The Agony of Defeat

Ankle on Ice

I’m back-on-my-back.

A nasty little ankle sprain had been elevated and iced for the better-part of four days, with intervening trips to the doctor and physio and a regimen of careful range-of-motion enhancers, to speed recovery.  To goal was to be fit for last night’s doubles match in the Burnaby Open Tennis Tournament.  Let’s just say the effort came-up a little short.

One might be excused for thinking that my friend Michael, a fine tennis player, is somehow forced to play doubles with me or that having me as a partner is some kind of athletic karma, retribution for a past life of dishonest line-calls and poor sportsmanship.  But, for reasons I’ll never understand, Michael chooses to play doubles with me.  As usual, we were abject last night – me, because I’m me; Michael because he forces himself to play with me, as if giving obeisance to the Nietzschean aphorism that whatever does not destroy him makes him stronger.

Last night didn’t destroy either of us.  And it gave a nice lift to the adorably polite Ngyuen brothers, Lin and Hong, who handed us our asses in straight sets.  But it certainly didn’t do my ankle any favors.  When I reached home, removed my shoe and unstrapped the specially purchased ankle-armor, Yoo-Mi looked at the bloat bulging from beneath my sock and in mock surprise declaimed, “Oh really?”, before turning her attention back to something worth thinking about.  She thinks I’m an idiot, I reported to Michael.  “No,” he replied.  “She knows you are an idiot.”

So, last night was quite tough.  Two pretty essential tennis movements – loading and unloading the left foot to hit a backhand and likewise while serving – were every bit as excruciating as they were unavoidable.

The pain-thing: it’s not as hard to do it as it seems it ought to be.  We make a big deal of it, but pain is just pain.  People work-through pain everyday.  Sure, some people are constitutionally unable to do it; but most can.  It’s not fun, but it’s not undoable — or even remarkable.  The moments of anticipation were far worse than the pain itself: waiting to return serve, knowing full-well that the first serve would be going to my backhand; or the moment of quiet contemplation before commencing my own service motion.  The expectancy of pain torments the mind, while pain merely annoys the body.  I think the swine who use torture for interrogation understand this dynamic, as one might infer from the sequential application of a technique like water-boarding.

The interstitial moments provide not only agony, but doubt.  When you feel not-right, you become acutely aware of every moment of dead-time.  Thus, while our capitulation went quite quickly, the time between points seemed interminable.

Similarly, when the match was flowing, it was far less painful, far easier to move on my foot, even in a direction I knew would hurt.  The hard thing is the start-and-stop.  When the source of pain is constantly firing, it merely requires that you move through it — it is background noise, albeit unpleasant background noise.  Each moment of pause, however, creates a small respite; and thus each recommencement of activity brings pain anew, a pulse of interference and distraction and paralysis, which autonomically overrides desire and puts a parking-brake on intention.  By the end of the match, it was nearly impossible for me to step on the backhand side to return serve – even the candy-ass serves the Ngyuen brothers were tossing-up — yet uncomfortably possible to smack a decent backhand while in the flow of a point.

Oh well.  I’m becoming a pussy in my old age.

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3 Responses to “The Agony of Defeat”


  1. 1 smita 28 June 2012 at 10:33 pm

    Awww…so sorry for your loss, and for the pain…did morphine write this post, or vicodin?

  2. 3 viral 6 October 2012 at 11:36 am

    “The expectancy of pain torments the mind, while pain merely annoys the body.” ~MBJ

    There’s a DailyGood quote right there :)

    Great to be catching up on your blog after a long time — oh and loved hearing you on the forest call! :)


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