Pain Can Be Such Pleasure

In a lot of pain just now.

Twenty-one years ago I played my last soccer game. The family had moved to Switzerland for my last two years of high school. I played just as hard and fast as I had for my Varsity squad in Peoria.  I received a yellow card each game. The cards, coupled with the language barrier that prevented me getting to know my teammates, killed my desire to play.  Instead I played rugby a few times, thoroughly enjoying it.

But I didn’t continue to play rugby when I returned to the States, and never returned to soccer either.
Most of the soccer leagues I might have attempted were a little hard-core for me, as out of shape as I was and with my concern that I not hurt myself, preventing me from working.

Last week The Coolness played in a local coed 30+ league. I watched as her team played their asses off.  They had no bench and insufficient bodies to cover all positions.

Regardless, both teams had lots of fun, and had great attitudes.

I was in.

This week, I played goalie for The Coolness’ team. I showed up kitted out and ready to play in that position, as last week’s goalie had pulled a calf muscle and couldn’t play.

As I was warming up, I hear, “Barber.”

I look over and it’s one of my Academy classmates, who lives south of SF, but comes out to play most weekends. Small world.

Warmed up, I stepped on the field for the first time in 21 years to play a position I don’t recall ever playing in a real match. The opposing team had us outnumbered and outclassed, shooting five shots for every opportunity we had. It wasn’t a matter of lack of skill: once again we had less than a full squad, and no relief.

I discovered exactly how poor my conditioning is. I am so glad I wasn’t playing in a position that might have required me to actually run for extended periods.

I made about twelve saves, a few of which were quite good. My daughter watched the entire game, mostly from a seat behind me in goal, offering encouragement and fetching balls that rocketed past.

I did let four pass me by: Two were simple errors I pray I won’t make again. One was a beautifully arranged shot that the player slipped in over my head, and the fourth was a free kick that the ref called but that could have gone either way.

We scored no goals.

The opposing team will certainly remember me. I unintentionally put a player from the other team out with one of my punts. Trying to clear the ball to an open forward, the ball left my foot like a rocket and connected with the guy’s face six feet from my foot.

So now, I smell like a mint julip, hurt like I haven’t in ages, and am happy as a clam.

I feel so good.