THAT'S LIFE: Sticking it out

I recently made a comeback to veterans’ sport – hockey – after an eight-year break.

One of the great middle-aged follies a palooka can indulge. Sometimes twice before they turn 50, depending on recuperative powers.

The physical impact, and I don’t want to exaggerate here, was like colliding with an asteroid. I haven’t felt so sore since I fell over and fractured my patella.

Actually, this time I felt sorer because smashing my patella was an accident. The comeback I did on purpose.

I was pretty much de-oxygenated after the warm-up, which consisted of one touch the toes (with bended knees) and a robust crossing of the fingers.

One minute into the match my heart was going out to Ian Thorpe and other failed super athletes. Like, literally, my heart was going out. Flopping on the ground like a fish gasping for air.

My opponent had swept past me at the speed of a tortoise and I’d fallen over in a scene reminiscent of Cocoon.

Kind of set the theme – in my mind I had him covered. In reality, I needed covering. With a blanket.

The thing is, I used to be a player. When I was 12.

And as I lay there on the ground, my 12-year-old self appeared before me and advised me: ‘‘Grow up! You’re gonna kill yourself.’’

‘‘Wow,’’ I thought. ‘‘Wise beyond my years.’’

I was going to suggest we meet for a beer after the game. But then I remembered, my 12-year-old self didn’t drink beer.

Realistically, if we were going to catch up for anything, it would be for rest, ice, compression and elevation.

I really swelled up after the match. I’m no doctor, but the grandma blotches that appeared around the knees and ankles suggested a blood vessel of some sort burst. I just hoped it wasn’t an important one.

I don’t want to go into the limping, except to say my joints fused and negotiating stairs became nigh impossible, unless they were to heaven.

And if not for a bye, the comeback would have ended there and then. The bye gave me time to contemplate whether I wanted to take my body back to that place of suffering, because if I did, there was a good chance I wouldn’t get it back, without a Zimmer frame.

I’d suffered crock shock: that sudden, painful realisation the leaves are falling from the tree, as well as a few branches. That the ducks of endless summer are flying south for the winter of muscular discontent. That the squirrels of springtime are beginning to hoard their nuts.

And nuts, I decided, were what I needed if I was going to face up to game two.

Nuts, and Dencorub, and perhaps a tablespoon of cement to ‘‘harden the f--k up’’, as Ljubo Milicevic once famously said to the Jets.

The thing is, pain hurts. A lot. Something we tend to overlook when professionals sportspeople like Ljubo suffer it. But that’s OK because professional sportspeople get paid to suffer it.

Middle-age palookas, on the other hand, pay for the privilege, confirming they’re not quite right in the head and a tad masochistic. Nowhere is that masochism clearer than when the middle-aged palooka embarks on a midweek jog/shuffle in anticipation of game two.

Confirmation that all dignity has left the building.

Reminds me of those lines from the movie Gallipoli.

What are ya legs? Steel springs. (Lead actually.)

What are they going to do? Hurl me down the track. (A hurl is definitely on the cards.)

How fast are you gonna run? (Let’s not kid ourselves here.)

Any famous palooka comeback yarns out there?

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