Son, it’s time we talked about sports

Posted on July 4, 2011


Me doing the happy dance

“Hey Dad, at the class picnic I was sitting there thinking
everyone hated me and Danny came up to me and said I was ‘hard to hate’. Isn’t
that a funny thing to say?”

The way you said that yesterday, son, totally caught me off guard. You said it as if the “everyone hated you” part was just some brief bit of context and the real point of the story was that Danny said something funny.  That’s like saying, “So I was crossing the street to get out of the way of these guys that just robbed a bank and the coolest looking car went by.”  Um, HELLO?

So I hope you’ll understand if I stopped listening to the rest of the story after hearing that you were thinking that everyone hated you.

I didn’t think they still did that thing where kids all stand in a line and the two biggest jocks in the school get to pick who they want on their teams.  I thought they stopped using the Line of Shame technique back when they did away with the dunce cap. Apparently I was wrong.

It turns out that they were picking teams for volleyball—a game you’ve never played—and nobody wanted you on their team.

Why? Because they don’t want to lose.  That seems fair enough. Give a ten year old the choice and I’d expect they’d pick the kids most likely to help them win. OK, I get that but there are some things you need to know:

First of all, you can’t suck at something you’ve never tried. The suckometer can’t even detect suckiness until you’ve at least tryied something first. Saying you suck at volleyball is like me saying I suck at brain surgery. I’m actually not a bad surgeon–because I’M NOT A SURGEON.

And, besides, not picking you isn’t the same as hating you even though it usually feels like it is.

But you know what concerns me most?  It’s that you were totally resigned to the
idea that you just aren’t good at sports. At the age of 10 you’ve decided that you just aren’t a “sports guy”.

So here’s my little dadfable for the day:

One upon a time in a land remarkably similar to where I grew up, there was this kid. We’ll call him…me.   This kid we’re calling me joined Little League because some friends did.

Now, it turns out that for a lot of dads, the size of their penis is demonstrated by how well their kids do in sports. So most of the other dads had taken two weeks off work to run their Li’l Sluggers through an intensive Baseball Training Home Bootcamp. I guess the idea was to ensure that their kids had already mastered how to play baseball before joining the program that’s supposed to teach them how to play baseball. In this way, the dads would ensure that their penis size was duly noted and they wouldn’t have to buy a Hummer.

My pre-training training, on the other hand, consisted of stopping at Wal-Mart on the way to the first practice to buy a glove.

And you know what’s awesome? It took a bunch of tries, but I actually hit the ball on the first day of practice!  With the bat, even!

I made it to second base, which is pretty cool in either of its connotations (we’ll talk about that some other time). I was feeling pretty good; with some practice, I could probably do this baseball thing.

Now, I knew enough about baseball to understand that the idea is to run from base to base and then get back to home plate. So when the next guy hit a high fly ball, I bolted for third feeling pretty damn good about myself while the other kids cheered me on yelling, “Tag up, tag up.” Assuming that was some kind of cry of encouragement, I kept running, rounded third and made it across home plate, pumping my fists in victory.

So I was rather confused when my teammates told me I was out and had ruined their day, and quite possibly the rest of their lives.  It turns out that if the other
team catches a fly ball and you’re not standing on a base, you’re out. Any idiot that attended their dad’s pre-season baseball bootcamp would have known
that tagging up means to keep a foot on the base and wait to run until you see
whether they catch the ball.

The rest of the team treated me like the lamo they thought I was for the rest of the season. And the problem is so did I.  I had plenty of time to ponder that while I picked dandelions in left field. I didn’t touch another bat after that rather
painful season was over. And for the most part, I avoided just about all other
team sports. I just wasn’t a “sports guy”.

I’m no Aesop, but there’s a moral in there somewhere, and it has nothing to do with penis size (well, maybe a little).

The bottom line is that you don’t suck at sports, and neither did I. But I did suck at trying new sports for a very long time after that.

And trying new sports is worth practicing.

So how about we go hit some balls?