BY BILL PUCKO
By now you know that Jason McElwain was seriously injured in a bicycle accident last week. His recovery is just the latest challenge the man known to the world as J-Mac, will have to battle through.
It’s hard to believe it was over 16 years ago. February 15, 2006 to be precise. The J-Mac basketball game. The last game of the regular Section Five season and Greece Athena was hosting Spencerport. Athena was typically good. The Rangers were typically not. So, Coach Jim Johnson approached his Spencerport counterpart Josh Harter, with a proposal. That if the game got out of hand, and the Trojans owned a comfortable lead late, that he wanted to substitute-in his player-manager Jason McElwain. Harter was a willing and silent partner to the deal. It was settled.
Jason McElwain is autistic. Back then few of us knew what that meant. Maybe we still don’t. Autism is a bio-neurological condition that impacts social develop and perception. It manifests itself in a variety of ways and degrees which is what makes it difficult to wrap your arms around. In Jason’s case, he didn’t talk until he was five, he’d throw severe temper tantrums and lacked most commonly accepted social skills. Sports in general, basketball specifically became his salvation. It gave him purpose.
Back to the game. J-Mac entered the contest in the fourth quarter and after missing his first two shots, connected on six threes and scored 20 points. The place went crazy. The fame that followed that night resulted in McElwain appearing on all the network morning news shows. He met Peyton Manning and President George W. Bush among many others. He won an ESPY for his part in the greatest sports moment of the year. He’s been a coach and a trainer. He became an accomplished runner and competed in several Boston Marathons, repeatedly finishing the 26-mile course in under three hours. And along with Coach Johnson, he is a national spokesperson for autism awareness.
After a slow start, J-Mac has lived a very full life. There is no reason to believe that won’t continue.