Bruce the Blog

Competing—Against Yourself

The late Harrison Apar, born with dwarfism, gave his all to rappel up a wall at a middle school retreat. Credits: Bruce Apar

This is the time of year when students are recognized at public ceremonies for notable achievements in their studies, their sports and in their extracurricular pursuits.

Where we live, there are awards in various sports that are named for our son, who also is memorialized by town ballfield Harrison Apar Field of Dreams and a charitable foundation of the same name.

Due to a rare dwarfism, Harrison had lifelong physical challenges that caused his demise at age 15, a day after his third heart surgery.

Sign Up for E-News

I look for something different—and hopefully a little inspiring—to say each year to young athletes, parents and coaches when the various Harrison Apar awards are presented. This year, a new thought occurred to me.

What is it about sports that addicts us to them?

The adrenalin of competing or even just watching.

The thrill of victory, whether competing or watching.

The redemption of knowing the agony of today’s defeat can be avenged next time.

Sports make us feel alive.

Sports celebrate the human spirit.

In sports, we value strength, size, speed, quickness, precision, timing, scoring and statistics.

What, then, could a boy born with the medical condition known as skeletal dysplasia possibly find rewarding about participating in sports, as Harrison did? He didn’t have anything approaching size or strength; he couldn’t amass even the most nominal statistics.

Why would a kid standing 3 feet and weighing less than 40 pounds want to be on the basketball court when he knew he never would sink a basket? Wouldn’t he find it embarrassing? Not Harrison.

Why would a kid who knew he never would hit the ball past the pitcher’s mound want to step up to the plate? Wouldn’t he find it humiliating? Not Harrison.

The answer to “Why?” is, I believe, the same for anybody who plays sports, whether it’s Aaron Judge or Harrison Apar.

At the end of the day, at the end of the game, the No. 1 reason anybody who plays sports is out there is not about statistics or scoring or even winning.

It’s about validation.

Forget about being tested by a 90-plus mph fastball or by a par-3 island green. More than worrying about the opponent or about degree of difficulty, we test ourselves every time we lace up, warm up, set up a shot, or get up to bat.

Validation is the heart and soul of sports. “I can do this,” we say to ourselves.

That’s what Harrison said to himself. That’s what he set out to prove when he stepped up to the plate or dribbled the ball up court. And prove it he did. The stunned looks of disbelief from the sidelines were just icing on the cake.

Harrison once scored a totally honest 8 on a par 4 hole at his grandfather’s golf course in Florida. After he drained his putt for the snowman on the scorecard, I couldn’t resist looking at him with a straight face and saying, “Big deal. I do that all the time. I can even do it on a par 3.”

What was no joke is the time Harrison’s seventh-grade class was on a weekend retreat to learn about self-sustenance and recreation in the great outdoors. When there was a strenuous activity he couldn’t do, we’d repair to a nature trail and take a nice, leisurely hike together.

But the one activity he insisted on attempting, which I never mastered myself, is rappelling straight up a wall. It was not how much he accomplished (ascending a single peg after many minutes of exhausting exertion) that impressed everyone. It was the indomitable effort he put forth, with his classmates cheering him on to get his tiny foot on top of just that one lonely rung, and then leveraging his leg to pull up the rest of his body in triumph. Validation! Exhilaration!

Later that night, as the parent chaperones hung out in the log cabin reviewing the day’s activities, one of  the dads, who had been a collegiate and professional wrestler, said, “The toughest kid out there today was Harrison.” Hearing that brought me to tears then—and now.

That’s why the sports awards we give out in Harrison’s name each year are not about who has the best statistics or who’s necessarily the best athlete. It’s who wants it the most and who goes out and gets it, maybe against the odds, maybe despite formidable obstacles that make it less likely for the athlete to win the validation that everyone seeks from sports—and yet they prevail.

The Harrison Apar sports awards are about perseverance and about toughness, because no matter how big or fast or strong you are, there’s always someone who is bigger, faster or stronger, but not always someone who has more heart. That is the proud legacy our son left both us and those we honor in his name.


I was grateful to hear from an old friend, Patricia Huffield, who provided important additional information pertaining to my May 31 column about Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES. Pat writes, “There are two other schools which are part of PNW BOCES which serve other important parts of the student community in the area: Pinesbridge serves the multiply handicapped and The Walden School provides special education. These schools are staffed by a cadre of dedicated teachers and therapists, my daughter among them, who help the children maximize their capabilities to lead independent, productive lives. They also are of tremendous value to many, many families in the community and yet unknown to most.”

Bruce “The Blog” Apar promotes local businesses, organizations, events and people through public relations agency APAR PR. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at or 914.275.6887.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Momma's birds fled the nest

This year I was late in setting up my deck. Call it procrastination, muggy weather or whatever excuse, I finally got to it last week. With help from son, George, we set up the outdoor dining table and chairs; he methodically placed the flower boxes on the railing: “they have to be evenly spaced!”

We did have a concern: what about the nest the sweet little birds had built under the ...

Be-bop near the train stop

Last Friday was such a nice day we decided to head down to Tarrytown and take in some jazz in Pierson Park for the Friday Evening Concert Series. If you’re in the mood for it, a little jazz can be just the thing. Much of it is instrumental, so you don’t even have to sing along. Every time I see a rock band these days, they start the song, get to the chorus and then stick the mic out ...

Semantic revision of history

The latest fiasco I’ve read about is the renaming of the “Laura Ingalls Wilder Award” to the “Children’s Literature Legacy Award.” Why? Because the renowned author of Little House On The Prairie portrayed Native Americans (American Indians) in stereotypical language.

I must inject a personal experience here. A great friend of mine many years ago was Red ...

A (Burnt) Toast to Love and Marriage, on the Rocks

In its first few moments, sitcom-style comedy “Clever Little Lies” grabs audience attention right away, with one of the most revealing wardrobe changes you’ll ever see on stage. It is done modestly but just provocatively enough to elicit vocal appreciation from amused patrons.

The fast-paced play, starring Richard Kline of TV comedy classic “Three’s ...

The Adventures of Superdog

I was always very impressed that my dog could bark on command and come when I called his name, until I read in the newspaper about a dog that saved his owner’s life by calling 9-1-1. Apparently, when his owner had a seizure, the dog pushed a speed-dial button for 9-1-1, barked into the receiver for help, and then opened the door when the responders arrived.

Honestly, though, it’s ...

Upcoming Events


Tue, July 24, 1:00 PM

Yorktown Heights



Sat, July 28, 6:30 PM

Weil Preserve, North Salem

Jazz in the Meadow with Bill Evans

Arts & Entertainment Other


Tue, July 31, 1:00 PM

Yorktown Heights