Freudian Slips: Survival of the Fittest

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

May 31, 2007

Survival of the Fittest

I turned forty years old before I fully understood my skin disease. Sustained exercise robs me of endurance and drops the oxygen level in my bloodstream. My muscles fatigue regardless of conditioning. My body fails to cool itself so I incessantly perspire like an expectant father of quadruplets fighting the inevitability of parenthood.

Mastocytosis brings added challenges to my love affair with sports, especially racquetball. Racquetball is a moveable game of chess played at a hundred miles an hour. It is an exhilarating game of reflexes, sprinting, and strategy. Although I play the game like a wet mop sweeping the hard court now, allow me to reminiscence when I was not only in better shape but when I lived in ignorance about my skin disease.
Playing against my skin disease and worthy opponents, I finished the 1999 Bally’s Racquetball League four points shy of going undefeated. Amassing 59 Wins and only 1 Loss, I coasted in the playoffs and won the gym championship in my bracket. Feeling my oats, I entered a sanctioned South Jersey Racquetball Association Tournament. Experienced racquetball players from across the state entered the event, a three-day tournament from Friday night until Sunday afternoon. It was survival of the fittest, a best of three game single elimination tournament.
Lose a match and you go home dragging your racquet between the legs. While I shift my balance well and possess lightning quick reflexes, that is not much of an arsenal in statewide racquetball tournament play. I have no kill shots in my repertoire. I do not hit winners. Consequently, my matches are marathon events measuring attrition. My racquetball game consists of hustle and instincts that calculate probability odds of my opponent's shot placement. My game plan attempts to guess right and outlast an opponent’s body or mind. Surrender has never been an option for me.
On Friday night, I won racquetball matches at 7pm, 8pm, and 10pm. Saturday was no less grueling but my winning ways continued. It wasn’t just tough on me. I took credit for making an opponent vomit. While my racquetball game made it to Sunday for the semi-finals, my body felt quite differently about the ordeal. By Sunday morning, my body felt like setting concrete. I had difficulty even rousing myself out of the bed slab just to make it to the gym.
I won the semi-finals on Sunday morning. In the finals, I faced the #1 seed in the tournament, a confident experienced player. He played the game with mach speed and power. I found few holes in his game and Las Vegas would have had him as the odds on favorite. I barely won the first game 15-12 but not before trading innumerable shots in a 40 minute game.
In the second game, I controlled the early action but my opponent went on a run to close to 10-9. I called timeout because I could no longer pump air into my lungs. My body overheated, evidenced by my plum color. My skin lesions erupted to a fiery hue. I felt on the verge of collapse. Gulping water and air, I lifted my head from the water fountain. Perspiration seeped from my headband. I knew if I lost this game, he would steamroll me in the deciding tiebreaker to win the tournament.
During the timeout, I changed my shirt for the third time. I caught my first glimpse of the trophies resting on the wooden bench awaiting a coronation. While there existed only a slight height difference between the first and second place trophies, the engraved markings made all the difference in my world. My mind locked onto the first place trophy and I took this visual back into the court like a hungry bulldog thrown a T-bone. It was now or never to take care of business.
On the next point following the timeout, I made a backhanded sprawling dive on a ball that perfectly died in the corner's wedge. What a difference an inch makes. The point shifted the momentum back my way. My opponent never mentally recovered and he started to make unforced errors. Like so many other opponents before him, I had broken his will to win. A decisive point later, I raised my hands in an underdog’s triumph. Afterwards, we shook hands to show sportsmanship. My opponent smiled agreeably through clenched teeth. He knew he just lost to a man who could barely breathe.
I have since come to learn the negative effects of exertion on my skin disease. I risk triggering anaphylaxis by putting excessive stress on my body. I had forced my body to operate on blind ambition while ignoring the warning signals. No amount of conditioning can offset my skin disease. This racquetball match marked the last time I played competitive sports. I miss it but I went out a winner.

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10 Comments:

Anonymous Catherine Mary said...

Joe, From the minute I saw you I knew you were a winner. Love Catherine Mary

9:06 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

catherine mary,
and today a personal trainer at the gym measured my body fat at 26%. Not exactly feeling like a winner at the moment. So I hear on the radio your son has a secret admirer.

10:12 PM  
Anonymous Catherine Mary said...

He does, and he doesn't know who it is, that's how secret it is. haha

12:38 AM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

catherine mary,
ah, to be single and famous.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Wow, you were quite a player. Must be difficult to sit on the sidelines now, Joe.
Hope you had a fun holiday weekend.

1:00 PM  
Blogger E said...

I love your spirit, Joe. :)

4:49 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

jess,
i still play just not competively where I would put my body at risk to win at all costs.

e,
spirit and moxie define a person. You will never catch me riding a surfboard. lol.

8:59 PM  
Blogger justrose said...

i've noticed with p (i know her issues are different) that running around and hot weather, too much water, or excessive cold make her get hives.

it's hard to explain to people because i never know if it's caused by some seasonal allergen or the weather itself ...but we always have antihistamine at the ready ...

...i just know that her skin is the lightning rod for the rest of her problems, and it's really, really, really sensitive.

that is a great description of racquetball, btw. :)

6:17 PM  
Blogger Zelda Parker said...

You made racquetball sound like tennis on speed. Thanks for a great narrative.

7:09 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

justrose,
I don't know if you got the email I sent to your home addres but maybe it all has to do with p's internal temperature and the other things are just causative factors.

zelda,
not anymore. I can barely catch a cold now. middle age stinks.

9:06 PM  

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