Let’s face it: This pinky thing had the all the makings of some great PR. Like, MAN CONTINUES MARCH TO MILLION DESPITE MANGLED DIGIT, or FREE THROW DUDE GIVES PAIN THE FINGER, or FROM HIS HOSPITAL BED: “GET ME TO THE FOUL LINE” or FREE WORLD HOLDS BREATH AS HOOP STUD RECOVERS (my personal favorite).
Ah, what might have been.
As it turns out, I’ve got a bump on my pinky.
Yes, it’s sore. And yes, it’s a little bit swollen. But unfortunately for the drama queen in me, this is not going to go down as parallel to Tiger Woods winning the U.S. Open with a busted leg, or Larry Bird coming back from his head-bounce on the Garden parquet to beat the Pacers, or Kirk Gibson’s one-legged World Series home run.
Nope, this one’s more like: GUY SHOOTS MORE FOUL SHOTS, BARELY AVOIDS WEEPING.
Here’s what happened: I was invited recently by HFH pal Jeff Eisenberg to start playing in a regular Thursday morning pick-up game in Manchester — you know, the Queen City, Manch Vegas, home of the Azevedos and Grecos. Two days ago, Jan. 20, was the second time I’d played, and we were about a half-hour into the game when I hatched my plan to become Executive Health & Sports Center’s Defensive Player of the Millennium.
Their guy was coming down for a pretty-much uncontested layup, and I made the less-than-excellent decision to sprint back and try to cut him off. The way I envisioned it, it would be just the way John Hollar had taught us at Newport High School a quarter century ago: As he was beginning to bring the ball up, I would stick my hand in, strip it, it would bounce off his knee and out of bounds … our ball. My teammates would cheer, perhaps carry me off the court on their shoulders, and there would be pink lemonade, popcorn and Charleston Chews for everyone.
But then, my finger popped and I fell on the floor.
I moaned (loudly) a little more than was probably warranted, then looked and saw the wrong turn in my right pinky. I stood up, pretend-bravely asked if anyone knew how to pull it back into place, then half-heartedly tried to do it myself. The effort was pretty lame, really. Rambo I am not.
Someone said it looked broken, which was all I needed to hear to stop pulling. I was off to the emergency room.
Then I was at Concord Hospital. Then I was in with the triage nurse. Then Wendy took an X-ray. Then Dr. Melissa, a second-year resident, assessed: It was a dislocation, with a mild avulsion fracture, meaning the ligament had torn off a small part of the bone. And even though that “avulsion fracture” might sound a little cooler than a simple dislocation, it’s really not. She said she’d numb me up, pull it back into place, put on a splint and I’d be good to go.
Then this happened:
OK, I’ll admit it. What you just watched was a bit of a remix, with a little audio acting to go with the actual video. The reality was that the finger had been completely numbed (and no, I didn’t even cry when she shot me up with the lidocaine … I just welled up a little), so I didn’t feel a thing. I did find it interesting, however, that she needed to get up on the bed for leverage.
Then she put this on me …
And therein lies a problem.
Because I absolutely cannot shoot with this Iron Man costume on (particularly because the splint goes down over my wrist), and because making 1,000 to 2,000 left-handed free throws would probably take me about 12 hours (and, frankly, because typing is a real pain with that thing), I’ll confess that the splint cannot stay on full-time.
Last night was the first shooting test, and as dramatic as I’d love to be about this, the fact is that I’ve got a sore pinky. After babying it for the first 20 shots or so, I went back to a normal, five-finger shooting form, and nothing much changed. With the Shoot-A-Way Homecourt doing the rebounding at ECS, it was a 48-minute venture to make 1,000 foul shots. Today, we’ll be in the gym with the Beans, and we’ll be going for 1,500 or 2,000 more. So we’re pretty much back to normal.
It could have been much more dramatic, but that’s OK.
I’ll just be happy with the fact that we’re still shooting.
And that I didn’t cry.