Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I was always bad at sports. I know this may come as a shock to those of you that know me, but I am not Sporty Spice. That's not to say that I don't enjoy playing some of them, I just hate most of the people that play them. I don't mean to sound like Rita Resentment. I just have a little bit of sports damage, that's all. 

In my stand-up act, I used to talk about how I thought dodgeball was a hate-crime. You haven't lived until you are the recipient of 10 hard rubber balls being hurled at you by an opposing team of hateful children while a grinning gym teacher looks on. Sure, now we have all these rules about bullying on the playground. But when I was growing up, the best protection from a flying ball with evil intentions was a fast pair of legs and a high-pitched, siren-like scream.

In gym class, I was the kid who was always picked if it was some hideous burden to just put me in far-right field during a game of kickball. Had they taken the time to get to know me, they might have discovered that my extension in my legs was that of a budding dancer and that I would have kicked that damn ball like a Rockette

But no, there I was stuck in right-field, arms flailing in the air, running in circles because a bee was chasing me.

Flag football was also a hideous failure. The problem here is that no one bothered to actually explain the rules of this game to me. It was assumed that all little boys knew what a down was. I thought down was the stuff in my pillow. So on "hike", I would run around like a nut and rip off as many flags as possible. Many of them were from my own team mates. The good news in playing flag football is that while I was harvesting flags, the rest of those assholes were throwing the ball to each other leaving me alone. Until the quarterback (impressed I know that term?) would see that I was the only one in the clear, would spike the ball to me and would get me a first-class ticket to the nurses office.

I actually played little league baseball for awhile. Two seasons exactly. My first year in the "Farm League", I was a member of the Cardinals. I loved my little red uniform and knew it would look awesome zooming around the bases. Unfortunately, it also looked great sitting on the bench. I guessed it...right field. And when batting, I was terrified of getting hit by the ball...even though the ball was on a tee stand. 

"Step into it Sumner," coach Cochran would bellow at me. At which point I would close my eyes, swing at the tee, knock it over and leave the ball resting on home plate. My parents didn't express any disappointment, except for the numerous lamp posts I broke with my keen throwing abilities. Instead they were just happy I was participating in a team sport rather than lip-syncing to Liza Minnelli on the Hi-Fi by myself. 

I did eventually get better during my second year in the Farm League. (I was so bad that first year, I was held back. ) But in year two when we disposed of the tee, I became a pitcher. Sure I injured hundreds of little boys with my wild, spastic pitches. But the fact that I had their parents screaming at me while on the pitcher's mound just made me feel validated. At last people were looking!

My incredible sporting abilities followed me into college. At that point I had honed my dancing skills and was becoming a very different type of athlete. Since I went to a liberal arts college, it was required that students take 4 physical education units. I was thrilled because I was sure that with my vast dance experience, I wouldn't be required to complete these classes. WRONG! Imagine my horror when I was told second semester of my senior year that in order to graduate, I would need to take at least 3 of these units. MOTHER F-ER! More getting picked last. More harvesting flags!

But I was thrilled to find that I had choices. So here's what I took:

ARCHERY- I went through the entire semester not being able to hit the giant target, until the P.E. teacher pointed out that when aiming, I had the wrong eye closed.

BILLIARDS - In this class, I would go play pool and get my ass whipped by the on-campus lesbians.

RELAXATION - Designed to help reduce stress, I would be at the gym at 7am and be asleep again by 7:06. Needless to say, I aced the final.

Years later I am proud to say that I discovered a sport that I actually enjoyed: long distance running. I am proud to say that I completed three marathons and one half-marathon. So all of you sons-a-bitches who used to bully me in gym can suck it!

So I couldn't climb a rope, catch a ball, swing a racket, hit a target and was always the last one picked. But what I could do was get up in front of lots of people and express myself and I turned out okay! As I look back, going through the humiliation of being lousy at most sports really helped make me become a more resilient human being and, oddly enough, a better performer. Do I agree with the methods my teachers used? HELL to the NO! And I have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to bullying kids!!! But there needs to be a balance between insulating our children from failure and harassing them for not being good at something. Children should learn from things that they might not excel at and be encouraged to find their talents.

Okay enough of my soapbox. I'm gonna go shoot some hoopies. (Pause) Now we both know that's not gonna happen.

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