I recently used my tax refund to purchase a new pair of inline skates. It has been almost six years since I broke in a new pair of skates and I forgot just how terrible it is. I have broken in cleats, boots and heels, but nothing compares to skates. The bigger the wheels, the bigger the blisters and with them come foot cramps and muscle aches. It will get better, but pain is simply a part of sports. (Let me be clear. I don’t consider my version of distance inline skating sport, nor do I consider myself an athlete. My skating is a hobby, a physically intensive hobby, but a hobby nonetheless.)
No pain, no gain. Being good at anything physical, whether you call it a sport or a hobby, requires a certain level of pain. Hebrews 2:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained up by it.” At the end of the day, blisters turn into calluses and soreness to strength.
This is only the first type of pain from sports. The second is darker. The first pain is that of which it is said what does not kill you will only make you stronger. The second is the pain that you make stronger until it kills you.
For many athletes, the question is not if you will get hurt, but when. Sports are an inevitable gamble and the chips laid down is your ACLs, joints and not-yet-fully-formed prefrontal cortex. Career or season ending injuries are terrible and tragic, but darker still is the pain that slowly takes all you’ve given to the sport you love and destroys all you’ve worked to build. This chronic pain from years and years of stress you voluntarily put on your body is terrible and terrifying and it use to confuse me as to why you just accept it.
Your fate is signed before you’re old enough to realize the reality. You start down a path before you know where it leads. As a child, you are placed in the midst of a game which you are bound to fall in love with, where the price for your love will be yourself. Football and baseball pitching are the two things with which I would never wish my child to fall in love. Football is terrifying because you do not know CTE is killing you until it literally does. I have so many opinions about this and more to say than I could ever fit here, so I will only say football is the hardest sport to justify, even by those who love it.
As you grow older, as you run farther, as you throw harder, as you face stronger opponents, your skills increases along with the strength of the poison you drink. Your attempts at protection and prevention, your preparation is futile to the cancelling the effect of the poison you willing ingest. Limiting the poison does not remove the effect, as you know your days are numbered.
I would ask myself, WHY? Why would you keep pitching knowing you are slowly destroying the weapon that has taken you to where you are now, giving up the ability to play catch with your kid in the front yard? Why do you run mile after mile knowing your shins have long passed their limit? Why do you play the game you do knowing your ACL is teetering on a line? Why do you buy a childhood of glory for the price of an adulthood of pain?
I asked these questions, then realized I am doing the exact same thing, everytime I skate. I feel the same pain that many runners experience, though I expect yours to be much worse than mine. The more I skate, the worse my ankles become. The farther I go, the more dangerous the poison I willing allow to destroy me becomes.
WHY? I found the answer to my ponderance in my own life. LOVE. We fall in love with what we know will only break our hearts and bodies. This inescapable passion has cast a spell that pain cannot break. It is an obsessive and unhealthy love affair with that which can never reciprocate the devotion we offer. We fall in love and let it kill us. We let it kill us slowly. It’s a gamble I’m willing to take, though I know it is unwise, because when I am flying down the hill, I know who I am. So I sacrifice my ankles. We sacrifice ourselves to receive the one thing that tells us who we are.
IS IT WORTH IT? From the outside, the answer is no. It is crazy and stupid. But when I’m skating, the answer is yes. Yes. It will always be worth it as long it makes me feel like I feel now.
There’s a Taylor Swift song that says, “We fall in love till it hurts or bleeds or fades in time,” and that’s how I think sports are.