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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Hey Ma, guess what I have? (Another soccer saga...)

Every so often there is a news item or campaign on UK TV featuring obese children, and the storyline is always the same: our kids aren't eating right and they aren't getting enough exercise. There are similar stories on US TV, and I suspect even more since the "Super Size Me" documentary made the rounds (pardon the pun).

I have mixed feelings whenever I see these stories, for while I think it is terrible that kids don't eat right and are so "out of shape", I can't help but forget that I know what it is like to be an obese kid (hell, I know what it's like to be an obese adult!). I think the last time I was probably at the correct weight for my height was at the age of 4 -- I even have to check with my mother on that point. (Randi has always claimed to be too short for her weight -- great line.)

When I was a kid, however, the word we used was not obese but "husky", which was the category of clothing that I was forced to wear. In fact my mother would drag me to the local men's store and ask aloud "Where are the husky boy's section?" I don't recall ever having come across that setion in my adulthood, but I am thankful that at least in my childhood we didn't have to go to the store and asked where we can find the "obese kids" department....

To add insult to obesity (so to speak), I also suffered as a child from an affliction (again, so to speak) known as being "pigeon toed." This is another term for 'in-toeing' according to sources on the web, and while it is typically associated with early childhood development, some folks (like me) still 'suffer' from it for longer periods.

The orthopedic 'specialist' who treated me prescribed a corrective regimen that effectively stigmatized me for many decades. The solution to pigeon toed-ness, it turns out, was to have me wear my left shoe on my right foot and vice versa. Yes, this did look funny, but far worse often gave people the impression that I was not merely obese but also quite stupid.

If there was any "benefit" to all this it was that it got me excused from gym class. While all my fifth-grade and sixth-grade friends were out on the gym floor playing dodgeball or learning to square dance (a skill I am certain they still use today), I was in the gym teacher's office smoking his cigarettes.

By age 12 I was up to at least half a pack a day....

The good news is that the corrective measures worked -- while my feet are nothing to write home about, I am pleased to say there is no indication of a genetic link between me and some winged friends.

I am also pleased to report that 12 years later I gave up smoking....

And I think I've gotten over looking stupid.

As for being obese and in need of exercise, well I never did really get over that phase....

I bring this up because today I suffered -- at age 58 -- what may be my first "athletic injury." As has become part of my Tuesday afternoon routine here in Belfast, I attended the four clock law faculty football game. As I've written in an earlier post, this has become a part of my routine that I actually look forward to despite the feeling of exhaustion that follows. Until today's game, we have been a bit shorthanded this term, with only four or five folks showing up each session. This has made the weekly "game" even more demanding on me, because with so few people on the floor I actually have to contribute to moving the ball around as well as providing something resembling a defense. Not merely is this good fun, but it is also my personal version of a cardiac "stress test." (I had a heart attack in March 2003, followed by a couple of procedures to implant stents in appropriate places, and for all that I am actually most anxious about passing the annual stress test. Don't want to let those doctors down....)

But while I really like the good work out, I was relieved today to see that 10 people showed up for the game, allowing me to effectively avoid contact with the ball while looking like I was seriously engaged in the game. But perhaps I was a bit too "laid-back" about the game, for within a few minutes I suffered a mishap which I believe falls under the term "groin pull."

Yes, this is not a fun injury. Luckily for me however, I tend to move forward and backward most of the day rather than laterally. The rest of the game, of course, was a bit awkward, and even now I am finding that sudden moves in front of the computer are a bit more difficult than usual.

Nevertheless, there's a certain point of pride in having sustained -- finally! -- an injury worthy of a less obese lifestyle.... I think I'll call my mother and let her know that I have actually sustained an athletic injury.
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