Too old for this

by Michael O. Allen on June 10, 2008

I always tell myself that.

But it does not stop me from doing it year after year. I need a new sport that could keep me fit without the physical devastation that soccer (football for non-Americans) wreaks on my body.

Sunday. 9 a.m. It is already sweltering. My team, Santa Fe S.C., will play Clarkstown S.C. in a match.

I have a sick feeling in my stomach, a premonition that we are about to take a beating.

Although we’re in first place and Clarkstown, in a down year, is mid-table, it is going to be a fierce match because Clarkstown needs to make up ground and every game between us is a civil war. It does not help that we have just 11 players, no subtitutes, while they have four on their sideline.

The match starts and is tense but even until late in the first half when Clarkstown breaks down our midfield and scores a magnificent goal. We respond by arguing among ourselves, yelling at each other, and criticizing. Second half begins. We have the better of play for a spell. We grow desperate, pushing forward.

I challenge for a ball in the attacking third but the other player beats me to it and, in the ensuing tussle, I lose my balance and I get a kick flush on the mouth as I’m on the way to the ground.

I lay there on the ground holding my mouth as I feel a warm gush, my own blood, go down my throat and spill out through my fingers, which I’m clasping tight over my my mouth. Worse, I hear crackling sounds in my jaw.

Refree stops game. A multitute of voices comes at me:

“Do you know where you are?”

“Michael, how many fingers am I holding up?”

“Can you stand?”

“Can you sit up?”

“Do you know where you are?”

“Do you know where you are?”

“Shut up!” someone finally yells.

Someone shoves a bag of ice in my hand, which I put tight over my mouth.

I get up and go to the sideline, washing blood out of my mouth. Game resumes and Clarkstown scores two quick goals.

I go back into the game when refree determines I’m no longer bleeding. I make no difference in the game. The game ends.

Ignominous defeat for us.

Wracking pain in my jaw. My teammates are angry with and at everyone, including the referee, who is quite good, and the other team for their fierce display.

Simply put, anything that could be kicked, or punched, the Clarkstown players kicked and punched. Besides my jaw, there’s a lump the size of a golf ball on my left shin and my right ankle is throbbing. The immediate problems are my lips, which feels like they’re in 10 different pieces, and my jaw, which feels like it’s broken but isn’t. I drive home and quickly swallow Ibuprofen.

I’m a lot better today than I’ve been. I guess, in the end, it looked a lot worse than it actually was.

On the field, I bled a lot. The pain defied the ibuprofen. My jaw still crackles now when I move it but that too is better than it’s been. Each and every tooth seems to be sore. I have not been able to eat anything without using a straw.

More importantly, I did not lift weights or do any running yesterday or today. But, in the morning, I will lift and run a little. On Thursday, I will lift more and run a little longer. On Friday, I will do my hardest work. I will do some light work on Saturday.

On Sunday, we play the Teaneck Masters.

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