I work for a software company and work in an office so I don’t do any physical work, unless you call carrying my laptop to a meeting physical work. I can also work from home and connect to the office, so if I’m not feeling so great, I can still work. I don’t get sick too often anyway, so I don’t miss many days from work. Add to all that the fact that no one in the media is following me around or analyzing every move I make and I’d say I have a pretty cushy work life.
Sometimes I feel bad for professional athletes, especially in sports-obsessed cities like Boston. As a former wannabe athlete, I can tell you that no one wants to get hurt and they don’t want anyone to know they got hurt. So these guys play when they’re hurt (hello Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins) and don’t let on as to how bad they really are. At times, they’re not playing well and we find out later that they’ve been battling a serious injury for days or weeks. Then in cases where someone is hurt and they’re perceived as not toughing it out and still playing, they’re ripped in the media and on every sports talk show by every know-it-all “expert” alive (hello pretty much all the major league baseball players).
When I was in high school I hurt my throwing arm at the beginning of the baseball season but I didn’t tell the coach because I wanted to play. When I couldn’t throw the ball from shortstop to first base anymore the coach finally asked me what the heck was wrong with me. When I told him my arm was killing me he wanted to know why I hadn’t told him earlier. I told him that it hadn’t been that bad until the last couple of days and that I wanted to play. What I didn’t tell him was that I had a childhood incident that haunted me and wouldn’t let me say I was hurt.
We were having one of our neighborhood softball games in our backyard on a nice sunny day. We had about five guys on each team, including three of my older brothers. We had been playing for a while and we took a break to get some water. In those days we didn’t go in the house to get a drink of water, we drank the water right out of the hose. There was nothing like a cold drink out of the hose on a hot summer day. Plus, you could soak your hat or your shirt and stay cooler longer. Mom wouldn’t have let us do that at the kitchen sink.
We all got our drinks and went back to the game. However, I think that I drank too much water because when I started running around again I got a really bad stomach ache. When it was my team’s turn in the field, I couldn’t even stand up straight so I lay down on a picnic bench. I guess no one on my team noticed because the inning started and the first batter hit an easy ground ball right to the spot I should have been in. Needless to say, my brother that was pitching was not happy when he saw me laying on the bench.
When he asked me what I was doing over there laying on the bench, I didn’t quite know what to say so I responded in a pitiful voice “I’ve got pains!” When everyone stopped laughing five minutes later, the mocking began. For the next few minutes after that, I was treated to “I’ve got pains” being said in high pitched voices or like a 3-year old. I was just a kid myself, but I was humiliated. I think I heard that wonderful phrase from my brothers for the next five years whenever I felt sick or got hurt doing something.
So when my coach asked me why I hadn’t told him I was hurt it was kind of a matter of pride. I guess in some small way, I didn’t want him to make fun of me for having a sore arm. In retrospect, I probably humiliated myself by not being able to reach first base from shortstop. I don’t know, maybe some professional athletes had similar situations to mine when they were kids and as adults their pride kicks in, too, and they play hurt.
I’m glad that I don’t get sick much and I can take a day off when I need to without being made fun of or mocked. I just hope that as I head into my senior years I don’t have to lie down on a bench somewhere because “I’ve got pains.”