Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Second "A" in SHAZAM! - The Weakest Link

Remember Filmation's Shazam/Isis hour? How the intro for the show Shazam! started? The loud narrator bellowed:


Five legends of Greek myth (well, Hercules was the Roman name for Heracles or Herakles) and one Old Testament king empowered Billy Batson to become Captain Marvel. Even years ago when I watched the show, I wondered about Solomon, Hercules, and Achilles, because they were mere mortals. However, Solomon is the wisest man to ever live, so I can roll with that. Hercules/Heracles was a son of Zeus, basically the strongest mortal to live, conquered the Twelve Labours, and in most mythologies assumed god-hood after his death. Not so, with the petulant son of Peleus, whose greatest feat was the stacked deck slaying of the Trojan hero, Hector, but his overwhelming trait was his all-consuming rage. If you have an extra "A", why not Apollo? Even for Captain Marvel, Achilles would seem to be the chink in his armor. The vulnerable heel certainly played that part for the Greek hero, himself, and as it did for him, it has now for me.

Back in mid-January, I was playing the game I love most to play, basketball. Outmanned and down by a few baskets, our team was down and trying to put on a run. I received a pass on the wing and headed for the goal. A tall fellow that could jump out of the gym had gotten back and stood between me and the goal, so I pulled up for a jump shot from about fifteen feet. Going up, I shot the ball true, but at the height of my jump as the ball rolled off my fingers --


Coming down, I reached for the back of my right leg and crumbled to the floor. In that split second before I turned, I saw the ball go through the hoop, but that was going to be the smallest of consolations. It felt like someone had kicked me as hard as they could in the lower part of my calf. I looked, but there was no one around behind me... and I knew. Most of the other guys that came running up thought it was an ankle. Oh, how I wish that would have been the case. But like I said, I knew.

A couple of the men that play at the courts had gone through ruptured Achilles surgery before, and they recommended doctors, who after a limp-thru shower, I called. None of the doctors they mentioned were available that Friday afternoon, so, due to immediate need, I took one that was available. As soon as I got to the office and filled out the paperwork, the attending nurse asked me what was wrong. I went through the specifics hoping he had another option than what I figured, but he said, quite memorably, "Male, age 35-50, sports-related, feels like you were kicked in the back of the leg... it's an Achilles tear." Fortunately, the doctor that met with me was very good. We went through my limited options and decided on the course of action.

Just as an aside, I should mention, ruptured Achilles are one of the most painful injuries with which the person/victim will have to deal. As long as I had my leg elevated, the pain was bearable, but once I had to move, and the blood came rushing down -- excruciating. Over and over. For a few weeks - the days before the surgery and then at least a couple of weeks subsequent. Not to mention, being on crutches and having to use one leg for all weight-bearing, especially taking stairs at home or work, all that got old really fast.

After, I had surgery -- the doctor said afterward that my tendon looked like two ends of a mop -- and I was in a hard cast for a few weeks followed by a boot. Once the boot went on, therapy started. While I was going through the proscribed therapy with The Orthopaedic Center, I was good about completing the exercises they gave me at home. The process of coming back from an Achilles tear is slow, but I could tell everything was positive.

Then, baseball season hit, and I coached my younger son's baseball team. I don't know what most of the parents of the kids I drafted must have thought seeing a guy lumbering around in a big, black boot trying to teach baseball skills. Nonetheless, as the season went on, I got through it, and in the middle, my doctor told me I could go without the boot. In the last check up I had, four or five months out, he told me that I could start slowly going back into my activities. While in helping out with baseball, I have begun a little running, a sprint here and there after fly balls or teaching baserunning, but nothing much. However, because of inactivity for the most part other than these little baseball episodes, I'm up in weight, pretty much the most I've ever weighed -- which, I'm sure, fits nicely in with a little borderline high-blood pressure. Then, here and there, not all the time but enough for people to notice, I still walk with a limp, and I'm thinking on bad days, I probably always will.

The huge thing for me is that with everything going on in the Spring, my home therapy basically stopped. Baseball season, with two sons, head coaching one and assistant coaching the other, is pretty consuming. More than that, discipling myself, in any pursuit, and that's probably a separate post if there ever was one, whether it's physical exercise, spiritual disciplines (prayer, Bible reading, tithing), house or yard chores, internal struggles, etc., I'd say that's my tragic flaw. With all that, psychologically I run into problems because I feel like if I would have done right, continued my daily therapeutic exercises, my Achilles would be better off. Since I haven't done that, now what?

The thing of it is, well, I'm sort of at a confidence crisis point. Inside, I want to go back and start shooting baskets and working my way into running and then sprinting up and down a court. Physically, I'm certain that I'm at and past a point where I could at least be shooting by myself, doing some slow suicides, and getting myself back into some semblance of playing shape. Tempted I've been, but I haven't done it yet. Back before the injury, I had been having what I thought was a little tendonitis in my left Achilles. It's always surprised me that it was my right Achilles that popped. And when I feel the back of my leg, all the scar tissue in my right Achilles makes it thicker than the other, and it doesn't "feel" right. Probably my biggest issue is that I'm almost 42, and if I'm going to go back and play, I want to be able to go back and play like I've played in the past -- being competitive at any court I play. Because, if the best I can be is a shadow of what I once was on the basketball court just jogging up and down a court, trying unsuccessfully to guard other players, and throwing up the occasional set shot, that sort of defeats the purpose. At the same time, I've been told by different people, if you tear an Achilles twice, you're done. Plus, I can't help thinking, what if I tear my left one. I'll be walking like Quasimodo for the rest of my life. I never, ever want to go through that pain again. Bunches and bunches of mental games I let play in my head. Risk-reward, risk-reward, risk-reward.

This is life, though, right? And it has to be lived. Fears faced. Man meant to overcome, and all that. To be honest, I think I'm a shell of all that right now. As touched upon, all of this probably starts with a little self-discipline, the thing in life I'm worst at. Oh joy. Or perhaps if I just say, "SHAZAM!!!" Hey, here comes the lightning now. Life change time.

Maybe I'll go purchase a basketball today and find some outdoor hoop somewhere... I'll let you know.


Anonymous said...

Rich -

As you're ware, I've never had any sort of sports-related injury. So I can't offer any practical advice. But I will offer some encouragement. Start easing yourself back in. You'll feel better. I'd receommend exactly what you said you were considering. Find an outdoor court and spend 20-30 minutes shooting. Work up a little sweat. You'll feel great when you're done.

Like you, I've been on a big weight-gain kick lately. Unlike you, I have no excuse other than sheer neglect. But I got up this morning, popped in the headphones (a little Explosions in the Sky for inspiration), and hit the road for a 3-mile run (although it was more of a slow run with some walking mixed in because I am in terrible, terrible shape). Got home, put on a pot of coffee while guzzling water, and eased myself into the weekend. And it feels good.

Get back on the court. You won't regret it. Take it easy at first. Dont' test the repaired ankle too much. But don't wait to start doing something. the longer you wait, the tougher it will get and the more of a price you'll pay when you start working yourself back into shape.


Milly said...

It’s difficult to come back from an injury. I had my knee scoped and gained a bit of weight back, the weight that I had dropped during the first months of my divorce. I might need to stop chatting with Haagen and Dazs.

Take your time going back to it but go back. I want to start running again but when I told Doctor Kevin he made a face. I don’t think he wants me to pound pavement again. I hate track running. I guess running is running.

Keep shooting hoops.
Praying for you

DugALug said...


What I'd suggest is doing a couple Iron-Man's cold. Then playing at a hoop-it-up tourney. Then doing another iron man. OR....

Perhaps you should take it real easy and make sure the tendon get properly acclimated.

I gonna go with the latter and know that we are praying for you and hope you have 'fun' getting back in basketball shape.

In addition, I was all set to challenge you to a 1-on-1 when were passing through, but YOU blew that. I know, even with your leg amputated you probably still would have beaten me... but I would have had a fighting chance.

Love you Bro! And hope your recovery is swift!

God Bless

Rich said...


You're right! Even if I was the Black Knight after Arthur cut off all my extremeties in MPATHG, I'd still have to favor myself in a 1-on-1 match-up on the court.



Thanks for the encouragement, everyone!

Rich said...

Oh, and I did procure a basketball. Now, I'm going to shoot... if there's nothing too good on television. Yikes!

Diabolical Genius said...

Gee whiz!! I don't see what the big deal is. It's not as if he had any game to start with.

Now that Rich is off the court, let's just be as thankful as the presidential game of pick-up basketball now is.

{End of preposition/verb-concluding smack-laced tirade.}

Rich said...

Was there just a Mr. Nifty sighting?

Diabolical Genius said...

That's Playground Legend to you, son.

Rich said...

Oh, I've seen your game Legend, and I'm being more than fair when I allow that it's "nifty."

Ball's passed into the black hole on the post. Head fake-head fake-ball fake right-head fake-up-and-under-head fake-fake pass-drop step 180 then to 360 degree-ball fake left-head fake-head fake, lay-up over the 5'4" fellow guarding you.

I mean, your game, it's nifty.

Diabolical Genius said...

Well said, Achilles.

Rich said...