About three or maybe four years ago, I took a liking to Lacrosse. I thought it would be fun to find a men's league to play with.
I have never played lacrosse before, but coming from Canada, I had been around it for a long time. When we go to gym class in high school up there, I suspect like here, we have "units" where you spend two or three weeks playing this sport or that one... softball, flag football, volleyball, field hockey, etc. One of those units was always lacrosse.
The junior high school I went to had a set of lacrosse equipment, made from the orignal sticks, curved into a hook and open on one side, strung with what was called "cat-gut." Perhaps that shows my age more than I would like. Nevertheless, I had never "really" played. When I was young, it was hard to make that hard ball go anywhere you wanted, and we mostly spent our time throwing it at each others' crotch instead. In case you don't know, that ball is brutally hard - like a super bouncy-ball, but harder. It weighs about as much as two baseballs, and is a little smaller. We called it "indian rubber."
The game is originally a Native American game, and so it was more popular in Canada than here at the time.
And being in The North, I was always around hockey, and the game always seemed to be a decendent of that game as well, same violence/fewer pads.
So back to the story. I took an interest in the game, wondering if there was a place to play as an adult here in Utah. I did the research, asked for a stick for Christmas that year, and bought a cheap set of pads on eBay.
As that was all coalecsing, I hurt my back, worse than I ever had before. When I was young, I spent a summer working through college as a roofer. That was not good at all for my back, and I herniated a disk. I thought I could cure the problem with pain medication and keep on working, as I had a young family at the time, and needed to be working. That was 19 years ago now. I mark that time easily, because it is the summer my first kid was born. He and I spent a LONG time laying on the living room floor, watching Letterman. I spent the latter part of the summer going for traction treatments on my back every day.
Since that time, my back has been weaker than I would like, and it has seemed that about once a year, it goes "out" and spends about a week and a half in the "out" position. Then it gets better and I go back to my life.
(I haven't had that "out" spell this for about 18 months now, though, and I'm hopeful that I can lengthen the time between these spells.)
So, my back went out around this time three or so years ago, and it was the worst one I can remember, since the original injury. My wife came home to my writhing on the living room floor in obvious and vocal pain. We went to the ER, where I got a demorol shot and was sent home. On the way home, we had to stop about a block from our house, so I could make a "deposit" in the gutter as a result of the nausea that can accompany a heavy shot like that. It seems a chunk of disk in the lower back actually herniated, then broke off and was floating loose for a while. I went to my regular doctor who sent me for xrays and off to a back specialist, where I was put on a fairly agressive treatment of steriods to try and shrink the offending chuck of disk. That worked, but I was VERY careful and wary for along time after that.
So work got in the way, and I put the stick in the closet, and didn't really know if I would get back to doing this crazy thing I was thinking.
Then Mrs. ThatOneGuy and I started a more healthy lifestyle - albeit only a BIT more, but it has helped. We went to the gym more, and I started running a bit more... getting better.
So this year I wondered if it might be the year to give this a go.
I got online, and found utahlax.org, and went to see what I could see. They had a men's league, and I sent an email.
Long story short, I registered, made inquiries, and gathered my stuff. I wondered if this "men's league" was really just a place for the "just out of high school or college" group to play. I was assured by the coach of the team that I wouldn't be too out of place and they had players of all levels. This was the team for the novices. I felt like this would be a good way to get my sweat on for a while, and drop some unnecessary poundage.
In conversations with Mrs. ThatOneGuy, we thought it might be a chance to meet some new people, and possibly add to our relatively short list of people we would actually consider inviting over to our home for an eveing of food and conversation. Great.
So I pay my money and show up to the practice before the first game, learn how to throw a ball, catch it, play my position a bit, learn the terminology, etc. Great. Off to the first game.
Wait a minute, I thought, this is moving MUCH faster than it was at practice. Oh well. I went out, played, and was totally GASSED. Add to this the hot weather, and I was drenched, parched, and completely worn out.
This has been going on for about 5 or 6 weeks now, with two games per week and one practice most of the time. I play defense, and I'm happy to report that I am not the biggest defender on the team, and in fact, I might not even be the second biggest. But I am the oldest, by a country mile. Our second game came and we had a couple of no-shows for our team, getting just enough players to not have to forfeit, but we had no subs either. If you don't know, subs happen generally on the fly, like hockey. When you're out of gas, you head off the field for fresher legs.
On this particular evening, we had grilled up some hamburgers and I garbled one down thinking I would have enough time before the game to let it get on its way through the digestive process. Not so much. By the third quarter I was seriously wondering what that hamburger was going to look like, strained through the grill of my facemask. Seriously, it was a brick rolling around in there, begging to go one way or the other, up or down.... a 50/50 proposition.
The games have gotten better though. We still don't win, but, interestingly, everyone we play (the U fo U team, the BYU team, the UVSC team, a couple of other teams made up of the local high school all stars, etc.) gives us helpful hints on how to defend better, and then sincerely congratulates us on being a team full of novices being out there to learn. They love it. They kill us, but they do give us their "props."
The playing field sets up this way: three or four lines, with a corresponding territory. Defenders can't go past a certain line when the ball goes over to offence, and likewise, the offensive players can't go help on defense, so you stand around with players from the other team, waiting for the ball to come back to your side of the field. The offensive players are small and fast, the defenders have longer sticks, and are bigger and slower. Defenders, like hockey, are repsonsible for not allowing the ball to be carried or passed close-in to the net, thus giving the goalie a chance to react to and defend a whipping shot from further out. Defenders are to spare no effort in moving these little "flies" out of the way. That's where the fun comes in - if you can hit them, there is no real "roughing" penalty. So the defenders get out there and lay the wood on anyone making threats at the goal.
Being older and slower, I don't get a bunch of good hits, but there are a few, maybe one good one per game. The little buggers are fast, and I must admit that I have been run right past a couple of times, being burned on the play. But I haven't been totally embarrassed too many times either. I get my stick up in faces and have turned away and broken many plays.
A week or two ago, a couple of the guys were complaining about feeling their age at 23. I looked at them and scoffed outloud. "Talk to me on your 40th birthday," I told them. They just looked at me, not understanding. I clarified. "I have KIDS that are only 2 or 3 years younger than you." To which they retorted with various versions of "no way is that possible."
Then the two of them asked me just how old I actually am, thinking that I might be a mummified dead person, or at least being careful to not offend. I told them that I was turning 43 in the next couple of months, and they about fell over on the spot. Our next oldest player is 27. We skip the 30s altogether.
Mrs. ThatOneGuy reports generally the same thing when she comes to our games. She notes that while there are some who come to watch who are the same age as we are, they are coming to watch their KIDS play, not their spouses! Incidentally, my parents are coming into town from Canada this week, and I have a game late Wednesday night, which I imagine they will come to - it will be interesting to hear their comments.
So why have I done this to myself? I endure the sore body that shows up anywhere between one and two days after a game, the highly unhappy body at being out there in 95 + degrees, the bruises that show up in various and sundry places the next day, and the punishment this temporary schedule induces on my otherwise very busy schedule.
It has been a good acheivement for me. Do I expect a call from one of the pro teams in the East? Hardly. But I have accomplished something that not many my age do, and it has been fun in that respect. I don't think we'll have found any people to add to our official "friends" list, so that part hasn't worked out, but it has been fun for me, a good challenge. It has also been fun to let my kids come to the games, to see what I have done. They are proud of the acheivement. The youngest wants a stick and the second-oldest wants me to keep playing for the next two years so he can play when he gets back from his mission.
I have made a point of trying to let my kids see their old dad doing some physical things, to show them that life doesn't just end up in a heap on the couch, like dirty laundry, when you reach a certain age. You might have to work harder to find those things to do, but you should do them. My kids are basically past the "learn to throw a baseball" thing - they're on their own - they play soccer, etc, and it's been good to see them come and have fun where the tables are turned and THEY are the ones sitting on the lawn chairs at the sidelines while dad is out there, trying his best to not show his age too much.
And by the way, Mrs. ThatOneGuy has been ultimately patient as I have had this wild hair for a couple of years now - she has picked up slack, lost a little "together time", and been real nice to come out and support. She's great. The greatest.