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The Cody Blog: Even Though Feeling Old Feels Old

Monday, March 27, 2006

Even Though Feeling Old Feels Old

That whole "Oh, waa, poor me, I'm old" thing is all cliched and worn out. Too many Dana Carvey knockoffs perhaps. Maybe it was cliched before Dana anyway.

But at the risk of being cliched, man, am I feeling old today. And it's because I played basketball yesterday. Hey, now, it's not because I can't play hoops well anymore (Oh, I can still dunk, punk). No, I'll have to take a dribble down a 3 on 2 memory lane to get there.

Last summer I took up tennis, and I took it up hard. I was playing five or six times a week, getting up at dawn to play or even going out and practicing serves if I couldn't find anyone to play with. I was eating right and in pretty good shape and I felt good about that. But in December, I tweaked my bad ankle doing something of nothing on the sidewalk.

Bad, usually a relative term, being especially relative in this case, as I've full-on sprained my left ankle more than a dozen times. And that's my good ankle. Because I've sprained my right ankle more than a dozen times too. And I shattered it into six pieces and had a screw in it coming around the left end against Tularosa on a quarterback keeper in 8th grade. And then I shattered into six pieces and had two pins in it in after playing through a broken growth plate in 11th grade. Would you believe there was one time I was playing in a 3-on-3 tournament in Roswell and I sprained both my ankles and came back the next day to play anyway. And my right ankle got stung by a bumble bee before the first game? As George Carlin might say, that left ankle might be my good one, but it's important to remember that apparently, by elimination, that ain't saying much.

With all that injurious history, tweaking my ankle and having it go grapefruit on me doesn't make me feel old either. Stay with me though, it's connected. I'll come back to it.

So after a couple months off, I started playing tennis again a few weeks ago. And started eating right again. And though I've not been in town enough to have been playing as much tennis as I'd like, I'm feeling in pretty decent shape. And I'm watching what seems like an endless loop of amazing highlights from what I hear the CBS announcers, including Billy Packer, say is the greatest tournament in NCAA history. And I'm thinking back to when I painted KSU (let's face it, my pops made me paint that one) and UNC (I was ALL about wanting to be like Mike when he was at UNC) on my backyard slab of pavement that served as our court. And I'm remembering watching in awe and falling over the back of the couch in shock as Lorenzo Charles slammed in the winning shot in whatever year that was. And I'm remembering how I actually used to wear basketballs out in my backyard during the summer. And I'm remembering practicing that spin move, over, and over, and over and over. You know that one where you cross the fool up at the top of the key with a spin on the fast break. You can pass out of that move too, you know. To the guy trailing you on your opposite side. Sweet.

And I remember playing in the rain. Shoveling snow to open up the court. Sleeping with my basketball. Always having one in my truck (oh, not the truck again!). Sneaking into the gym. Sneaking out at night to shoot at the school.

I’m remembering the day I arrived at Blinn College to play basketball at that juco in hopes that I might some day make it D-1. That was the dream after all. That’d been mainly what I’d wanted. Oh, sure I’d always dreamed of making it in the NBA and making millions playing hoops. But I’d never believed I’d be good enough to make it there. Looking back now, of course, I know this to be the primary reason I failed to make it to NBA. You only go as far as you dream, after all. Look at this, a Life Lesson Thursday on Monday!

So I’m remembering showing up in late August at Blinn and sweating it out in that tin barn of a gym with some big fans at either door to shovel the 90 degree, 99% humidity from outside a few feet into the 98 degree 99% humidity inside the gym. And dropping from 165 to 159 pounds everyday that first week there. Because I wanted to play hoops, man. I wanted to go D-1.

I remember the day the good coach McGloughlin gave me my sweats the day I made D-1. I remember playing in the Pit, on ESPN. I remember scoring my first point in an NCAA game. I remember how much I hated sitting on the bench. I remember hearing Coach Bliss break reality to me when, in the midst of a five game losing streak, he announced to the team, “The whole line up is up for grabs – even the walk ons.” I remember the instant resentment I had for the scholarship players that only grew from that point on.

I remember how much it hurt my pride when the first time the crowd chanted, “Co-dy, Co-dy, Co-dy”. I remember striving to be known for being the hardest working Lobo on the team. I remember being so proud when the Coach Bliss asked a teammate, “Would you be able to get away with that when Cody’s covering you? No, godammit, is right!” I remember getting in trouble for my grades, as I stopped doing school work during that first semester on the team. I still regret that.

I remember the dream slipping away as the season wears on and I never get in the game. I remember getting punished and having the whole athletic office at UNM in an uproar because I told the press what was in my heart about how much I hated the chant and that I thought I deserved a chance to play. I remember the pain in my heart when I had to let it all go. I remember wondering if I should go to Europe and try to play professional over there. But I’d made it to the NCAA. I’d made D-1.

And so yesterday, for the first time in a very long time, I went out to play hoops. And yeah, I could dunk (though barely! Sheesh!). And, yes, I got hurt (can’t look left today). But what made me feel old is that, as I hit the top of the key one time and did that spin move against an imaginary Rodman, I realized I’m beyond peaking in basketball. No matter how hard I might try, I would never be as good as I was in the past. Makes me feel sorta…old.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, Cody, you make me laugh. There are lots more of those to come and yet there are compensating balances. Like moments when you catch yourself quieting the ego, so that another can shine and you feel a warmth and satisfaction that is not a sharp as the rush of being at the top of your game but has a richness the other can't hold.

As one who recognizes your spirit yet is miles down the road from you, it is a very bittersweet and yet elegant journey, if you let it be.

3/27/2006 09:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know what the hell that guy before me said, but is there any way you can ever NOT talk about riding the Pine for the Lobos? I heard you took some trip to LA and went to the grammy's and crap. You gonna post a photo-documentary of your trip or what?

3/28/2006 12:40:00 AM  

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