Saturday, April 4, 2015

Softball and Ancient Greece: The Rarely Discussed Downsides of Dreaming

Actual image of me playing softball, courtesy of

The ancient Greeks told stories of a young man named Icarus, whose father made them wings of wax and feathers so they could escape a vengeful king. Icarus’ pop warned his son not to fly too high or too low because doing so would end badly. It was sort of a high-concept version of Goldilocks. Anyway, Icarus didn’t listen. While they were flying to safety, Icarus got caught up in the wonder of flight and ended up too high, too close to the sun. His wax wings melted and he plummeted thousands and thousands of back to Earth. He landed hard on his left wrist and lived out his days in mild discomfort.
                The story of Icarus was meant to illustrate the dangers of hubris – flying too high – and complacency – the flying too low – or at least that’s Wikipedia’s scholarly take. However, I’ve begun to see some parallels between old Icky’s life and my own and as I have, another lesson has emerged: the dangers of dreams.
Perhaps you’ll remember my Cinderella-esque run through adult league softball last fall. In case you forgot, here are the highlights:

  • six games played
  • 7-19 at the plate, good for a .368 batting average
  • six runs scored
  • one walk, and
  • two catches on defense.

Of course, there were low lights:

  • at least two errors from my time at third, maybe a few more from my time elsewhere.
  • no RBIs
  • three strikeouts, and
  • 0-2 with the bases loaded.

Considering my confirmed status as the worst baseball/softball player of all time and my place on the list of the 100 worst athletes of all time, I thought that was pretty good. Unfortunately statistics don’t always tell the full story. After all, even old Icky put together some pretty impressive flight statistics before he took his little tumble.

Perhaps you’ll remember this scene from a game back in late September. I missed an email from my team letting me know we were forfeiting the game since we didn’t have enough people. Apparently so did the other team because they also showed up. We decided to have ourselves a pickup game and then this happened:

“… I swung at a pitch and made contact. I started running towards first. The problem was, I was going in too fast. I neared the bag and I felt my legs start to come out from under me. I had two options, maintain my present stride and hope I didn’t slip and do a split. Or, shorten my stride and take a bunch of baby steps towards the bag. I did the latter, promptly tripped over the bag, went head over heels, scratched up my left palm, my right knee, my back and my right elbow. But I was safe! I got a hit! I’d lost most of the skin on the right side of my body for a game that wasn’t even a real adult league game, but that wasn’t important.”

Here we are, over five months later and the scratches and bruises are all long since gone. However, an injury I didn’t even realize I’d sustained at the time lingers. Apparently in that fall I also suffered some slight tears in the Triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) in my left wrist. This has left me with a mild, yet irritating pain when I turn my wrist.
After the customary three months of pretending nothing was wrong and two plus months of doctor visits of varying degrees of helpfulness, I will finally be able to conclude the story of my return to softball this week. And it will end just like I pretty much always predicted: with a hospital trip. That’s right, on Thursday I will be going under the knife or the laser or whatever for surgery to repair my TFCC.
Literally every authority figure who’s ever seen me take to the ballfield has told me: “You are a danger to yourself and others out there. I can’t in good conscience continue to allow you to play on this team and risk your own life and the lives of every man, woman, child and pet in a two hundred mile radius. If I had access to a time machine, I would use it to travel back in time and kill the mother of the guy who invented baseball just so I never have to watch you trying to play it. May god have mercy on us all.” Literally every one.
And perhaps I should have listened.
Icarus dreamed of touching the heavens. Icarus’ dad told him, “Hey kid, don’t get cocky.” But Icarus didn’t listen and he was doomed to a lifetime of wrist issues, which explains Greece’s perennial inability to ice a viable hockey team for international competition.
I dreamed of a softball comeback and now I’m doomed to have mild, outpatient surgery because of my dreams. Those ancient Greeks. They knew. Dreaming is for dummies.