He watches the games alone. Dick Gregory watches Kentucky win, one improbable victory after the next in this NCAA Tournament, and then he has a nurse shut down the television and flick off the light and he sleeps as much as he can. Which isn't much. Dick Gregory is paralyzed from the chest down, an injury he suffered at Kentucky's exhibition game Nov. 1 against Transylvania. He was there with his wife, Mary Alice, who had never been to Rupp Arena. Dick Gregory is 73 but he grew up like so many in Kentucky, loving the Wildcats and wearing the blue shirts and playing golf with a UK bag and listening to games on the radio when he couldn't get a ticket to the game. As it turns out, he got two tickets to the exhibition game on Nov. 1. Mary Alice, his wife of nearly 50 years, had never been. Dick Gregory took her. As they walked to Section 238, Row J -- going a few aisles above their seats because it seemed less troublesome to step down and over a few empty rows than to make everybody on their aisle stand to let them pass -- Mary Alice stumbled. Dick tried to catch her, couldn't, and threw himself between his wife and the chairs. Mary Alice got up. Her husband did not. He had suffered a broken neck. What happened next was heartbreaking in every possible way, and uplifting in this way: Kentucky fans rallied around the Gregory family, sending them notes and cards and even plates of food, and the Kentucky basketball team rallied around the family as well. John Calipari heard about the accident and took his team to see Dick Gregory, making such an impact on the man that, after failing his swallow test earlier that day, Gregory wanted to take it again and passed and was able to start eating food. That was early November, and I wrote about it here, and life went on. Kentucky started playing real games. Kentucky fans went to those games or watched them on TV or talked about them online. Dick Gregory stayed in the hospital, first at the University of Kentucky's Chandler Medical Center in Lexington, then at a series of facilities in his hometown of Louisville. He went from a hospital to a rehab facility to a hotel, because his insurance wouldn't pay for any more in-patient treatment, and then back to the Heartland of Louisville nursing home when his time in the hotel left him with clots in his legs and lungs, and with bed sores.
Title run giving paralyzed Kentucky fan feelings of happiness
CBS Sports | Apr 7