Acute Sports Deficiency Syndrome

Uh-oh. Snow's gone, sun's out. That means people are going to want to play sports with me. My kids, relatives, backyard football, charity runs, it is all starting again. But there's a problem.

This is another piece from back in the Volume One archives that, like a frog frozen in the mud, is finding new life amidst the rising temperatures. Don't pity me. I've learned to cope. Pity the other sports idiots who still struggle with these issues.


Please Don't Pass Me the Ball

I am dumb at sports. If our society determined overall intelligence using kinesthetic sense and, by extension, mechanical aptitude instead of language and mathematics, I would be living in a special home with several other sports-challenged gentlemen. A college student with a Social Work major would show up a few times a week to take us to a baseball field and watch as we flailed around and attempted to kick field goals with our Nerf frisbees. My housemates and I would get ice cream afterwards just for trying.

My golf game is an excellent indicator of my competition IQ. I took Parks and Rec golf lessons at twelve years old, and I did not even succeed in learning the names of the clubs. I listened intently to the instructor, often with my hand on my chin, squinting, trying my hardest to make it look like I had any idea what he was talking about.  Then I would walk up to the T-box, pull out my won wood, place my feet shoulder-width apart, bend my knees, swing, keep my eye on the ball, follow through, and hit that little sucker fifteen feet straight to my left, often breaking another kid’s nose.  1992 was a banner year for facial reconstructive surgery in the Chippewa Valley.

I still try to golf, and although there has been a tiny amount of improvement, I am still dumb at golf.  There is no way for me to translate what I understand I am supposed to do to actual body motion.  I just walk up to the ball, have a violent golf spasm, and hope it goes well.  My father-in-law joins me every few T-times, and he tries to help.  He is a retired middle school biology teacher, so he has a mountain of experience in helping mindless human beings learn new things, and preventing them from eating whatever is being dissected.  He watches my swing and makes very insightful comments on wrist-breaking and hip rotation, and then I walk up to the ball again and have approximately the same violent golf spasm, sending the ball to approximately the same spot, thirty yards to the right of fairway behind a large tree. There is always a tree.  My father-in-law usually offers some genuine yet somehow not reassuring comment about consistency.

 I am #44, the kid who looks like he's wearing eye makeup.

I have tried all the sports, and I am dumb at all of them. In youth league soccer, I would run after the ball, then fall, either out of exhaustion or because I tripped, and then become engrossed in the grass, often weaving several strands together into a sturdy grass rope. I produced impressive grass ropes in youth baseball, too, but not because I found myself on the ground. Right field was so boring, I just sat down. Middle school basketball was rough, probably because Ian and I went to Burger King and ate a mountain of french fries before each practice, then wondered why the sport was so difficult. In two years I scored only two points, because on the last game of the second season, our team was ahead by a ton, so everyone passed the ball to me until I made a basket, which, I believe, is also how Michael Jordan was able to achieve greatness. I played bar league volleyball for several years, and every success there came from finding the weak link on the opposing team and serving to him or her relentlessly, like a huge jerk. I got pretty good at pitching in an adult kickball league after several seasons. That pride was squashed under an attempt to slide into third one game. I sat on my foot and bent it in half, which was not bad enough to earn an actual sports injury. It just forced me to use crutches, and when everyone asked what happened, my response was “soft tissue injury,” which is sports code for “wuss.”

Washers: The Type of Sport I Can Handle

And now summer is coming, and my sporting disability is once again an issue, because everyone is dusting off their bocce ball mallets and trying to find enough people for a racquetball team. And now I have a son who loves sports. While I write this, he is shooting socks at a laundry basket. Some of them even go in, and he does not require seven other boys passing him the socks over and over until statistics dictate that he makes one. For him, I will keep trying my best.  If you see me on the golf course, cover your nose.  If we meet on the soccer pitch or the baseball field, I would be happy to weave you some grass. And no matter what the competition, prepare yourself. I have a pretty impressive sports spasm.