Thursday, December 9, 2010

Answering the call of testicular martyrdom

There are martyrs. And then, there are martyrs.

This post doesn't pertain to those kids who walk into crowded cafés wearing vests stuffed with explosives, intent on killing and maiming as many innocents as possible, including themselves. Nothing is funny about that and I have a difficult time relating to such a mindset.

I would, however, like to discuss the more mundane martyrs in our lives. I'm sure we can think of a few.

This topic presented itself after I read a piece about Matt Cassel, quarterback for the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs. After undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Wednesday, the team, as of today, had still not officially ruled him out of playing in Sunday's game against San Diego.

I'm not a doctor and I've never undergone an appendectomy, but I think i understand the fundamentals—a surgeon of some type slices into the human torso in a specific location, removes an inflamed, unnecessary organ and sews up the slit in the dermal matter. The resulting incision (based upon my recent encounter with back surgery) can then take up to three weeks to fully heal.

This may seem obvious, but I'll say it anyway. When your body is cut with a scalpel, you're told to take it easy until the stitches are out; you can remove the warm, fluffy dryer garments, one at a time, but not that large, soggy washer load. Oh, and one other thing: you're not really supposed to step onto a football field and allow trained assassins to launch their helmets at your surgically repaired sweetbreads.

A week ago, he was merely a really good football player. Today, he has become Matt Cassel: gridiron martyr.

On a smaller stage, martyrs exist in nearly every facet of our lives. There's the workplace martyr:
"I was throwing up all weekend, but I had to come in and finish up those things for that guy. Oh, and I used your computer because I love your mouse. And don't look in your garbage can."

We've got the family member martyr:
"Uncle Meldrick specifically asked that you be the person who changes his diaper on Christmas Eve. But don't worry, I'm your big sister and I'll do it like I always do."

And of course, the next door neighbor martyr:
"Hey, man. Here's ten pounds of plums from my tree. Well, actually they're from the ground under the tree, but hey, enjoy! And look, by no means do I expect anything in return, like an Olive Garden gift card or anything. Okay. Take care."

I haven't been able to steer clear of martyrdom, either. When my older daughter was six, I often served as a volunteer soccer referee at her games. One such contest fell on the day following my vasectomy. With the game about to start the coach looked over at me and asked if I'd mind reffing the game. I quickly analyzed the situation and decided sure, no problem. I'll just walk around and blow the whistle a few times. No big deal.

"You bet!" I replied, far too enthusiastically.

"Whoa, whoa, hang on just a minute." It was my wife, sounding that familiar voice of reason yet again. Her volume lowered a notch. "Your testicles were sliced open...yesterday. They're currently puffy and traumatized. I would think that you, of all people, would not want to jeopardize the two most precious objects in your life by running around with first graders."

I quickly re-evaluated my decision and discreetly notified the coach of my recent medical procedure. Only later that afternoon, as I reclined on the couch with a frozen bag of peas nestled against my southern hemisphere, did I realize how I very close I had gotten to becoming the unthinkable:

A testicular martyr.

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