Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Losing Jason: Part II

On October 31st, 2010, my best friend Jason Ryan Schippers a.k.a. Fish passed away due to surgery complications. It’s been difficult to come to terms with this, but on the 2nd anniversary of the events, I wanted to let my thoughts and emotions out via this blog. Each posting will coincide with an occurrence from that date two years ago. This is not going to be easy to write, post or read. This is my view and emotions from this. I don’t know what this will accomplish, but telling this story is something I feel compelled to do.

Part II: The Phone Call

I woke up on Halloween morning, 2010, with the expected hangover. I swore off Four Loko that day, which I still have not touched another drop of. I moved only slightly from the couch for the first few hours, but was starting to feel better about mid-day. As I was sitting on the couch recuperating, I had a sharp pain in my heart. Given the amount I had drank the night before, I assumed the combination of energy drink/alcohol was the culprit as my body rejects energy drinks. I wish that had been the case.

Jeff, Dickey, Fish and me
Marshall was in need of a diaper change, so I got up to take care of my fatherly duties and let Rachel relax. As I changed him, my phone started to ring. It was Jeff. Given that I was mid-diaper change, I ignored the call and figured I’d call back later. I assumed we would just laugh about the night before and talk football. You know; the usual “guy call”. The only difference is that he called again…and again…and again. Admittedly frustrated, I answered the last call as I took Marshall downstairs. Upon picking up the call I could tell Jeff had a different tone to him. Sometimes you can just tell that something was wrong and this time, something was definitely wrong. After a few seconds of asking how each was feeling from the night before, Jeff uttered the words that I was not ready to hear, “Wahl,” he started “Fish is gone.” My immediate response to him was, “Shut the f*** up.” I didn’t know how else to respond. I immediately sprung up from my chair and ran to Facebook to check Angie’s page. Just minutes earlier, as I was upstairs with Marshall, she posted his passing. I immediately went into a state of shock. I looked over and Rachel just mouthed “Is it Fish?” All I could do was shake my head. I hung up with Jeff after some moments of silence and just glazed over.  Rachel asked me if I would like some time alone, to which I just nodded, so she took Marshall and headed out for a while.

I didn’t know what to do with myself. I picked up the phone and called Jason’s, ex-wife Erika, to pass the news along, assuming no one had told her. She didn’t answer and I had no words available to leave a message so I just hung up. I blindly walked over to my WWE DVD’s and grabbed Tough Enough: Season 1 to watch. When Jason moved back from Denver previously, he stayed at my house and we stayed up all night watching it. He went to his interview the next day, tired, but got the job. Funny thing was the woman who interviewed him was a friend of mine’s wife. Jason mentioned my name during the interview and I’m guessing mockery at my expense helped seal the deal. At least, he liked to tell me that.

I don’t know how much time passed while I watched the show. I don’t know how long Rachel and Marshall were gone. When they came home, I had not cried. I had not yelled. I had not really reacted. I just sat there, like a statue. I couldn’t fathom what was going on. I do remember looking at my son, feeling blessed that he was there but also feeling ashamed that he never got to meet Jason. I still regret, to this day, that Marshall never got a legendary Jason hug.

I also decided to send Angie an e-mail, but really had no idea what to say. How do you convey how much you care for them and how much sorrow you have? It was a very basic note and to this day, I still wish I would have said more. I just didn’t know what.


Words cannot express my sorrow for you guys. Rachel and I are sincerely sorry that this has happened. I'm sorry and sick that I'm not there for you guys and for Jason. May God bless all of you and if you need anything when you get back to town, please let me know.


Jason and I toasting...and toasted
Later that night I received a text from Erika. It turns out my number was not in her phone and was wondering who I was. Once I responded she called. She had heard about Jason and wasn’t sure how to react. I don’t remember much about the conversation outside of feeling anger. She didn’t seem devastated by it, the way I was. I know their divorce was fresh and the feelings there were still new, but I couldn’t comprehend the tone of her reaction. She did e-mail me an apology the next day, saying that she is just shocked and doesn’t know how to react. She didn’t want to come off as cold hearted, because that wasn’t the intent. She just had a hard time quantifying all the feelings she had. We still run into her from time to time but for me, it’s different. I have no ill will and wish her the best, but I wanted more. Then again, who am I to tell anyone how to grieve? Everyone grieves in different ways. I like to be alone and write. Others want to cry from the rooftops. It helped open my eyes to the fact that no one can understand how anyone else feels in a situation like this. We all are going through the same thing, losing Jason, but he affected us all differently. For years, he was one of the most important people in my life. For others, he was a great guy they casually knew. It’s going to hit everyone differently and it’s never my place to judge how someone else reacts.

Going to work the next few days was tough. I sent my managers an e-mail requesting that I not be on the phone and be able to handle projects without interruption. I couldn’t take talking to people. I put my headphones on and lost myself in my thoughts. There were many times I almost broke down, but couldn’t do it. My manager James’ birthday was that Monday and our group would be hosting a little party in the lunchroom that afternoon. I apologized to him but said I couldn’t come in. I was going to bring the whole vibe down, plus only a select few knew what I was going through. He completely understood.

I spent Monday and Tuesday in a haze. I rarely spoke and barely acknowledged those around me. My friends who work with me were e-mailed why I was distant and they understood and gave me space. I obsessively went looking for newspapers that printed stories about him and waited for information on the funeral. I reached out to his new girlfriend, who could not have been more helpful and supportive. I didn’t know what else to do. Emotions were starting to pour out in ways I didn’t expect. I sent him this e-mail and I couldn’t understand why:

I can’t believe you are gone. Despite the fact that we haven’t talked recently, I always kept you in the back of my mind and in my heart. You were a true friend and a wonderful person.

I have gone through life not believing in regret. I figured that every decision I made led me to the next step in my life. Without those decisions, I wouldn’t be where I am. However, as I sit here today, I have regret. I regret that you and I did not rekindle what was one of the greatest friendships I could ever have. I take full responsibility for it. You tried to talk to me but I was foolish and un-accepting. We both used harsh words after that but I think we both knew, there was never true intent to hurt each other. We spoke from frustration and not from our hearts. Had I just spoken from my heart, we would have not missed our time left here.

I will never forget you, my friend. You were like family to me and I am absolutely crushed. I was sitting on my couch Sunday when my heart hurt for a moment. It was a strange moment but one I let slide. I found out an hour later that you had passed at about the same time as my heart hurt. I wish I could have talked to you once more, just one more night to hang out and have fun like we always did. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you. I was not there as a friend when I absolutely needed to be.

I just want you to know that you were one of the sweetest, most genuine and wonderful people I have ever been blessed to know. We shared so many great times together. We trusted each other whole heartedly. I knew I could turn to you and you knew you could turn to me. I know you are in a better place right now and will be waiting for me when I arrive one day. I just wish you weren’t there right now. I just wish we had at least one more great memory to share. I love you, brother. You were one of a kind and a true treasure to us all.

I’ll see you when I get there…

I also wrote a eulogy, of sorts. I knew that I wouldn’t be talking during the funeral. I had briefly e-mailed Angie but there had been no other contact, and given the state of our friendship, I didn’t dare ask to read it. I will post it in a later section of this blog, though. To be perfectly honest, though, there was no way I would’ve been able to read it out loud. My emotions just wouldn’t let it happen.

Previous Entries: Part I / Part II / Part III / Part IV / Part V / Part VI / Part VII


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Losing Jason: Part I

On October 31st, 2010, my best friend Jason Ryan Schippers a.k.a. Fish passed away due to surgery complications. It’s been difficult to come to terms with this, but on the 2ndanniversary of the events, I wanted to let my thoughts and emotions out via this blog. Each posting will coincide with an occurrence from that date two years ago. This is not going to be easy to write, post or read. This is my view and emotions from this. I don’t know what this will accomplish, but telling this story is something I feel compelled to do.

Part I: Learning There Is A Problem

Jason and I had been out of touch for a little over a year. I take full blame for this. I judged him for something that I had no right to. He had always trusted me and confided in me. We shared things with each other that we didn’t share with anyone else. Unfortunately I did not handle a situation well at all and a separation was placed between us.

The funny thing was we never really separated fully. We were not in official contact, but we both “cyber-stalked” each other via Facebook. I even started a Twitter account just to follow him. I did not tweet at that time, but just followed people. He was quite active on social media so it was really easy to keep up with how he was doing.

Jason had moved back to Denver, which was a place he absolutely loved, and was doing quite well. He seemed to be happy, enjoying his job and had started a great relationship. It was always great reading these tweets and knowing that he was doing great. I wished I could share that with him, but was too prideful to admit being wrong and get my friendship back to where it always needed to be.

On October 21st of 2010, he started tweeting about getting a biopsy:

Biopsy is today & might not get results till Monday. Scared is an understatement. I'm unplugging till then. If you need me call/text/email.
-       @schippers

At this point I wasn’t really concerned. Jason had some previous medical issues that I was aware of, but nothing that I was too worried about. He had always come through without any problems. He was one of those guys who always took good care of himself. He didn’t smoke. He drank on occasion, but never to a horribly foolish level. He was a runner. I chalked it up as a previous condition that may have flared up and it’ll be taken care of.

He didn’t tweet the rest of that day, but the first two he sent out on the 22nd had me a little more on alert.

So biopsy didn't work yesterday. Too much blood. Surgery today to try & get biopsy & figure out where all blood is coming from
-       @schippers

let's hope the simple surgery get it figured out. i don't want the 6-7 inch incision & them spreading my ribs. ouch.
-       @schippers

Maybe I had watched a few too many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, but I was started to get a little concerned.  Words such as blood, biopsy, surgery and incision freak me out. However, just as I was starting to worry, he sent out this tweet:

            i don't do bar crawls, i do hospital crawls.http://ow.ly/i/4NgK
-       @schippers

This tweet relaxed me a ton. I mean, he was joking about doing hospital crawls! I had assumed that whatever the issue was, the minor surgery found it and rectified the situation. Easy, right?

Despite the worry and concern I had, I still did not reach out to him. There’s no good reason for this, but since I assumed he was okay, there’d be time down the line to get us back on track. He was only 29. The thought of him not being around, never crossed my mind. He was too young to get concerned about things like that. In my mind the doctors would fix whatever was wrong, Jason would bounce back and our paths would cross again.

I had that calm for about a day. Then I saw a worrisome tweet (in case you can’t tell, I was in full cyber-stalk mode by this time) come through on the 23rd.

just about two hours till surgery. keep fingers crossed we can get a biopsy and figure out where the blood is coming from
-       @schippers

Now things started to concern me. He was going into surgery, which at this point I didn’t know what was being operated on. I felt lost. I didn’t know who I could contact. Keep in mind, I was still being foolish and not reaching out to the one I should have, Jason. I jumped over to his sister Angie’s Facebook account and started reading the updates. She had been out in Denver, as was his parents, to see him through everything. She had already updated her account with a surgery update.

hey everyone. Just wanted to let you know Jason made it out of surgery. They got the mass out and took 60 percent of his lung out. Which he hadn't been able to use for a while. as of what they can see its not cancer but will get the results next week. he should hopefully get out of ICU in a couple days but will be in for 7 to 10 days. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers keep it coming.

This post hit me hard. I’m not a smart guy, especially when it comes to the medical field, but removing 60% of one’s lung sounded terrifying to me. I’m also not the most open with my feelings and couldn’t talk about it to anyone. I was feeling guilt. I was feeling remorse and shame. There is no way he should be there, going through this situation, and me not be there. It felt wrong but I couldn’t do anything about it. I needed to let him know I cared, though. I wrote an e-mail to Angie. It was something that I had to do so he knew I was there with him, and hopefully this small gesture would get us back on track.

Hey Angie-
I know that things with Jason and I got bad, most likely irreparable, but just let him know that the Wahl's are hoping he's doing good. I don't really know what's going on but your headline doesn't sound good. Our prayers are with you guys. :-)


It wasn’t much, but she told me thanks. Later on that day he sent what would be the final tweet he ever sent:

            sitting in a chair, on morphine. mourning the loss of most of my right lung.
-       @schippers 10/24/10

Jason and I doing one of our
many DX impressions

His humor was still there. As usual, or so I thought, he was fighting through and would be fine in a matter of days. That night, my son Marshall (who was a little over 1 year old by then) and I went over to a friend’s house. Marshall would sleep while a group of us would watch UFC 121. I don’t remember much about the event, just knew that it was one Jason would have been pumped for. Brock Lesnar was defending his heavyweight title against Cain Velasquez, and as WWE nerds, it’s the type of event we would have gotten together for. I had introduced Jason to the UFC way before that, but having our “worlds” collide with Lesnar, was always fun for us. We even attended UFC 87 in Minneapolis with our friends Rick and Mike to see Lesnar. I kept reliving these moments in my mind that night. When Lesnar lost that night, I got an unexplainable feeling. I couldn’t shake it on the drive home. The entire drive (Mike lives about half an hour away) home I kept thinking about going to Colorado to see him in the hospital. We didn’t have any extra money at that time, and with Rachel working that weekend, it would be almost impossible to do the ten hour trip with a one year old. I wanted to go, but something held me back. I blame my pride and ego. My true self, my caring nature and love for my friends, was pushing me the right direction. Unfortunately I didn’t listen. My ego took over and decided that I’d wait until he was better and then I’d see him when he was back in town.

I’ll never forget that Sunday. I was hosting a fantasy basketball draft at my house and we were all just having a good time. I don’t remember who said it, nor what was said, but a comment about Jason was made. It wasn’t malicious or mean, but given my sensitive nature regarding him, I recall snapping back with “Hey, the guy just had surgery to remove half his lung. Let’s show some respect.” Those who were in the room that knew him seemed surprised at the revelation. I was somewhat taken aback by that as these were guys who still maintained contact with him and yet, no one seemed to know what he was going through. It was strange to me that there was that unknown entity around.

For the next week I was obsessed with Angie’s Facebook account. She kept everyone updated on his good days and his bad. He was awake, eating doughnuts and just being Jason the first couple of days. Then something took a turn for the worse. He had been sedated for a few days and they were trying to get everything worked out.  I would sit at work, with my screen minimized, just refreshing her page. I was praying and begging for some positive news. I walked around with a heavy heart, just begging for my friend to be okay.

Rachel and Marshall on his first
Trick or Treat Halloween

The night of October 30th, we took Marshall out to trick or treat for the first time. He was dressed as an adorable little tiger, and we got the best picture of Rachel and him we’ve ever gotten. There was so much happiness and fun in the air. For a few hours, I was whisked away in the Halloween fun. As a family we went door to door, teaching Marshall about trick or treating along the way. He was nervous at first, but once it clicked, he was all systems go! When we were done, we went over to our friend’s Jeff and Lindsey to hang out. I ended up getting extremely drunk on the now banned Four Loko beverage. When we went home, we put Marshall and Rachel to bed and I immediately went to Facebook. Angie had posted a little earlier that he was stable, so I replied that it was great news and hopefully things start to improve. I put in an old WWE DVD, Best of Saturday Night's Main Event (Jason and I were wrestling nerds, remember), and passed out on the couch. For the first time since his Twitter account went silent, I had a better vibe. He was going to be fine. He would wake up soon, get healthy, come back to Iowa to visit and we’d reconcile. Maybe I was being idealistic, or maybe I was just drunk beyond logical thinking, but I just knew things were going to be good. I couldn’t have been more wrong. In just a few hours, I would receive a phone call that would forever change my life.

Previous Entries: Part I / Part II / Part III / Part IV / Part V / Part VI / Part VII

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fans Have Lost Their Way...

How did we, as fans, lose our way?

When did it become okay to cross the line, verbally and physically, while attending an event?  Within the span of 36 hours on Sunday and Monday, two situations within the sports entertainment world have completely befuddled me.  I just can’t seem to grasp what causes fans to become completely classless fools.  Buying a ticket does not give you any rights outside of watching the game from a predetermined seat.  Unfortunately some don’t comprehend that.

The first incident was during Sunday afternoon’s NFL game between the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs.  During the 4th quarter of a defensive battle, Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel was sandwiched between two Ravens defenders and sustained a concussion.  As he lay on the ground motionless, there was an audible contingent of fans cheering.  While it wasn’t every fan in the stands, it was a substantial amount where you could hear them through the broadcast.  It was audible enough that players were angered by it, especially offensive lineman Eric Winston.

Now I’ve heard the Chiefs apologists say the fans were cheering for a “big play”, which was a 15 yard gain.  The other excuse I’ve heard is that fans saw Brady Quinn warming up and were excited he was possibly going to come in the game.  Both arguments are ridiculous, but the Quinn one is downright laughable.  The fans were excited for Quinn; former third stringer for the Broncos, former back-up in Cleveland, career QB rating of 67.3 and record of 3-9 as a starter?  Really?  Give me a break.  These classless “fans” were clearly cheering the fact that Cassel, who has struggled this season, was injured and coming out of the game.  They cheered, and then maybe once a small dose of intelligence seeped in, they quieted down as Cassel was worked on.

I understand we watch and enjoy a game based on violence and chaos, but we all like to watch and not acknowledge this aspect.  We like to play fantasy football, cheer for our team and pretend it is not the most violent sport every created.  That’s part of the fun for us as fans.  However, there is never a time where it is okay to cheer an injury.  What is more astounding is that they cheered for an injury to a player on their own team!  There are players I absolutely do not like.  Just ask me.  I would never cheer for any of them to get hurt, especially someone on my own team.  That’s just classless and disgusting.  Winston put it best when he mentioned they were not Gladiators in the Roman Coliseum.  They are playing a game.  “Your” team winning or losing, players playing well or not does not give you the right to act foolish and entitle you to anything you feel like saying or doing.

This leads me to, what I feel, is an even worse case of fan interaction with an athlete/performer.  It’s no secret that I have been a professional wrestling fan since I was five years old.  I still watch and enjoy sitting with my three year old son, Marshall, when we watch a little together.  Marshall has two favorite guys, Kofi Kingston and CM Punk.  I don’t know why he chose Kofi (other than that he’s an amazing athlete), but he chose CM Punk because “Daddy!  He has tattoos like you!”  It’s just a fun thing we share.

Unfortunately CM Punk found himself in a tough situation on Monday night at the end of the weekly broadcast of RAW.  While fleeing through the crowd near the end of the show Punk stopped on the steps, turned around to listen to the on-goings in the ring and finish the show.  It appears that the section he was to run into was filled with overzealous fans that proceeded to push, touch and smack Punk repeatedly.  It was caught on camera by someone in the crowd.  As you can see in the video, after numerous attempts to push him down the stairs and a stiff smack to the back of his head, Punk lashed back.  He threw an elbow and pushed a fan down.  Unfortunately, it was the wrong fan.  The person who really sparked Punk to lose his cool, in the most cowardly way possible, hid behind a larger person and smacked him in the head.  He would later brag about it via Twitter, like the genius he clearly is.  The person who was actually attacked is reportedly not pressing charges, but is looking into getting a lawyer and trying to cash in.  Oh the irony of this guy mentioning Ron Artest while wearing a 2010 Lakers championship t-shirt…a team in which Artest was a key piece to.

The debate has raged online regarding CM Punk’s reaction to the situation.  Quite frankly, I think he was well within his right to defend himself in an increasingly unstable situation.  Security was not in place and had not controlled the crowd.  Punk is repeatedly pushed and smacked.  Later on, he detailed more about it:

I think the whole situation sucks,” Punk told WWE.com. “It’s an unfortunate and isolated incident. I was up in the stands, surrounded.”

“Somebody said, ‘let’s push him down the stairs.  I got hit in the ribs three times. I was getting shoved and I was getting punched…Then I started getting tagged in the back of the head. Unfortunately, I lashed out in the heat of the moment and I apologize. I’m really just glad nobody was hurt."

Think about it.  He was getting assaulted on live TV and we expect him not to react simply because he’s portraying a character at that time?  I don’t care what he says on TV there is a line between fans and performers that should never be crossed.  Once you put your hands on him in a violent manner (which was clearly happening), he has every right to defend himself in whatever means he feels appropriate.  There were people trying to push him down the stairs!  I have been to many arenas and the stairs aren’t exactly the safest place to be.  Injuries can happen really fast once you lose your balance on them.  Sometimes you have to make a statement, a statement that couldn’t be made with the look Punk gave to a number of fans on multiple occasions in that short time.

Watch the video again and notice how quickly everything stopped the moment Punk stood back up after knocking the fan down.  Security finally showed up, but everyone that had put their hands on him quickly decided it would not be a good idea to continue.  Clearly something had to be done to get the attention of masses and that decision in the heat of the moment, was made.  It was unfortunate for the guy who got hit, but he was crowding into the aisle with his elbow right near Punk’s head.  Stay by your seat with your arms down and this doesn’t happen.  He was too busy trying to get on TV for his five seconds of fame.

Fact is CM Punk reacted as any human would.  The fact that he’s a major star doesn’t remove his humanity.  It also doesn’t give you as a fan the right to lay your hands on him in any way.  For one second, just use basic common sense.  If you’re in an arena do you want pushed, punched, slapped or have foreign objects thrown at you?  Of course not!  Just because we’ve paid to see them perform or play, doesn’t entitle us to treat them however we want.  Boo if they play poorly.  Cheer when they play well.  If CM Punk is cutting another legendary “pipe bomb”, react verbally however you want.  That’s what they want.  However, let’s start using some common sense and decency in arenas all across the world.

For some reason, I have a feeling this will fall on deaf ears to the ones that need it the most…