Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Love/Hate Relationships and Me

I love sports. I enjoy playing them. I enjoy sitting on a couch with friends and unhealthy snacks and beverages shouting at images of my team on TV when I know very well they can't hear me. Sports appeal to both the high-minded strategist and the knuckle-dragging neanderthal in me (It's a skinny neanderthal that got beat up a lot at caveman school, but he's there nonetheless).

My history playing sports is a documentary entitled The Triumph of Hope Over Experience. I'm not particularly fast or tall or big, but I have the love, and according to the advertising, that's enough, right? I also have a mile-wide competitive streak which is capable of overriding higher brain function, along with a poor emotional memory.

Writing it down like this, there's no way this ends well. Nonetheless, stories.

Summer, 2007. A handful of guys in my engineering class were playing touch football at the university. We played 3 on 3 football with one guy playing QB for both teams. On one play, I was lined up against Earl Grant, a great guy who was on the university volleyball team and was the closest thing to a good athlete we had in our class. At the snap of the ball I got behind Earl, made him turn in the wrong direction and then took off running upfield. I was two full steps ahead of him and was feeling very proud of myself. The QB saw that I was open and threw the ball really high and far enough downfield that I was the only one who could catch it. I saw the ball and my mind started trying to figure out what kind of end zone celebration I was going to do after I scored.

We were playing on the university practice field. They have all kinds of equipment they use, including full blocking sleds, which are iron monstrosities roughly the size, weight and shape of a farm tractor. It's the off-season, and the university stores the sled out near the end of the field, minus the padding or anything that could be damaged or stolen. But back to me.

I have a full stride going, watching the ball come down from the clouds. I'm smiling, thinking of how much I'll enjoy telling people I managed to score a touchdown against Earl. I heard the beginnings of shouts, and before I could process what they were saying I ran headlong into the sled.

Specifically, I ran headlong into a piece of 4" box channel (think of a hollow square steel tube). I first hit it just below my center of gravity along my left leg, and it carved a strip out of my inner thigh, connecting solidly just to the left of my will to live. My body flipped over top of the sled where I was able to break my fall by slamming face-first into the grass behind it. My momentum carried my lower body fully over my head to where I ultimately ended up lying on my back, skidding to a stop. From a distance it looked like a very bad front handspring, and the end landing was described afterward as though I was "trying to make a dirt angel". The whole scene was truly Super Dave Osborne-worthy.

When my head first hit the ground I heard (felt?) a few distinct crunches in my neck and was very afraid. After both the world and I came to a stop there was a precedent-setting moment where I decided to be smart about things and see if I could move my fingers and toes. Luckily they responded, and by then the guys had run up and were asking if I was all right.

Once they saw that the Ed-shaped mess of arms and legs and moans of pain was alive and had managed to sit up under my own power, the laughing started. Apparently it was the funniest thing they'd ever seen and for a week or two afterward (particularly while I was still walking gingerly) I earned the nickname Flip, which lent itself to a cool explanation, at least.

So while football is easily where the most damage was done, that doesn't mean that other sports haven't managed to bring injury and incident. Here's a shortlist:

• Broke a thumb knuckle knocking down a pass.
• Twisted ankles and knees all over the place.
• There's a reason t-shirts have been made that say "Give blood. Play hockey." I'm a guy that ordinarily knows better than to go into corners. Wayne Gretzky said the best advice he was ever given about playing hockey was that "Corners are for bus stops. And stamps." He played for decades.
• Screening goaltenders and blocking shots is another path to useful for people that have more love than ability. It is useful, but it's not the path to a long and healthy career.
• Raquets hurt. Avoid them. Also, slowing your momentum before you get to side walls is a good thing to remember, for those like me that need such advice.
• Think you couldn't get hurt playing badminton? Think again. I dove to return a shot ago (which finally inspired this blog post) and managed to land on my side, on top of my raquet arm. I cracked a rib doing this, and damned if I can figure out entirely how.
• This isn't really a sport, but when you're playing in a tournament against a competitive sister in law who isn't paying attention, there's plenty of opportunity for near-death experiences.

Clearly the closest I should come to sports is either as a spectator or playing in fantasy leagues, though people who have seen my fantasy league tendencies know that that tends to be the death-knell for the careers of the players I choose. That's why I play video games. It keeps my motor skills intact, and I'm a fan of that. It's also a public service for athletes who spend their lives training for a chance to play as a pro only to have their career cut down because I drafted them in the first few rounds.

That kind of altruism can't be denied. I play video games for the greater good.


ZZ said...

Now, did this fall surpass the ones I'm sure you must have sustained while unicycling? Assuming, this IS the Ed who once told me liked to swing dance, juggle, and ride a unicycle.

Addicted said...

Yes, this might be that same Ed, and I restricted the list to sports injuries because I'd never finish the post otherwise. Who is this?