college at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, one of five freshmen invited to play on the school's Division I soccer team.
The FAU campus was a short thirty-minute drive from Coral Springs, where I had graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Sandwiched between Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton, Coral Springs is a wealthy community where the Everglades have been battling with concrete-covered strip malls for decades and losing. But like most small towns in southern Florida, the place has retained its own special kind of quirkiness. Cranes, flamingos, and even an occasional alligator will lounge in the hundreds of drainagecanals that crisscross Coral Springs. Fishermen still sell stone crabs fresh from the Atlantic on folding card tables not far from gated communities housing million-dollar mansions. And in true Florida fashion, senior citizens hungry for their early-bird specials pack the restaurants at 4:30 P.M.
Heading north to Boca on I-95, I thought about what I was leaving in the rearview mirror. Starting with my graduation in June, it had pretty much been the best summer of my life. I had done fairly well for myself academically, despite an admitted lack of effort. I ranked forty-three out of a class of around five hundred at Douglas High, with a 3.8 GPA. I had excelled in math and science. My mom and dad, who have always been really cool, down-to-earth parents, let me throw a party for about twenty of my friends on graduation night. We lived in a rambling single-story ranch house in a development called Eagle Trace, complete with a screened-in swimming pool, near a golf course where my dad, little brother, Jeff, and I would play together. Mark "Super" Duper, the former Miami Dolphins wide receiver, one half of the famous "Marks Brothers," lived just down the block from us. Whitney Houston also owned a house nearby. Let's just say her place was a lot bigger than ours.
My parents knew we were going to be drinking on graduation night, so instead of burying their heads in the sand, they allowed us to get loaded under their supervision, as long as everyone gave up their keys at the front door. All my buddies came to raise a glass, hang out, and celebrate this early milestone in our lives: Steve Nelson, a left-footer from my high school soccer team who I worked with at a restaurant called Chowders; Jeff Nickell and Frank Cava, two guys I had become close with while playing football my senior year at Douglas; and of course, Chris Igoe, Douglas High's resident class clown and self-proclaimed "pimp."
Tall, lanky, red-haired, and coated with a shotgun blast of freckles, Igoe had been a polarizing force at Douglas. You either loved or hated him. There was absolutely no middle ground. He was funny, smart, brash, and completely out of control. Igoe was obsessed with gangsta rap music, especially N.W.A. and Snoop Doggy Dog. He regularly dressed in Nike track suits, occasionally with a small travel clock hanging around his neck, which he had purchased during one of his two stints at military school. He would walk through the halls at Douglas singing "I-G-O-E" to the tune of Snoop's "What's My Name?"
His senior year, Igoe would wear what he referred to proudly as his "Black Power" glove on his right hand during football games. He would ball his hand into a fist and raise it above his head for a few seconds before each kickoff. What did the gesture mean? Who the hell knows? It was really just a driving glove that he had to hide from Coach Mathisen, who said he would boot Chris off the team if he ever wore it at a game again. Of course, Chris kept wearing the glove.
Equal parts arrogance and insecurity, Igoe acted like he was the star of a raucous sitcom and we were his laugh track. My other buddies from the football team--Cava, Nickell, Ari Levy, the McCarthy brothers--were no angels, and we all had a certain amount of mischief and mayhem lurking inside us, but we were nothing compared to Chris. No one was. Igoe was the type of guy who would go to a high school party, steal bottles out of the parents' liquor cabinet, try to have sex with someone's girlfriend in the bathroom, start a fistfight, and then take a shit in the washing machine, which was all pretty hilarious, as long as you weren't the person who had to clean up after him the next day.
Igoe didn't get into much trouble on graduation night, beyond body-slamming me headfirst into my bed, a bit of liquored-up brawling that left me wounded and woozy. But that hardly mattered. We drank enough beer to kill a mule, wrestled in the pool, blasted "I'm Gonna Be" by the Scottish group the Proclaimers over and over again, singing the infectious "I would walk five hundred miles" chorus at the top of our lungs, much to the discomfort of my neighbors.
My dad, who has worked in the food business for most of his life and is a genius in the kitchen, partied with us, working the grill, barbecuing steak and chicken all night long. At one point, he was giving . . .
Excerpted from GIMP by Mark Zupan Copyright © 2006 by Mark Zupan. Excerpted by permission.
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