My keyboard is acting up. It’s cordless so it could be in the connection. Or it could just be old and wearing out. Who knows how long this post will take.
Anyway, I overheard a conversation between my younger son and my wife this morning. He is nearly 16 and sees himself surrounded by other boys who are far more accomplished than he, notably in sports and athletics. Poor fellow, to have gotten genes that do not play well in almost any recognized sport.
He is very social, and so team stuff really appeals to him. He does crew, which is a sport but not one that inspires admiration. In fact, the yearbook spread on crew spoke and portrayed only the girls, so he and his buds were completely left out and made to feel it is a ‘girls’ sport they are competing in. Yea, that’s sexist, and my kid knows this, but right now his rep among the boys still matters. Solving social ills will take longer than giving him some street cred in the hallways.
But what made the conversation worth reporting is that I broke in to apologize for giving him such lousy genetic material and regaled him with my laughable career in high school sports.
… I was fourteen, a year younger than my son, and nig for my age, already nearly six feet tall and putting on pounds as my way of coping with puberty. The Phys Ed teacher, Mr. Haas, takes me aside in mid September and tells me,
“You should play football.”
“No, Mr. Haas, I don’t think so.”
“You’re a big guy. We need some linemen.”
“But I don’t know how.”
“Don’t worry about that.”
“Really, I don’t think so.”
“Weldon (I was called by my first name then), you need to do more if you want pull up your grade. I suggest (pause with hand on shoulder gripping strongly) you play football.”
That afternoon I was down at the equipment room getting loaded up with helmet, jersey, pads, pants and shoes. Mr. Haas told me to suit up for the game, and I could watch from the sidelines.
Well, notwithstanding my reluctance, there was something exciting about putting on the uniform - I was #74 - and meeting the guys. The quarterback was a grade school mate. He was not fond of me before or then.
Out on the field I saw these oddly runty boys, looking like trolls because of their outsize shoulders, tearing about the field. I knew the basics well enough, but the details of positions and plays and so forth – zippo.
There was a problem on the field. I strained to see. One of our boys turned an ankle on the last play. He was lying on the field. Two guys helped him hobble off. One of the coaches, not Mr. Hass and therefore not someone I knew or knew me, glanced down the bench.
“74! Get in there for Courtney!”
“Sure coach.” I knew better than to protest. I ran onto the field. We were playing defense.
“I’m in for Courtney.”
“Great. What’s a linebacker?”
Brief pause to allow for a shrug. We adapt.
“Find whoever has the ball and tackle him.”
That I can do, or at least try.
And sure enough, a play or two later a running back comes through the line and since I am looking around to see what’s going on I see him. I take off. I am not fast. But fast enough.
I eventually became a center, a bad one. That meant I was delivering the ball to my old nemesis. Guess who got blamed a lot.
We went 1 and 7 that season, one of our wins coming on a freak play when we had 12 men on the field at once. The ref never saw it and we did not notice until later…
I do not know if it helped my son to know I was a failed boy athlete but a successful adult one. since 1978, I have jogged, run, and weight lifted. Sometime early in those years we ran into Mr. Quarterback at the beach. We had traded places, physically. I was thinner and he was thicker. It does not compensate entirely, but it helps.
Oh yea, I got an A that semester in Phys Ed.