Sliding Into First: Adventures in Aging

Thursday, May 15, 2014 | 0 Comment(s)

A few months ago at the bar, a 25-year-old friend of mine rolled up looking deflated.  Upon closer inspection, the lack of life in his face reflected a particular brand of dehydration that I most associate with hangovers.  "You don't look so good," I mentioned.  Stating the obvious.

"Yah.  I have a huge friggin headache.  Just massive."  "Can I tell you something?," he mused, "Back in college, I used to drink twice as much as I did yesterday, and I would never get headaches like this the next day. It's like, as I get older, the hangovers get worse.  Is that a thing?"

Cue air-gasping laughter.

"I'm sorry to tell you this my friend (I wasn't sorry, I was giddy), but not only does it get worse, it gets exponentially worse.  I can't even have two drinks at age 35 without waking up to the munchkin horde hammering away inside my temples."

His reaction, a mixture of shock and terror, really tickled me.

Tuesday was the first game of my summer Co-ed Drinking-League Softball season.  Unfortunately I was running late for the game and pulled into the parking lot during the bottom of the 3rd inning.  Due to a lack of players, by the time I got my shoes tied, they were already hurrying me in the direction of first base.  I took a few warm-up tosses from my infield, and dropped every single one.  My new teammates playing shortstop and 3rd base glancing worriedly at each other.  "Can this kid catch anything!?!," said their eyes.

I was hoping for a long inning.  I hadn't swung a bat since last season and I was busying myself doing arm-circles in the infield, attempting to begin the stretching process required to oil the hinges on my creaking body.  Pop-up.  One out.  I begin to pull my feet up behind me in an attempt to stretch my quads.  Fly ball into the outfield.  Two outs.  Just as I began a low impact calf stretch, a ground ball aimed at the shortstop was scooped up and flung my direction.  I hauled that sucker in two-handed, making sure to cradle it all the way into my body. Inning over.

"Matt, you're up second!"

I hadn't begun any actual warm-ups.  Usually I start with a nice lap around the diamond and then sit down to really work my legs and back, until I am as limber as my former self.  You know, that college dancer who could forgo stretching with impunity, drinking a 40 oz. to finish off the day, knowing I'll be bright eyed and bushy tailed for Hebrew class early the next morning.  Those days are long gone.  And as I step to the plate seconds later, I promise myself I'll just chip it over the 3rd baseman's head and jog to 1st.  Of course, I have the bat control of a little leaguer, and my line drive quickly realizes that it's a lazy ground ball hit softly towards 3rd base.  Considering I just got put into the game, I had no idea how good the 3rd baseman's arm was, and I instinctively took off at full speed for first base.

But I hadn't finished stretching.  And while I pushed and pulled at my legs to churn like the pistons of a new Mitsubishi Lancer, each stride got a bit more stuck than the one previous.  I say stuck both in the literal sense, due to the mud on the field, but also the metaphoric muck of inelastic muscle tissues refusing my inappropriate request to go from rest straight to Ludicrous Speed.  As I made it halfway to first base, I could feel my back end losing both momentum and traction, while my arms and chest still pumped way out in front.

And then there came the moment.  That moment of realization along the base path that the only possible solution to the equation which combines my momentum and my current trajectory is a trip to Fallsville. Population: Me.  At that point my "sprint" to the a bag becomes a horrifying slow motion ballet of me trying to remain upright long enough to flop my decrepit half-decomposed body over the hard plastic cushion of first base.  It was not looking good.  My feet were no longer churning as I began my descent.  I listened to hear if anyone would yell, "tiimmmmmberrrrrrr."  My final bit of effort was spent propelling myself forward with my tippy-toes.

My fingers just grazed the front of the bag.  The throw from third, apparently, had sailed well over my head and into the bushes behind me.  There was widespread laughter from my bench and muffled giggles from our opponents.  All in all it was a masterful way to introduce myself to my new teammates, sans ego.

After eventually reaching home plate, I sat down and began a proper stretch routine in order to complete my new fitness goal: overrunning first base.  I asked everyone if they had taken note regarding my lesson in "how to slide."

The response, "Are we calling that a slide?"

So yah, the hangovers get worse.

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