I’m not as young as I smell. I have broken feet, bad ankles, busted knees, tender hamstrings, a petulant lower back, popping hips, creaky shoulders and poor eyesight. There’s no reason, other than some sort of Space Jam interplanetary showdown to decide Earth’s fate, that I should be playing soccer. On a full field. With 45 minute periods. With people who know advanced soccer terminology.
How did I find myself in this predicament? I blame television.
You always see episodes of TV shows where coworkers form teams and play sports outside of work and learn lessons and have fun. Like the Cheers gang playing basketball or Jim and Darryl on The Office playing basketball or the doctors on ER playing basketball. Why aren’t we playing basketball? Because basketball would allow me to guard the stocky guy and not to look like a complete idiot. Or have to plan three days in advance for how I’m going to heal my body after the second game of the season.
Following the first game (July 2 for you bettors out there) my body was so sore and tight from mid-spine to my feet that I barely made it into work. The next day it was even worse. I called every massage place in Ann Arbor on the Fourth of July and every single one of those lazy patriots was closed. Today is July 8 – six days after I butchered my body in the name of really shoddy soccer playing – and I’m still not back to normal.
Back to normal, for my aged body, means low levels of constant aches and pains. If I run a few miles, something gives a little. If I do it a few days in a row, some part of my body noticeably breaks down. It could be a foot bone. It could be a tendon. It could be my will to live.
With soccer, it’s more explosive. There’s not deterioration. Just destruction. I move 225lbs-plus of fat, muscle and half-digested chicken wings forward, backward, sideways, other sideways – stopping and starting on uneven grass in brand new cleats with the idea that I’m still eight years-old playing for the Welland Realty Warriors like some auburn haired kid who knows that if he shows enough effort his mom will take him to McDonald’s after the game and let him order a Big Mac and fries and she’ll pay extra for the toy. I was never any good back then, and let me tell you, age does not improve your fitness or ability to plant a foot and change direction quickly.
I wasn’t kidding about the body prep. I’ve Googled “How to Treat Soccer Injuries” and taken myself down a lot of rabbit holes so I can walk the day after our next game – which just so happens to be tomorrow.
I’ve stretched. I’ve paid for one massage and came REALLY close to booking a second a few hours after the first. I’m icing for the first time in years. I took a cold bath today after a warm-up jog, and decided that it wasn’t cold enough.
Tomorrow, I’m going to warm-up for 20 minutes before the game, even though it will burn 80% of my total stamina. Then I’m going to play conservatively, taking extra care when doing anything but brushing hair out of my eyes and farting near the opposing goaltender. After the game, I’ll immediately drive to the store to purchase two large bottles of sport drink and a bag of ice. I will fill my tub with cold water and ice, put on my Stephen King audiobook, pop some Ibuprofen, climb into cold hell and sit there refueling with electrolytes until the paramedics bust down the door two days later and find a half-eaten corpse and some very sleepy cats.
Just kidding. That’s why I got married – so it’s not the paramedics that find my extra-cold dead body, but my wife. Who will proceed to eat me because I haven’t gone grocery shopping in a little while and I taste exactly like chicken wings.
My only consolation in this whole thing (other than great times sweating profusely, tearing knee ligaments and swearing in front of coworkers, amirite!?) is that once I die and my mostly new cleats and mostly new shin guards are donated to Play it Again Sports, I will have some lucky sap to haunt for the rest of his rec league soccer days. Or her rec league soccer days, if she has very big feet. I’m an equal opportunity poltergeist.
I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow. But I’m guessing not well. But thanks for asking.
I completely forgot about this two-part article I wrote for MGoBlue.com where I challenged Michigan soccer players to their own sport. This was in 2008, so I was five years more flexible. Enjoy (if you’ve read this far). Part One is here, but Part Two appears lost to the Internet gremlins for all time. Oh MGoBlue, why you gotta kill my legacy?