The Biggest Lie That I’ve Ever Heard
Could a professional boxer suffer a severe neck injury and then fight again? Could the boxer become a world champion?
The answer is simple.
But how? Or better yet, why?
Vinny Pazienza won a middleweight boxing championship. And not long after, Vinny suffered a career-ending neck injury in a car accident.
Well, at least it should have been a career-ending neck injury.
Vinny’s neck was broken. The doctors told him that he would never walk again. And boxing was certainly off the table.
In the movie based on Vinny’s life, Bleed For This, after the accidents the doctors gave Vinny a choice, either: (1) fuse two of his vertebrae together, allowing him to heal faster but certainly ending his ability to box ever again, or (2) wear a device called a Halo — a circular metal brace screwed directly into his skull — that looked like the top of a dune buggy rigged onto someone’s head.
Wearing the Halo would allow his spine to heal on its own, but also could paralyze him by a sudden movement or unexpected twist. Most importantly, wearing the Halo gave Vinny his only chance to not only walk or run again, but to fight again.
So what did Vinny do?
Vinny allowed the doctor to screw the metal dune buggy to his head. He wore the Halo for three months.
Three years later, Vinny won the IBC Super Middleweight boxing title.
The movie based on Vinny’s life ends with a fascinating interview between Vinny and a reporter. Vinny tells the reporter that the boxing world is full of lies and broken promises.
The reporter follows up with a natural question: What was the biggest lie that you were told?
It’s not that simple, says Vinny.
The end credits of the movie contain the real Vinny telling a story about his doctor — with Vinny actually wearing the Halo.
Vinny tells the story, saying the doctor told him that he would never box again. Vinny responds: “No, Dr. Carter, you’re wrong. You don’t understand what kind of man that I am.”
Vinny’s drive and refusal to give up is also shown in the movie, when his trainer tells him: “You just don’t know how to give up.”
And Vinny responds: “No, I do. Trust me, I do. I know exactly how to give up. You know what scares… me, Kev? Is that it’s easy.”
So how does a boxer suffer a near-life ending injury — with his doctors telling him that he might not even walk again — live to actually fight and win as a boxer?
“You don’t know what kind of man that I am.”
As I watched the movie and sat amazed at what this man did, I could not help but think that what he did was difficult, if not impossible. And that is why the ending surprised me.
Before we get to why I was surprised, I want to make something clear. Vinny was not a role model as a person. The movie shows some of his darker side: gambling, strip clubs, women. But the character’s observation at the end of the movie is so incredible that I have not been able to stop thinking about it.
A reporter asks Vinny, “What was the biggest lie that you were told?”
Vinny answers, “It’s not that simple.”
As I watched, I immediately agreed. It could not have been that simple to identify a single lie that was bigger than the others. Lots of people lied to him. Lots of people betrayed him. Lots of people wrote him off.
But that is not what Vinny meant.
“It’s not that simple” was the biggest lie.
Here’s the full exchange:
Reporter: People are calling this one of the most unlikely comebacks in sports history. What do you attribute it to?
Vinny: Hmm… Yeah, I don’t know. I had a lot of help.
Reporter: But you’ve also had a lot of adversity. You’ve had issues with management, conflicts of interest…
Vinny: Yeah, well, the boxing world looks shiny from the outside. It’s filled with promises that… Most of them turn out to be lies. You can’t rely on anyone.
Reporter: So what would you say the biggest deception was? What was the biggest lie you were told?
Vinny: It’s not that simple.
Reporter: Why not?
Vinny: No, that’s the biggest lie I was ever told: “It’s not that simple.” And it’s a lie they tell you over and over again.
Reporter: What’s not simple?
Vinny: Any of it. All of it. It’s how they get you to give up. They say, “It’s not that simple, Vinny.”
Reporter: So, what’s the truth?
Vinny: That it is. That if you just do the thing that they tell you, you can’t, then it’s done. And you realize it is that simple… And that it always was.
What is the biggest lie that Vinny was told?
But the truth was that Vinny’s choice was simple.
He wanted to box again.
So he wore the Halo.
He actually started training while he was still wearing the Halo. Those scenes in the movie were some of my favorite moments.
As I write this, I am wondering to myself: is everything that simple?
Years ago, I wanted to go to law school after I had been working for nearly 10 years. When my wife and I were thinking about how we could make that happen with both of us having busy jobs and a desire to start a family, it seemed really complicated. It’s not that simple, right?
For years, I wanted to make movies — whether by writing, producing, working, it didn’t matter how. It seemed impossible — I don’t live in Los Angeles or New York. I don’t know anybody. I don’t know how the industry works. It’s not that simple, right?
At age 15, I suffered an injury that still affects me years later. I was told that I would never be able to run. In order to live without pain, I was told that I had to stretch every single day and do certain exercises that seemingly would take hours. I was told that painkillers were the answer to the pain. I was given a prescription. How was I going to live and function? How could I take that much time every single day? How could I still exercise, play sports, do martial arts, and play with my kids? It’s not that simple, right?
For over 20 years, I have wanted to write. I delayed when I was in school. Then I delayed when I was starting a job. And then I delayed when I was too busy. And then I delayed when I bought a home. And when I started a business. And when I went to law school. And then when I started a law career. And now I have 15 minutes a day to write — that’s it. How am I going to write? It’s not that simple.
As Vinny said, when the doctors were giving him options, they did not know the kind of man that he is.
So what kind of person am I? What kind of person are you? Is the answer complicated?
The biggest lie…
Is that the solution is not that simple.
So what’s the truth?
As Vinny says in the movie: “That it is. That if you just do the thing that they tell you, you can’t, then it’s done. And you realize it is that simple… And that it always was.”
The Biggest Lie That I’ve Ever Heard
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