Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Hatin' on sports, slight return

Joyfully survived the yearly guy's campout. (I was getting over some chest crud, so was pretty wiped out.) No women, no kids are the only rules. No one's dumb enough to believe that what happens at the guy's campout stays at the guy's campout, so even though those are the only two rules, it's a lot of good clean fun.

The primary conversation topic this year revolved around half of the guys being on a softball team together. Not giving a flying frick about sports, I mostly tuned out the blather on how to hit and catch and who sucks and who rocks and instead listened to the music, watched the fire, cooked my meal, etc.

But one tawdry little episode brought back all the nasty memories of gym class hell and the various sports my mom enrolled me in before I decided they weren't for me.

Granted, it brought a happy little memory tagging along, like the four-year-old little brother of someone who gets grudging permission to hang out with the big kids for a little bit. I recalled the exact moment I finally realized sports just weren't for me.

It was during basketball practice, and I had been placed on the loser's lay-up practice hoop with a couple other spazzes like myself while the other guys were in teams and playing a game already. I wasn't allowed to play because I didn't lift the correct leg when going in for a lay-up. I hit the basket as well and as often as the others, but there was this issue with the wrong leg rising. I now realize that the coach had figured out I'd never be anything but a middling player at best, and so had shunted me off to the side until I decided to quit for myself. The moment came as I was trying to get the right leg up during yet another lay-up attempt, and as I dribbled towards the basket, I thought, in big neon letters, "I just can't manage to give a damn about this." (I didn't have a lot of exposure to the f-bomb at the time, or would have thought that in place of "damn".) I aborted the lay-up, stepped off the court, and watched the guys over on the other court playing shirts against skins, and again I thought, "I just don't care and I never will." I just dribbled around for the remainder of the practice, and when it was over, never again voluntarily returned to a sports floor. It was a happy, watershed moment of my life that allowed me to avoid wasting any more time on something I found useless that I could now devote to things I actually enjoyed.

So it has been a while since I've seen that weird random cruelty that crops up in sports, apparently in the name of keeping everyone tough and to promote camaraderie. (If you need to be hard as nails to do something that's supposed to be fun, I'll pass, thanks.)

Some of the guys at the campout took out a softball and started tossing it around for practice. After a few throws, one of the guys sitting down said to one of the guys playing, "Hey, Stan [not his actual name], you throw like a girl!" Stan responded with an appropriate profane retort, but these guys kept pointing and giggling every time he gave the ball a toss, and then started to opine on what specifically they considered girlish about his throw. He just kept quiet, as there was nothing to be done but endure. I watched the other guys who were throwing and noted they did the exact same things that Stan was getting hell for.

From what I could tell, this wasn't good-natured ribbing. No, this was the old playground "let's see if he cries if we pick on him long enough" kinda shit. Later, I kicked myself for not speaking and suggesting they climb the hell off. Still later, I remembered that sticking up for someone during sports play often made the hell they were getting way worse, and then some came your way, too. Glad I just sat there like a church mouse after all.

Swear to God, I will go to my grave not understanding the mechanics or value behind this kind of shit.


Sleemoth said...

I realized while reading this post that you're the only man I know who has this take on sports. And it kinda sucks that there's not more like you.

I consider myself about halfway between your stance and that of an average sports fan. I'm particular about which sports I enjoy (baseball, football,hockey but NOT basketball or golf) and I enjoy an occasional game for the competition. Most guys, though, follow the standings and statistics almost daily, and down to the individual player level (this "fantasy" stuff is a complete waste of time IMHO). They're glued to the tv for every game.

It really amazes me how seriously sports is regarded in this world. There's been an 11 year battle in this town (Minneapolis) for new stadiums, and all of them have contained some kind of public contribution, via taxes. Our current state administration has cut funding for health care, schools, welfare and even snow removal equipment in the name of lower taxation, and yet most of them wholeheartedly support a public tax for a baseball stadium. Now they're talking about calling a special session this fall to revisit the issue! It's insanity I say!

You, my man, are a rock star!

Dave Trowbridge said...

Well, here's another guy who just doesn't get sports. A huge waste of time, energy, and emotion, as far as I'm concerned, and, as you observed at the camp-out, too often the occasion for typical primate behavior. People who do that sort of thing are just showing their own insecurity; read C.S. Lewis's The Inner Ring for a good take on it. (You can find it by googling on the title; Blogger won't accept the URL becasue the preview window breaks it across a line.)

Anonymous said...

I have a very positive view on sports, but only on the ones you do individually: biking, hunting, sooting, bows, fishing, kayaking, running; that sort of thing. The cosmic ironist sent me kids who lettered in soccer, football, volleyball, basketball, swimming, track, and rugby. Ah, God! the endless tedium of 20 years of sports awards banquets.

Fortunately I got through my prejudices enough to understand (a little) what was actually happening. Whether or not I can stand to pay any attention to it, the team experience is career enhancing. I'll even say it's life enhancing. More important to me as a father was that a lot of the coaches are extraordinary and positive influences on the kids; and taught them things and behavioral techniques I never could have. One of many examples of a precept that yuppies cannot stand to hear: the world does a better job of raising your kids than you do. These sports things will always be something between a closed book and a pain in the ass to me, but they are Normal in a way that I will never be normal, and acquaintance with them, if not abject immersion in them, is a plus.

(I did end up with 2 flyfisherman, 2 hunters, and 3 shooters, so not all is lost.)


Yahmdallah said...

Thanks for the thoughts everyone.

EP: I mentally do not group hunting, camping, hiking, biking, etc. in with "competitive sports" for some reason. I mostly speak of getting a thing into or near another thing thus earning a point or more.

However, I heartily concur with your observation on how it can be positive for the kids who take to it. My daughter has the best soccer coach we could've hoped for, and I know it's gone a long way towards teaching her how to play rough without purposely hurting anyone, and how to deal with both defeat and victory in healthy ways. I'm sure there's more she's getting from it that due to my blinkered view I won't understand.

Richpoo said...

Your blog is excellent - keep it up! Don't miss visiting this site about camp sports. It pretty much covers camp sports related stuff.

Quit Smoking said...

Hello fellow fisherman,

Did you know that 16% of the U.S. population goes fishing at least 16 days a year?

Did you also know that over 75% of the nations fishermen do not fish during "prime time"; fish feeding hours?

Those precious few moments before twilight can be absolutely magical. Even up until 11pm at night, the largest predators of any species feed ravenously.

Don't believe me? Check out Daniel Eggertsen's story, and a picture of a couple of his catches here : "Evening Secrets plus more"

I want you to do me a favor and try it out so I can see what you think of it, and if it works for you as well as it did for me.

You will be one of the first to try it out.

Gone Fishin',


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Microsoft, Yahoo to link instant messages (USATODAY.com via Yahoo! News)
Microsoft and Yahoo will make their instant-messaging programs work together, a partnership that could give the companies more power to compete against market leader America Online. The companies expect the service to start by June 2006.

Yahoo to Bar Minor-Adult Sex Chat Rooms (Washington Post)
NEW YORK -- Yahoo Inc. said Wednesday it will bar chat rooms that promote sex between minors and adults and restrict all chat rooms to users 18 and older.

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Is the PC game market? (Dallas Morning News)
The last few years have not been all fun and games for computer game fans, but that might be changing. As attention has shifted to sophisticated video game consoles such as the Xbox and PlayStation 2, PC gamers have watched their preferred platform wither.

Xbox 360's New Media Play Finding Fans (eWeek)
Consumers were impressed by the expanded multimedia features of Microsoft's upcoming Xbox 360 at the Digital Life conference, while gamers were excited to begin using the devices to access other types of services.

NewTek Releases Fifth Free Feature Update for LightWave 3D (Digital WebCast)
NewTek, Inc., manufacturer of industry-leading 3D animation and video products, today announced the release of the fifth free update and the 64-bit port for Emmy award-winning LightWave 3D . Version 8.5 offers hardware support of OpenGL 2.0, the new Multishift tool with editable history, Photoshop -style texture blending modes, improved dynamics, and easier integration of third-party file formats.

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Games & PC Games News by www.infopage.cc - Oct. 18, 2005

Beta testers needed for GPS enabled Golf application for Windows Mobile (MS Mobiles)
October 17, 2005 [General] There are many applications for Windows Mobile about game of golf. Not all of them are GPS enabled though. Here comes yet another application about golf, in versions both for Pocket PC and MS Smartphone. (Read More ...)

GameTap download service launches in US (gamesindustry.biz)
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