I wasn’t good at sports until I was like twenty-five years old. It’s like, once I got past high-school, out of college, on my own for a few years, once I was at the point where I’d really never find myself in a setting to play sports, I got good at them. And when I say good, I’m speaking relatively. I’m sure if you talked to my friends or family members, they’d say I still suck at sports. But I’m much better than I was when I was younger.
From an early age, I always sucked at sports. Like most little kids in suburbia, my parents signed me up for everything, t-ball, baseball, soccer, basketball. I was terrible at everything. I remember specifically this one baseball game – I must have been pretty little still because it was the type of baseball where somebody’s dad did all of the pitching – and my dad was like, “Robbie, if you get a hit today I’ll take you to the comic book store.”
Jesus Christ I wanted to go to the comic book store. Superman had just died and, not being in a socioeconomic position to go out and buy these books every week by myself, I kind of just had to rely on listening to other people talk about it. And there was no Internet and allo of my friends were in the same boat, so nobody knew what they were talking, everybody making up lies about Superman. Please just get a hit. All I have to do it just touch the bat to the ball and it’s comic book time.
I remember not hitting the ball. Maybe there was a foul, but it didn’t count. And I remember my dad taking me anyway, even though I didn’t really come through on my end of the deal. Baseball was tough. Not only because I sucked at sports, but because baseball is so long. Like I like watching baseball, on TV, because there’s plenty of room for snack breaks and video game breaks.
But playing a whole game of baseball? Nine innings? And they always stuck me way in the outfield. So it’s just me, standing there. The chances of another little kid actually hitting a baseball hard enough to make it to where I was standing were infinitesimal. But laying down on the grass yelled at. “Stand up! Pay attention to what’s going on!”
I actually didn’t have that much time to lie down. There were always like one or two dragonflies way out there in the outfield. I mean, yeah, dragonflies don’t do anything, but they’re big, and noisy, and they go about their lives as if human beings don’t exist. Like they don’t make any conscious effort to avoid you. They might come buzzing an inch from your face. That’s pretty nerve wracking. My palms are actually getting sweaty just thinking about it. So yeah, outfield was really this whole stretch of time just trying to avoid these stupid bugs.
And then soccer. I only played one season. It was pretty uncharacteristic of my parents to let me abandon something after only one season, but I sucked at soccer so bad that they had to make an exception to their sports policies. My coach’s name was Ben Dash. His son’s name was Ben Dash. What is it about parents having to coach their own kids? Isn’t there an inherent conflict of interest? Yeah, but I guess it’s a little weirder if you recruit adults with no connection to the kids at all. Still.
One game stands out in my head especially. After being allotted the bare minimum of playing time all season, Coach Dash screams out during one of our games, “G___, in!” I couldn’t believe it. Showtime. I run out onto the field and immediately intercept the ball. Holy shit, I couldn’t believe this was finally happening for me. I hear screaming. Everything’s getting blurry. All of the blood is rushing to my head in excitement. No time to sit down and tremble, I have to keep moving.
Other kids coming at me. I’m dodging them. I’m doing it. There’s the net. Shoot! Blocked, right into the goalie’s hands. “G___, out!” What the hell? I just shot on net. Wait a second, why is everybody laughing? It turned out that I shot on my own goal. All of those kids I dodged? They were my teammates. Even my parents were laughing.
I played the rest of the season, but I swear, and maybe this is some sort of built-in defense mechanism, but that is the only memory that I have of that whole season. That, and some teammate named Arturo, and his dad, who’d stand at the sidelines of every single game and scream, “Pass it to Arturo! Pass it to Arturo!” over and over again, like the only reason any of our parents signed us up for soccer was that somebody we might have the opportunity to pass it to Arturo.
Anyway, I still love playing sports. I love running around. I’m in good shape. I wish I were better when I was younger. I wish I could have had some cool sports memories, maybe like something where I’m a troubled youngster, and I wind up joining some pee-wee hockey league, but the coach isn’t into it, he’s only there because a judge told him he had to do it. But throughout the course of the season we’d all develop really strong bonds, and eventually we’d overcome insurmountable odds to win the championship. That would have been awesome.