Tag Archives: cut

Novice wrestling

When I was in high school, all I really wanted was to be part of a team. I’d grown up playing on most of the community youth sports teams, basketball, hockey, baseball and soccer. While I didn’t expect to be a varsity captain or anything, I still thought that I’d at least find something I was good at, or good enough at, to go through tryouts and find my name posted up on the bulletin board outside of the gym, telling me that I’d made a team.


But basketball was out of the question. I went to the first day of tryouts and knew immediately that it wasn’t going to happen. There were something like sixteen hundred boys in my school, and so the sheer amount of bodies in the gym that day, all of them there with their eyes on one of the sixteen spots available, it was a wake-up call, that even though I wasn’t horrible at basketball, I wasn’t really that good either.

And so the coach had us line up and shoot lay-ups, and I missed the first lay-up. I told myself, that’s all right, I’m tall, I’m fast, I’m sure they’re not too concerned with that one lay-up. But some assistant coach blew a whistle and pointed in my direction. I looked at him like, what? What do you want me to do? And he just barely lifted his eyes in my direction and blew the whistle again, this time pointing to the locker room. I’d been cut.

But hockey, I’d been playing hockey since I was in the second grade. There’s no way I wouldn’t make the ice hockey team. I mean, just think about all that it takes to get your equipment ready and have your parents take you to all of those hockey practices and hockey games and summer hockey camps. I thought, I must have an advantage over the majority of these guys.

“Don’t take this the wrong way,” the ice hockey coach told me and a group of five or six other kids after the second ice hockey tryout. His first words weren’t all that encouraging, and I looked around at the others in my company, all of us scrawny, awkward, obviously inferior to everyone else still skating on the ice.

And then it was like, OK, no basketball, no hockey, what else can I do? Volleyball? The volleyball coach actually approached me, seeing as how I was so tall. I guess he had this idea that, even though I told him I’d never played volleyball before, that it was OK, that he’d train me, that by the time I made it to senior year, I’d be some sort of spiking machine.

But those tryouts too ended in the volleyball coach kind of just shaking his head from side to side, one of those, “Listen, I’m really sorry I put you through all of this,” speeches where I could tell by his lack of eye contact that he probably did actually feel a little bad about suggesting that I try out in the first place.

So what was left? Freshman year came and went and I hadn’t made it on any sports teams. Was I destined to go through high school without ever knowing the camaraderie associated with team athletics? One of my friends was on the junior varsity wrestling team and, while he laughed when I asked him if I had what it took to try out for JV, he suggested that I attend the first day of novice wrestling.

Novice wrestling was the only sport in my school that had zero cuts. It wasn’t varsity and it wasn’t junior varsity, but it was still technically a sport. And so I showed up, me and a hundred and fifty other kids that looked as if they’d also never played on any team sport in high school. Everything about novice wrestling was exactly how it sounded, novice. We had to wrestle in this small, old gym, tucked away behind the pipe-room of the main gym. I didn’t even know the school had a secondary gym. It was one of those neglected rooms that looked like it hadn’t really been considered in decades.

Our uniforms were similarly relics of a bygone era. While the varsity and the JV squad wore these modern looking spandex outfits, we each wore a very outdated crimson wrestling singlet, made of whatever fabric they used before the invention of spandex, with bright yellow piping around the neck, arm and leg openings. I looked ridiculous. I was six foot five, but only a hundred and sixty pounds, so my uniform didn’t really hug the sides of my body, it hung, loose, making my torso look like a popsicle stick.

With a hundred and fifty person team, it was unlikely that I’d actually see much action. We basically went to practice every day, and then when we had meets, the coach would give us all turns, placing us into different weight classes, maybe we’d get to grapple, maybe not.

I remember the first time I actually had a match. My opponent was about five foot one, and he made his entrance onto the wrestling mat, slapping himself in the face, making weird yelling sounds, I guess in an attempt at intimidation. I didn’t really get it, and neither did the ref, who blew his whistle immediately and penalized him for unsportsmanlike conduct.

We got into position and the ref blew his whistle again to start the match. And my opponent ran off of the mat and vomited by the edge of the gym. I just kind of stood there, not really understanding what had happened. And then the ref blew his whistle again and raised my hand in the air. I won.

The next day on morning announcements, after they showed the highlights from the basketball game, they read a list of novice wrestlers who had won their matches. I almost felt silly hearing my name called. Some of the other novice wrestlers in my homeroom laughed knowingly. But it wasn’t that bad, because another guy in my homeroom had wound up facing off against a girl wrestler. He pinned her to the ground and won, and everyone was on his case, making up an exaggerated story about how the match went down, how yeah, he won, but just barely.

Being part of a team was cool, but wrestling wasn’t really what I was after. Besides, I kept getting ringworm, and one of my teammates had to go to the hospital because his testicles got twisted around each other in the middle of a match. I did novice wrestling for a year, got my athletic letter, and then threw away my wrestling gear. But every once in a while I’ll have a dream like I’m back in high school. I’m in my adult body, and I’m just totally dominating every single sport. I’m blocking jump shots and scoring game winning goals in overtime. What are you going to do, right? You can only try so hard at sports.

Bill, does this look infected?

Dear Bill Simmons:

Hey Bill, I can’t really concentrate on my writing, not lately. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ve got this clicking in my jaw. It’s like, I was chewing some gum last week, everything was fine, but then there was this one chew where my jaw just, well, something happened, I can’t really describe it. It’s almost like the jaw bones, it’s like they missed, like wherever they’re supposed to connect when they go up and down, I don’t know, maybe something slipped out. But I was chewing so fast, it’s not like it just popped out. No, it popped, but then I continued to chew. And I don’t know how you chew gum, but this was like a hard chew, all of my jaw strength clamping down on a joint that, as I far as I can guess, was now totally out the socket. And that hurt, there was like an audible chnk sound, an intense pain that shot up the side of my head.


Right after that it started swelling, and I couldn’t close my mouth all the way. That was for like two or three days, and while it’s a little better now, there’s still some stiffness, my bite hasn’t really gone back to the way it was. And the clicking, that’s what I was getting at, even when I do manage to warm up my jaw and get a good bite rhythm going, there’s that click, like I’m imagining something just a little off, each time I chew I can hear it, click, click, click.

Do you think I should go to the dentist? I’m worried that they’re going to try to sell me on some experimental procedure that hasn’t really proved its effectiveness in the general public. From everything that I’ve read online, it’s like, if you have a jaw problem, just deal with it. Modern medicine hasn’t yet come up with a consensus on how best to deal with these issues. There are so many horror stories of people enduring painful surgeries and long recoveries, only to have things wind up worse than when they started.

And yeah, one obvious solution would be to just stop chewing gum for a while, maybe give my body as good of an interrupted chunk of time as I can string together to really try to heal itself. But I love gum. Which is a dumb reason to keep chewing, I get it, but it’s just that, I’m not entirely convinced that the gum chewing was the problem. I keep having this idea that something just got slightly out of whack, like a door that’s just barely off of its hinge. And I don’t know, I have this feeling like if I could only knock it back into place.

That’s crazy though, right? Hey Bill, I hate to change topics abruptly here, but the other day I was riding my bike and, I don’t know what happened, because I ride my bike every day, it’s one of those skills that I take for granted. So you can imagine how surprised I was when my right foot slipped off of the pedal. I was wearing shorts because it had just started to get nice out, and so the inside of my ankle made contact with the chain.

At first it didn’t look like it was going to be that bad, but then these thick globs of blood started bubbling at the skin, it was like it was condensing at the surface from the inside. By the time I pedaled home, the crimson stain on my sock was pretty noticeable. While the cut itself wasn’t that big, it was definitely deeper than just your average scrape, and so I don’t know, should I go and have it checked out?

It’s not bleeding anymore, I mean, it was a few days ago, but it’s really hard to clean out. I put on this invisible skin spray, but I feel like that just added an extra layer of gunk, and so I can’t tell if this thing is healing properly, or maybe there’s just too much liquid bandage accumulating around the edges of the cut. I don’t mind winding up with a scar, I mean, I know you’re supposed to get stitches within like three or four hours. But I just can’t shake the feeling like this thing is going to get infected, I’m not going to be paying attention, or I’m going to convince myself that it’s OK when it’s not OK, and the next thing I know, well … do you know that Calvin Coolidge’s son died from a blister? Yeah, he was just playing tennis, got a blister, didn’t tell anybody about how bad it was getting, and then he was dead. Sure, that was right before antibiotics, but if I don’t go to the doctor, it’ll be like I’m living in the early 1900s, like this thing is going to get worse and worse until it’s too late.

But on the other hand, I don’t want to turn into one of those wackos who goes to the emergency room every time he needs a Band-Aid. They’ll prescribe antibiotics, eventually they’ll stop working, then one day I’ll be sixty and I’ll get pneumonia and the doctors will be like, “It’s really strange, it’s almost as if your body isn’t responding to the medicine at all. Oh well, better get your affairs in order.”

I know I’m spending way too much time in my head, and whether or not my wound is life threatening or not, the anxiety I’m feeling is very real. And the only way I know to cope with it is to keep chewing gum, which, like I said before, may or may not be making my jaw problem worse. Bill, you’re a lot older than me, do you have any advice? Would you go to doctor? Is it worth the copay? I’ll send you a picture. Does this look infected?

Thanks Bill,

Rob G.

I got a pretty deep cut on my ankle and I’m worried that I’m about to die

A couple of weeks ago I was riding my bike and my leg slipped off of the right pedal. At first I didn’t think anything happened at all, my ankle had only made very brief contact with the chain. But I stopped and took a look and, yeah, it was actually a pretty deep cut. Not big, like maybe half an inch across, but deep. The blood started pouring out, soaking my sock red.

Whenever I get a big enough cut, I always think, well, that’s definitely going to get infected, I’m probably going to lose my leg, the doctor’s will try to keep the infection from spreading to the rest of my body, but they’re going to be fighting a losing battle, I’ll be patient zero for a new class of superbug, they’re going to quarantine me in some government hospital, and I’m going to die behind three layers of sterilized glass in some faraway laboratory, they’ll let my wife in the building to say goodbye, but she’ll be wearing some ridiculous biohazard suit and I won’t even know it’s her, she’ll be trying to hold my hand, give me one final hug, but again, the infection is going to spread to my brain, I’ll go into some blind rage, rip the suit apart, only to discover too late that it’s her underneath, that I’ve condemned her to the same contagion, that …

And then like any really long daydream about my horrible, impending doom, it kind of just faded away into the background of my mind, and I must have zoned out for the rest of the day, because my next conscious thought was of me standing at the kitchen counter making dinner. My wife came home and started asking me about my day when she stopped, “What did you do to your leg?”

Because I had totally forgotten. I don’t know how, it wasn’t even hurting. I can’t believe that I didn’t come straight home to clean it out. I didn’t feel it, but now that my attention was brought back to this deep red cut on my ankle, now that I noticed that the edges were still black with bike chain grease, that I hadn’t come home and even tried to wipe away the dirt, now it started to hurt, now it started to sting, to throb, I immediately thought about this article I read about Calvin Coolidge in the New Yorker, how his son developed a blister playing tennis, and it got infected and he died, dropped dead, and now I’m going to die too, and maybe I could have avoided it if I had just come home and taken care of it right away.

But I was in the middle of dinner, like I had stuff on the stove, so I tried to willfully ignore it again, maybe the pain would disappear once more. But it wasn’t happening. It was getting worse. I abandoned dinner and jumped in the shower. Wow, now it really stung. It was the kind of searing pain that was almost fake, it was so intense. Part of me was like, this is crazy how much this hurts, is this real? Is this a real feeling that I’m having?

And then the next day at work, I didn’t want to cover it up, because I didn’t want to give it a warm, wet environment to really develop an infection, but I didn’t want to think about it either, so I just kind of rolled my sock right on top of it. But my whole leg hurt, the more I stood up all day, the more time I spent walking around from table to table, the more I was convinced that I’d have to be hospitalized immediately.

Out of nowhere, I started freaking out. I showed the closest coworker my leg, “Does this look infected?” and she immediately responded, “Yes. Oh my God, gross.” Not exactly the assurance I was going for. So I sought a second opinion. Another coworker said, “No, just keep it clean.” Whew. I was going to make it.

The next day I was on the train and some random guy told me to buy a bottle of liquid skin. I’d heard of it, but never tried it. Usually I hate it when people tell me what to do, but I figured that if this thing was attracting unsolicited medical advice from strangers on the subway, maybe I should at least try something else, maybe an ointment, a Band-Aid, something.

I bought the liquid skin. The subway guy told me it might sting a little. A little. Ha. It was double that searing pain I was describing when I took that first shower. That stranger was lucky I didn’t take down his contact info and sue him for malpractice. Jesus Christ it stung. But then it went away and it was like, OK, this isn’t so bad, and I think it’s getting better. Yeah, definitely better.

But I didn’t read the liquid skin instructions. I just kept adding a new layer twice a day until there was this buildup, a liquid skin wall protruding from my ankle. I couldn’t even see through to the cut anymore. Worse, this stuff was impenetrable. I tried taking it off, but it was like trying to take off my own skin. I finally looked at the bottle.

“To remove, apply a new layer of Liquid Skin and quickly wipe away.” Huh. I guess I hadn’t been doing the remove part. And so I went to apply another layer, but the bottle was empty. And then I thought, what if society collapses? What if this stuff ceases to be produced? Is this the only way of removing it? Will I have any other options? Or am I going to be this guy, this impervious layer of liquid skin permanently stuck to my leg? How am I going to explain what it is? What if there’s an itch underneath? What if …

But I forgot about that also after a while. My leg’s doing OK now. It’s there, the cut, like I said, it was really deep. And the liquid skin is still there too, but I don’t really care, because I hardly look down there anyway, it’s at such an awkward angle, and it doesn’t hurt at all anymore, so I just pull up my socks and hopefully by the next time I give that part of my body some consideration, everything will be OK. Or I’ll be dead.