CBC Sports

Happy ending to a broken heart

Posted: Thursday, May 20, 2010 | 08:51 AM

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Zac Herold, a 17-year-old professional soccer prospect, forced to end his dream because he has a heart condition that threatens his life if he continues to compete.

Zac Herold, a 17-year-old professional soccer prospect, forced to end his dream because he has a heart condition that threatens his life if he continues to compete.

A doctor with Toronto FC discovered Zac's plight after the native of Port St. Lucie, Florida reported to the team's training camp as a top pick in this year's draft. The diagnosis means a future on the sidelines...but a future nonetheless.

Maybe it's a hopeful sign that somewhere out there, someone is watching over athletes and protecting them from the damage sport can do.

Encouraging news like this is so rare in times when players are treated as commodities instead of human beings.

Zac Herold's situation is overshadowed by a litany of malpractice that occurs on a daily basis in the arena of high-performance athletics - both professional and amateur. The act of enjoying sport has frequently been replaced by a win-at-all-costs mentality in an age where the stakes are artificially inflated.

And so it is that we read of a notorious junior hockey coach who repeatedly sexually assaulted his players and ruined their lives. We are stunned by the beating of a minor soccer parent in Edmonton at the hands of a player from the opposing team. The attack was apparently motivated by erupting racial tensions.

Some of us are conflicted when learning of the death of a talented track and field mentor who advised his high-profile runners to take steroids so they wouldn't be left behind. Others are appalled that a Toronto sports doctor allegedly prescribed Human Growth Hormone, (HGH), to National Football League players under his care.

Many more are concerned that young athletes in a variety of team sports are being pressured to play in spite of concussions, which have become epidemic.

Zac Herold's career has been cut short but his situation should enlighten us.

Thank heavens someone is watching over him - a supportive family, a wise physician and a professional club that has things in perspective.

When Toronto FC honours Zac Herold at BMO Field on the long weekend they'll be making a statement.

Sport is not nearly as precious as life.

And sometimes, happy endings can be found in broken hearts.

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