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The upside to hearing loss


Hearing loss can make life challenging at times but there are some benefits.

Former United States President Ronald Reagan certainly recognized this and so too did my grandfather, the Reverend John Ball. He died before I was born but the story is often told of how he would turn off his hearing aids to tune out my grandmother.

Somewhere in the archives of a television station in the United States there is a clip of Reagan at a podium getting ready to make a speech only to be faced with a huge crowd of protesters shouting at him from the balcony. The protesters were quite animated and vocal.

"I really hate to tell them this," Reagan told the audience. "But I can't hear a word they're saying."

Quite likely not the first or the last politician to have a deaf ear or, as my mother would put in reference to me, selective hearing.

Anyway, I got to thinking about my own hearing loss on Saturday while refereeing a couple of basketball games at North Park Collegiate. It was a girls' novice tournament and some of the players were quite likely playing their first game ever.

My first time officiating a basketball game was about five years ago, just a week before Christmas and everyone was getting into the spirit of the season.

It too was a novice girls' tournament. The players were about seven or eight-years of age and the stands were packed with proud parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and siblings eager to watch the big game.

"Now remember," my refereeing partner said. "This is going to be the first game they've ever played and they're going to remember this experience and so will their families.

"Call the game the way it's supposed to be called but be patient."

It was quite the experience watching the coaches try to organize the players. Parents had their video cameras rolling and the players running all over the court for reasons known only to them.

But the most memorable moment came about half-way through the game.

A little girl playing for the Brantford CYO team intercepted a pass, took about 10 steps without dribbling the ball and threw up a long set shot. It was a beautiful, nothing but net, swish. The look on the kid's face was one of stunned amazement while the crowd went crazy with whoops and cheers. My partner, of course, blew the whistle and called the kid for a travelling violation and waived off the basket. "No basket," he said. "Travelling." The gym was spectacularly silent.

Then, it started.

One voice, then two, and then three until there was an entire chorus of fans chanting "Grinch, Grinch, Grinch."

So, fast forward five years and I was in the same gym with a different group of girls' playing their first game ever when disaster struck.

A battery in one of my hearing aids went out about half-way through the game and I didn't have a replacement. It was going to be extremely difficult for me to hear anything during the game. I would be, in a manner of speaking, flying on one wing.

Everything was going fine and then, at the very end of the first half, a Brantford CYO player tried to score a basket. The horn went, the shot went up and naturally, went in, another nothing but net swish, probably her first basket ever.

I waived it off .

"No basket," I shouted. "Time expired."

No one called me a Grinch. At least, not that I heard.

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