The Sporting Life

Unless you have decided to jump into the middle of the story, by now you know Iím nothing but a big geek, in most every sense of the word.† Ok, I donít live in my parents basement, I have kissed a girl (in fact, Iím married and have four kids of my own (plus a step daughter)), and Iíve even had sex with a woman.† And Iíve been lucky enough never to need glasses.† But I do fit most of the rest of the description.

So when it comes to sports, I suck.† Not just a little bit either.† I am really bad at sports, and as a result I donít enjoy them, either watching or participating.† Not that I havenít tried mind you.

When I was little, I was in Kid Wrestling for a few years.† I donít remember this, but I remember the certificates I used to have, with a red or blue ribbon stapled to them for each match in the one tournament Ė I tended to have more red than blue (of course blue meant you won; red meant you participated because no one wanted to say that you lost).† I lost big time.

I was in a few fights growing up, and got picked on a lot because I was skinny and a geek.† So at one point Dad decided to enroll me in Judo, so I could learn some self defense.† So twice a week Iíd go down at night and work on judo.† After a year I was still a white belt.† They were much more into the sports side, though we did have a couple of self defense lessons.† I still remember about the move where you jab someone in the throat, and they end up on the ground looking at you.† I couldnít do it now, but we had fun doing it to each other that night.

In the corner where we practiced were some boxing gloves.† After we were done we always asked if we could try a bit of that, and one night the instructor let us.† There were just two of us that night, me and Mike D.† He was a year younger than I was, about eight inches shorter (Iíd pretty much had my growth spurt in junior high, outgrew Dad by three inches, and stopped a disappointing inch short of 6 feet).† So we put on the gloves, and started prancing around.

It didnít take long before it became obvious that, even though Mike had a brown belt at the time (the highest he could get before turning sixteen I think), I had several inches reach on him, and in boxing that is a huge factor.† He basically couldnít get far inside enough to reach me.† But I could reach him.† And I did.† Again, and again and again.† To this day, I donít know how long it went on, probably not long at all.† When the instructor pulled me off of him, he was cowering in the corner, crying, just holding up his arms to protect himself as I pounded on him, and I was smiling.† Something inside of me felt good about hurting him.†

It was a part of me Iíd never felt before.† It frightened me.† I didnít like it, and in that moment a part of me changed for all time.† I saw the beast that hid within, and having revealed it, killed it.†† I saw what I could do, what I could become, and refused it.† I would never allow this to happen again.† Something inside of me changed then, not necessarily for the better either.† Since that day, Iíve found that when I am angry I canít make a fist.† It is like I lose my strength when Iím angry.† I can get stubborn, and I can endure and wonít give up, but I canít strike out.

The good thing is Mike was a real good guy.† Even though he was never very big, he did go on to get a black belt, and he could kick my ass any day of the week without breaking a sweat.† Of course, the few fights I did end up in through the rest of junior high and high school ended with me getting my butt kicked.† Everyone always says that to stop a bully all you have to do is stand up to them Ė well that only works when they donít keep kicking your butt every single time.† A word of warning Ė fighting a bully only works when you win the fight.

Judo was mainly about sport though.† I went to one tournament.† The problem is I was thirteen at the time, which is in a separate age bracket.† And I was the only one who was thirteen in our group.† So there were new holds (choke holds) and moves that were legal at my age level, but that I couldnít work on with any of the other kids there.† I got my butt kicked but good.

The big problem was the local group wasnít well organized.† Mom and Dad werenít able to go up with me, so I hitched a ride with another family.† But then they were done before I was, again because of the different age brackets, so I had now didnít have a ride home.† Lucky for me I finished my butt whooping as early as possible, getting eliminated after the standard preliminary rounds, and was able to get a ride home with another family.

That would have been fairly uneventful, but fate has a way of stepping up making things just that much worse.† We were in a camper mounted in a pickup Ė three kids in the back, the parents in the front.† We had stopped and they had made lunch before we left, and it started to snow.† It was January after all.† Outside the temperature was just perfect for the snow to hit the ground, melt, and then refreeze.† We really couldnít see anything from the back, and were playing Parcheesi.† That is when the camper started to rock.

We felt it sway a bit, back and forth, then we were tipping on our side, and crap was falling from the cabinets across from us all around.† It wasnít until later that we saw the knives stuck in the side of the camper, a few inches from where our heads were as we sat there.† While I donít remember any of their names, the mother was suddenly crawling through the back window of the truck to see if we were alright.† She was probably over three hundred pounds, but you wouldnít know it at that moment.† It was that act that caused the worst injury for anyone Ė she cracked her collarbone getting through the window.† The rest of us just had bumps and bruises.

It wasnít their fault.† Somebody had been drinking.† He slid a bit, and clipped the back corner of the car in the next lane.† However, in the snow and ice, that made his car go off to the side, and broadsided the camper.† We were very lucky that the shell stayed on, or we would have actually rolled several times and gone on down the hill.† But we just landed on the side and slid a bit.† We stayed with their cousins that night, and I got home a day late.

The organization (or lack thereof) and everything else pretty much spelled the end of my judo career.† Being a parent now, I can imagine what must have been going through the minds of my folks, and I completely understand.†

I did try sports once more, because I wasnít smart enough to stay away.† I actually went out for the basketball team in junior high.† At the time I was tall for my age, but I didnít know that was as tall as I was going to get.† I actually worked hard at it, attending all the practices, doing all the drills, and eating a lot more.† Not to bulk up mind you, simply because I was exercising and starving all the time.

At the time, they split the Junior High team into two squads, the tournament and the non-tournament teams.† You can think of them as varsity and junior varsity, but at a lower level.† I not only didnít make the tournament team, but I was on the second string of the non-tournament team.† Did I previously mention that I suck at sports?† I was the only one on the team who never made a basket in a game the entire season Ė not one.† The coach was my social studies teacher, and I know he felt bad for me (I felt bad myself as well), but there was only so much he could let me play.† That ended my sports career.

Not that I didnít try a couple other times.† I remember doing ok practicing for a track meet when I was in Catholic school.† I was the best high jumper in the school.† However when we got to the track meet, well things werenít quite the same.† These kids were running up at a bar, jumping over backward, and landing on a pad!† Where was the rope that we had practiced on?† How was I supposed to do a scissor kick over this thing?† Three tries and I was done.

For one brief moment I thought of trying to be a sprinter, because I always felt I could run short distances fast.† Then I find out that they expect everyone to warm up by running a mile.† In addition, in seventh grade they already expected me to know my exact specialty, and have the proper sprinter cleats and everything for it.† Well that lasted all of a week Ė the few times I managed to complete the warm up I was too tired to do anything else.

What is even more amazing is that not only do I suck, but when I try to practice, I get worse.† College required two PE credits, so I took bowling and archery.† We started the bowling class off by playing a few games and setting our average.† Then over the semester we played a bunch more and learned scorekeeping, and technique etc.† I was the only on the class, that when it came to the final games, had their average go down.† The same with archery, the more I practiced, the worse I got.

And that was that.† I never developed a liking for watching sports either.† I try to watch the Super Bowl, for the commercials of course, but I donít always make it through.† Iíve sat through many a game, especially high school football, both in the marching band, and now that my kids are in the marching band.† Apparently during this time Iím waiting for them to perform there is something happening on the field that most of the people are very involved with, but it escapes me.† I donít think I made it to a single college football game in the entire four years I went to school, and didnít miss it.