Sunday, February 22, 2015

I just back back from a walk. I went up past the tree at the the top of the hill behind my house and past it to the post in the next field. It's a little over a mile, and since ¾ of it is up hill I think it's pretty good exercise. It better be, because that's all the exercise I get.

I have a nephew who, along with his wife, is into cross-training. Cross-training is to exercise what using the thumbscrew and then the rack would be to medieval torture. It's hard to argue with the results, standing side by side they look like two brand new SUV's that are made from bricks. I look like an old pickup truck which was restored with junk parts by a blind man.

It reminds of the time I was in the best shape of my life; my senior year in high school. I use to play basketball several times a week down at the grammar school with two young stud teachers there. My friend and I would play against them, which was like watching Larry Bird and Magic Johnson against Wally and the Beave Cleaver. I wasn't that bad but these guys were outstanding. They would win by about 50 points and then regale us with tales of their high school basketball exploits.

My own basketball career was tragically cut short by injury. I hurt my pride my first year of playing for the school team and was never quite the same.

I initially injured it on the first day of practice. We were told to to form a line by our 6'4'' coach, the tallest and meanest member of the team, for a “whistle drill.” A whistle drill is when the coach blows the whistle and you sprint as hard as you can until he blows it again, which was about fifteen steps later. You then changed directions and sprinted as hard as you could the other way until he blew it again, and so forth. It was a lot of fun.

I committed a basketball faux paus on the very first drill. I got in line right between the two senior stars. I didn't realize you weren't supposed to be within five feet of either star unless they had happened to ask you to carry their jock strap. They hadn't (yet) so I was where I wasn't supposed to be, socially.

The whistle blew and they both immediately shoved me the ground and then ran over me. This is where the School of Hard Knocks gets it's name from because I always lined up with the rest of the freshman peons after that. Unfortunately, this was just a quiz from Hard Knocks U, the big exam was coming up.

Later in the year we ran another drill called the “Charging Drill.” It was designed to help the big ape men on the team learn how to pick up an offensive foul by holding your position when someone “charged” into you. And they call basketball a non-contact sport.

My job in the drill, of course, was to be the poor sucker who charged into them. I offered to save them time and just run head first into the wall and then raise my hand acknowledging that they had successfully picked up the charge, but it didn't work. And you couldn't just run into the big guy because that wouldn't be simulating game conditions. You were being chased by one player as another passed a ball to you at which time you completed your suicide mission by running into the defending player. It was a lot of fun.

Of course, when it was my turn I was being chased by one the two superstars whose deity I had offended earlier in the year, and was being passed the ball by the other one. The guy I was to run into was also a senior who was actually built more solid than the wall I offered to run into.

As soon as our Nazi coach blew the whistle I began running like I was being chased by the Hound of the Baskervilles, which wasn't far off. Unfortunately, he caught me and immediately reached around and punched in what was then my burgeoning manhood. At the same time his partner threw a pass from five feet away that was going fast enough to land in the next county. It bounced off my head just as I reached the target, who, instead of keeping his arms to his side to pick up the charge, raised his forearm and caught me flush on the jaw. I was knocked senseless, admittedly not that far, but it hurt like hell. Especially in my burgeoning manhood. I was sick and had to sit out for a while. Quite a while. That would have been bad enough but it wasn't where I hurt my pride. That came next.

If you've ever been part of a male team situation you know that being hit in the nether regions is just about the Nirvana of humorous situations. It was compounded by having to be taken into the locker room to get checked out by the JV coach. Our JV coach was also the seventh grade math teacher, so I suppose he could count to two, which is about all I could figure out he was going to do. As we came out of the locker room I limped over to the sideline while he whispered something to the head coach, who burst out laughing. All right, I thought, a little private joke at my expense, I can live with that. That's what team bonding is for. But no, he shared the whole joke with the whole team. I won't repeat it here, but it wasn't anatomically correct, which gave it just the right amount of hilarity to send the team into convulsions.

I had to go home and explain to my father why I looked seriously ill, and he decided to take me to the doctor. He told me beforehand however, to refer to the injured area as my “testicles”, lest I look really stupid. Which I did, explaining that I was “accidentally” hit right in the testicle. He replied; “Ah, got it right in the balls eh? That really hurts.” Which taught me another valuable lesson; when explaining something important use words that everyone understands. I was eventually alright, but I was moved up from bass to the soprano section of the choir for a week.

So now my pride was seriously hurt, but like any sports trooper, I decided I could play with the pain, both mental and physical. Now I use the word “play” in the figurative sense, since I didn't actually play all that much. I was one of the dreaded “scrubs” who only got in when the game got out of hand. If we got far enough ahead (occasionally) or far enough behind (more likely) our seventh grade math guru would look down the bench and say, “All right you guys, get in there.” This was the cue for all the fans to head for the concession stand while we ran out the clock. It was usually about two minutes, but we got to run around and shoot the ball whenever we managed not to dribble it off our feet out of bounds. I even scored four points in Warsaw. Warsaw, NY, that is, which means there wasn't a lot of people who witnessed the event, even if they could have seen it from the concessions stands.

But the wounding of our pride came in one home game where we were actually up by a lot, and we were hoping to get in. But math boy seemed oblivious to the situation. We sat there pleading silently to get into the game but on the clock precious minutes continued to click away. Until there was less than thirty seconds to play. Then we silently pleaded NOT to be sent in. It counted down to ten, and then math boy realized that this was a scrub situation, and we got sent in with NINE seconds to play. It was humiliating to say the least. It was a foul situation and I lined up on the foul line wishing I was anywhere else. The player took a shot, it bounced harmlessly off the rim right into my hands. And the horn sounded. After the game someone actually said to me “Nice rebound.” That was it. My pride was now broken, my dreams shattered. There was only one thing to do.

I walked into math boy's classroom the next day and told him I was quitting. He mumbled something without looking up that sounded like “thanks.” He could at least have had the courtesy to look up and say it, but that would have involved using two motor skills at the same time. Only the eighth grade teachers did that.

I think I started out talking about exercise but I don't remember what all this had to do with that. That just goes to show that old sports injuries can kick up at any time. Especially when you get older and you're out walking up stupid hills.