I never played soccer as a kid. It wasn’t an option when & where I grew up (western Wisconsin). But then again, my father was an ‘outdoorsman,’ which means that he hunted (ambushed deer) and fished (sat in a tin boat on a fetid lake rather than spend time with his family), so I never had anyone to actually prod me into athletics or foster what interest I did have. I had more catches with my mother. I was never an athlete and I’ve lately been reminded of this thanks to a mild injury.
I was never a sporto. In fact, not being one formed a good deal of my personality from high school into college. But in my early thirties I was turned on to soccer by a friend of mine. He insisted that I accompany him to watch Manchester United on early weekend mornings. He was friends with several bartenders in town, they let us in to watch the early matches keeping a tab of what we drank and then rang it up when they officially opened. It was a small group–myself, my friend who got me into United and another close friend who we bullied into drinking with us, a father and son (the son was our age and the dad perhaps late 60s), a waitress who looked like Rachel Starr, a rugby built bartender who was a Liverpool supporter and probably one of the nicest guys I’ve every met, an old timer Everton supporter who never really spoke but glared like a proper Irishman, and the occasional foreign grad student.
Being slightly buzzed by nine in the morning on a Sunday was a delightful thing.
So I decided that I should play. A 34 year-old deciding he should start playing rec league soccer. With zero skill or technique and less than fit, I threw myself into the water to sink or swim. I played a fall, a winter, and fall again. My presence was mostly meant to fill out the numbers, so the team had enough to play or at least one sub. Still, the game got under my skin and I was hooked. This is around the time I started writing on the Chicago Fire and other teams and really getting into Minnesota United (then called NSC Minnesota Stars), playing Football Manager, and other like obsessing.
I’ve been lucky, I’ve never really had an injury of any kind. That is until last week. Not fifteen minutes into my third session with the Lawrence Adult Soccer League and second with the John Denver Experience, in a battle for the ball I got kicked in the back of the shin. Nothing malicious, I just got a boot in the leg. At the time I knew it was going to bruise but as I played on I could feel it hurting. I subbed out and couldn’t really go back in–that was thirty minutes, at most. Bummer.
I am fairly certain I have a calf contusion, maybe a second grade one. The welt on my leg about two inches up from my ankle bone was about the size of a tennis ball.
The first week the whole thing was a swollen mess. My leg looked like a piece of meat. I could stand but not for long and walking meant hobbling. I iced it and started popping generic Aleve like it was pez. It hurt but it an odd way. There would be days I could walk on it and then days where I’d have to either sit all day with it up or walk, standing was out of the question. I missed the second week of play because even though I could get around I was genuinely afraid of re-injuring it. Fortunately for me this last weekend the matches were cancelled and rescheduled. So I’ve had two weeks to nurse this hurt.
My point in sharing all this is quite simple, I never thought I could actually hurt myself. I’ve never had a broken bone or really cut myself though I have just wailed on my joints and had many a swollen digit and knee. I’ve had one certain concussion in my life but nothing like this. What it has done is proven to me that I’m an old shit who is just asking to get hurt worse trying to play a sport that I am only a rank beginner at alongside people who are at best 12 years younger than me (I’m 38 now).
Essentially, I just lived out a Louis CK bit.