Mind and body reach compromise: play at old Bill’s pace

Written by Bob on July 22nd, 2013

senior.Bball.web Bob Otto, front row, far left, and his senior basketball playing buddies find it hard to give up the game even with an assortment of nagging and sometimes serious injuries.

YUCAIPA, Calif – I have two parts to my being that sometimes argue over each other’s judgement – my mind and my body.

I play basketball in a senior pick-up league. We’re all a bunch of old guys with the youngest about 52. And way, way on the other side of the age spectrum is “old Bill” as we call him, at 81. I’m in the middle at 64.

But I seem to be the one getting hurt the most: pulled hamstring, strained calf muscles, two elbow shots to the mouth, a bloodied nose, and a sprained ankle along with a sore back.

But nothing too serious to keep me off the court. That is until July 1st.

Here’s the play-by-play. Chris feeds me the ball on the left side. I head fake Jim out of his jock strap and drive around him toward the left baseline. About eight feet from the basket, Scotty comes out to challenge, so I go up for a quick jumper (quick for an old guy). I miss badly but the ball bounces back my way and I race for the ball. And then the most excruciating pain struck that I’ve ever felt in 58 years of hoops.

My right calf muscle (technically the doctor said it’s the lateral gastrocnemius) felt as if someone had shot me. I felt a popping and ripping of the muscle and crashed to the floor on all fours. The pain was the worst I had ever felt playing hoops. I had to be helped off the court, and from there hobbled to my car.

If I had needed to outrun a hungry lion 10 feet to safety, the lion would have eaten well.

For weeks, a nagging voice – I call it my body voice – had been telling me to slow down, not try and run around the court like a kid high on sugar. The right calf muscle especially had been sending signals that it was hurting. That it was tired of me trying to play hoops as if I were 20-something again.

But would I (my brain voice) listen? Hell no. It kept whispering “you can do this. Your calf muscle will get back in shape, your hamstring will get stronger the more you play, they’ll come around. No pain, no gain!”

Unfortunately I didn’t listen to the voice of reason and slow down. Instead I believed all those false promises and hobbled around for two weeks like, well, like an old man.

But this past week, the calf has been feeling better. So I returned to the court yesterday just to see how the calf “feels.” To give it a little “test.”

It didn’t feel great, but brain voice was nonetheless enthused, almost gleeful in declaring: “Hey, we’re back baby! Let the old man games begin!”

Now, I was smart enough not to test the calf at full throttle, but slowed way down to old Bill’s speed (turtle slow). I could shoot slow-motion jumpers, drive slow-motion for layups, and I figure I can defend slow-motion (at least against the 70s and 80s guys).

But through it all, body voice kept reminding me. “If you push me too hard, I will make you will pay. I will put you in such misery that you’ll be begging me for mercy. Have you forgotten what it felt like to be down on all fours practically crying in pain!”

So I’ve decided that compromise is the only solution to appease the voices and stay in the game.

I’ll still play, but at old Bill’s pace – in slooow motion.

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