It wasn't until free-lance writer Arnold Schechter, whose sports-medicine piece on arthroscopy begins on page 18, developed throbbing pain in both knees that he finally sought the advice of Dr. Barton Nisonson, chief of arthroscopic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "I'd always been interested in keeping in shape," Schechter says. "I swam, jogged, lifted weights and played baseball and basketball, but all sorts of ailments and injuries plagued me. I broke my ankle running in Central Park. Lifting weights gave me tendinitis, making swimming impossible. Finally, an afternoon of jump shooting resulted in my getting chondromalacia, a knee condition, and reduced my activities to walking and watching my 6½-foot TV screen."
A referral to Nisonson led Schechter to the subject matter for his 20th SPORTS ILLUSTRATED article. He might well have run into SI's Sarah Pileggi, Margaret Sieck, Jim Kaplan or Bailey Breene waiting in Nisonson's office to have their knees treated. Nisonson doesn't limit his practice to journalists, however: He is also associate orthopedic physician for the New York Jets and recently, for example, performed orthopedic surgery on the right knee of Defensive End Joe Klecko. Schechter himself eschewed surgery in favor of one of Nisonson's more conservative recovery regimens, a knee-exercise program designed to strengthen the quadriceps.
A native of North Carolina, Schechter attended Duke, graduating in 1968 with a B.A. in political science. He taught this, among other subjects, for four years and coached tennis for one at Lenoir Community College in Kinston, N.C., shuttling to New York during those summers to get an M.B.A. at Columbia. Upon finishing the requirements for that degree, he stayed in New York to work in the sales office of his family's North Carolina-based apparel-manufacturing business. Schechter's parents, Sol and Pearl, from Brooklyn and the Bronx, respectively, moved to Kinston in 1941 and have run the concern from there ever since. "My father encouraged my interest in writing," Schechter says. "He prides himself on being the family grammarian, to our occasional dismay."
The interest escalated into a career when Schechter met SI Associate Writer Barry McDermott. "We'd been next-door neighbors for two years," says Schechter, "but Barry traveled so much I'd never seen him. We became friends after meeting in the laundry room one day, and while watching the 1976 Rose Bowl at my place, he encouraged me to submit an article to SI." That fall Schechter sold us a YESTERDAY column on a Brazilian flier. "I got the idea from a history of aviation course I taught," he says, "and wrote the story on the back of a manila envelope."
Several stories later, on July 4, 1977, Schechter declared his independence from the shirt business and began writing full-time on subjects as diverse as a world Monopoly tournament, baseball rubbing-mud and the college basketball shot clock, as well as reporting on sporting vacations for Sportswise magazine, of which he is travel editor.
What he is no? currently doing, given his knee problem, is playing one-on-one with fellow Kinston High alumnus Cedric (Cornbread) Maxwell. Lucky for him. And lucky for us.