I missed playing football

Afternoon folks,

I’ve not played football – American football, that is, which I’ll be hereafter referring to as ‘football’ because it annoys me endlessly that one word in that phrase ought to be capitalised, but the other oughtn’t – in a month, maybe longer. I’ve been injured and sad and busy and had a thousand other problems, so I’ve not had a chance to be strong-armed to the face repeatedly by large people; and I’ve missed it.

I think it’s easy to overthink things, and I do this a lot. Football became, in many ways, a chore: playing the damn game means you have to lug loads of kit around with you; you get cold and muddy and need to spend three hours showering afterwards; you worry that you’ll forget your assignments and let a receiver burn you for an 80-yard touchdown. And while these are all valid concerns – particularly when compared with sports like dodgeball which only require trainers and some reflexes – they don’t subtract from the fact that the game is just really good fun.

I often worry that I’m not doing things that are important enough, and I get stressed out when I’m not working on a project with a clear end goal; it’s not enough for me to like games, I need to write about them in a way that can be gloated about on a CV too. I see quite a few of my sports in this way, dodgeball as a way to actually stretch myself socially, karate as a chance to be the society president and have actual responsibility, and without such a lofty goal for football, it’s easy to forget why I’m playing in the first place.

It’s not like there aren’t goals for football – we have our big game against King’s next weekend – but a lot of these are communal, or would involve me in support roles. And, honestly, I struggle to not be at the centre of things. I grew up studying in an environment that made me think I was the best, and many of the projects I start myself put me in a position of absolute authority almost by default. I know this is narcissistic and cynical and hugely unfair on my friends, but these are the kinds of thoughts I’ve been relapsing into recently, which have stopped me from enjoying football; I’d reason that if I individually wasn’t winning, there’d be no point.

But this is, of course, nonsense, and it’s a pattern of thoughts I’ve been trying to cut out of my life, not just my fledging football career.

So I’m looking forward to next week’s game; not because I want to single-handedly win the damn thing (gods know I’m nowhere near good enough to do it anyway), but because I want my team to do well.

And it’s a frakking great game.

Casey

I’m too old for this

Hello,

I play dodgeball, and one of my signature moves, if you like, is to drop to the floor and flatten myself against it to avoid oncoming throws. It works very well, especially against high throws, and I’m agile enough to be able to pull it off fairly regularly.

But I’m starting to suffer as a result of it.

When I started playing eighteen or so months ago, I could crash to the floor and bounce back up several times a game, and be no worse off; but a year and a half of being punched in the face at karate, slammed at American football, grabbed at handball, and having had my knees, ankles and hips slowly ravaged by walks and runs, I’m no longer as resilient as I was. Now, I’ll slam to the ground and make my hip sore, or collapse awkwardly over an ankle and it’ll bug me for the next week.

I know there are steps I can take to combat this – stopping the body-slam dodges, applying creams and apothecatic mixtures to my body, wearing braces and bandages – but I don’t really have the time or the interest in taking these steps. It won’t take much effort to strap up an ankle before playing, but I like darting out the door in my normal clothes fifteen minutes before a session starts, playing in a t-shirt then wandering back home and settling into an essay without showering or eating. It’s how I’ve always approached sports – although I’ve had to abandon the no-shower principle since starting to roll around in the mud of Regent’s Park for the sake of my American football team – and until I’m horrifically injured, I honestly don’t see myself making a change.

In the past I’ve always relied on my body to be naturally good at things, which may be a somewhat ironic statement coming from a type one diabetic with Osgood-Schlatter syndrome and dodgy eyes. I’ve always been able to bounce back from injuries and fatigues to play and train day-in day-out, and I’ve had a good enough metabolism to be able to eat my body weight in chips every other day and not put on weight. But as my metabolism starts to melt away and my body starts to break down – both of which have happened, by the way – I’ll need to start caring about my body and take steps to¬†look after it.

I’ll add it to the list of summer projects.

Casey