The past week has reminded me that while I always try to convince myself that I’m still 25 years old and invincible, time is slowly but surely getting the best of me. Every year I am reminded of it in bits and pieces in my classroom; a reference I make to a movie that nobody has seen or heard of, an obscenely inappropriate guess at how old I am that goes 10+ years over my actual age, or just the general wear and tear of my body over time. However, the events of the past week have sent me spiraling into a transformation from a young, healthy man to a full-on grouchy old man almost overnight.
Over the weekend, I pulled a muscle in my back. I’d like to say that I pulled it doing some vigorous workout or lifting something heavy, but I pulled it when I woke up, yawned, and stretched on Sunday morning. This is not the first injury that I have suffered while doing something inane. I tore my meniscus a couple of years ago shortly after my basketball season ended and we were about to start our Spring workouts. I wish the story went that as I was coaching I participated in practice, went up to dunk and landed wrong, but I wasn’t anywhere near the court. I knelt down to pick up my son and heard a pop. Two weeks later I was in surgery.
The muscle pull wasn’t as bad as the meniscus tear, but I did spend almost two full days dealing with pain and barely able to move. As most of my existence for that time was horizontal, I watched a lot of television, including the Angels vs. Cardinals game on day 1 of the injury. The game was aired on ESPN because Albert Pujols was making his return to St. Louis. I moved to St. Louis right as Pujols ascended to a throne of greatness with the Cardinals, so it was a special experience to see him back in town. However, while I sat sidelined with a stretching injury, I caught myself figuratively yelling at the kids to get off my lawn.
The fans in St. Louis gave Pujols a standing ovation every time he came to bat over the 3 game series. When I say every time, I mean EVERY TIME. I grew up in Los Angeles and moved to St. Louis as an adult, so I’m not really a true midwesterner in the sense of the stereotype. When I got my dog as a puppy and took her for her first walk in our old neighborhood, people were stepping out and saying hello (you know, as nice midwesterners do), and the whole time I just tried to put my head down and ignore them and wondered what they wanted from me. I get that midwesterners are supposed to be nice, but come on, this was a little much.
The first time in the first game I understood, but this was now game 3 of the series, his 11th or 12th ovation, and his final ovation lasted even longer because it was most likely the last at-bat he would ever take in St. Louis. However, that particular at-bat came with the bases loaded in the 9th inning with a chance to put the game out of reach for the Cardinals. Maybe it was the coach in me, but I was on my couch yelling at the fans to shut up. I get the sentimentality, but this guy is now a member of an opposing team; he is the enemy during those 9 innings, no matter how many great memories you have of him.
My wife often tells me to turn off my competitive edge when I’m at home, but I was in full fist shaking mode when I saw it happen. Maybe it wasn’t my coaching mindset, maybe the injury was clouding my judgement Maybe I am just advancing through the aging process even quicker than I should be. I know one thing for sure, my back needs to get better soon because I feel like I’m on the cusp of becoming Walter Matthau in Grumpy Old Men (how about that for a old movie reference!), only he had 30 years on me when he filmed that movie.
Stay tuned for a continuation of this post later this week, as I am writing this at the start of day 3 of terrible pain.