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Still beating the odds
Sports fan with cerebral palsy wins (again) with NCAA pool software

 

Any donation is very much appreciated!

 

By Mark Coomes
mcoomes@courier-journal.com
The Courier-Journal in Louisville, KY (March 7, 2005)
 

Like the scores of men's basketball teams that will plunge into March Madness this week, Jeff Nally has high hopes for the frenzied weeks ahead.

He plans to win his NCAA Tournament pool this year, a trick he hasn't turned since 1983. He'll keep plugging for another 22 years, if that's what it takes.

Nally, 33, is as persistent as a bad cold. Taking three or four credit hours a semester, he graduated from the University of Louisville in 2001 with a degree in finance.

It took him nine years.

"If you had to type your homework with your nose," said Nally's father, Bill, "it would take you a while to graduate too."

Nally beamed. He's proud of doing things the hard way. It's the only way he knows.

Nally nearly died before he was born. The umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and cut off oxygen to his brain for six minutes. It left him with cerebral palsy.

His body is wracked with neurological spasms that severely limit his ability to speak, walk and use his hands. So he uses his head instead.

With a bright mind (as evidenced by his 3.0 grade-point average at U of L) and a nimble nose (which pecks out 20 words per minute), Nally invented a computer program that makes running an NCAA Tournament pool easier than sinking a wide-open layup -- even with 500 different brackets to track and score.

Nally also designed a Web site, www.poolspreadsheets.com, where he sells the program for $12.75. Seventy people from Kentucky to Korea bought the program last year, and 16 already have procured the improved version for the 2005 tournament, which starts on March 17.

"He's got most of the bugs out now," Nally's mother, Pat, said.

"I've got all the bugs out," Nally corrected, noting that the new version is "50 percent better."

Nally loves exceeding expectations. When he was a preschooler, his physical limitations were so profound that doctors and therapists assumed that his mental capacity also was diminished, which is often the case.

Pat Nally knew better. She'd seen Jeff, then 4, teach himself the alphabet by watching "Wheel of Fortune." She'd heard him call out letters and try to solve puzzles.

"People told us we were dreaming," Pat Nally said. "They'd say, 'These kids just don't do that.' And I'd say, 'I'm telling you, he knows what he's doing. He's smart.' "

Jeff's kindergarten teacher assumed otherwise. He spent his first day of school sitting alone in a corner, doing nothing.

"We went to the principal and said, 'Look, Jeff said yesterday (that his class) did this, this, this and this,' " Pat Nally recalled. "They were, like, 'Oh my God! He knows what's going on.' We never had a bit of trouble after that."

Bill Nally, a retired manager who worked 31 years at Philip Morris, begs to differ.

"We got a lot of bad advice when Jeff was young," he said. "Jeff had a drooling problem, which most kids with CP do, and doctors wanted to cut his saliva ducts and let the drool drain to the back of his mouth. We said no way, and, sure enough, Jeff got the problem under control."

The Nallys, who live near Okolona, insisted that their son have a mainstream education. Jeff's electric wheelchair was a familiar sight at Manual High School, where he was a member of the student council and even earned a varsity letter for football. Coach Steve Haag noticed that Nally had attended every game, invited him to the team's postseason banquet and surprised Nally with the award.

Nally graduated from Manual in 1989 but postponed college to have surgery aimed at lengthening the muscles in his legs. Six years later, he was back in surgery again, this time for a malfunctioning stomach valve.

The procedure was complicated by Jeff's lack of body fat, and he contracted a severe case of pneumonia.

"We almost lost him," Bill Nally said. "That was a tough year."

There were many of those when Jeff was growing up, but the Nallys are a tough family that strived to live life as normally as possible. Jeff went everywhere and did everything that his parents and two siblings did, including traveling on vacations to Walt Disney World, Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Las Vegas.

"Jeff is my blackjack buddy," said Maggie Lawson, a family friend. "Sometimes the dealers think that because he's handicapped, he doesn't know what he's doing, but he can outplay them anytime.

His younger sister, Marcia Tharp, enrolled in Jeff's first class at Jefferson Community College. She got out his books, opened them to the correct page and made sure his homework got turned in. When Jeff earned a higher grade in the class, she jokingly said, "I don't like this at all!"

The Nallys' youngest child, Kyle, jokes that he was born to help carry Jeff around. Kyle's body is everything Jeff's is not -- lean, athletic and strong. He lettered in baseball, basketball and football at St. Xavier High School, where he was a member of two state championship football teams.

Jeff channels his athletic energies into Texas Hold 'em, televised sports and doping out the NCAA Tournament. His favorite sport is baseball, but he is an astute and passionate hoops fan who seemed downright clairvoyant when he picked the upset winner of the 1983 tourney.

"He was filling out his bracket and got down to Houston and North Carolina State in the final," Bill Nally said. "His mom said, and I quote, 'Tell him not to pick North Carolina State. They can't beat Houston.' "

But they did, and 11-year-old Jeff pocketed $300 from a pool at Philip Morris. He was the only player who picked N.C. State.

Like the Wolfpack, Nally hasn't conquered March Madness since.

A victory this year would cap a run of good work and good fortune that saw him complete his bracket-scoring program last year and marry his wife, Liz, in 2003.

Liz also has cerebral palsy, but there is little she can't do. Her ability to drive gives the couple a welcome measure of independence.

Nally knows there are many things he will never be able to do for himself. But unlike many people with cerebral palsy, he can think for himself -- and for that he is deeply grateful.

"I'm lucky," he said.

ďMy Story in My Own WordsĒ

I am a die-hard sports enthusiast.   Physically, I have never been able to compete on any field, but mentally I have a tremendous competitive drive.   I was born with cerebral palsy.   For most of my life, my body didn't allow my competitive spirit many outlets.  However, with the birth of the Internet, my competitive drive has thrived.  It has allowed me to create a small business with the website www.poolspreadsheets.com.  The Internet has also allowed me to win three Fantasy Baseball Championships, and play Texas Hold 'em poker (four tables at the same time).  Believe it not, I do all of this by typing with my nose at a rate of 20 words per minute.  It took me 9 years to get my Bachelor's Degree in Finance at the University of Louisville only because of how long it took me to do my homework.

Being able to play fantasy baseball and poker, both offline and online, is good for my competitive psyche.  However, my web site is the biggest part of my story.  I graduated from college in 2001.  For about three years, I applied for all kinds of jobs.  Even though businesses are not supposed to discriminate, most of the time, they focused on what I couldn't do rather than what I could do.  My web site is www.poolspreadsheets.com on which I sell a March Madness pool management program.  This has been my greatest accomplishment.  Nobody helps me with any aspects of the web site or program.   In March, on Selection Monday, I was at my computer for about 19 straight hours handling customer service.  Needless to say, my nose was very red.  Selling my software gives me a great sense of self-worth.  Unlike some businesses, I truly care about my customers.  If somebody has a problem using my program, I will rack my brain until I find a solution.  The program was created solely on the desire to fill out my own bracket.  It became a full-fledge scoring program after a few Visual Basic courses.  I try to improve it every year.  My customers really appreciate my work.  Most of the people who buy my program donít know that I have a disability.  However, the ones that have found out are blown away that Iíve created the program with only my nose.

My second greatest passion is poker.  I started to play online about three years ago.  Internet poker has gained me much experience.   I have tried to qualify through World Series of Poker one-table satellites six times at Caesar's, in Elizabeth, Indiana.  Although, I have not won yet, I have finished second, four times.  It's very frustrating, but I will keep trying.  Since I cannot handle my cards or chips, my wife or mother goes with me to act as my hands.  The casino has been very accommodating in allowing someone to show my cards to me.  Lately they have even allowed me to sit beside the dealer so he/she can show me my cards.  Nobody really intimidates me at the table.  In fact, I have busted so many players that they've given me a lot of respect.  Last year I started to play with the Louisville Poker Tour.  Itís a free league that I play at local bars/restaurants.  Iíve qualified for the finals.  The grand prize is a seat at the 2007 World Series of Poker Main Event.  It is very exciting.

My fantasy baseball team (Kentucky Pocket Aces) has won three straight championshipsI take this very seriously.  Since, I physically can't pitch a shut out, coaching a virtual team is the next best thing.  The other people that I compete against online, have no idea of my disability.  So when I win, it is on an even playing field.

 

 

 

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Trust My 10+ Years of Spreadsheet Knowledge

Don't waste endless hours calculating each sheet after each round.  Input each sheet into Excel only once and let the spreadsheet automatically calculate the score of all of the sheets after each round or even after each gameI upgrade this program every year!

Get the Expertise You're Looking For

Jeff Nally has 10 years' experience developing spreadsheet applications. I hold a Bachelor's degree from the University of Louisville (A top 35 Business School). Much more than an Excel technician, I have the business background to understand your company's needs. Additional skills include:

  • Experienced in Excel application, including some Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) knowledge.
  • Able to create a customized spreadsheet from scratch  to meet your needs (Whatever they are!)
  • I've been tweaking this spreadsheet for five years now.  Its finally  perfect.  Download the demo and see what I mean.

Customer Testimonials

"The spreadsheet works very well.  Its so easy to use.  I sincerely appreciate your efforts on designing the bracket." - Val S.

"You got it--thanks! The spreadsheet works perfectly.
I look forward to sending you more business in the near future." -Rick T.

"This spreadsheet is going to save me a lot of time. It's exactly
what I needed
--thanks for doing it so  inexpensively!" -Kenny C.

"I'm HAPPY! Thanks Jeff. You didn't let me down. I will keep
your name handy for future reference and let my friends know I found
an Excel expert who has all the answers." -Elizabeth S
.

"Thanks a lot Jeff!!! That's exactly what I was looking for ...
Thanks for your valuable help." -Doug M.

"Thank you very much! and thank you for that speedy reply.
Your idea worked out great!
" -Bill H.


Fast Turnaround, Easy Payment

If you have another project, many projects can be completed in less than a week, or even by the next day if required. And when the project is completed, you can pay quickly and conveniently via credit card using PayPal. Pat Nally is PayPal verified, so you can make transactions with confidence!


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