Coach's Corner

I've come across a predictable and alarming pattern of decay and ravage in my body. As any good television detective can tell you, it takes time and patience to discern a pattern in long-term abuse. After 15 years of observation, I've found that the body parts on my right side tear or rip, or just rub together too much, on a neat, steady, five-year schedule. In '85, my wrist was the first part of me to quit. "Too much," it said. Carpal tunnel syndrome was virtually unknown until I got it.In '90, my rotator cuff, in a blinding jolt of pain, ripped off the bone. "Why," I asked my shoulder, "why have you forsaken me?" In '95, completing the symmetry of the upper right side, my elbow ligaments -- demanding sovereignty -- tore free from their moorings. My knees, thank God, had remained injury free -- until last Wednesday, when, about nine months early, the sissy-ass knee joined the cowards and jumped ship.

With the knowledge that all four physical malfunctions occurred with a tennis racket in hand, you might surmise I'm an athletic (albeit injury-prone) guy. One part of that statement, injury-prone, is correct. In younger times, when playing pick-up sports with people who didn't know me, I was always picked early. On another level, this would be known as a wasted draftpick. I look more athletic than I am. In truth, I possess only three virtues useful in athletics (none physical): a moderately competitive nature, a dogged stubbornness, and an unwillingness to accept that I was as bad as coaches would find me to be.

These traits, combined with the most ordinary of physical gifts, contributed in large measure to each injury. Carpal tunnel, customarily associated with people who pound computers all day, was caused by slashing away at thousands of tennis balls in an attempt to rectify a sorry-ass forehand. By 1990, I'd given up on the forehand.My new obsession was a sorry-ass serve. Pigheadedly, I was sure that, with only a little practice, I too could serve like John McEnroe, or at least not double fault two points out of four. Basket after basket after basket, day after day I'd pound serves, until one day, the shoulder told me to fuck off. As I was undeterred (and not overly bright) in my quest for a presentable serve, five years later, the right elbow gave way.

Dr. Lewis, who skillfully kept putting me back together again, always seemed a little amused to see me limping back into his office. In between major breakdowns, I'd make frequent trips to see him with more garden-variety bumps and strains. So, he wasn't exactly stunned to see me hippity-hoppinginto his waiting room last Wednesday. This time the modus operandi was slightly different. Since the elbow, I'd taken up a new sport. Well, I'm not really sure if golf is a sport or just an incredibly difficult, anal-compulsive -- albeit interesting -- task, but whatever; it became a new obsession. Though I displayed absolutely zero aptitude to succeed at this task, I pounded buckets of balls by the hundreds. The constant pivoting (incorrect form, I'm sure) on my right knee wore out all my cartilage. While frantically backpedaling after an overhead on -- where else? -- the tennis court, out went the damn, chicken-shit knee.

I can be -- hard to believe, huh? -- a little grumpy if I have to sit around for long. I'm not a good injured person. I must find a way to punish myself. Since I can't run, a masochistic endeavor I despise yet have persisted at for decades, I have a new game: It's called crutch. I crutch up and down the driveway, in the mall, on my patio, until I'm exhausted. Both elbows and wrists ache, but still I'm driven to crutch. Cause-and-effect relationships have always confounded me.

Enough of the touching human-interest angle, and on to baseball. Roger Clemens should stop bitching about his bad press and look in the mirror. Clemens went to Toronto not to win, though that was his story. Roger Clemens could have picked his winner -- Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, wherever. Instead, he picked Toronto, a team with no chance to win, but who would pay him the most. Then, when he sees the bigger dollars paid to Kevin Brown, he decides he wants to be with a winner again. Not to mention -- he didn't -- a lot more money. For months he toyed with Texas teams,sweetly singing of "coming home." The Rangers and Astros, thinking he was being sincere, both made legit offers for his services. Shockingly, he signs with the Yankees, the team able to pay him the most, informing the media that he wanted to be a Yankee all along. Poor Roger, where does he get that image as a manipulative, greedy, money-hungry athlete? Sure seems unfair to me ... .

Why are the Rangers making an embarrassing public issue over Ivan Rodriguez reporting "late" to spring training, even though "late" is actually on time? Rodriguez, catching in the brutal heat of Arlington, is annually near the top in innings caught. He deserves more respect than this. Considering how slow his bat gets by August, they ought to beg him to stay away for a few weeks instead of publicly ripping this crucial, loyal player in the press over a petty matter.


Talk to Coach on Sportsradio 1300AM, 3-4pm weekdays; or write to: Coach36@aol.com

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