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Jeff Capel Jr. Gets One Last Afternoon On The Bench

A great kindness for a good man.

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NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at Duke
Feb 18, 2017; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils associate head coach Jeff Capel III escorts his father Jeff Capel Jr. off the court after Duke beat the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 99-94 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Jeff Capel Jr. has been diagnosed with ALS and sat on the bench with his son for the game.
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

One of the really sad things this season is the news that Jeff Capel Jr. has ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

After his diagnosis, Gehrig made the immortal speech at Yankee Stadium where he said he had had a bad break but “today...I consider myself the luckiest man in the world.”

On Saturday, Coach K invited Capel, whose son Jeff is Duke’s associate head coach, to be an honorary coach for the Wake Forest game.

Earlier in his career, Capel was an assistant at Wake and Capel was a Demon Deacons ballboy.

Coach K invited him by text and reported the following: “It’s better for us to text. He wanted to text, and he was excited. He even used emojis, which shocked Jeff. It was special.”

ALS is a brutal disease because it robs you of your ability to control your body. Capel’s speech is already significantly affected and over time other functions will deteriorate.

When you lose your ability to swallow, you face malnutrition and dehydration. Ultimately you lose the ability to breathe.

The one small compensation is that it does not affect your mind or your ability to think, as Stephen Hawking has proved for decades. No one is quite sure why he has lasted for fifty years with this devastating disease but one theory is that it progresses more slowly when you develop it in your youth. Hawking was diagnosed when he was 21 and is now 75 and has revolutionized physics from his wheelchair.

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