Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wrestling With Sports

The room was oppressively hot. The air was thick and heavy. The stench of adolescent sweat permeated the thick, vinyl mats lining the floors. The coach said he made the room hot to reduce the chance that someone would pull a muscle. It made sense but it was still somewhat of a hostile environment. Actually, it wasn't just the temperature that made it hostile.

I've never been one much for sports. I had played T-ball in second or third grade. I only had a basic knowledge of how the game was played. Hit ball, run bases, don't get tagged, score point. My brother had played a couple of years before me and was now playing real baseball. I figured it was the thing to do so I joined up.

I figured it was like any other game. There were some rules somewhere that we would go over then we'd take the field and all play by the rules. Nobody told me that the rules and strategies were supposed to be encoded in my DNA by that age. I'd never watched a real baseball game, my dad and I never played catch in the front yard, and basically, even at T-ball, I sucked. The coach was no real help being as he wasn't really a coach but more of a baby sitter. I can't think of any direction he really gave.

As time went on, I continued to suck and get more confused by what I was supposed to be doing. I thought my coach and my teammates were supposed to help me understand what I was supposed to be doing but they just shoved me out in left field and left me there in my confusion. Actually, much of my life has been like that but that's an entirely different story.

Our team was one of the worst in the league. I attribute it to most of my teammates concentrating on watching me screw up and laughing at me instead of paying attention to the game. I say this because the next year, when I didn't play, the team was one of the best in the league and the roster hadn't really changed.

I let it go and went on with my life. When I got to high school, the mistaken notion that I had to involve myself in some sort of sports activity entered my head again. Having been previously involved in baseball, I headed for familiar territory. That's where this story began.

The baseball coach at my high school was also the wrestling coach. Baseball doesn't play during the Fall semester so all the baseball players were subjected to working out with the wrestlers. Presumably, the wrestlers would work out with the baseball team in the Spring semester but I never made it that far.

I spent many of my afternoons in that hot, sweaty wrestling room learning about opening moves and wrestling tactics. I pretty much sucked at that, too. There was one guy I hated being paired with. He got some sadistic pleasure out of pinning me, placing his arm across my throat and laughing as I lay there and turned blue. I really wish I'd had the fortitude to make some sort of "don't f--- with me" move but it never even crossed my mind. His actions were only one part of the torture I had to endure from many of my compatriots.

When the weather was warm enough, we would go out to the field and concentrate on baseball for a while. I wasn't as confused as I was in the second grade but there was still something I didn't get. The coach did try to help but he couldn't spend the amount of time with me that I needed. The more we played baseball instead of rolling around with each other on the mat, the more I saw a familiar pattern. Everybody was so busy watching me screw up that they weren't concentrating on what they were supposed to be doing. For the good of the team, I quit.

I don't remember how the team did that season or any subsequent season. I don't care for sports and my definition of baseball, and I may have acquired it from another source, is fifteen minutes of pure excitement crammed into two hours.

I tried again with the golf team but just landed with a coach who's idea of coaching was to let you keep trying and you would eventually get it on your own. So, thus ended my foray into sports. I don't regret anything I did or didn't do in relation to sports but it's one of those things I look back on when I think, "I wonder what my life would have been like if..."

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