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A dream come true: Blind man commentates basketball game

Bruce Weiler grew up wanting to be a sportscaster, but his disability made it hard for him

ST. LOUIS — On a recent night at Eastern Illinois University, they gave voice to opportunity.

In a basketball matchup, The Panthers were hosting the SIUE Cougars. What mattered though, was not just what took place between the lines, but on the sideline.

Veteran broadcaster Mike Bradd is a fixture courtside and on the Panther airwaves, but his color commentator on that night had never seen a game.

"I’ve been doing this a long, long time, over 40 years and I don't know of anybody that's doing what Bryce is doing," said Bradd.

31-year-old Bryce Weiler is a sports enthusiast and a part-time broadcaster. He's also blind.

"I commentate a basketball game by studying the style of the broadcaster that I'm commentating with," Weiler explained.

Weiler grew up in Claremont, Illinois about 130 miles east of St. Louis and the soundtrack of his childhood was sports on the radio.

But the dial was really turned up when, as a student at the University of Evansville, basketball coach Marty Simmons invited him to sit on the Purple Aces bench during the season.

"He's full of charisma," says Simmons. "He's super smart, he's an inspiration to be around."

Simmons now coaches at Eastern Illinois and on this night, Weiler is living a dream. He's been asked to broadcast the first half of the game with Mike Bradd and the second half with the voice of SIUE Joe Pott, who first gave him a shot back in 2015.

"It's made me a better broadcaster," says Pott. "Because I think about all the things that Bryce would ask me when we would go to break. He'd say you forgot to tell me how many bounces that ball took through the infield."

"He had no idea that he impacted my life that much," Weiler says of Pott. "That was really one of the most influential moments of my life."

Weiler takes no chances with chances like this. He spends hours memorizing the rosters, the stats and then talking to the coaches. He even walks onto the court before each game.

"I will shoot free throws on the rim to figure out if the rim is loose or tight and see how the ball bounces," Weiler shares.

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He can't see, but Bryce Weiler is far-sighted. A night like this is never just about him.

"I think he wants this experience to be shared with more people with disabilities," says Simmons.

Weiler is the co-founder of a non-profit called the "Beautiful Lives Project".

"We help people with disabilities to experience programs in sports, music, and the arts," he explained.

"He's out there pushing for folks like himself to have the same kind of access that you and I have on a daily basis," added Pott.

When the game was over, the Cougars beat the Panthers 66 to 53 but real winners might have been the listeners at home.

"The drive and all the work he's put into it, that's a pretty special deal," says Bradd.

One young man finding his voice and showing us all that true vision doesn't require eyes.

"He's a one of a kind," said a smiling Simmons.

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