There is no doubt no matter who we are that we have all in one way or another been through trials and tribulations: large or small, life changing or not, it all depends on your perspective. It is an unfortunate part of life and living. Some experiences are worse than others: life and loss, divorce and separation, loneliness and rejection, love and pain, we all have our own stories to tell. What is the old saying, turning lemons into lemonade? I didn’t pick up Mark Zupan’s book “Gimp,” for this reason nor was I expecting any kind of epiphany. I, like millions of people had seen the documentary “Murderball,” and was intrigued by Zupan as the wise cracking guy he is. The movie focuses on the USA quad-rugby team, its players, the competitions, their quest for a gold medal – but most importantly, the game and the human spirit itself. It is quite a film and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary. It is a film that shows in detail what is possible in this life and makes no mention of what is impossible.
I met Mark a year after the film was completed. He met all my expectations. He is sharp, quick witted, savvy, charismatic, and funny. He’s also got some great tattoos. (which is what we actually spent most of our time talking about). Well that, and movies, music, his sport, how hot Angelina Jolie is and other movie stars. You get the idea. My reference to of his accident and injury came only from the documentary. We had more important things to jaw about. We love to share our passions. So when I heard he had a book coming out I thought, “What a great way to know everything about my friend.” I learned EVERYTHING about Mark from the book. Certainly more than I expected. Note to self: the personal hygiene of college guys and their exploits, I didn’t need to know. But then again, that’s Mark. He’s a straight shooter who talks the talk and walks the walk. No b.s. here, only in your face honesty. If you can’t handle it, this may not be the guy for you. And he would probably be the first to tell you so.
What you’re going to get from ‘Gimp,’ is a first hand account of triumph over tragedy. However, don’t expect this to be a ‘boo-hoo’ sob story or have a woes me attitude. Mark and his co-writer Tim Swanson take us on the journey that is Mark’s life. From his childhood playing soccer in England and traveling the globe, to his relationships with his parents and friends, to his college days (playing on the college soccer team) and ultimately the night that changed his life forever, and its aftermath. I’m not going to tell you the story. I’ll leave that up to Mark himself. I will admit I teared up from time to time, empathizing with not just someone I know but his ordeal. “Gimp,” is overwhelmingly a story of the human spirit and turning the proverbial lemons into lemonade. You won’t be the same after reading it and you just may look at your life a bit differently. It does get gritty from time to time, as does life. There is so much in this life that we take for granted every single day, small things we don’t even notice. I’m not saying this book will convert you into a saint. I’m just relaying the possibility that through someone else’s adversity we can learn things about ourselves. Zupan is a guy just like the rest of us. He’s not an actor, singer, or politician. He grew up in our neighborhood; he’s the guy next door who happened to play on the schools soccer team, an all around jock. He is passionate about music, sports, and his life. And he’s got some killer tats. My hat’s off to you Mark.