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My Last Game



My Last Game

By Richard Bauer


July, 2013. I was about to be 35 years old. I was 2 weeks off from a major knee injury that went undiagnosed. By undiagnosed I mean I couldn’t see a doctor for another month since my insurance was yet to be activated. It was the championship game of an indoor soccer Co-ed Sunday afternoon rec league. In the grand scheme of things it wasn’t a big deal. Hindsight being 20/20, losing the game 9-5 was proof that I should have just sat that one out. I didn’t fight the good fight. I know. I gave away the ending to the story. More insight? I played that entire game as a goalie with a torn ACL and meniscus in my right knee. Surgery and months of rehab later have me a year away from that game and that time. I reflect now on those 46 minutes of running clocked halves. And the one word that made me get up that day and go play.

Passion.

I firmly believe I found the love for the sport way too late in life. I always joked with myself that in my youth I played soccer, I wasn’t a soccer player. There is a difference and I know that now. Basketball was my first love, but soccer has taken its place. In a big, bad way. And, that championship day is one I did for this very reason. To have this memory. To have gotten that far and not been a part of the final effort. It just would have sucked. Soccer was fun again for the first time in I don’t even remember. I loved putting on the uniform and taking that field. I loved the routine and the superstitions. Mostly, I loved being a goalie. Being able to shut another team down. Being able to lift my team up and feel like the best player on the field. It’s addicting. Unfortunately, my body said no when my heart said yes. 

It wasn’t painful to play. I was just structurally damaged. I could not plant on my right leg at all. I was constantly off balance. It hindered my reflexes and agility. Every save I made ended up with me on my back struggling to stand back up. We were still alive going into the second half. I was feeling the injury and knowing I might be unable to fully help my team I attempted to pull myself from the game. A teammate urged me on to stick it out. To play through it because I had been lucky enough to stop a few shots. I gathered myself. One last half. I can do that. We can do that. Did I survive the game? Yes. Did we win? You already know we lost. Two final moments following that game. Congrats from my teammates, as through the injury I had managed to play a good game. They knew I was injured, but not the true severity. At that moment, I was clueless too. I believe they respected that I gave the effort and performed admirably. Confirmation of that came in the form the opposing goalie. Only a fellow goalie could relate to being bombarded with shots and giving up a ton of goals and still appearing as if you played well. He shook my hand and told me I played a great game. These moments are what drove me to do more than I should have for a game I love. 

It’s been a year and I haven’t touched a field. I doubt I will ever play competitively again. My knee is rehabbed and healed, but I’m not sure I can ever trust it. I’m pretty sure no one on that field that day remembers me. Nor do they know what I played through. I’d do it again though. In a heartbeat.



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