Sail Hard

9 May

Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of my favorite writers.  He’s been going over the topic of concussions in football, and how those injuries can build into something terrible late in life. Depression, memory loss, etc. It’s horrific to think about and I shuddered when going through the thread on Junior Seau and then the absolutely fantastic piece of journalism that is the GQ article, but thought to myself, “hey, I was smart, I never played a full contact sport, at least I have that going for me”.

And then the other day, TNC posted about his own schoolyard concussion and then the Horde joined in about their own sports injuries.

And my god, it was like the boom hit me in the head again.

I was on the sailing team for my entire high school career. I spent about four years, give or take, on the waters of Port Jeff, traveling to regattas across the northeast. My team wasn’t particularly good – someone has to come in last and I was totally willing to bear that cross and hold up the rest of the competition – but we had our moments. Usually they were moments of epic failure, like the time our A team turtled their boat, couldn’t get it back up again due to water in the air tanks, and were in danger of actually hitting the Throgs Neck Bridge before the crash boat rescued them at a regatta at the Merchant Marine Academy. Or on the rare occasions when I skippered, often sailing off in the wrongish direction for long periods of time, causing palpitations in the land-bound onlookers. In my defense, I rarely wore my glasses when on the water after that time the boom hit my head and actually knocked them off into the bottom of the boat*, which was also the same ill-begotten race when my captain slid right off the back of the boat, leading me to turn around and see that NO ONE WAS STEERING THE DAMN THING. (dani? DANI?! OH SHIT.)

Mostly, being on the sailing team lead to a lot of wacky hijinks.

But still, one of the main things about CTE is repetitive jostling. I don’t think a single practice went by without me banging my head against the solid steel boom at least once. We all got conked on the head. It was a rite of passage, one that expert sailors grew out of. But I will never qualify as an expert sailor, unless my competition is a bunch of Bedouins who can’t swim.

I can still remember that suddenwham feeling, the boat shifting underneath me and not ducking under the swinging boom fast enough. I’m pretty sure I never took a truly nasty hit, the kind where you black out for a few seconds, but half my team did. I saw stars often enough.


And I thought I was being smart for avoiding football.

*Proving my point exactly.


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