February 27, 2004
I was told once by a doctor that I have an incredible tolerance for pain. I got busted up pretty good at football practice one day and the doctor went nuts when he looked at the X-rays. "You have four broken ribs and a broken bone in your left hand," he said. "You need to take about a month off to heal."
I told him that I expected to be at practice the next day. "You can't do that," he said.
"You just fix what you can and let me go. I'll decide whether or not I can practice tomorrow."
I learned to sleep sitting up because of the ribs. That shit hurt. Everything you DO hurts with a set of broken ribs, but you can make it if you try. I cussed that broken left hand because it didn't get me out of any schoolwork. I was right-handed.
I never missed a day of football practice. I just had the trainer wrap me like a mummy every day and send me out on the field. I played and I tolerated the pain. Gawd! I hit the ground a few times and wondered if I would be able to get up, but I always did.
Yeah, I played hurt. I kept my position, too. I couldn't afford a month on the fucking bench. I kept thinking about what daddy told me-- "If it was easy, then any asshole could do it." Sometimes you just have to jock up tight and ride that pain. It ain't fun, but it goes away after a while.
The doctor later told me that what I did was unbelievable. "You played four games, never missed a practice, blocked two extra points and intercepted three passes during the last month?"
"Yes, sir. I did."
"You had no business being on that field, boy. Your body is all beat-up."
"Not as beat-up as YOU thought it was. I did okay. My ribs are almost healed now and my hand is fine. I'm a football player. If you can't suck up a little pain, you've got no business being out on that field in the first place. Football is supposed to hurt."
"Well, boy. You made a believer out of me. Just don't bust yourself up anymore. I'm clearing you for full contact now, as if you ever stopped. Here's your release. By the way, how is the team going to do?"
"We're going to win the State Championship." I told him.
We didn't. We lost 35-8 in the championship game and I walked off a football field as a loser the last time I jocked up. We got the shit beat out of us. I sat on the back of the bus and cried all the way back to the gym.
Hell, I just thought that the game was bad. I hadn't tried marriage yet.
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