Thursday, January 7, 2010

Back to the Future

If I was a dog (those of you about to make a bitch joke need to take off the Captain Obvious cape) I would be one of those border collie breeds; if you don't give me enough exercise or stimulation, I will start nipping at your heels and terrifying small children (or, you know, obsessively blogging...whichever). It's become clear that the elliptical machine and the occasional deep-water aerobics class is not enough to satisfy my need for adrenaline. That's why last night I decided to suit up and play the sport I swore I'd never play again: wheelchair basketball. Don't think of it as a potentially dumb decision. Think of it as a gift to those who have to put up with me on a regular basis. Sport: Adderall for Type-A personalities.

The last time I played basketball (nearly a year ago), I was at the height of physical fitness, even if I was at the nadir of hip-fitness: training 20 hours a week, traveling every weekend for tournaments, eating, sleeping and breathing basketball, waking up in the middle of the night from bad dreams where I neglected to triple-switch effectively and so was stabbed in the hip (the latter, of course, was due to the fact that my hip would come out when I was sleeping, so nearly every dream ended with me getting stabbed in the hip, which would result in some truly bizarre scenarios). I was in my own chair with its industrial-strength side guards and two-foot-high backrest. I had a specially designed foam wedge with a smiley face on it named Gregory James Mantooth III (long story) to put between my legs to keep my hip in a good position. I was strapped in with snowboard bindings. I was a prime specimen of awesomeness (a slightly gimpy prime specimen of awesomeness...but still!)

Fast forward to last night: instead of my own chair, I was cruising in a chair two inches too wide, since I hoped having the wide chair would prevent the place where my gluteus medius is detached from pressing tightly against the metal. Instead of snowboard-binding straps to lock my ass into place, I was basically going au naturale, takin' it back to the old school. This resulted in me practically standing up every time I tried to do anything, but it did prevent my hip from hurting. For those of you who don't play wheelchair basketball, playing in a too-big, strapless chair is basically like going into the NBA wearing flip-flops a few sizes too big.

Now, my original intention was to take it easy and demote myself down to the farm team by practicing with the developmental players. There were two problems with this: 1) people with not a lot of basketball experience tend to be the most dangerous to play around because they don't have the chair control to not hurt other people. I was not planning on breaking a hip my first time in the chair. 2) My brain translates "take it easy" into "jump head-first into a situation with no regard to consequences and flail around until some joint pops out of its socket." For this reason, I found myself scrimmaging in a nearly all-male game (Shira was the other female) with members of the national team, including Pat Anderson, who's considered by most people to be the best player in the world. Why start slow? Why not just throw your out-of-shape self into a huge chair and take on some of the best male players in the world? This is how I roll (literally).

To their credit, everyone was really tolerant of the fact that I was a few seconds (okay, a lot of seconds) too slow. The good thing was that I could see all the plays unfolding and knew where I should be, but the bad thing was that everything happened just a bit too late. I was going slow-motion when everyone else was on fast-forward. Still, it was great to be playing: to be sweating, to be working at something that's mentally stimulating, to be "playing" as opposed to "burning calories." I didn't even particularly care that I was the slowest one or that I missed probably 10 shots in a row. I might have dropped the odd f-bomb when I missed a point-blank shot, but it was a jovial f-bomb. An f-bomb of joy, if you will.

So, hurrah! For only the third or fourth time in the history of this blog, I have something positive to report. For the first time in ages, I managed to make it through a practice without having to stand on the sidelines doing the "putting my hip back in" dance. No one had to hang me from a doorframe and reef on my leg. Gregory James Mantooth III is now enjoying a much-needed rest in the Illini equipment room. Could it be that this hip replacement has actually affected my life in a positive way?