This is me this morning:
My ankle decided to not work for me early in the week. This is not unusual. Usually it will hurt like a bastard for half an hour and then I am good. This time it was different. Three days out of the injury despite the normal rest, ice, compression, elevation and not getting up more than I have to routine, I was still hurting. So I had it checked out.
The initial analysis is that my ankle is held together with duct tape and chicken wire. There is nothing too serious from the most recent injury , but there are a couple of bone chips floating around and worn smooth after years of not being detected in the ankle as well as visible damage from repeated sprains and other soft tissue injuries. I have a follow-up visit scheduled soon for more advanced diagnostics and planning. My inclination is to go with conservative treatment as I don’t want surgery unless it is a guarantee of 100% functionality.
I had been cutting back on my refereeing before this most recent injury.
When I was in Pittsburgh, refereeing was a key component of the family budget. We had two kids in day care for several years and then as my daughter got to school, her little brother was still in daycare. Refereeing made day care plausible. The fragmented buyer side and fairly well organized supply side of the referee market meant that I was taking home, after travel time, taxes and expenses, roughly what I was taking home from working a real job. I enjoyed it, I loved working with a great crew and I got to explore Western Pennsylvania and most of West Virginia.
When I came down to North Carolina, I noticed very early on that the buyer side was extremely concentrated and getting more so and the supply side was fragmented and disorganized. The game fees are lower, the number of games assigned at one field are less and the travel distance is far greater due to league organization. On net, after travel time and expenses, refereeing in North Carolina is a $12 an hour gig.
A few weeks ago on Saturday morning, my son, who started kindergarten this week, was watching television. He saw me dressed in ref shorts and a black t-shirt going out the side door.
“Daddy, are you going to soccer today?” He asked plaintively.
“Nope, just throwing out the trash and getting coffee”
“Can I come get coffee with you?”
“Get some pants on” He giggled. We spent fifteen minutes finding the most awesome pair of pants ever for him to wear.
I had already decided to make myself available on an extremely limited basis. If I thought my kids were going to be asleep or visiting the grandparents, I had openings on my schedule. I had taken a few games here and there just so I could stay on the field. But 2017’s game count was struggling to get to a score when usually I was turning down assignments to avoid being double and triple booked.
With a freshly jacked up ankle, the decision that I probably would have made next year just accelerated. I am hanging up my whistle and my flags. I’ll still re-certify but I don’t think I’m taking games again until I become perpetually embarrassing to both of my kids and they want me out of the house and away from being potentially seen by their friends.
I’ll miss the field, I’ll miss the camaradary and the dynamic mental challenge of riding a game to the edge and pulling the players back right before it devolves into mass chaos. I’ll miss that. But I’m okay with missing that if it means I can ask my 5 year old if he wants to get coffee with me on a Saturday morning.
All good things must come to an end.
Oh man! Hope that can be fixed without losing too much mobility and functionality. Might be worth it to see what you’re allowed for therapy visits for after whatever happens. Good luck good sir.
Your health is most important. Be well, and good luck.
Sorry to hear about your ankle, and I hope they can get it treated in a way that’ll get you back to 100%, but I’m glad to hear you’ll be able to spend more time with your kids. Hope you have a great holiday weekend!
Hope your ankle heals quickly. At least you get some time off your feet.
I’ll definitely miss the referee tales and you-make-the-call stories. Sorry about the ankle; I’ve had both rebuilt but running has been off the activity list since. Modified Watson-Jones procedure, I think it’s called. Some drilling is involved. I’d recommend cycling but have heard the NC drivers don’t cotton to sharing “their” streets.
Here’s hoping you mend well and find new and challenging ways to help young athletes-and get your young’un to join you for morning coffee.
I’m sorry about your ankle, but I concur that the trips to get coffee with your young kid(s) is a fine way to start off a weekend. Even if you have one who complains about “going to the way far away coffee shop” (which means 5 blocks away instead of 2).
Major Major Major Major
Take good care of those ankles, people. Especially those who, like me, have ligamentous laxity.
Well, this is certainly bittersweet. I’m sorry about your ankle, and I’m sorry you’re having to give up an activity that’s given you such pleasure. But, as you say, you’ll get more kid-time, and that has to be a pretty nice trade.
Unquestionably the right call. Happy parenting!
I said it last year, but the a-holes in charge have figured that refs are volunteers for all practical purposes, and therefore should be f-ed with until too many quit.
Like so many other things, the leadership destroyed something for their own desires.
So sorry you are having pain, may it resolve to full, free function soon.
But more kid time sounds like an outstanding development. Many new memories of a different kind on their way!
Red states keep shooting themselves in the foot, so to speak.
I didn’t see the byline and thought it was a Cole post, “What did he do now…”
@Baud: Maybe Trump’s right about exercise being unhealthy.
Sorry about the ankle, Mayhew. You get better.
@trollhattan: I avoid running because I’m prone to twisted ankles, but I do walk fast.
Major Major Major Major
@?BillinGlendaleCA: either New Yorkers walk slower than I remember or I’ve started walking very quickly over the years.
Saw the picture without reading the headline, assumed it was Cole.
Sorry to hear about the ankle. I got a sympathetic twinge, because I tore mine up pretty bad playing soccer in college. But it healed without any later problems. I hope your course of treatment goes well.
And I hope you have health insurance!
Try to use a right shoe/boot that has a sole with the same thickness as the immobilization boot, otherwise expect your right knee and hip to start hurting. — Personal experience.
There are so many things I have had to give up as I age. I don’t drink, get high, eat red meat, play basketball, run , officiate, argue for hours on end. The key, and it sounds like you are on it, to to find other things that are meaningful to you. Now I swim. take care of the dogs, plan blue water fishing trips and try to plan for my year-away retirement.
Major Major Major Major
I almost thought it was Cole too at first but I’ve never known him to do anything involving a whistle.
@?BillinGlendaleCA: That’s why he rides a cart while other world leaders walk.
Did any body else buy a new record on Friday and play it all weekend?
Seems we’ve all been here before. .
Best of luck to you, sounds like a good exchange though, kid time over refereeing.
Cheryl from Maryland
Take care of your feet/ankles. My husband and I learned that the hard way when he suffered a Jones fracture (the injury that put Yao Ming out of basketball). He was on crutches and ordered to put no pressure on his foot for NINE MONTHS. FYI, Fantasy Football hint, any player suffers a Jones Fracture (5th metatarsal of the foot breaks), trade them immediately.
I’m not sure what the local youth sport ecosystem is like in Durham but if your kids end up playing soccer, perhaps you could coach or co-coach there teams. My local park district was always desperate for volunteer coaches, and despite having no real soccer experience I did it because my then 9 year old son wanted to play. It was great – I watched about a zillion youtubes about coaching and I have to say I really enjoyed the match-day tactical decisions. Most importantly, I coached my son’s teams up until he aged out of park district at 14 and I got to spend so much time with him that I otherwise wouldn’t have.
Hope you heal up soon and enjoy the time with your kids
Sounds like you turned disappointment into a net win. Here’s to many more priceless impromptu coffee dates!
Major Major Major Major
@Cheryl from Maryland: I was wondering what happened to Yao Ming.
@hitless: You must be in Illinois if you have park districts?
Gin & Tonic
When are you going to tell your son the dildo story?
@Baud: Low energy, no stamina, sad!
My daughter and I went out for breakfast every Saturday morning from about she was age five thru middle school. I still treasure those breakfasts thirty years later.
Gin & Tonic
@Major Major Major Major: New Yorkers walk fast, it’s all those fucking tourists who walk slow.
“To everything there is a season”
The season of hanging out on a weekend morning with a five-year-old is a very good season in deed!
So sorry – anything that requires “the boot” has to be an injury that feels none too good.
Sorry about your injury, David. Even if you think you have accepted the decision to stop, you may find that grieving sneaks up on you.
Sometime I’ll tell you about the time I coached my kid’s rec soccer team. They didn’t have a coach and I was the mom with a minivan who drove a bunch of the team to practice.
O/T my meeting with the book agent went well today. I have some revisions to do and then we are going to meet with an illustrator. Fingers crossed!
@schrodingers_cat: No, no; that was the lady with the emails. Dodged a bullet there, we sure did.
Cheryl from Maryland
@Major Major Major Major: Had Jones fractures in both feet, per my husband’s orthopedist. Had surgery with the quickest recovery time, using screws (ugh, Dez Bryant of the Cowboys also had that). Broke the screws. Next step since he was pounding his feet hard, plates across the breaks. Those generally don’t work well or last long, so he retired.
You must be in Illinois if you have park districts?
Major Major Major Major
@Gin & Tonic: pretty much what I figured. Then I thought goddamn there must just be tourists fuckin everywhere, then I remembered it’s a long weekend also I’m on vacation too.
Gosh, I sure hope somebody brings something obvious to the meetup.
O/T goody, we’re getting a third season of True Detective. It will star the Moonlight dude Mahershala Ali, about whom I know only just that.
Major Major Major Major
Great news! Keep on breakin those legs!
Mike in NC
My wife finally decided to quit her softball league after one day catching a ball in the face and spending several hours in the ER at Fairfax Hospital.
@Gin & Tonic:
That’s how I remember NYC. Also, the city is full of tourists this time of year, and most NYCers have probably left for a long weekend.
Excellent. Ted Cruz did a children’s book when he ran for president. Maybe you can do one for me in 2020.
@MomSense: Go, MomSense! Sounds like you are going to be published soon!
Your cast brought back memories of my ‘rolling ankle’ that I, too, tried to handle slowly and carefully. However, I ended up having surgery (shot ligaments) where they use tendons to re-stabilize the ankle (can’t remember surgery name). It worked so well and for 17+ years, I have had: No more 20-years’ worth of sprained & painful ankle injuries and great physical flexibility & stability while hiking (my thing). Hope all options are open to you!
You ever hang out in Thatcher Woods when you were a kid?
ETA: Reposted to correct fucked-up formatting @#44.
@Baud: That worked well for Ted Cruz; then again, it’s Ted Cruz.
I was for 20 years a hard-core competitive-level soccer ref whose deteriorating right knee forced me to a similar decision point you’re now at. I knew a knee replacement was in my future, but i thought that was down the road in maybe 5 years, but went to my sports orthopedist thinking I’d maybe strained or partly torn one of my lateral ligaments – and was shocked when he told me I had almost no cartilage left in the knee, and none on the side ailing me, and joint replacement time had arrived, and with it the end of soccer refereeing (especially as I’d known it). I worked like Hell rehabbing the knee over spring, and come time for fall season in August, I cut back to younger age groups on shorter fields and much less games. However, my wife and I are empty-nesters, so spending more quality time with the kids wasn’t a concern with me, as it is for you.
It’s a hard addiction to give up, soccer refereeing – “it’s a sickness” says Ken George, chairman of the NC Soccer Referees Association. We’ll see if you’ve really kicked yours, injury or no – after all, you are maintaining your certification, a sign the virus persists in your system, despite the best efforts of your mental immune system.
Sorry to hear about the injury. I hope David’s long term recuperation is successful, and can return to the field of ref glory when his kids can no longer bear the humiliation of having their dorky dad around.
Might have the makings of a great tragicomedy, so maybe should start writing down the saga of the long ordeal and eventual triumph.
Well so far I write mostly about kids and dogs so it could work well for you.
Just One More Canuck
I hope you get better soon, and that you continue posting about soccer – your posts are always thoughtful and insightful (that applies to all of your posts, not just the soccer-related ones) and as a soccer dad who never played, I learn a lot from them.
This also gives me a chance to brag on the fact that my daughter’s team won the U12 (A level) championship in a big tournament in Montreal last month!
@Major Major Major Major: @Mary G:
Yes I am – is that only an Illinois thing? With our fetish for extra taxing units of government? Parks and Rec made me think that other states might have similar circumstances (though I guess Indiana isn’t too distant in physical terms).
Very cool! There’s so much excellence in illustrated children’s books!
Have you sold the Subaru in the field story yet?
@Just One More Canuck: Congrats on the tournament win :) Seeing kids you like achieve something special is great.
Also, my family and I visited Montreal last summer and loved the city. The people we met were incredibly friendly and have forever altered my stereotype of how French-speaking people treat tourists.
Insane Clown POTUS
My dad still occasionally referees college rugby at the age of 68, despite having had surgery on both knees. He was a soccer ref for years as well. I suppose he has to hang it up for good at some point, but he’s still enjoying it.
I started doing it more to record the stories my kids loved when they were little but if it turns into something more that would be a bonus.
I spent a lot of time volunteering and chaperoning field trips when they were in school and I used to play the story game with the students. I would ask the kids to give me three things (they could be anything) and then I would make up a story on the spot that incorporated those three things. It was a bit like improv. Anyway, most of the stories were forgettable but every now and then we would create one the kids loved.
Who better knows a good story than kids???
When I was in publishing a billion years ago, part of my responsibility was to sell children’s books to chains, jobbers, etc. It was so nice being proud of what I do. Took the edge off of having to sell drek like The Real Anita Hill, etc.
I also got a bunch of children’s books into warehouse clubs like Sam’s back when they first decided to try selling books. There’s something universal in children’s books. No matter who you are or what your life is, a good children’s book will captivate all ages.
Yes, sorry to hear about your ankle but glad you can spend time with your kids at the age when they actually want to be seen with you in public! I had just wondered the other day that I hadn’t seen a refereeing post in a while. I’m not a sports fan but I enjoyed them anyway.
J R in WV
Good luck David. Don’t balk on the surgery, just make sure you get the best guy – RTP is the place to be for any medical situation.
Once your pins are back under you, that coaching thing sounds like a way to stay involved, be with your kids, and keep in shape. Without the stress that running up and down the field with sudden stops and starts.
Best of luck, Ballook-Juice brother!
You must have some interesting stories about the changes in the publishing world.
Reading with your children is one of the great joys of parenting.
Good luck David! As fate would have it, I’m re-taking the field this fall…well, the sidelines, anyway…as my son’s league requires parents to serve as referees. That also just happens to have been my first part-time job as a teenager. Wheels within wheels… But regardless, best wishes and feel better soon!
Just One More Canuck
@hitless: thanks – the girls worked so hard (5 games over 2 days, with the final in extra time) and they are all such nice girls too. Most of them have been together as a group for a while and they (and the parents) are such a pleasure to be around.
After the tournament we did some touring around Montreal too – we saw a lot of churches – St. Joseph’s Oratory on Mount Royal was stunning
Best wishes for your ankle recovery. I think I know a bit of how you feel about giving up refereeing. There’s a Beautiful, rough and tumble class 4 kayak run I used to challenge myself near here, much of which I can see from the road on my way up skiing. Haven’t run it for three years. Decided on a sunny winter day this year that I’d never run it again.
Life sure happens when you think you’ve got plans. Get well soon, and enjoy the increased time with the kids. They grow so fast!
I strongly recommend A.R.T. (Active Release Therapy) for your quickest, best recovery from any soft tissue injuries, especially in terms of joint interactions. This therapy is remarkably effect on soft tissue problems. Personal testimony: in 1999 a string of doctors told me nothing could be done about the ungodly painful carpal tunnel damage I had in both wrists, except for surgery, and even that would only reduce my suffering, not end it. I heard about A.R.T. and decided to check it out with a certified practitioner. That person told me my problem was minor and would only take 4-5 sessions to fix. Four sessions later I was completely pain free and haven’t had so much as a twinge in either wrist in 18 years. (My wife got the same kind of relief from a chronic back problem that had plagued her since her teens.) Website: http://www.activerelease.com
My first au pair played competitive badminton with weak ankles. She had some pretty horrific injuries. I hope yours heals soon. There is nothing more worthwhile than hanging with your kids. The investment in time gets repaid in so many different ways.
I only lurk, but I have been enjoying your writing on officiating for so long that I thought it would be wrong not to thank you for the laughs.
And insights. Thank you.
” Have you sold the Subaru in the field story yet? ”
Tried to buy the rights off of Cole, and all he does is yell about punching me in the neck.
Good luck with your ankle.
I severed the ligaments/tendons that made my ankle stable. Repeated severe twistings did the trick. Eventually, if the ankle rolled even a little bit it would go all the way and I’d stumble or fall. That was a big problem since I was spending a lot of time in dangerous areas rock climbing and mountaineering, as well as backpacking and hiking to get to climbs.
Finally, I had it surgically repaired in a procedure called a Watson-Jones (after the doctors, British I’m pretty sure, who developed it). Four months after that surgery, I had my right knee reconstructed, which put me back in a cast and unable to continue to rehabilitate my ankle. I ended up in terrible pain from the ankle — to make a long story short, the doctor made the ankle too tight. He “harvested” a tendon (“you don’t need”) from my leg, drilled a hole through the ankle bone (lateral malleolus), threaded the tendon through that, and attached both ends. It made my ankle very stable, but there was a quirky catch.
After my knee had healed, they tested it for “tibial glide” on a brand new device called a KT-1000. My knee tested within the range of a completely normal knee. The results were surprising to the doctor. He didn’t expect the knee to be so tight, but it was, and it felt great. Not so for the ankle, which was under constant tension. At first he didn’t want to admit what was wrong, but when he realized I wasn’t going to sue him, he explained that he had made the reconnection too tight. He hadn’t made a mistake based on experience and accepted practice, but the expectation was that the joint would naturally loosen up on its own. But my connective tissue didn’t stretch as much as expected. There’s an explanation, but it sounds made up, so I won’t bother. There were two possible courses of action — 1) have the doctor anesthetize me and he could stretch the tendon himself or 2) wait and allow periodic twistings to do the job naturally. I opted for 2. If we’d gone with 1, the doctor would have been violating his oath to do no harm.
In the long run, it was definitely worth having the surgery. And if my connective tissue weren’t so unusual things probably would have been fine in the short term, too. But we have to deal with the bodies we have, not the bodies we wish we had.
You made the right decision.
Just finished up my 1st D1 men’s center of the year as well as my 1st D1 men’s red card of the year. If you need me to whip up a “you make the call” post for you some time to satisfy your rabid fans, just let me know!
That being said, I stepped away from the pro ranks 10 years ago, and every year could be the last in college. As I told the coach before the game today, “Damn, every year these college kids are the same age… unfortunately the rest of us are not.”
J R in WV
People are different, everyone has differences in all aspects of their bodies. Doctors learn from their patients how most people are built, how tight or loose the myriad aspects of our bodies work together.
My wife and I have each had two joint replacements from a local surgeon – highly recommended by our primary care doctor AND by a physical therapist who helped me with pain and numbness in my fingertips with neck stretching exercises.
My shoulders (a tricky procedure by all reports) are far better than before the replacement work. Wife’s knees are – well, now they are real knees, and her toes point straight ahead. Not like before, they were messed up from birth, not that there were orthopedic doctors in the hills of rural WV in the 1940s and 50s. But the surgeries went well, and we had a great PT guiding our recovery.
I can’t imagine that our surgeon would recommend work for the money… he has more work than he can get into his schedule. One more or less is completely irrelevant. Any doctor who would do differently should have their credentials revoked. Money isn’t part of the equation, unless you just don’t have it, and in my experience, many doctors would make alternate arrangements in that case.
First I stop playing at 35 when the knee is destroyed. Play with the kids at practice, but if they get in the way just toss them aside to save the knee. After the high school age kids leave for college start reffing. After the knee blows up again; decide to hang it up after having to hop down the line to try to keep in offside position. My girls told me I was still faster than a lot of other refs, but it just was not worth the pain the next week. Been about four years, I miss it, think about reffing little people, but not too much. Enjoy your retirement.