- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"My father used to take me swimming when I was a little kid and we lived in upstate New York. We used to swim in well water. It was cold. When I moved to the Bronx, my friends told me I should swim with the Polar Bears. So I went up the beach one Sunday, and there was this guy Frank dressed up as Santa Claus giving out candies to the kids. I went swimming, but some of the older women were jealous. You know, the club was all they had. It's very important to people.
"When Destin Kabashi came to this country from Albania he couldn't speak English. Then he joined the Polar Bear Club and now he feels important. And Eli. You wouldn't have seen the same prototype before. He's really picked up. He used to stand around like this [she slouched over and hung her head]. Now he's changed. Slowly but surely you overcome your fears. It's not just overcoming the water, it's overcoming something else in your prior life.
"People who never made it in the sports world can make it through the Polar Bear Club. When Pablo gave you that list of all the Puerto Ricans in the club, you got to read between the lines. What the list says is: 'Look, America. We're here. We made it. We're in.' "
"I'm not going in," I told my husband as I got into the car. "It's potentially dangerous." He appeared relieved.
I brought my bathing suit, anyway. It was a cheap $8 one-piece with a snazzy racing stripe on each side. I put it on the front seat next to me along with some apples, a bag full of chocolate chips and a carton of milk. By the time I got to Lake George, it was night and everything in the seat was gone except my bathing suit. It hung over the edge of the seat like a dispirited dog.
I stopped at a Howard Johnson's for supper and picked up a free publication, A Guide to the Lake George Region, to read with my sandwich. The Guide had this note on hypothermia: "Hypothermia can cause death. If you notice you or a companion experiencing slow reactions, stumbling, or acting confused after being chilled outdoors, find a heated room and re-warm the person as quickly as possible." I couldn't think of a question I was less capable of answering than: "Am I acting confused?" And could I rely on the Polar Bears, people who hardly knew me and who didn't even acknowledge pneumonia, to observe such a shift in my behavior?
"Have you ever watched the Polar Bears swim?" I asked the friendly waitress who poured me coffee.
"Oh yes, every year," she said with enthusiasm. "I almost went in last year except I was too big for my bathing suit."
"Really? You almost went in?".
"Oh, they get you so charged up you wouldn't believe it. The chief of police goes in every year. And the queen and her court."