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THE DARKNESS IS ALWAYS THE SAME. NO, THAT IS NOT TRUE. Not exactly. There are crescents of light at the edge of the darkness that are brighter or dimmer depending on the light outside. The places that are familiar to Gordon Gund in this perpetual darkness are his three homes and his apartment at the top of the three-year-old Gund Arena in Cleveland and the office of his investment company in Princeton, N.J.—places where the objects and people are where he expects them to be. Here in Princeton, for instance, is Gund's associate Warren Thaler in his office....
Here is secretary Sharon Polignano....
Here is Dave Prescott....
"Dave's not here, Gordon. He went out to lunch."
Right. Out to lunch. How to know? That is the thing with the darkness. Even the familiar can become unfamiliar just like that, and...great God, the unfamiliar could be just about anything at all. That is the battle. Most of the world is unfamiliar. If you are blind.
"I've tried to put myself in his place, but I haven't been able to do it," says Mike Fratello, coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. "Because it's too big to understand. How would I remember everything? How would I organize things? Just going through the mental preparation of every day. How would I go through that?"
The darkness came in 1970 when Gund was 30. Since then he has built his business and sports empire, has been successful in many endeavors, all in the darkness. He has been the principal owner of the Cavaliers for 14 years. He has been in charge of wheelings and dealings, building programs and rebuilding programs. He was in charge of the construction of the arena that bears his name. All in the darkness. "It's like you have burned all your bridges," a doctor told him when he went blind. "It doesn't mean you can't exist. It does mean you have to build new bridges."
The people in his life are almost characters in a novel. Gund has had to construct these people in his head, relying on description, insight and, most of all, imagination. He can listen to them talk. He can get others' impressions of the characters. He can collate all this in his mind.