Bad Break: The catalyst that redefined my dream

June 9, 2011
By Michael Payant BRONZE, Newcastle, Washington
Michael Payant BRONZE, Newcastle, Washington
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

I’ll be honest with you. In my life I’ve faced few truly major problems; few roadblocks I couldn’t handle, either alone or with the help of my family. I tried scanning my mind for an autobiographical tear-jerker, and realized once again how blessed a life I’ve lived thus far. The “low points” in my life are few-and-far-between, and have primarily been catalysts willing me to new heights.

One such example is my childhood dream of becoming a professional athlete. On a fateful day three years ago, a seemingly disastrous twist reshaped that dream in a way I could never have predicted.

The day remains a vivid blur to me. The sun beat down as the court radiated heat. Frequent, large droplets of sweat careened down my forehead. As a frustrated, overmatched, under-conditioned freshman, I was just two points away from losing my first Junior Varsity tennis match.

Though little else of that match remains in my memory, the ensuing moments do. I remember my opponent’s serve, my return, and his ensuing approach shot which pushed me toward the back, left corner of the court. I remember lunging to reach the flighty neon orb and hearing a crack accompanied by searing pain in my left ankle. I also remember when hours later a doctor confirmed my worst fear, a fractured ankle.

After four months of hobbling around in a protective boot, I thought the worst of it was over. It turns out that when a person like me favors a weak ankle, the burden is transferred onto his knees. Just a year and a half after breaking my ankle, I was under the knife receiving surgery for a torn meniscus and arthritis-esque conditions within my left knee.

Unfortunately, the “buck” did not stop there. Wearing a knee brace and occasionally when pain would swell up, an ankle brace, my lower back was soon the target.

I will do all in my power to make it through the upcoming tennis season, but my sports career, even recreationally, will likely end there.

“So, what now?” I had to ask myself. I had absolute confidence my love of sports would never fade. So as my body’s willingness to participate dwindled, my mind was forced to step up.

Be it the Seattle Mariners or my family’s beloved Green Bay Packers, I have always watched sports. As it became clear “pro athlete” was not in the cards, I was forced to pursue a new way to integrate sports in my life, now and into the future.

ESPN, the Seattle Times sports section, and the World Wide Web have served as fountains of knowledge from which I have drank more than my fill of sporting knowledge. In the process I have accrued a fact bank and a passion I am not hesitant to share with anyone who is willing to listen.

Utilizing the magic of technology, I began an online sports blog as a hobby. Since beginning my blog, I have been able to view sports from the high school level to the professional ranks with a much more analytical eye. I have great appreciation for the physical and mental prowess required for the athletes as well as the dedication they’ve put in to reach the pinnacle and the humanity of sports which is often unrecognized.

I realize now I could never have committed to the physical and psychological requirements of elite athletics. My injuries merely hastened these realizations and forced me to adapt. As a freshman in high school I was forced to realize my true love.

Professional athletics is a selective, limited field. However, if I can accomplish my “new and improved” dream, I’ll be able to watch and communicate my love of sports forever.
My love of sports has and always will defy physical definition. It is neither the competitiveness of athletics nor the sense of jubilation accompanying success; it is the sheer magnificence of sport that I love. It is said that “beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.” My eyes were not truly opened until the debilitating string of injuries which shaped my life more positively than I could ever have imagined.

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