Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Death Soccer

Second only to my fear of flocking pigeons is my fear of flying balls. Although softballs make me flinch, soccer balls are the scariest. You see, during grad school, I foolishly joined both an intramural soccer team and an intramural softball team, despite my known lack of athletic grace in team sports. (I also played one game of intramural basketball, but that was short-lived, much to the relief of my team.)

I’m not completely without athleticism. I joined a Tae Kwon Do club my first summer at grad school, and I earned my blue belt by the time I graduated. I probably would have gotten to high blue belt if I had not been sidelined by appendicitis, or if we had had belt tests more often. I’m also not a bad swimmer, and if I work at it, I can be a respectable jogger. Racquet sports hold no fear for me, despite the presence of a flying ball. I think it’s because I’m armed.

But team sports? Well, there’s where I fall apart. I just can’t keep up with the location of the ball. And the bigger the field, the harder it is to keep track of the ball, so soccer is much more difficult than, say, volleyball. But as bad as I was at soccer before I joined the intramural team, I got much, much worse while on the team.

Athletic Post Doc had formed the team, and he even had us go through a few practices. At one of the practices, while we were running drills, The Doktah kicked the ball into my face. It was an accident – The Doktah stinks at soccer too, and she wouldn’t have hit me if she were aiming for me – but it still hurt, and my fear of the flying ball increased a bit.

Then the day of our first game was upon us. It was a crisp October day, perfect for a friendly game of soccer. Athletic Post Doc got us all in a circle to kick around the ball and warm up. I was concentrating really hard, trying to follow the ball so that I wouldn’t lose it in the air. Athletic Post Doc kicked it to The Husband, The Husband passed it to The Doktah. I turned towards her, and she kicked it into my face. Again. Hard. The ball slammed into my glasses which cut into the side of my nose. I thought I had a black eye, but I didn’t. (Aside: I have been hit in the face a handful of times, either by an errant ball, or a punch in Tae Kwon Do. Or a fall down a marble staircase. Each time it hurt so much I was sure I had a black eye, but I never did. Not even any swelling. Black eyes must be awful.)

The Doktah seemed to feel bad about her so-called “poor aim,” and the warm-up broke up as I acted all wimpy and whined about it hurting. But because of strict gender rules in intramural sports, our team would have to forfeit if I did not play. So, for the sake of the team, I stayed.

The Husband played goalie, and I played whatever position that kept me far away from the action. I was still feeling pretty skittish, and about ten minutes into the game, The Husband blocked a goal, scooped up the ball and called out my name. As I turned toward him, he flung the ball at my head with all his strength. I involuntarily screamed and ducked, covering my head with my hands.

This is a very embarrassing thing to do during a soccer game. Because apparently, what you’re supposed to do in soccer when the ball comes towards you, is field it. Or whatever it’s called in soccer. You know, get control of it and either pass it to someone or kick it at the goal or something. Apparently, you’re not supposed to shriek and cower. But I was still traumatized, so my reflex was to duck and cover. I couldn’t help it, and I looked like a moron.

So now I was embarrassed and my nose hurt. Was it really so awful of me to be a teensy bit relieved when The Husband broke his finger saving a goal and I got to quit the game to go to the ER? I wasn’t glad he broke his finger. I was just… not upset to leave the game.

I don’t play soccer anymore.

Epilogue: This soccer game was about two weeks before The Husband and I went on vacation to Cancun. We were really looking forward to snorkling, and we were concerned that a cast would prevent him from going in the water. They fitted him with a removable cast, and we ended up wrapping his arm in a plastic bag the day of the snorkling. The thing was, the bag had a hole in it. So The Husband snorkled, then got out of the ocean with a plastic bag full of water on his hand. It’s funny, but only because the cast survived and we didn’t have to go to the Mexican ER.


EditorKit said...

Hey Mo, your marbel staircase link is broken.

Mo said...

I fixed the link, but, um, you misspelled "marble," EditorKit. ;)

The Husband said...

It would have made an even better story had the bag gotten a fish in it.

Beth said...

That's really funny. It sort of reminds me of the cartoon Daria, where she just lets the volleyball fall to either side of her. In this case, though, you have a more extreme reaction. EXTREME team sports!