Floor Burns


One of my sons woke up this morning and said, “Mommy, you were pretty good. You were number 14, right?” Yep. It was pretty cute. Maybe I had sweat so much that he had to recognize me by my jersey number. Instead of by my bright red face.

I have bruised and floor burned knees. For some strange reason, I’ve been pulling my pant legs up and showing everybody at work. I think to get some sympathy or some validation or to tell the story or something. It’s not that my many floor burns equate to victories, unfortunately, we lost. Every time I sit down it gets harder and harder to stand back up. My back hurts. I have a new callouse on my right foot. One knee completely gave out on me while I was walking. I am a little uncomfortable. Or a lot. Sore. Everywhere. I really wish that trainer from college could come, even though it was awkward, and stretch my hamstrings for fifteen minutes. Or maybe more.

Sometimes you do crazy things to have fun, meet new people and just help yourself feel youthful again. Also in my case, because I love to compete. In sports. It’s amazing how quickly the adrenaline can wear off making you just feel old. Damn. Old. My poor hibernating basketball muscles quickly awoke to the sounds of whistles and buzzers. Rebounding, defending, finding and passing the ball to the most promising player with the weakest defender. Oops. Letting one too many cuss words escape. Bargaining with the ref to un-call that foul. It was all ball, really. Holy (not) smokes, how many shots can I miss? Insert cuss word again. “Whoa. Slow down. Easy tiger, you’re going to foul out of a fifteen minute game.” I had to remind my active aggressive basketball court self, especially since my Dad wasn’t there. And we only had one sub. I used to always foul once or twice at the beginning of games. Maybe I wanted to grab the ref’s attention, make sure his whistle worked. Or perhaps I just needed to work out some of the jitters and excitement when the clock started. I loved playing basketball. Really loved it. I remembered just how much yesterday.

Something extraordinary happened to my mid-life brain on the basketball court. It got all kinds of excited, like Jock Jams kind of pumped up. It gathered my joints, muscles, and definitely my elbows into a tight huddle, like the coach from Hoosiers. It spoke with passion, “You’re gonna go out there and play like you did in college.” 3…2…1…and boom! The adrenaline flooded my body. Play ball!

I credit or blame that adrenaline for the numerous shots that I threw off of the backboard. Not alley oops, after all. The ball completely neglected to touch the rim. My teammates forgot to dunk them back into the hoop. Several times. If that third little pig was hoping to build his house, I could have supplied all of his bricks. What happened?! I used to be so good, didn’t I? Ummm. Hmmmm. Comparatively speaking, probably yes. I hesitated to tell anyone that I had played ball at a small college. On a basketball scholarship. A full ride actually. Thirteen years ago. Not that anyone asked. They would have just done the “uh, huh. Sure you did.” face.

We were a scrappy team, fighting for boards, holding on to jump balls, and occasionally fouling the crap out of the girl who just got past us. Again. Then, we apologized and helped each other up. All the while laughing in between our desperate attempts at breathing. I am positive that if someone walked around the gym with oxygen masks for breaks on the bench, I would have death-gripped that thing to my face so fast. Breathed in slowly and deeply of that precious air. There is just no good way to get in shape for playing basketball. Truly. Except by playing a lot of basketball.

It’s a pretty awesome euphoric feeling to pick up and do something you loved doing as a kid. The memories flood your brain. You remember the sights, sounds, smells, and touches. It overwhelms your senses, in a really powerful way. I highly recommend competing or participating in sports, extracurricular activities or whatever, as an adult. It’s definitely humbling and equally as much fun as it is painful. Be prepared to leave a little of your skin, pride and a lot of cuss words on the court. The thing is when you’re not feeling so damn old, you remember what it felt like to be young and carefree, like that sport was the biggest deal in the world. Playing ball. Hurling up a last second shot, getting floor burns, put backs, steals, cheering on teammates, sucking wind, feeling like you’re gonna puke and then unlacing your shoes when it’s all done.

We had two tie breakers. Both teams cheered when the opposing team sank the winning shot. We had a blast, even if we lost. I had a girl pat me on the back and tell me, “Way to represent for the skinny girls.” Thanks. I think. Over the next few weeks, I will be feeling the after-effects of that adrenaline surge. My knees will be old lady griping, protesting, maybe giving out on me. I will be feeling sore. Feeling old. Feeling like I shouldn’t do this again next year. But, of course, I will do it again in a heartbeat. That competitive side of me knows that we can do better next year. Work our way out of that losers bracket. I already did a little recruiting for next year. I looked at a security guard and thought, “She looks tough.” Also, I noticed a resident, with a strong base. And even asked an attending if she played ball. Look out, Sprint, Garmin and KU Med Center. CMH 2016. We’re gonna earn us some points.

Yesterday, I sat back and let my brain and muscles kick into auto-pilot mode. I played and felt that passion. I think it helps keep me young at heart. Even with these old tired knees barely holding me up. It’s a pretty awesome feeling when your six-year-old son compliments you and is proud of your best efforts. After he confirms your jersey number. And when all three boys “oooohhhh” and “ahhhhh”at your floor burned knees, that feels pretty good too. I currently hold the title of having the worst looking knees in a house of three active boys. Sweet. They will look stellar in shorts. And if anyone asks, I will probably just say I was diving for loose balls in corporate challenge. Or maybe I will just say I fell off of my bike several times. Or that I forgot to wear my knee pads during my roller derby practice. Yep. That’s the winner.

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