Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Like a Fat Kid Down a Hill...

...that's how I roll.

I’ve never been one to enjoy organized sports.  There are a few reasons, but as I got older I wondered if being a sports spectator could actually be rewarding for me.  In the end I’ve basically decided (for completely independent reasons) that I’m just not into the sports I hated as a kid and young adult.
First off, let’s go back in time a bit so you can understand my initial distatred (compound of “distaste” and “hatred”) of team sports.
1986.  I was twelve years old.  I wanted to learn to play basketball.  We had always lived in the middle of nowhere, so I was never around groups of kids big enough numbers to put together real baseball or basketball games.  Oh sure, I knew how to play H-O-R-S-E.  I knew what I free thrown was, travelling, getting fouled, a three point shot…but that was about it.  I knew that there were some finer points I needed to be privy to if I was ever going to be a high school basketball star.  Yeah, I may have even fantasized about being good at basketball.
I joined a middle school league.  I had the fortunate luck of being placed on a team with three or four boys who would go on to be high school varsity basketball players.  Oh, this is the internet; you can’t hear the sarcasm in my voice.
Brian Not-a-Chance (name changed) and his father basically killed any future enjoyment I would ever have in playing basketball with other people.  Or watching it on TV.
I didn’t know all of the rules.  I was twelve.  My expectation was that other twelve year olds wouldn’t know either and we’d all learn the ropes together.  Wrong.
In fact, the other little freaks already knew so much about basketball that I was instantly ostracized for not knowing the rules of the game inside and out.  Combined with my scrawny stature, my thick glasses, braces, and my bowl haircut I was the kid that would have been picked last—or not at all—except in the league I was in everyone played. 
It didn’t go well.  Mr. Not-a-Chance screamed at me from the bleachers.  His future star player son did his best to finish off my self-esteem with genetic slurs on the court.  So I stepped back over the center line the first time I got my hands on the ball.  So what?  No one told me I couldn't do that.  That was the kind of stuff I wanted people to tell me before we started playing a game.
Finally I told my parents I didn’t want to go back. 
Throughout the rest of my schooling I was continually persecuted by the more athletic of the herd.  I came to view jocks as a class of pretentious, self-righteous, bullying Neanderthals and there was no way in hell I was going to give them the satisfaction of supporting their interests by watching basketball or baseball or football.  I would not learn their ways.  I would not pretend I was interested in championships or playoffs or world series.  In fact, I would mock the irrational obsession our society has with sports in general and sports celebrities in particular.
Admittedly, much of my lifelong alienation has been self-inflicted.  But I feel justified in exercising my freedom not to enjoy organized team sports.  What’s not justified is alienating someone just because they don’t enjoy whatever activity you’ve decided to obsess over.
My values are my values.  As an adult, when I tried to give organized sports the benefit of the doubt, I discovered I really didn’t enjoy most of them for their own sake.  Baseball bores me.  Football bores me.  Watching any sport bores me.  Playing basketball could hold my attention.  It’s a sport that is continually moving.  Soccer.  Track.  Cross country.  Wrestling.
I could get into participating in any of those type of sports. 
We wonder why such a sports crazy culture has an obesity problem.  It’s because we’re armchair quarterbacks; not out in the street playing football with our middle-aged buddies.  It’s because too many former almost star-quarterbacks would rather hang at the sports bar eating wings and drinking beer than take the time to get out and enjoy the movements of the sport.
Before you start winging in angry emails my way rest assured I know there are a lot of adult sports leagues out there.  I have a feeling the vast majority of us are still living vicariously through others though.  Whether it be professional athletes on the big screen TV or sitting on aluminum bleachers breathing the anxious recycled cigarette breath of nine little leaguer’s parents the effect is the same: we don’t expend enough calories between our sedentary jobs or our sports-related recreational activities.
Recently my seven year old daughter’s softball team was made to run laps on the field after a particularly wretched performance.  They deserved it.  Instead of being engaged in the game most of the girls were playing in the dirt or chasing butterflies in the outfield.  I’m no one to talk as I would have been chasing something myself had I been relegated to the outfield at that age, but still.  They needed to be trying to play the game and they weren’t.  Consequences.
And yet someone complained to the league that the coaches had made the girls run as a punishment.  It was not much of a run.  None of the girls collapsed at the end.  They didn’t go to Bataan and back.  Character building.  Muscle building.  Make ‘em faster runners to get to those bases.  But no, that’s not acceptable in our society today.  It’s cruel.
It’s disgusting is what it is.  If you don’t want them running too much then don’t sign them up for little league.  Or better yet, find something to do with your kids that keeps all of you active.  Sitting on the bleachers and yelling contrary coaching advice does nothing for your own health. 
As a nation we’re killing our future by instilling/bestowing these non-values upon the children.  They have to be confused at the messages we send to them.  I think we’re confused before we ever send them, but we don’t even realize it.

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