The wood from the basketball court provided no cushion to my aching, twisted, and slightly numb body. I was tangled in netting and nearly knocked out. I wasn’t exactly sure what had happened in the moments before, but judging based on my position and the pain in my back and head, I would assume that I had fallen in one way or another. A small breeze brushed against my left foot, letting me know I no longer had a shoe on. This also alerted me to the fact the door to the outside was open and the gym teacher was running towards me.
All the people in the room seemed to be shocked, except for one kid. For the sake of the story we’ll call him Jeff, and he was crying laughing.
Now, to get why this story is embarrassing, first you need to understand a little background information about freshman gym class. For a whole semester freshman year the gym classes are divided into an all boys class and an all girls class. This creates a vicious, aggressive, competitive vibe in the all boys class. Trash talk was not hard to come by, and not easy to avoid. Even the PE Leader, a senior football player, would get in on it.
Naturally, everyone is trying to show off to the rest of the athletes in the class. Everyone trying to prove they are better than everyone else. I was one of these people. I just so happened to be a two sport athlete, and a pretty good one. I started at quarterback in football and second base on the A team for baseball. At the time, I was an ignorant freshman who thought he was above everything else. I had a bad false sense of superiority that would soon be demolished with one small event.
It happened on a game day. Game days are days where we play games in gym, as opposed to fitness days which are days where we run or do some sort of physical exercise. Since we only had a few game days per week, the energy on each game day was increased dramatically.
We were in the pickleball unit. One of the most competitive unit’s in the whole semester. It is a game similar to tennis except the court is much smaller and a wood paddle is used instead of a racquet.
The net for pickleball is about 2 feet tall. Remember that fact. Each net is made of nylon string that is woven and connected at each end by a white piece of plastic. The nets are all connected to one another all the way across the gym which is 3 basketball courts long, and at the end of each court is a metal bollard holding the ropes tight. Along the way, there are wood stands that make sure the rope doesn’t sway too much when the ball hits the net, or in my case, a body. To make a jump over the net is not necessarily an easy task. I had done it many times before. For this reason I decided I could jump over it every time with ease.
Before I get into the details of the story, let me give you a short background of my social situation at the time. I was friends with some of the worst kids at Maine South. Not worst in the sense that they commit crimes or do drugs, but the worst in terms of personality. I was just beginning to realize that I was gonna need to find some new friends. One of the potential candidates was in my gym class. His name, as I mentioned before, is Jeff. Jeff and I had been somewhat competing against one another specifically the whole year, him also being on the baseball team and the basketball team.
So one day I walk into gym 5 minutes early, as usual, to play a little one-on-one before class. Guess who else decides to show up. Yep, Jeff. I see him run into class and jump over the first row of nets, followed by the second row of nets. I see this and think, “I can’t just let him show me up like that”.
So what do I do? I jump. Good decision right? Wrong.
The result of the jump was less than ideal. It was almost as if when I was at the top of the net, it reached up and touched the tip of my toe, then it bit down hard and did a barrel roll like an alligator eating its prey. I remember feeling like the fall was 30 feet, I was just hanging in the air, spinning around, with each revolution the net’s grip grew tighter, until finally, the ground punched my back with such a great force my head and neck instantly flew back like a whip. The back of my head hitting the ground and for a moment all I heard was the bang of my head hitting the floor, the rest of my limbs hit the floor in their own timely manner. Due to the fact that the net had wrapped me like an anaconda, I could not cushion my fall at all with my arms or legs, sot was just pure body weight hitting the floor with all the inertia it could muster in the short, two foot tumble. Not only did the net cause me pain, but I knocked down the whole row of net’s, they all fell one by one like dominoes set up across a gym the size of three basketball courts. Finally, in a two foot space I managed to humiliate myself in front of a crowd of people, nearly knock myself out, and ruin the chances of me seeming athletic to anyone in that class ever again.
Jeff thought this was hilarious. I know if I was him I would have been laughing too.
This jump changed my life in many ways. Some ways lasting for much longer than others. The head pain was minimal and I thought I didn’t really need to see a doctor. My knee and elbow just had a bruise, nothing too serious. I knew something was wrong with my neck right away. I had somehow twisted a vertebrae slightly which threw my back out. Even to this day I am going to the chiropractor to handle the effects.
This was also a big factor in my decision to quit football and stick to baseball. A decision that put the nail in the coffin on my old friends, and opened a new chapter. I was a baseball player now. I hung out with baseball players, I talk like baseball players, I walk like a baseball player, I even dress like a baseball player. And I’m happy. So I guess this wasn’t all bad in the end.