Football games and phantom pains

This particularly important weekend marks the pinnacle of Canadian football, the high point of a national television event that draws millions of viewers. Yes it’s the TV special where they reveal which team has the best cheerleaders.

This particularly important weekend marks the pinnacle of Canadian football, the high point of a national television event that draws millions of viewers. Yes it’s the TV special where they reveal which team has the best cheerleaders.

Just kidding of course, it’s the Grey Cup, which is named after Lord Stanley’s favorite colour. But that doesn’t matter. What’s really important is how a big event like the CFL Championship football game can cause intense phantom pain in a distant television viewer.

That viewer would be me, of course. I’m one of those losers with the over-active memory hormones and over-stimulated imagination DNA stemcells to vividly re-live a decades-old trauma just by watching a sporting event on TV.

Flashback: City League Bantam Football. I’m four feet tall and weigh 85 pounds soaking wet, whilst virtually every other football player in this full contact tackle league is “normal” size. Which is to say they are all the size of a normal 14 year old as opposed to me, who was the size of half a 14 year old. Even though I was, in fact, 14.

Possibly because I had a bad case of Shortpeople Overcompensation Syndrome (S.O.S.), I played football like an out of control pint-sized whirling dervish. Like a puny version of the Tasmanian Devil on Bugs Bunny (compulsory childhood viewing: 5 p.m. Saturdays on CKRD-TV).

So here comes the Eastview team’s best and biggest halfback full steam right at me, his canvas pants pumping like pistons, and everybody’s yelling like bloody murder, and I’m whirling dervishly and I launch into the air at him, hands outstretched to take the legs out from under him and at the very last second, his thrashing legs come up and I jam my right hand, crunch! Jamming it into his knee.

And I roll to the ground in a crumpled heap clutching my pulverized hand as he blasts right through me without so much as having the decency to slow down even a little bit.

Turns out, both my middle fingers were broken, along with the bones on the back of my pathetic 14-year-old hand.

I got the legendary Doc Carter at the hospital, and even though I knew him pretty well on account of his son Andy was a good friend of mine, he (the doctor) wouldn’t put a cast on it even though I asked him twice.

It was the wrong kind of injury for a cast, he explained, but I figured if I was going to go through all the bother to break my hand in several places, then I should at least benefit from having a cast which would score big with my buddies and with girls who liked to sign casts.

By this time, my hand looked a lot like several sausages attached to a full-sized boneless ham, except for the fact that it was the most disturbing colour of blue and purple.

So they wrapped my swollen meathook in tensor bandages and put my whole arm in a big white, lame-looking sling, gave me a couple of Aspirins and sent me on my way.

Since time stops for no man, nor Bantam football player on the injury list, that Saturday never even offered up a much-needed recuperation nap.

First I went to my cousin Danny’s wedding out in Valley Centre, which was a nice family time in a little quite country church beside the Coal Trail, and by suppertime, my hand was now as big as, well, as big as a football, and several disturbingly painful colours like green and orange has been added to the swollen mess. And in fact, my face was about the same colour at that point, and I was feeling almost as bad as I looked.

But I had little choice, because I had to head right back out the door to go load equipment.

Our little dance band had a gig booked downstairs at the Buffalo Hotel downtown, and the prevailing wisdom was that half a drummer was better than no drummer.

We all made it through, but by midnight, I wasn’t, as they used to say, a happy camper. Who knew broken bones hurt so much?

So about 14 or 15 hours after the big crunch on the missed tackle, I delicately de-slinged my swollen lump of mangled agony, and finally fell into bed with another aspirin and a bag of ice.

Up until then, I had been under the delusion that the worst was over. Silly me. The pain was just beginning. Let’s just say a supposedly tough defensive end spend most of that night with his distorted purple shattered hand in a bag of ice, bawling like a baby.

And even now, a lot of Grey Cups down the time-ravaged road, when I see a massive train-wreck tackle on TV, I get this strange phantom pain in my hand. And when I do, I always think back to the time I should have had a cast.

When you’re a tough football player, even one who blubbers in the secret dark, a sling just doesn’t cut it.

Because it’s a true medical fact. When you’re 14 and your family and friends and cute girls sign your cast, your broken bones don’t hurt nearly as much.

Harley Hay is a local filmmaker and freelance writer.

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