During my early college years (the years when I was more worried about my social life than my grades) I played a lot of basketball. I don’t mean I played for several hours on a weekly basis, I mean I played daily as if somehow the number of points I scored might magically transfer to my overall Physics grade. I can attest that they did not.
Bottom line, I loved basketball. I loved playing it, I loved watching it…I feel like the sentence would feel better if there was a third thing I loved about basketball, but really it was all about playing or watching. That’s it. Anyway, I carried that love with me into my life as a married man. I didn’t play as often, but I was religious about playing every Saturday morning. Then came the inevitable.
Actually, it was two things. One, I was playing in a league with some people I worked with when I attempted to take a charge. (Taking a charge is getting someone to run into you and thereby get them called for a foul for those who are not familiar with basketball lingo.) I took the charge alright, but in the process, my entire body was knocked violently to the left. Every part of me that is except my right leg from the knee down. It somehow didn’t get the message and stood valiantly, rooted in place, as the rest of me went flying. That was the beginning of my recurring knee problems. The second thing was I entered my thirties. I moved, my kids got older, we bought a house that required more upkeep and finally, my body began to betray me in other ways. I broke a rib playing defense and spent the next three weeks trying to catch my breath every time my toddler decided I needed an unannounced hug. The final result of all of these things happening was that my religious Saturday attendance at the church of basketball waned. At first I started to attend intermittently and then I went less active all together.
My final break with regular basketball playing came when I moved to the small town where I now reside. I didn’t have my regular group to play with and I didn’t want to expend the energy to find a new group. So I let it go. I might dabble in meaningless pick-up games that moved at quarter speed from time to time, but those were few and far between. Until two nights ago.
That’s when my friend texted me to let me know church basketball had started and they were worried that not enough guys were going to show to field a team. I should have ignored his text. Instead, I let myself get suckered into worrying about whether other guys would be able to play basketball or not. Why should I care? The correct answer is, I shouldn’t have.
Now what did me in was that I have been an avid racquetball player for the last few years and have also started riding my bike on a somewhat regular basis. I thought I was probably ready for the exertion required for basketball. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
When I arrived, I discovered that my friend’s text had been accurate…sort of. There were plenty of guys that showed up for our team, but not one guy showed for the other team. So we decided to play against each other. Many of you know how that goes. It turns into a track meet with a ball flying at the hoop periodically. I ended up doing as many wind sprints without touching the ball as I used to do in high school basketball practice. But that wasn’t the worst of it. When I actually did touch the ball, it was revealed that in many ways I had forgotten how to shoot. Oh the humanity as some of my hideous offerings made their way somewhat in the direction of the hoop. It was ugly.
Unfortunately for me, my semi-in-shape body hid from me the fact that I was over-doing it. During the course of the game, I felt a little rubbery-legged at times, but overall not too bad. That would come later…like the next morning when I attempted to get out of bed.
My alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. and I went to sit up. That was a mistake. Pain shot through my thighs, passing through my butt and exploded throughout my back. Adding to my problems was a never before experienced stiffness in my neck that made it impossible to flinch correctly at the pain occurring around the lower half of my body. It was dark, so I can only guess what I must have looked like, but I have a feeling it resembled Frankenstein reacting to bath water that was overheated.
Now I was in a quandary. I was expected to get on my bike and ride down to the racquetball courts where a couple of friends would be waiting for me. In that first sixty seconds post alarm, it seemed more likely that my legs would simply fall off of my body in protest. Nevertheless, I proceeded. My morning stretching routine was fun. (That is if one defines fun as curling up in a ball on a darkened floor and weeping uncontrollably.) And my racquetball skills were lacking to say the least. But somehow I survived. However, it is a full twenty four hours plus later and I still feel like roadkill.
So here is my question: Why? Why would God be so mean as to make us age? I know I’ve heard countless people ask similar questions before me, but I never cared then. It wasn’t affecting me. Now it is and frankly, I think it sucks. I’m really having a hard time coming to grips with the fact that basketball is a young man’s game, and I am quickly becoming not a young man. Maybe I should face the fact that the time to take up shuffleboard has arrived.