Suburban sports warriors who don’t know when to stop
There’s no denying it. I have officially moved from serious weekend sporting participant to weekend warrior. You can kind of justify it when you’re in your 20s or even early 30s but you know from the reactions of people when you tell them you play on the weekends that the Rubicon has been crossed. It used to be “That’s cool. How you guys doing? You gonna win this year?” Now it ranges from an empathic “Well you’ve gotta do something to keep fit” through “What the hell are you doing that for?” to complete disinterest, as if feigning any would somehow legitimise my obvious lunacy.
Still, as any of my fellow WWs could tell you, Saturday or Sunday afternoon sport is addictive and virtually impossible to give up. You’ll know many of us by our somewhat arthritic-looking shuffles in through the office doors on Monday mornings. If you’re still playing at my age, the only sympathy you’ll get for your agony is from fellow WWs, as the rest of society wrote us off as mad long ago.
On the weekend, we’re a different story. Many of us are and have been involved in our clubs for many years. We may have children now working through the age groups and grades, often displaying far greater skill than we ever did. We may be on the club committee. We may be firing up the barbecue, our partners may be working in the canteen, and we’ll wear our club colours proudly. Come game time though, it’s on. We play hard but fair and any agitation is almost always left on the field. There’s an esky afterwards, and/or a trip to the pub. Then we’re on our way home to shower and groan around the house for the evening, using our post-game aches and pains as a legitimate excuse for not helping around the house that evening.
I had been lucky over the years to avoid serious injuries during my weekend exploits. I have been witness to several popped ACLs, broken fingers, torn hamstrings but had always been lucky enough to avoid anything more serious than a sprained ankle.
Then it happened.
First game of the cricket season. General enthusiasm in the air. For reasons I can’t remember I ended up keeping wicket. The skies were grey that day, my friends. The 2nd ball of the day was cut to deep point. Our fielder retrieved the ball and threw a bullet with the wind that I misjudged and handled poorly. The result was the ball going through my gloves and straight into my face. I was down for the count with a spectacularly bloodied and broken nose and without a lot of sympathy from my teammates, who found the whole 2nd ball of the season thing too much to pass up without mirth at my expense. The chap who had loaned me his brand-new keeping pads was even less impressed, and was more concerned with the bloodstains than my welfare.
From then on it was like I’d walked under a ladder. Lunchtime indoor volleyball yielded a broken wrist following a collision with a teammate and contact with the floor. Touch football resulted in a cracked radius after landing on the point of the elbow. Cricket brought two broken fingers – one taking a low, fast catch at mid-on and one on a half-volley at slip. I have a left ankle that gives way of its own accord when and if the mood takes it and groin muscles that are in serious need of a grease and oil change.
Half the opposition gets younger every year, and gamesmanship can only get you so far when you’re up against blokes 20 years younger than you. The true rewards come when you play a team full of fellow WWs. It’s a battle of wills as to who is the least slow, the least unfit, the least hung over and the least likely to make a mistake. For us the enjoyment of the contest comes from not only being competitive but from the ‘tool ratio’ of the opposition. The lower the ratio, generally the more enjoyable the afternoon is.
Every year, come late in the season, there’s that moment when you start to wonder if it’s worth going around again for another year. Am I told old? Am I too slow? Am I too stupid? Invariably though, either by desire or just plain old routine, we sign up and do it all over again. It takes longer and longer to stretch muscles, strap dodgy joints and break into a jog before every game, but it doesn’t seem to matter. The contest itself and, more importantly, fear of losing the camaraderie we have with our teammates, and of them moving on without us, is what brings us back and will continue to do so until we just can’t do it anymore.
Are you a weekend warrior? Have you had a run with injuries and just keep coming back for more? Tell us your war stories and why you persist with playing weekend sport.
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