Thursday, April 14, 2005


Rant alert: Possibly boring and tedious gassing on about why sports suck out loud to moi.

I am utterly missing the sports gene. I understand why cats chase balls, but have no idea why people do. This makes me quite the oddball (nuh har har) to much of American society, and there's not a damn thing I can do about it.

This lead to a lot of angst on my part as I grew up. I'm not talking about being picked last in P.E. - I expected that, and it didn't matter one bit of course because other than the exercise I could care about the game we were divvying up for. I'm also not talking about an aversion to activity and just bombing around as a kid. I was an avid skateboarder (as my knees will attest these days), loved biking around, and dug hikes out to a cool island in the middle of the river in my hometown.

No, I'm specifically talking about getting some object in some pre-designated place so that my team will receive (imaginary) points, which if we end up with more than the other team, we will WIN! Wow!

Win what? Nothing but the joy of having won. Lotsa folks somehow translate this over into a feeling of superiority over the other team, as though we are somehow better than they. But so much of competitive sports, when the teams are balanced in ability as they usually are (and if they aren't the game is kinda moot), is about the luck of the bounce, the direction of the wind, and other uncontrollable and intangible things. Thus when the ball bounces one way rather than the other, makes the winning point, and the winning team screams at the other, "You suck! We are the champions!" I am mystified by the supposed alchemy that endows this seemingly random and meaningless superiority. It's like a neighbor and myself deciding that on cloudy days I win and on sunny days he wins. So, I walk outside on a sunny day, and my neighbor appears, smiles, and says, "You suck! I rule!" How much sense does that make?

Another aspect of sports is that some folks somehow enjoy having permission to kick the snot out of someone else. Maybe it's a character flaw, but I don't like hitting, kicking, or hurting anyone. I don't like getting hit either. I've noticed a lot of sportsniks really dig that kind of contact, though. Sometimes the rougher the better. Freaks.

My childhood is littered with events where I had to play a game of one sort or another, usually for P.E., and some clod just wiped the floor with me. For instance, once in a P.E. touch football game, no one was covering me because I was a late bloomer and pretty small at the time, and everyone knew I didn't enjoy sports, so I was essentially invisible. Well, I lined up right across from the quarterback and no one blocked me when the play started. I literally walked over and tore the flag off the quarterback as he was looking for an opening. He looked down with utter shock and said, "You little shit!" Of course, from that point on I had the three biggest buys dogpiling on me for the remainder of the game, with a punch or two thrown in. When I made some comment to the coach about the reaction being a little over the top, he more or less said that's the nature of the game and to cowboy up.

Only one P.E. teacher out the many I had throughout school seemed to understand that P.E. was supposed to be for keeping ALL the kids in shape and not just a time for the jocks to bash the smaller kids heads. The rest of the P.E. teachers I had the misfortune to encounter routinely seemed to enjoy seeing the little guys like me get knocked around. One of the more cretinous one's resulting smile would be in direction proportion to how badly a kid got hurt. This spitwad had me wrestle a kid (from the wrestling team, no less) 40 lbs. above my weight class. The guy put me out of commission for a month and a half by bruising the skeletal muscles on the left side of my rib cage (as the doctor later diagnosed) through an illegal move. As I lay there on the mat trying not to pass out from the pain, I heard the bastard coach even slap his knee as he yucked it up.

Those situations, however, didn't really play into my not understanding the point of and eventual dislike of competitive sports. Way before that stuff was tossed my way in school, the height of boredom would ensue when someone would say, "Let's play some ball!" That was usually my queue to hit my bike and look for fun elsewhere. Oh, I gave it a try, but would always get looks like I had an arm growing from my forehead when, after tossing a ball around for a while, would say, "Um, is this all there is? Just keep throwing this thing around?" No, the approved beatings in school were the just shit icing on what to me was already just a urinal cake.

After high school, I blissfully escaped the world of mandatory participation in any sport, and with the exception of temporarily losing part of the gang to the TV when the chosen team was GOING ALL THE WAY!, sports and I parted ways. We missed each other not at all.

Till recently.

Last season my daughter's soccer coach more or less drafted me to be a referee. I gave it a try because there was a need, and I was OK with helping given there wasn't much of an alternative. But, dear Lord, I loathe it. I just don't have the mind for it or the interest, so paying attention to the minutia of the ball crossing a boundary and who kicked it last, and then putting up with argumentative parents catcalling from the sidelines (and always only if their team is losing), is a regular trip through an outer circle of hell. I just wanna watch my kid enjoy herself from the sidelines. But, when it's for the kids, sometimes you just shut up and deal.

Oh, but sports had bigger plans. It wasn't done with me yet.

A week or so ago, there I was, enjoying one of our wonderful gatherings of friends and neighbors, having a cold one, shooting the breeze, and someone said, "Hey! Guess what! We're gonna form a softball team! Hey, [Yahmdallah], ya up for it?!?"


"Um, no. But, hey, more for you!"

"Oh C'mon! It'll be great! Just get out your glove and show up. It'll be a blast!"

Thinks I: Yeah, like carving tribal tattoos into my own sober flesh with a Philips-head screwdriver would be a blast. But says I, "No, really, I'm not much of a sports guy."

"But it doesn't matter how well you play! This is just for fun!"

I've heard that promise in the dark before. Trust me, the second everyone has a couple beers in their system and a pop fly is missed, or someone strikes out easily, we will blow past the fun barrier with extreme ferocity accompanied by much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Again, some folks kinda like this kind of fighting and yelling. It's how they relieve stress, maybe. Not I. So, here I am again, smack dab in a circle of folks looking at me like I'm just not quite right, virtually back in high school hell. Why can't I just get with the game?, they wonder.

Because I hate the game. Got it? Anything that thrashes between thunderously boring and snarlingly tense is just not my idea of getting the ya yas out, k? So what if we won? Or they did? Does this result in something useful or tangible like free beer or gratuitous nudity? A better parking space in the parking lot? Heads on spears for that extra Martha Stewart touch in the landscaping?

If I am stricken with the desire to throw a ball for fun, and so far this has occurred maybe one and a half times in my life, I'll go out back with the dog, because HE enjoys the hell out of it and could care less if I throw it right or left or if I can catch it at a crucial moment. Better yet, he won't throw that sucker back at me. You throw something at me, I duck. That's it. My fight-or-flight system offers no other alternatives. Best of all, my dog won't stroll up, drop the ball, and say, "I wish I could give you what you're missing by not playing sports," which someone once said to me, with all good intentions, of course. But I gnawed on that one for a long while and eventually came to the conclusion that I am so completely devoid of any desire or interest in competitive sports that I can't think of a single thing I would gain from them (outside of a bruise or two). It would be like an alien species saying to me, "Y'know, you humans just don't know what you're missing by not having a third arm protruding from your chest like we do. It just makes mealtimes so much less of a hassle." I grant from their perspective I have some sort of hole in my life, but from my side, it's just another day in paradise, damnit.

So, these days, I chuckle darkly when I think of that great quote of Michael Corleone's in Godfather III: "Just when I thought that I was out, they pull me back in."

I wonder how I'm going to get out of this one.

(Apologies to those of you from my crew who read this blog, btw.)


Anonymous said...

Amen, bro. Amen.

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember a Hockey game we attended and you were havin a bitchin time grinnin' every time two players slammed up against the boards in front of us. (I scored tickets in the front row on the corner, where most of the "boarding" takes place.) That memory has never left me, because I always wondered, Yahmdallah has made his point about his disdain for sports, and yet he's really enjoying himself here! At the time I didn't want to rain on your parade - I was tickled you had so much fun. So cmon, you gotta admit there's sports in yer genes. Even if it's the size of a lepton. Eh dude?

Anonymous said...

Actually, I considered bringing that up, and it was in the draft version, but it didn't gell with the rest. That was one of the two times I enjoyed watching a team play. The other time was a game of our high school basketball team with our 7' 6" center and our 5' 4" guard who would leap from amongst the giants to grab the ball, run between their knees, and then pop up again to pass ball back to our center. It was like a cirque de soleil version of basketball.

I also left out my enjoyment of live women's volleyball, but that has almost nothing to do with the sport itself.

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