Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Of Impetigo, Andrew Bogut and Me - A Tale of Broken Parts and Shattered Dreams

I read that Andrew Bogut, who had just joined the Cleveland Cavaliers, broke his leg less than 60 seconds into his first game with the team. He and I now have an immutable bond.

Almost 50 years ago, I was to begin my senior year as captain and left wing on my high school soccer team. Junior season had ended after four games. A little rash under my chin turned out to be impetigo, a seemingly benign skin issue. But exercising extreme caution (kind of the equivalent of Trump's extreme vetting) and the haunting warning of the school nurse that this could spread to my brain if left untreated (where was that diploma on her wall), I sat out the entire balance of the schedule.

Meanwhile, the team won the league championship, the goalie made the "people in the news" section of Sports Illustrated and life generally proceeded along surprisingly well in my extended absence.

So, like Bogut who came to the Cavs with something to prove, I was ready to show the soccer world that my 5 goals before my "illness" had not been a fluke.

Still I was not in the best physical condition, lazy my perpetual state of being. In our first practice, we had to run the 3.1 mile cross country course at Van Cortlandt Park. I started briskly and then, hidden from sight by a large hill, abruptly stopped, gasping for air. As the rest of the team ran ahead, I pulled a Rosie Ruiz, cutting through the trees and brush and emerging, still out of sight of our coaches, near the finish. So I am not perfect. Sue me.

Our first game of the season was being played in Brooklyn. The field was particularly dusty, swirling gusts clouding my eyes and choking my airways. Just before the first whistle I began a sneezing fit which continued, unabated, for several minutes. Meanwhile, to my great chagrin, 22 players took the field and began the contest without me. My return to glory had gotten off to a decidedly inauspicious start.

About 6 minutes in a ball was kicked out of bounds past the goal line. My sneezing subsided, I triumphantly entered the fray. As the free kick made its parabolic journey towards me I readied for my first action in nearly a year. I rose to meet the ball in mid air, to "trap" it with my chest and then show off my exquisite footwork and powerful left leg.

I don't recall seeing the player who contested this space and knocked me, off balance, back to earth. In the next instant my 10 second season, and my career in soccer, was over.

I remember being placed in the back of my dad's car for the trip to the hospital in New Jersey. I think I passed out (maybe slept is the more accurate term) on the way there. My ankle broken,  the only picture of the team and me from that lost senior season showing me in my full cast.

I consider Mr. Bogut my blood brother. A gifted athlete ready to demonstrate his immense talents on the big stage only to be cut down in mere seconds by cruel fate. Left only with possibilities, broken parts and shattered dreams
Andrew, I feel your pain.

P.S. - the team won the league championship again my senior year without any help from me.


Anonymous said...

Very well written. Made me laugh.


Anonymous said...

All these years later, I can now be consoled that I was not alone in a my adolescent Little League struggles! However, I am still friends with former team mates, and they do not let me forget about some of the worst plays made by me in the game. It is a subject that never goes away. But you made me laugh!--RE

Anonymous said...

This is hilarious. What star were you born under, anyway? The only mishap you escaped was not getting trampled down by a rutting deer as you cut through Van Cortlandt Park. Thanks for the chuckles.