Monday, April 26, 2010

12 Again

I read an article in the New York Times recently about a group of middle-aged men who play in a touch football ‘league’ every weekend, and have been doing so for twenty years. I love that they call it a league. And I love the league’s name: “12 Again”. (It is called that because “that is how they feel for two sweet hours each week”.) Just like us on the soccer pitch, the article says they don’t want superior athletes or football players. When a former pro joined them temporarily, people ran away from the ball rather than catch it, since he threw it so hard it hurt them. You know the kind of player they are looking for? “If your wife is saying: ‘What are you crazy? At your age? ‘ That’s the guy we want.” I will point out that they also bring a defibrillator along in someone’s car.

I recall a conversation I had once with Jerry, our 72 year old informal leader who is there at soccer absolutely every Wednesday morning, rain or shine. When you ask how he is doing, Jerry unfailingly says “Perfect, as always!” and pumps both his arms in the air with a big grin on his face. (A far cry from the answer you get from most of my relatives who are in a similar age group, who start in on all their aches and pains, and most incredibly, their bowels. Why on earth would I want to know about that?) When pressed, Jerry will admit his hip is arthritic and he should probably get it replaced. Jerry and Ted, who is fiftyish, have a pact that if either of them collapses on the field, the ambulance is not to be called. They want to die doing what they love doing.

Of course, I wish they hadn’t told me about this pact, because if either collapses while I am there, the first thing I am doing is dialling 911 against their wishes. There’s no way I am explaining to a widow that maybe something could have been done, but their beloved husband had said he’d rather be out here with us, all sweaty, in shorts and a yellow pinney, instead of cozied up with the wife at home, in bed, gazing into each other’s eyes while he breathed his last. I understand Jerry and Ted’s idea of course. It appeals to me somewhat too. But I’m just 41 and I have little kids. As I told Jerry and Ted, please, please, please, if I collapse, call the ambulance right away, and yes, fine, go ahead with the mouth to mouth if you must (I think Jerry had a bit of a twinkle in his eye here). If I died on the soccer field my husband would be so pissed that I saddled him with the kids all by himself I don’t even think he’d bother to throw me a funeral.

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