It was almost two years ago that Sports Illustrated's Steve Rushin first wrote about then-14-year-old Tyler Kessler, whose life pretty much consisted of chemotherapy to treat his cancer and kidney dialysis necessary because his kidneys were failing. Tyler weighed all of 70 pounds; he was never expected to live very long. So Tyler and his dad, Bob, fought the boy's ailments with "an unusual course of treatment," writes Rushin: They "set out to visit every NFL stadium and share a steak after each game." If hospitals couldn't make Tyler better, perhaps football could.
Of course, Tyler wound up being invited to pro games all over the country after the article first appeared in SI in January 2005; he's hung out with Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, Brett Favre -- you name it. He's been handed game-winning balls by the game-winners. He's dined with his heroes, who treat him like a Hall of Famer. It's a familiar story -- sick kid turns grown men all mushy -- but never one that gets old. Like Rushin writes, "Ty is a mirror, reflecting the fundamental decency of people." It's a little corny, but Christmas time'll do that to you.
Tyler, incidentally, was born Christmas Day 16 years ago. In a little town called Bethlehem. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, but still. And on this particular Christmas Day, he will be in Dallas -- well, Irving, if you want to get technical about it. Rushin writes in this week's SI (which is out today and which you can only read with a subscription) that on "this Christmas night, on his 16th birthday, the boy from Bethlehem won't be under a star. The star will be under him. Ty will step onto the field at Texas Stadium -- his 32nd and final NFL venue -- as the guest of Dallas owner Jerry Jones."
Happy birthday, Tyler. And Merry Christmas. --Robert Wilonsky