In the fall of 2010, I fell off a bouldering wall; unable to kick my legs out in time, I landed with all my weight on my right ankle. My ankle, unsurprisingly, didn't appreciate the strain and broke. Three screws and a titanium plate later, I set off on the rehab.
This has been less than fun. I think it's fair to say that, aside from my wedding, this injury was the defining moment of my twenties.
I was never fast to begin with, and my goal is now to run a ten-minute mile. There are a host of exercises that I sporadically restart: one legged squats, ankle rotations to break up scar tissue and strengthen those little stabilizing muscles, stretches to force my knee to pass in front of my toes when I walk or climb stairs. I'm conscious there are days when I swing my leg around my hip rather than stepping straight forward and rolling over my ankle. There are times when a normal day of walking around New York City or a few hours in a shopping mall leave me reaching for an ice pack.
Then there are the days when the weather changes. It sucks, but every season or so I find myself noticing how much better I am. At this point, more than four years later, I can do close enough to everything I did before to think that this is as good as it'll get. But I thought that of six months ago, too. So maybe I'll continue to notice little improvements.
All of which is to say how worried I get when Mark Teixeira goes for a third cortisone shot in his ailing wrist, or when Brett Gardner needs surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle. I find myself cheering harder for Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia, because I know how hard it is to stick to that mind numbing routine of exercise and ice, the little pains stacked together with the goal of doing what used to feel so effortless. Then there's A-Rod's surgically repaired hips, and the money he's trying to collect by playing the next several seasons.
I've cracked the (bad) joke about the Yankees running him out there until he breaks down so they can collect the insurance money. It's not really a moment in my life I'm proud of, because in truth, if they did that, that would likely be the straw that makes me walk away from the team. I don't watch football because I find the injuries too hard to watch, and because I know how little those athletes are making compared to the damage they are doing to themselves. I used to work with a guy who had played a handful of games with the Lions in the '70s; he had to basically pivot side to side to lower himself down a flight of stairs.
The television is a dehumanizing machine. They can cut away from the little injuries, and while we can see the pain on a player's face in slow-mo as the foul ball ricochets off the inside of his foot. But we're spared the sound of it, which is a part of the visceral reaction. If any injury is too severe, the player disappears down the tunnel and we return our focus to the field.