I limped my way into the house about 9:15 pm, dragging my left leg along the ground like some kind of Quasimodo. I dropped my basketball shoes into the giant, overflowing pile of footwear by the door and took off my coat.
“Short night” I grumbled to my family as they looked up, surprised to see me home earlier than usual.
I play basketball on most Monday nights with a bunch of other older guys ranging in age from late 30’s to mid 50’s. That along with working out three or four times a week keeps me in not great, but pretty good shape. I play because I love the game. I play because I love the competition. I feel like a teenager when I’m out there and it’s so much more fun than tedious time spent lifting weights or doing endless amounts of aerobic activity. Plus I want my kids to see that even at forty-seven years old I can still go out and run around and play like a kid. They’ll remember that some day when they reach my age and they’re questioning whether to put on their athletic shoes and tie up the laces.
As a group us old guys play hard but we are careful to avoid injuries. None of us need that at our ages. Recovery time is a lot slower now than it was when we were younger.
Occasionally it happens though.
I blew out my left calf muscle this past Monday night, about ten minutes into our first game, while stealing a pass and breaking down the court to score a basket. As I accelerated I felt a sharp pain, a “pop” if you will, and knew it wasn’t good.
Recounting the story to my family when I got home, my daughter asked “so you scored though right?”
“Yeah I scored” I answered.
“That’s what’s most important” she said with a grin on her face.
“I guess so” I said as I frantically tried to secure a bag of ice my wife had retrieved for me around my calf muscle using an old t-shirt.
It hurt like hell. It was rapidly tightening up like a rubber band being turned on a toy propeller car. It swelled up and for the first time in my life, at least on my left leg, I had what I would consider a normally sized calf muscle and not the usual matchsticks that hold me up.
I finally got the ice secured with an elastic bandage rather than the t-shirt.
I drank a big glass of water, took a few ibuprofen and felt a little nauseous.
I tried to pretend that I didn’t feel like I was going into shock.
I Googled Aaron Rodgers calf injury because if you aren’t aware the famed quarterback for the Green Bay Packers was dealing with a similar injury during the last several games of his season. I thought about how people crack jokes about him and call him things like “the golden boy” but that he must be some kind of a serious bad ass to have played several PROFESSIONAL NFL FOOTBALL GAMES with what I can only imagine was a similarly painful left leg.
The articles I read said his recovery was expected to take 4-6 weeks.
What? 4-6 weeks? I don’t have 4-6 weeks!
Oh well, it is what it is. And hey, if anyone asks I can boast that I have the same injury as Aaron Rodgers, just us two pretty boys sitting around with torn calf muscles. Pretty good company I suppose.
When I get the occasional injury like this, playing a game that I probably should have stopped participating in years ago, I always contemplate “retiring.”
“Retiring” from playing like a kid.
In fact, I pretty much consider it every Tuesday morning as I haul myself out of bed, creaking and in pain from the previous night’s exertions. It usually goes something like this:
On one shoulder, a yogi, dressed in spandex and doing a Downward Dog while gently advising me: “Steve, maybe you’re too old to be playing basketball. Perhaps some gentle stretching would be better for you.”
On the other shoulder, my late grandfather, who spent his career as a teacher and football coach at a private boarding school yelling his now infamous quote: “look down between your legs and see if you’re a man!” (You can read more about him here)
But I just can’t seem to retire yet. I still want to play like a kid.
It’s kind of like that morning when you wake up with a really bad hangover and you tell yourself “ugh… I’m never drinking again.”
Never seems to work out like you planned.