I’m proud to say I’ve been professional sports free since the Super Bowl. As a fan of the Patriots, the game put me over the edge. Viewing it to me was an exercise in misery. It’s funny because I found the team frustrating to watch this year. What should have been a fun time was a loss and a dent in the sheet rock in the bathroom where I decided back hand a wall with my knuckles. I said to myself, “why am I getting so worked up over this?” It’s not like I was playing. I have season tickets, yes, but I don’t know any of the players. At that point I decided not to be a sports voyeur any longer. Since then, I flipped the tv on a Red Sox exhibition game for ten minutes on Sunday while eating a sandwich. The station that airs the Red Sox, NESN, puts on the single worst broadcast imaginable. From the camera angles, to the two guys in the booth, its unwatchable. It took 3 batters to find out who was pitching for the Sox and while they were up, there was a split screen of the game and a post outing interview with Josh Beckett. I don’t need to hear about his 2 inning outing, please just show the game. I got annoyed and turned on Swamp People. Don’t you love how they have to put subtitles underneath when these Cajuns speak?
I have two sons, 12 and 9. One of my great joys as a parent is going out and playing catch, shooting hoops or throwing batting practice to them. I also have coached their teams. As they get older, watching the games gets more fun. They both played travel soccer over the last three years. Watching them, play gave me the itch to start playing sports again. I was invited three years ago to play indoor soccer and have done so. I played in high school, some indoor intramurals in college, and an indoor season when I was in my late 20′s. It’s a blast to tell you the truth. Surprisingly, some skills came back. I can shoot well with both feet and have scored more goals than I ever had in my life. On the other hand, my dribbling and trapping have never come back. Even worse, we switched facilities from this nice state of the art place with new field turf that had sidelines. You did corner kicks, throw ins, etc. We have since moved to this dump in the next town that is owned by an ex-Patriot kicker. It’s like a hockey rink, and the turf has nothing but concrete underneath. It’s like being in a pinball machine and it’s hard to control the ball. My healthy knees the next day feel like Andre Dawson’s after a three game series at the old Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. But still, it’s a blast. After telling my kids what to do on the field, they get to see me put my money where my mouth is.
Before they were born, I used to play a lot of pickup basketball. We’d go to different schools and play on Wednesday or Thursday nights. I haven’t played a real pickup game since then. I used the excuse that I didn’t have the patience to get my rusty, limited skills in order. Anyway, last year my oldest boy was on a travel team that I head coached. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. These kids were like the Bad News Bears and ended up somehow winning four games. Coaching the games ignited the switch to play. I was involved with the drills, dribbling, passing, shooting, boxing out. This year, he got promoted up and they already had a coach. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed watching 6th grade basketball. Just as well, his old team went 10-2 and won a tournament. In the tournament last year, we didn’t even win a game. Amazing when you get the right coaches in place.
I decided that I wanted to play basketball again. I went on eBay and bought myself a pair of Adidas Top Ten basketball shoes from the wife and kids for my 43rd birthday. It was an excellent addition to the Macallan 12 year bottle of scotch that she bought me. They were the same ones I wore in high school. In 1983, they were $74 shoes, I got them with shipping for $55. In Hopedale royal blue colors. My brother told me I’m too white to wear these things, here’s a picture, what do you think?
My soccer got moved to Monday nights and lo and behold, there is a 40 and over geyser pickup league in my town on Thursday at 9 PM. Played for the first time last Thursday, and probably shot 3 for 30. I also had a 55-year-old guy with an artificial hip, blow by me for a layup. Good grief. The part of my so-called game that I was worried about, ball handling, offensive moves, passing wasn’t an issue. But my shooting, which I always had faith in, was a disaster. I gave up swearing as a New Year’s Resolution. Other than Super Bowl Sunday, it’s been easy. Until I went by a guy and blew a layup. I can’t wait for this Thursday.
If you read this blog, and it has had over 10,000 views since its inception, you know it’s mostly a fitness blog. Playing sports can and should be a part of your fitness regimen. Whether you do kettlebells, lift, run, do the treadmill, it can get a little tedious from time to time. Playing is a great way to stay in shape. You are moving laterally, jumping and sprinting. All those things they have you do in the fitness boot camp at the gym. When you were young, you ate what you wanted, and played all the time. You didn’t walk or jog in a straight line. If you want to be in shape, why don’t you “get back” to your youth? It worked then, why wouldn’t it work now? Ice hockey, basketball, tennis, indoor soccer are all activities that can be played all year round. These sports can be counted as one of your workout days. Team sports helps build friendships. You get to meet people who have similar interests. There’s nothing like a post game beer or three after breaking a good sweat.
The first couple of weeks can be rough. You will be sore because you’re activating dormant muscles. The next morning you won’t be able to move. Also, you can get injured. I did crack ribs playing goaltender because some knucklehead came in too fast. Right now I have pins and needles on the ring toe of my right foot when I walk bare foot. I’ve seen a teammate blow out a knee. I’ve heard of guys popping their Achilles tendon. It unfortunately happens. When you’re fatigued, stop. Same as lifting, you should almost never go to failure. For me taking the risk of getting injured is worth it. When I’m not sore the next day, I feel like I’m 15 again and not giving into my age. The same competitive juices come back, except you’re a little smarter. The game slows down a little literally and figuratively. The stupid rash plays you made as a youth are more under control. Your skills do come back. They might have eroded a little, but they’re still in you and there will be some things you can do better. When I leave the court or the field, I always feel like I had fun. We lost 10-3 in soccer last night and it was great. Sometimes it’s tough to get up for a 9 or 10 PM game, but once you’re there, it’s worth it. Get out there and have some fun!