Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Sports And Me
In those early years of my life, boys really only engaged in three sports, baseball, football and basketball. (Hockey was strictly a girl's game in those years. I recall somewhere at some school a boy went out for the field hockey team, but they made him wear one of those little plaid skirts. ) Because of circumstances beyond my control, I was isolated from other children for some of my first grade school years. Halfway through third grade we moved into Downingtown and I found myself an outsider, often teased and not very knowledgable about team sports. In grade school others didn't want me on their team when sides were chosen. Although I was not usually the last player picked, I was often sort of ignored during the game.
Yet I really wasn't too bad when I began to learn the sports, especially in baseball and football. I even had a football uniform, with shoulder pads and helmet. I think my grandmother gave me that outfit. I liked the rough and tumble of football and usually played running back, because I was fast and hard to catch. The only thing I didn't like was being piled upon by a bevy of boys. I sort of panicked if I was buried beneath a half-dozen other kids with my face smashed into the ground. Once I got kicked in the throat while squashed beneath such a scrum and thought I was going to die, but nonetheless, the older I got the more I enjoyed the violence of the sport. When I was in high school we used to play our pickup games in a graveyard with a couple of tombstones as the goal line.
I would never go out for the teams at school, though. I had such a fear of being made fun of in those days I wouldn't have chanced failing at anything in front of others. I was content to play in pick-up games with friends and acquaintances.
Whenever there was a chance to play baseball I took it. Despite owning that catcher's mask, I wanted to pitch...at first...and for a brief awhile. In grade school I use to pitch in these playground games until one day I caught a line drive in the solar plexus and crumbled to the ground in a pile of pain. After that I preferred the outfield. The further away from batter and ball the better.
In my senior year at high school they had tournaments for wrestling and boxing. I went undefeated in both. In my final wrestling bout Phil Hahn was my opponent. He out weighted me by fifty pounds, but I prevailed. At some point he whacked me hard on the nose with his elbow. When the bout was over all I heard was the gym teacher yelling, "Who got blood on my new mats?" That would be me. Blood was streaming out of my nose.
I was best at boxing. I don't know how good my technique was, but I could take a punch. You might knock me down, but I always got up and I would just keep going like the Energizer Bunny.
I might as well mention I also won the sit-up competition.
I didn't see it that way.
I hated running and I knew the milers ran all the time. That was all they did, run, run and run some more. I decided to shot the put and fling the discus instead. The shot putters and discus throwers were called weight men. Most of the kids who did these events were big and heavy. I was not. I was tall, but slender and I had never been know for my upper body strength. However, weight guys ran the least, so that was for me. Of course, I didn't stand much chance against some of the behemoths the other schools rolled out to the throwing circles. I was like a popgun in the middle of a cannonade.
If I remember rightly, and at my age that is not guaranteed, one began standing at a slight crouch with one's back to the field inside a circle. Some places had actual wooden circles, but most had circles drawn in lime. On my one brief moment of glory, the circle was wood. The tosser would then spin about inside this circle and as one approached the front edge would release the discus into the air with a mighty fling of the arm.
You got three flings.
On this particular day, our last meet of the year in Phoenixville, I was the last competitor in the discus and had come to my third and final fling. I crouched, I spun, I released and gloryoski that discus was arcing far out over the football field and when it came slashing down it was further than any fling by any flinger before me. I teetered there on one foot watching victory and then I bounced again the wooden frame and tapped my other foot down and outside the circle.
I had fouled. I was disqualified. I was disgraced. My team went on to win the meet, our only win of the year, which is supposed to be of consequence since it is a team and that is the object, but it was little solace to loser me.
I've played my share of sports since those boyhood days, bowling, tennis and golf mostly. I was on a church league softball team in the 1970s and I was the best hitter with an average somewhere over .800. We played softball a lot in Junior High Gym and I could never seem to catch the softball when it was hit my way. My way was right field, because that is where they put guys who couldn't catch. I could catch hard balls just fine, so I blamed this inability on not having a glove. But when I played in the church league we wore softball gloves, but I was back in right field because I still couldn't catch a softball. I wonder why? I mean, the thing is big so you have to see it coming at you like some huge white meteorite from outer space that is going to crash into you hand, glove or not, and take your arm off up to the elbow...but I digress.
At any rate, my sports playing days are pretty much over, I guess, unless walking counts.