Friday, August 5, 2016

August 4, 2016 Soccer Day

Soccer day.  I play soccer every Thursday.  Sunday too, but this is Thursday.  We have a large recreation yard with multiple hand ball and racquet ball courts, a basketball court, a tennis court, a botchy ball court, a softball field, a weight pit and a grass soccer field that doubles as a football field in the fall.  The first twelve years I was here I didn't play any organized team sports.  After experiencing a heart attack followed by a quadruple open-heart surgery five years ago everyone figured I'd take it easy.  I thought so too, until two years ago. At 58 years old I started playing softball for the first time.

I only played because an injured player had to leave the game.  There was no one to replace him so I filled in.  To ensure I didn't have to move around too much they put me on first base.  It didn't hurt that I am 6'1" tall as a first baseman needs to be able to reach wild throws.  To my surprise I was pretty good on first base.  Turned out that I have a natural ability to track a fast moving ball and catch it.  It is still strange to me because I rarely see the incoming ball, but I always catch it. Even the wild ones.  The second surprise is that I can hit the ball well and far, which is fortunate because I don't run fast.
So after that first softball game I was a regular.  We play twice a week and I am always picked in the top four, which is impressive since I'm the oldest player.  This success led me to play soccer. They made me the goalie as it requires less running.  I was good at this too.  I have fast hands and make a decent goalie.  I've played both soccer and softball every game in those two years and loved every minute of it.  I even played football last year, every game.  This wasn't so smart though as last year I injured my left ring finger so bad that it requires surgery.  It's bad enough now that I have trouble getting my hand in a softball glove.
So it's soccer day.  I'll be 60 years old this month so I really shouldn't be playing soccer with the kids.The next oldest guy on the field is 43, so I'm the grandpa out there.  Federal prisons have an interesting cross section on nationalities, but no place is this more evident than on the soccer field. For the 38% of my readers who are from the United States I'll point out that while soccer isn't that big in this country, its huge in the rest of the world.  I never played soccer as a kid, but almost everyone I play with here grew up playing the game.  Of the regular players on my field there are several Mexican nationals, several Puerto Ricans, two Dominicans, two Jamaicans, a Haitian, a Panamanian, a Colombian, an El Salvadorian, an Antiguan, a Lebanese, an American Indian and a hand full of Americans, one of which is a real live Wyoming cowboy.  It's a rather interesting mix.
During the game I'll hear a great deal of Spanish, some French and every now and then Arabic from the Lebanese as that is his first language.  The play is always fast and furious.  The non-American players are always hot tempered during the game, screaming at each other with a little cussing, some of which I even understand.  To those who soccer is a national sport it is not a game to be taken lightly.  At first I was put off by all the game level vitriol, but it didn't take me long to realize it was part of the game for them.  Soccer is a game of war to these guys.  After the game all the screaming and cussing is forgotten and we were all friends again.  It is not uncommon to see guys apologize to one another over something said or done after the game. During the game there are no apologizes and no one is your friend.
At first I didn't understand this aspect of the game.  Once I figured out that it was a cultural thing I did just fine.  I haven't learned to cuss in Spanish, French, or Arabic, but do just fine in English. Prison soccer is great fun.  I have a feeling it's just like a neighborhood soccer game in Latin America, the Caribbean or the Middle East.  Good hard fun.  A real man's game.
Last Thursday I hyper extended my knee kicking a high placed soccer ball.  I would have had trouble playing on Sunday but didn't get the chance since my son's showed up for a visit . Tuesday was softball, but for the first time in two years I didn't play.  I skipped soccer today too. I don't walk with a limp today, but still need to give the knee time to heal.  Not playing is a real show of maturity for me.  I feel pretty smug about this.  Mary would be surprised.  She'd think there's hope for me.  I'll be 60 later this month, and that looming date gives me pause.  If I were smart I'd stop playing.  Of course I'm not that smart so I'll be out on the soccer field again Sunday.  Playing hurts, but I like it too much to stop.

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