Article Date: 1/1/2001

Road to the Super Bowl

As team optometrist, he was taken on the ride of his life.


I needed a moment to take it all in. The game was coming down to this one last play. I rose to my feet, like thousands of other fans did, shoulder to shoulder with the people on either side of me, and I held my breath, hoping that my beloved Rams would hold on for the win. As the Titans' receiver pulled in the catch and made his last leap for the end zone, I was blinded by the camera flashes. Luckily, Mike Jones caught the Titans' receiver and tackled him at the 2-yard line. Finally, I could breathe again.

Hometown team

I grew up in Southern California, so naturally I was a huge Los Angeles Rams fan. After finishing optometry school and moving to St. Louis, Mo., about 30 years ago, I began treating football players at the local university. I'd always enjoyed sports, especially football and was eager to help with the players' vision needs. During this time, sports vision was becoming more important as technological advances enabled us to enhance the players' visual needs.

About 5 years later, the Rams moved to St. Louis. I was thrilled to hear the news, so I called the Rams and told them I was available to treat their players. Between my sports vision experience and my eagerness to help the Rams, I was given an opportunity. First, by occasionally treating individual players, and then gradually working my way up to treating the whole team this was probably the next best thing to playing on the field with the team.

The 1999 season started like any other. I examined the whole team after they got back from training camp and most of the exams were routine. However, some of the more severe cases, such as corneal abrasions, were referred to my office for treatment. Corneal abrasions are the most common eye injury I treat throughout the season because of exposure to dirt, dust, rubber pellets from the turf and finger pokes. Probably the most serious case that I treated during the 1999 season was iritis. The player was light sensitive from his condition, so he required a tinted shield for his game in Miami.


Super Bowl Sunday

After a fairytale season last year, the Rams were on their way to the Super Bowl in Atlanta. When I arrived there, I remember thinking how much like a dream it all seemed. The media coverage and security were just unbelievable -- seven security checkpoints between the parking lot and the hotel medical clinic.

I checked in at the pre-game clinic to see if any of the players were having problems. A couple of players had some eye irritation. One had an eye infection and another had allergic conjunctivitis. Both were easily treated before game time.

Then, it was time for me to head off to the stadium. The stadium was an amazing sight -- a thing of real beauty. The thousands of fans filling the seats and the pristine playing field made this an experience like no other for me. You could just feel the energy once you walked into the stadium. You couldn't help but be affected by it.

Celebrate good times

If just being a part of all of this wasn't enough, I was invited to take part in the Super Bowl victory celebration after the game. It was fun to talk with all the players I'd become close to over the years.

I'll never forget those few days in Atlanta. I was just happy to be a part of all the excitement. The Rams have given me a great opportunity, not just because I was able to take a trip to the Super Bowl, but also because it allows me to take part in two things I really love -- optometry and football.

DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? Contact Tobin E. Sharp at (215) 643-8127 or, so we can talk about getting your story published.

Optometric Management, Issue: January 2001