Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Contact Sports

When people think of sports that involve a lot of contact, they usually come up with ones like football or boxing. The thing about those sports, though, is they are supposed to be physical. In football, you bulk up so you can withstand getting body-slammed by a 250-pound man. The running back knows that once he has the football, it’s going to be one brutal hit after another, and any wide receiver knows that a beautiful catch usually ends with an equally gruesome tackle. As for boxing, if you’re not getting hit, you obviously haven’t entered the ring yet.

Other sports, however, are not supposed to be physical. Like volleyball. In volleyball, all the players on the same side of the net are on the same team. The opponents are on the opposite side of the net; therefore, there is no way to bully them in order to gain a physical advantage (as in football, basketball, soccer, etc.). However, some of my worst sports-related injuries have come as a result of contact on the volleyball court: a blocker landed on my ankle, a back-row player elbowed me in the neck (while going for a pass that was clearly coming to me, I might add), and a ball was served straight into the back of my head. Volleyball might be classified as “non-contact,” but clumsiness can lend any sport considerable brutality.

Then there is swimming. Swimming is most certainly a non-contact sport: apart from swimming in the same pool, you don't even interact with your competitors! However, I have lately discovered that swimming is only a non-contact sport if a) you are competing in a swimming pool with clearly divisive lanes and b) if the pool is relatively empty.

In recent months, I have obtained significant bruises as the result of clumsy swimmers in overly-crowded pools. One guy swimming in the opposite direction in my lane came down on my wrist so hard that it instantly turned blue-ish purple. Not only did my wrist swell to one-and-a-half times its normal size, but the man's thumbnail made a cut that turned into a permanent, moon-shaped scar. Another guy (also swimming in the opposite direction) was swinging his arms so widely that he literally punched me in the face, forcing the nosepiece of my goggles to slice open the bridge of my nose. And then there was a woman in a nearby lane who swam so close to the lane rope that she breaststroke-kicked me in my quad and left three little cuts with her toenails.

These are all accidental injuries, though, and all acquired while practicing in a public pool. It gets much worse when you engage in an actual competition outside of a neatly sectioned-off pool. At a traditional swim meet, you are disqualified for crossing any body part into a competitor’s lane, never mind making physical contact with the swimmer. In open-water races, however, it’s every man (or woman) for himself. Everyone clumps up into a big mob at the start line (which is usually in the water, so you’re all treading), and when the whistle blows, everyone starts punching, kicking, biting . . . basically everyone drowns one another to get to the front of the pack. And they say swimming is non-contact!

The other sport (the only other sport I "play," in fact) that people mistakenly classify as non-contact is running. Running has an incredible amount of contact—with the pavement! Knee injuries alone demonstrate the physicality of the sport; you don’t get those kind of injuries from tiptoeing across a mattress. Tracks are slightly more cushioned, but imagine trying to train for a marathon on a quarter-mile track: you’d get dizzy! (Never mind bored.)

I may have stopped playing basketball because I wasn't good at bullying the other players (i.e. "Be more aggressive, Goldstein!), but apparently I am still very involved in contact sports!

1 comment:

Neen said...

Haha, do you remember swim team water polo in the deep end? Oh how we tried to drown one another.

I always thought warm-ups for meets were the worst. The entire team in the pool at once all warming up for different strokes. I can't even count how many times I got kicked in the ribs by someone doing breaststroke or smacked in the face by someone doing butterfly.

Then again this is coming from someone who is admittedly accident-prone.