What is So Addictive About Sport?
Posted on February 20, 2012
These days, to keep fit, I spend my time in the stench of middle England at the local gymnasium. I plough a lonely furrow on a running machine, I sit on bits of equipment that loosely resemble push bikes and rowing boats and I try to do sit ups and lift up weights as well as resembling a windmill in a force nine on a humiliating piece of machinery that is called a cross trainer. This battle against being described as rotund is a desperate one, mainly because every activity listed above is about as boring as having dinner with Ian Duncan Smith. Setting personal competitions or goals just cannot compare to challenging yourself against someone else, be it one against one in sports such as tennis, or even better, in a team event like football, cricket and one presumes (I am a too soft to play it) rugby.
So, imagine my excitement at the weekend of having the prospect of a game of football and cricket on the same day! No matter that I am in my 45th year, this was a challenge to relish. The last time I played football was on a bone dry pitch in Broughton last April, I completed fifty odd minutes and within forty-eight hours I resembled John Wayne after eight hours on horseback, even a visit upstairs to the lavatory was an ordeal that could have only been eased with the installation of a Stannah stair lift. To those of you who don’t partake in sporting activity it is easy to assume that I was mentally deficient to put myself through this, but for those of you who do still play sport, you will fully understand what it is like trying desperately to grab on to any opportunity to play competitively, cursing yourself for taking it all for granted as an indestructible young man.
When I arrived at Dummer yesterday it was cold and it soon became apparent that we only had nine men to oppose a full compliment of eleven fielded by the other side. After ten minutes I didn’t think I would make another ten, I was playing alone up front and getting knocked around by a couple of beefy farmer types whilst our limited numbers in defence were resembling a dam about to burst, which inevitably it did, and we found ourselves 5-0 down in no time. We belatedly changed our game plan with Heathy (aged 46) and I deciding that the young lads could do all running up front whilst we “dictated things” from the middle of the park. With an additional player (Matt) turning up at half time, suddenly the tide started turning and I found energy from somewhere to become a key member of a great team fight back. We reduced the score to 5-3 then 6-4 (two goals from me!!) and Darren cannoned a shot off the underside of the bar that would have resulted in a dramatic finale. It wasn’t to be in the end, but it was an outstanding and brave salvage operation when we could easily have caved in and lost 10-0. With eleven players we would have won, of that I am sure.
The other team certainly knew that had been in a game and in general it was played in a sporting but very competitive way, all except one prick who clattered in to challenges with the soul intent of hurting people. I identified him as a prick from the first whistle because he was about my age and was wearing a thick gold chain necklace as some sort of symbol of how hard he thought he was. It was not just me, to a man, all of our players had also identified him as a prick and no doubt some of his team mates knew that he was prick as well. If they didn’t, they do now, because Bardy (our goalkeeper) told them in the changing room. However, it has to be said, he was the soul prick among twenty one people who just wanted a game of football, so he paled in to insignificance after a few of us kicked him back. It turned out that despite his gold chain he wasn’t hard at all, he was just a prick trying to show off in front of his 12 year old son. That is a part of football I don’t miss, what was a hard fought friendly, very nearly turned nasty.
Anyway, I survived the game in sufficient health and I spent the afternoon fighting drooping eyelids and a body yearning for rest, courtesy of ninety minutes of footie and a couple of after match pints. I couldn’t go to bed because I still had to take on a game of cricket at six o’clock, something I just about creaked through, somewhat amazingly ending up our top scorer with an unbeaten 28 (the lessons are working!). By the time I had dropped George off, my eyes were nearly shut (8.30pm) and areas of my body were beginning to seize up, notably a dead leg and a whiplash injury courtesy of a comedy stumble face first in to a fat bloke’s beer gut. The initial impact sent a bolt of pins and needles down my neck which in turn sent an instant message to my brain that this would hurt like fuck later on. I was not to be disappointed, my predicted diagnosis being every bit as painful as I had expected. Today I am pretty much seizing up, a lunch time Jacuzzi offered little respite, and as a weather man says at the beginning of a deep freeze…”there could be worse on the way.” It is often the case that for some reason (I expect there is a medical explanation) the day after the next is even worse for muscle stiffness.
All the happenings of this eventful day had me trying to draw conclusions as to why I and many other men around my age group try to roll back the years on the sports field. I am still not certain of a logical reason. The elder members of our team all knew the consequences of yesterday actions, we all knew that after the game we would endure forty-eight hours of experiencing being eighty-five years old, so why did we do it? Personally speaking I am beginning to think it is the adrenalin rush that we all need. When I scored yesterday, I didn’t slide on my knees to the corner flag, but I felt like I wanted to, and when I starting edging our cricket team towards a match winning total after an early collapse of wickets, I felt a buzz of responsibility mixed with a touch of stoical heroism. It is great feeling tension, batting is like living out your very own thriller movie, everything about it hangs on the edge of disaster, one false move and it is over. Cricket can be beautiful and brutally cruel to an individual in the space of just a few seconds, so can most sports, and that my fiends, is where the addiction lies. You just can’t get that buzz digging the garden, washing the car, or completing a Sudoku, the perennial hobbies of the standard middle aged man.
Where it all ends is a bit too depressing to contemplate, I can’t stand the thought of not playing sport at all, that is why I have become addicted to cricket, it seems there is a bit of career longevity in this game and because I was that bad, I can actually improve, something that is physically impossible for me to do in football. In a few years time I may have a look at Bowls, that looks good fun and pretty skillful too, I might also give golf another go. In the meantime I will hover around the people who arrange these football matches in the hope that my brace of goals gets me another game or two, I will also continue with my cricket lessons that really are showing signs of working, I can actually hit the ball straight now. Playing team sport is far more sociable and a lot more entertaining than bounding along on a running machine with a set of ear plugs in, it really is. No one has ever patted me on the back after I have done a couple of miles on a running machine and said “Well done mate great run that!”
Mind you, you can’t miss an open goal or get out for golden duck on a running machine either, the thrill in sport is as much about failure as it is success.
Can someone invent me a time machine?