Body to 35-Year-Old: Not Today, Pal

LOS ANGELES -- I cannot tell a lie on Washington's Birthday: My body is getting older.

It's not that I can't do the things I did 10 or 15 years ago, it's that it takes longer to recover. I played four games of full-court basketball Saturday -- it's Monday and I can't lift my leg high enough to place a Band-Aid over the blister on the bottom of my right foot.

When I was 18, we played two or three games per day in summer tournaments. Then we'd wake up the next day and play more games. Then go to practice on Monday.

Two days ago, I played with eight guys who were at least 10 years my junior and one guy who had to be older than me -- his signature move was an old-school finger roll scoop shot. I assume he's still limping home or on the ground at the park trying to catch his breath while children poke him with sticks.

I knew during the Valentine's Day game that my body would show me no love the next morning. It was three hours of running up and down the court, jumping, cutting right and left, slipping a few times, taking elbows to my ribs, and butting foreheads with one opponent after driving my shoulder into another opponent's front teeth... but I thought the soreness would subside after Sunday.

Here's how I got out of bed Monday -- I sat up and tried to shift my legs to the left and out from under the covers. The muscles and joints in and around my groin and hips screamed, "Stop, stop, stop... we can't do this alone."

I cupped my hands under my right thigh, lifted it over my left and pivoted on my behind until my legs dangled over the side of the bed. I used the computer table for support and the rest of my body unfolded as I rose.

The pain was as intense on one side as it was on the other, which is actually encouraging. Acute pain in one specific area might mean too much stress on that body part.

The blister is compounding the problem. I can't place all my weight on my right foot.

"The first few steps will hurt but I'll loosen up," I thought.

It's 90 minutes, a banana and one 600 mg Ibuprofen later. I can't tell whether I'm writing this because I want to, or because it's an excuse to remain seated.

Age has physical demands, but it gives the gift of emotional maturity: I realize I don't need to prove anything to myself by battling through discomfort. I'm all right with staying home today and recovering while doing laundry and watching some French film with subtitles, possibly before listening to NPR and reading my latest copy of Road and Track.

The soreness is worth it when I think about the fact that, at 35, I can still ball with 20-Somethings to the extent that they've honored me with a nickname. "White" isn't the one I would have selected, but I'm just glad to be part of the game at my age.

Here's some advice from people who know more than me. There wasn't enough room for everyone in that group, just some select choices.

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