“A doctor told me she hopes they find a cure so that I can be happy again. I thought to myself, I never thought I was unhappy. If you can’t find happiness with your misfortune, then what happens when you’re cured? You wouldn’t be any happier. We just want it to be easier.”
Nets radio analyst Chris Carrino spoke those words to a large crowd at the eighth annual gala event for his foundation, the Chris Carrino Foundation for FSHD. It was a powerful moment, coming from a powerful voice – literally and figuratively.
Carrino has worked as a radio analyst for the Nets since the 2001-2002 and has been with the team for nearly 26 years in some capacity. He’s been the voice of the (then) New Jersey and (now) Brooklyn Nets. More importantly, he’s a father to his son Chris and husband to his wife Laura.
All of this plays a huge role into why Chris is such an inspiration. He goes to work every day with no complaints despite the circumstances.
“I always say I count my blessings not my burdens,” he told NetsDaily. “It’s not that I don’t get sad or frustrated or feel like it’s a burden, I feel that way probably constantly, don’t take inventory in it. I go out and fight through it and count all of the things in my life that are good, and that motivates me to keep going.”
Being on the radio, there was no way for listeners to know the man behind the mic has been diagnosed with Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) -- a genetic disorder in which the muscles of the face, shoulder blades and upper arms are among the most affected. It is a progressive disease, meaning it gets worse as time goes on.
He learned about his condition in his early 20’s but kept it mostly a secret until around the time of his 40th birthday. He explains how he stayed active and athletic and continued to push through despite having to hurdle obstacles.
Some of those obstacles don’t just include the physical aspect, but the mental as well. It’s easy to get down and depressed, Carrino knew, but he kept going and is still going, and therein is the inspiration.
“I can’t relate to some people who aren’t inspired, who aren’t motivated to get up and do something. I’ve just never felt that way. I wasn’t born that way. There was something that hit me when I learned about my conditions in my early 20’s.
When I received the diagnosis it was like, ‘Well is there anything I can do? If not, then I’m not going to let it stop me from doing things I wanted to do before the diagnosis.’ I think for me, there’s never been a choice. My dreams are too big, succeeding in this business that I love so much, having a family, being a father. All these things never gave me a choice to sit and let my condition take those things away from me.”
He faces daily, constant challenges dealing with the simple tasks we take for granted, things like getting out of a chair, going upstairs, walking or just putting his jacket on. As a full-time radio analyst, one of the main parts of the job is the frequent travel.
“The more severe your condition gets, the more help you need. You find ways for people to help or things that help. For me, traveling with the Nets can be a difficult thing for me. What happens is I get great people like Tim (Capstraw) and other people with the organization that look out for me and try to figure out ways to do what I have to do. I’ve received that help, hopefully because I’ve been a good person and good friend to people, so when I need help they’re always there for me.”
The theme of the night was about spreading positive energy. Everybody was there to have a good time for a good cause. For Chris, one of the most important things was showing his gratitude to his loved ones who have stood by him through some of the hardest moments of his life.
He recalls a time almost two years back when he noticed something was off. He was unable to straighten his back. Thoughts started creeping in his mind whether he’d be able to go on and continue doing what he loved.
That’s when his radio partner for the Brooklyn Nets, Tim Capstraw, came in. The two have been partners and good friends since they started together during the 2002-2003 season. He explains how Capstraw wasn’t just a great friend, but a driving force to keep pushing every day.
“I remember I was worried and I was sitting with Tim on the road one day. It was hard, the adjustment was hard, and I thought ‘How am I going to keep doing this, Tim?’ and he was like, ‘Well you’re not going to stop. I’m not going to let you stop and give up. We’ll always figure out a way.’ I’ll never forget him saying, ‘You mean too much to people to just stop. You don’t want to, I know you don’t. We’ll always find a way.’ He’s a guy that motivates me, he’s been that kind of guy that whenever I have doubt, he’ll always assures me that everything is going to be OK.”
Friends, family and co-workers are just a few of the reasons why Chris always stays positive and takes things day-by-day. The other is his foundation, the reason why he gathers a whole bunch of family and friends together every year and looks to raise money and awareness for those dealing with similar conditions.
“This foundation is all about getting our message out there, reaching as many people as we possibly can and you hope that your message lands on certain people, people that are willing to help. We need financial help obviously to fund research. But, more importantly, we need to give a voice to people dealing with this disease and are doing extraordinary things.”
And that’s exactly what he’s doing.
Justin Cohen is a young man dealing with FSHD. He just recently got his doctorate from Drexel University. His disease prevents him from partaking in certain things, but as Carrino describes, it will not be something that prevents him from fulfilling his dream.
And so, thanks to Carrino’s foundation, enough money was raised for Justin to be a research scientist at Yale University, alongside Dr. Angela Lek. The foundation is funding a two-year, $180,000 project that will help with research, salaries, administrative fees, the compounds and equipment.
“That’s what we’re all about, we highlight people doing extraordinary things despite their condition, and expand their research that’s needed to cure a disease,” said Carrino.
There’s a lesson to be learned in all of this. As Chris says, count your blessings and not your burdens. Beyond that, his daily fight to get to work and do it with a smile on his face, no complaints, is inspirational to say the very least.
“You know what he taught me… ‘What are you complaining about?’ He taught me to live in the moment,” Tim Capstraw told NetsDaily. “That’s what Chris does the best, he lives in the moment. He doesn’t worry about five years from now, it doesn’t matter. Right now is what matters.”
For more on Chris Carrino’s foundation, click here.