Soccer – I start with this sport because it is the one that I spent the most time playing. From 7 to 17, I played soccer for 10 years. I sucked at soccer for 10 years. I was permanently on the third-line (typically soccer has one line and a few substitutes if this clues you in to how awful I was). I ran like Forrest Gump…when he still had the leg braces on. My soccer career is a lot like my career with women. I only scored about 3 times, they were complete accidents, and on each occasion I ate orange slices afterwards.
Roller-Hockey – I was actually a really good playground goalie. I had a few pads and would stump some of the best players on the blacktop. Some kids asked me if I wanted to play on their roller hockey team. I agreed enthusiastically.
Within 6 minutes of my first career start with the Panthers, I had allowed 5 goals.
Baseball – You know your not going to be good at a sport when your dad signs you up behind your back. “You’ll like it,” I was assured in 6th grade. Actually, it was more like a stern demand then an assurance. I remember I played left field, the least important position. But I was having fun; I could catch the ball and throw it pretty good, so made a decent outfielder. However, fielding is only half of the game of baseball. The batting part was not a favorite of mine. I couldn’t logically justify why I was standing in a box where a kid my age was hurling a rock at 40 miles an hour near my face/stomach/crotch area. My coach said, “You have nothing to be scared of, now get back in that batter’s box.”
“Really? I have nothing to be scared of?” I replied. “Then why is everyone else in this box wearing pads and a facemask?”
“To keep them from getting hurt.”
Lacrosse- It’s like hockey and soccer combined except somehow, it’s more expensive. You do the math. A three-week commitment somehow turned into a $300 dollar equipment investment. My dad should have done a more comprehensive ROI analysis.
Wrestling– If there was ever proof that I may have sado-masochistic tendencies, it was my three year stint on the high school wrestling team. It was a constant exercise in physical pain and mental embarrassment.
I joined the wrestling team after I didn’t make the soccer team in high school. I was a displaced non-athlete with no place to go. Luckily, I was skinny. The team desperately needed a 119 pound pencil-neck just to take some easy forfeit points from other teams who weren’t as lucky to have an emaciated adolescent.
In what turned out to be a bitter-sweet turn of events, I finally got that growth spurt my mom always said I would get. I grew 6 inches (that’s what she said) and put on 40 pounds in one summer. I was finally above the normal height and starting to fill out.
Unfortunately, this meant that my easy forfeit points dried up and were replaced with nightmarish beatdowns from both rural lummoxes and unmerciful teammates. I chose wrestling because I thought it would score me some “tough” points with the ladies. I guess the ladies weren’t really impressed with me getting choked out in under 30 seconds every other night.
Couple the embarrassment of losing in front of your peers with the ridiculous and semi-creepy process of “weigh ins,” and you have yourself a stew of self-doubt.
Weigh ins, if your not familiar, is the process of staying under a maximum weight limit. So you starve yourself for a good portion of the week, which means your cranky, then you have to strip down to your boxers in front of your team, the other team, the coaches and the referees and weigh yourself. Guess what, if you were a few ounces over-weight…lose the boxers. Boxers weigh 3 oz.
You girls think you have it tough, your bodies judged all the time? Try standing naked with your hands cupped over your jungle rod, having some mustached stranger say “Eh, he’s still a little over weight.”
I also had to wrestle a person with Downs-syndrome. Of course he was much stronger than me (and slippery too for some reason). His name was Eugene. I swear to God that was his name. I did beat him, luckily. Talk about damned if you do, damned if you don’t. At least I didn’t have it the worst. One of my friends had to wrestle a blind kid and had the unholy crap beat out of him. Another teammate of mine had to wrestle, get this…a quadruple amputee. No arms, no legs, no problem. My teammate pinned his opponent. He, like me, felt the double-edged sword of beating a handicapped person.
Basketball– My most hated sport. One of the defining embarrassments that we all have in our lives, occurred on the basketball court in 8th grade.
Our team was at the line. My friend Justin took his foul shot, missed and got his own rebound. He mistakenly assumed that the ball should be passed to me. He lobbed the ball at me and I ran…down to the wrong hoop. I laid the ball off the backboard, clear and free. I thought the crowd was cheering because they were happy for me. I realized that they were cheering because they knew that if they were filming the happenings, they would easily obtain the $10,000 from Bob Saget.
Best part…I missed the lay-up. Worst part…I missed the God damned lay-up.
Swimming– I still don’t know what possessed me to say “Let me take my 14 year old pee-pee, wrap it in a black Speedo and breast stroke my way to embarrassment.” Still two of the funniest things I had ever seen / done were during my tenure with the swim team. The team was co-ed so there were boys and girls. One kid, Andy liked some girl. He would always go on about it in the locker room after practice. Well, one day Andy finally got up the nerve to really try flirting with this girl at a swim meet. I happened to be in the proximity of the flirt and noticed something.
A boner. Andy had a boner. Andy had a boner in a Speedo. Andy had a boner in a Speedo and he was soaking wet. Andy had a soaking wet boner and was trying to flirt with a girl he liked. I will give him points for courage though. If it was me, I’d be jumping in the deep end swim face down for an hour. I suppose it could be a good tool, maybe some type of inverted dorsal fin.
The other memory is when I performed perhaps the best towel whip in history.
My towel was sopping wet after a practice one day. Kevin was boasting about how strong he was.
“I bet you can’t pick up that diving block,” I said, pointing at the ground to the black 15 lbs. weight that was used as a training aid.
“That? That’s easy.”
Kevin learned the hard way that he should lift with his legs instead of his back. As he bent down 90-degrees to lift the block, I swirled my towel, wrung it out and flung the tip at his backside. The swimmers at the starting line thought that the starter pistol had gone off. Silence engulfed that room like the stench of old chlorine. The mothers in the stands made derisive comments about me, my mom turning red with embarrassment.
“Who is that boy? And where is his mother?”
My mom sank a little lower, hiding her face.
“Mom!” I screamed and waved. “Did you see that? I drew blood! Mom!”
My mother slowly gathered her purse and left the stands. This is one sports achievement that my dad is very proud of.