Today, I went to a free consultation to see if I am a good candidate for getting LASIK corrective eye surgery. I’m not sure if I mentioned this on the blog before, but I’m practically blind. I’m literally the guy who takes out his contacts and then can’t see the eye-test chart, let alone read any of the letters on it. And what a surprise, it turns out I would be an ideal candidate for getting the procedure done. (As if a place dedicated to doing laser eye surgery was going to say, “Nah, stick with contacts. And keep your thousands of dollars, we don’t want it.”) Once they showed me a quick video of what the operation looks like…
…I couldn’t wait to schedule my appointment. (The previous clip is from Dead Space 2, a video game that is for Mature Audiences only, parental discretion should have been advised before watching the preceding video) Hopefully, I will have 20/20 vision by the end of March. (Because everybody sees a little blurry on the most holy of all Irish holidays, St. Patrick’s Day)
During my consultation, they asked me a ton of questions regarding my health, vision, and lifestyle. I noticed that there was a slight change in tone as soon as I mentioned I was a professional athlete. It wasn’t that anyone treated me better or worse, (it’s not like the doctors looked down at me or the nurses looked up to me. Well, technically, the nurses all did look up to me because they were each about 5’1, but you get what I am saying) it was just that me being an “athlete” put me in a preconceived category with certain attributes and characteristics. Which got me thinking, how different is their perception of “athlete” from mine? How much does an outsider know about the life of an athlete? Or how little?
So I figured I would do what I do best and enlighten the interwebs. (You’re welcome) I’m going to write about what I think of when I think of an “athlete”. This is not necessarily a professional athlete, or a beach volleyball player, or a male or female. This is only what I think are some of the realities and fantasies of an athlete’s life. And again, this is only my individual take or opinion on this subject, so it is 100% right and beyond question or debate.
-Athletes ain’t dumb: (I’m sorry, that’s a typo. It’s supposed to say, “Athletes ain not dumb”) This isn’t to say that all athletes are smart. (I spent too much time in bullpens trying to stick bubbles of chewing gum on my teammates’ hats to make that argument) But I feel like there exists a stereotype that an athlete uses their body because they don’t know how to use their mind, which couldn’t be further from the truth. A skill or passion for a sport doesn’t really correlate to IQ, so just knowing that someone plays a sport doesn’t tell you much about their intellect. (Unless that sport is Mixed Martial Arts, because all of those guys are…brilliant and smart and please don’t hurt me) In beach volleyball alone, we have Lauren Fendrick, (lawyer) Braidy Halverson, (science teacher), and every Swiss player on the FIVB tour. (They all speak at least 7 languages, including Klingon and Elvish) Besides, I will spend this summer traveling the world getting paid to play beach volleyball. It seems like the dumb one is whoever is paying me.
-Athletes do not feel physically great all the time: I can see how people could look at the physique of their favorite athlete and assume that they must feel wonderful all the time. I mean, they are obviously strong and healthy and must have tons of energy, right? Wrong. Your average athlete crawls out of bed in the morning feeling like they got hit by a truck the night before. Training for a sport means putting as much stress on your body as it can handle, and then taking that stress off right before you need to compete. So that basketball player with the ripped arms? He struggles to lift those arms to wash his hair most nights. Or that soccer player with the great legs? She walks around with them feeling like Jell-o most of the time. In the past two months of roughly 10 workouts a week, (morning practice followed by afternoon lifting four days a week, with a regeneration workout on Wednesday and a sprint workout on Saturday) I can honestly say that I have felt good (strong, quick, agile) about five times. The rest of the time, we do whatever we can to get through them. Case in point: I have seen Nick Lucena EAT a half of a scoopful of NO Xplode during a workout. (Not mix with water and drink, but eat. Put the scoop in his mouth, swallowed, then washed it down with some water and went back to doing squats)
-Most athletes could care less about what a fan thinks of them: (I really hope that I can articulate this well, because that first sentence is obviously playing with fire and I don’t want this to be offensive) I’m not trying to say that athletes don’t care about fans. We like fans, we love to think that what we do matters to people or inspires people or whatever positive someone would like to take away from us playing the sport we love. It is just that an athlete is literally trying to become an expert at something. (You are trying to master your sport, be as good as you can possibly be at it) That kind of dedication gives you a deep, intrinsic reward that is going to outweigh any kind of kudos (or ridicule) fans can offer. When I picture myself winning a big tournament, I don’t hear screaming crowds or think about getting congratulated afterward, I just think about how good it would feel scoring that last point. Imagine if I was having a conversation with a rocket scientist; he would probably love to hear that I think what he does is incredible and made me want to learn more about his field. But beyond that, it probably doesn’t matter much to him what I say or think…he’s busy trying to put a man on the sun. http://waterfordwhispersnews.com/2014/01/21/north-korea-lands-first-ever-man-on-the-sun-confirms-central-news-agency/ (Only took him 4 hours)
-A “jock” is very different than an “athlete”: When I think of a “jock”, I think of a person who loves sports. (As Ray Finkle’s mom would say, “What a sports nut, huh?”) When I think of an athlete, I think of a person who loves playing sports. (Did you pick up the subtle difference between the two? You did? Well, look at you) I love playing beach volleyball, loved playing baseball, and really enjoy playing most other sports. But I never watch Sportscenter, could care less who is going to make the NBA Playoffs, and couldn’t name all the teams in the NFL if you paid me. An athlete CAN be a jock, but it isn’t a requirement. And for some of us athletes, if you start talking about your favorite hockey team, the only thing we are going to be able to add to the conversation was that Bart used Gordie Howe’s picture when filling out a fake dating profile to entice his teach, Mrs. Krabappel. (The Simpsons were “catfishing” before it was cool)
-Athletes are not overconfident or arrogant: To be a successful athlete, you need to have confidence in your ability to perform when your time is called. But that confidence shouldn’t be construed as arrogance. Most athletes that I know are very good at realizing their strengths and their weaknesses, both on the playing field and off. The stereotypical “Larger than life, can-do-no-wrong athlete” is pretty off-base, as athletes tend to be some of the most humble and unassuming people in the rest of their lives. I am well aware of how inartistic I am. Or how bad I am at fixing or building anything. Or how much I struggle talking to wome…you know what, you get the idea. My point is, you won’t find an athlete that is constantly yelling and screaming about how great he is. (Editor’s note: Casey Patterson is the exception to this rule - http://instagram.com/caseypatt)
Maybe you will think a little differently about an athlete you know now that you have read this. Or maybe you are just happy that I was able to get a classic Simpsons reference into this post. (Woodrow: “Truly, yours is a butt that won’t quit”, hahaha) Either way, I’m glad I could help while having a little fun writing. I have to get ready for tomorrow, which means putting a heating pad on my back followed by some foam rolling followed by icing down my knee. (Real advice for my fellow athletes; never buy actual ice bags. Just buy a bag of those frozen edamame beans. It’s much cheaper, you can use it over and over again, and when the bag eventually rips, you get a nice little snack out of it)