Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Watcha doing on your back?

Journal Excerpt

Why was I on my back? Well, I was on the sidelines during the second overtime round of a wrestling match. The tournament was still young. My coach and my dad asked me to lie down, so they could fan me with a towel and give me fluids. But I was mentally defeated in that moment because I rested on my back.

In wrestling practice, we could never rest our shoulder blades on the mat for longer than a half second. The only time we did was when I and my fellow teammates were doing crunches, or of course, if we happened to be pinned in a practice match -- even then, both shoulder blades would simultaneously touch the mat for a split second, the whistle would blow (or the coach would slap the mat) and then it was over.

At this tournament where I was lying flat on my back, my dad had earlier bought me a t-shirt that read:

Boys play football
Girls play basketball
Men WRESTLE

I was self conscious of his purchase because my family rarely had money. Though the shirt was inexpensive -- red, iron-on letters across a blue jersey -- I felt it was an extravagant expense. However, I was not thinking about this while I lay on my back, instead I was looking at the high-hung, florescent fixtures and breathing heavily. I was red faced and sweating. I was not mentally prepared for the last round.

Let me emphasize the fact that my coach and dad were seeking my best interest. I was obviously overheated. This was my second match of a double-elimination tournament -- I'd lost the first match. Dad and the coach were each shaped like a "V" (wide-set, large shoulders and strong small calves). These were tough dudes. They asked me to lie on my back and this baffled me, but I trusted them because they wouldn't ever do anything to kill my winning spirit. They literally wanted me to cool down.

The last round was about to begin. I faced my opponent in a standing position -- feet shoulder width apart (one slightly in front of the other), shoulders hunched, head slightly down, eyes on my opponent's waist. I was down by a single point. If I took him down, I'd win. He only had to survive the round. We had 60 seconds.

"Wrestle!"

I was furious and exhausted, but I knew the remaining time and my goal. I rushed him and pushed him off the mat. The referee blew the whistle. Back at the center, we began again. I drove and nailed a single-leg hold (45 seconds remained). He ground my face, his thumb raked across my nose, prying my head away from him. I wasn't budging. He got smart and hurled himself out of bounds, again. The whistle blew. Back to center (28 seconds remained), I locked up with him, then immediately let go. At 80 pounds, it was stupid to wrestle like a heavy weight -- too much leverage was lost with a minor mistake (10 seconds remained). I somehow let go of him and simultaneously swung around behind him. I slammed him to the mat, but I was too forceful. He used the momentum to spring away from me. I grabbed an ankle as he crab walked, again toward the coward's exit -- out of bounds. I bent his knee to the mat with my hands around his foot and my shoulder to his calf. The whistle blew.

I lost. His hand was raised in victory.

Having always been too sensitive for my own good. I burst into tears and shamefully walked off the mat. My dad must have been disappointed, but he remained silent, gave me my sweatshirt, and walked beside me toward the bleachers. We picked up our cooler and gym bag near my teammates. A stranger said, "That was incredible. You're very strong, son." I wiped my face, stopped crying, and said, "Thank you."

I'm sure Dad was proud of my reaction. Even in defeat, his son acted like a man.

Though it's needless to say, I never rested on my back again. A couple years later, I began playing soccer. Team sports are less intense.


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