I loved contact sports growing up. I played hockey 10 months out of the year, and in my opinion, it is the toughest sport to play. My style was what is known as a “grinder” – I never had the dangles that made the highlight reel, but skating hard and hitting was the name of the game.
Even after countless big hits, stitches (both giving and taking) and more than my fair share of rough corner battles, I couldn’t get enough of the physical sport. Putting a big hit on someone else was my favorite thing. Like anything in life, karma has a way of keeping a balance, and I can promise that I am paying for the many times I put my body on the line for a game.
When I wake up in the morning, it sounds like I’m walking through a forest: my ankles crack walking up and down the stairs, my knees crack from years of playing catcher in baseball, my entire spinal column sounds like popcorn when I roll over, and I can crack all of my knuckles an infinite amount of times. In high school and college, I was a gym warrior, going four to five days a week. Now, I go to the gym and do machines and high reps because my doctor recommended that I “never heavy lift or you’ll pull your abdominal muscles again.”
Being an athlete was once my identity. In high school that counted for a lot, but in real life, no one gives a shit if you scored a goal off a kid that went to a known D-1 school or hit a double off of Rick Porcello during high school baseball. That doesn’t stop me from telling the story so many times people could recite it, but I’ll Al Bundy it every time.
These days, I play beer league hockey. The league is non-check with a wide range of skill levels– from struggling to make a JV high school team to college level. It’s been hard to shed my competitive nature, pull up on hits and I do not want to be “that guy” that everyone hates because they showboat.
Even so, it usually takes at least two days to recover after a game. I honestly have no idea how the pros perform at such a high level all the time. I would be considered “in my prime” if I were actually any good playing professionally and not an above average, washed up beer league-er, but these people take hits and do things I could only dream of. I guess it’s easier with superior dietitians, multi-million dollar facilities and state of the art recovery rooms, but that’s neither here nor there.
Oftentimes, I’ll roll into work with a hitch in my step and a noticeable bruise or a few obvious bandages. I feel like Edward Norton in Fight Club, as my coworkers are always inquisitive as to what the next injury is, ranging from Billy Badass starting a fight at the game to slicing my finger open on dishes. Ibuprofen has gotten me through quite a few of the more painful injuries, as does the 1-5 beers I drink every night.
This problem doesn’t just extend to sports injuries. Ever notice how hangovers seem to linger a lot longer? I remember in college the best way to cure a hangover was some Wendy’s, a Powerade and more booze. Benders could last for nearly a week, and the recovery period would be roughly one NFL, wings and light beer filled Sunday of recovery. These days, if I party on Friday, nothing gets done Saturday and I’ll still feel it Sunday. Usually, I’m too tired to go out or keep it low key, and if I rage Saturday, it’s not until I get a cup of coffee on Monday that I’m close to 100%.
Maybe I’m just getting older. It’s scary knowing that in a month, I’ll be considered “late ’20s”. My mom always told me that all of the physical sports I played would eventually catch up to me. Maybe it’s because I’ve slowed down and haven’t kept up to the unattainable and unachievable standards of playing. All I know is that pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory lasts forever. .
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