The unabridged story of how I earned my High School letterman’s jacket.
I’m not inclined towards sports. Not as spectator, nor as participant. I do admire skill, camaraderie, and even teamwork. As an adult, I’ve decided that sports are simply not my thing. I did once give it a try, though. I can recall three instances from my youth where I engaged in organized sports.
In elementary school, I found myself on an intramural basketball league. I must have signed up for it, although I can’t imagine why I would do such a thing willingly. My parents never encouraged sports. I don’t recall having friends on the team. Yet it happened. I’m under five and a half feet tall as an adult, and back then (thinking fifth or sixth grade) I was likewise shorter than my peers. If being small wasn’t enough of a setback, I was also timid. So I didn’t find my niche in offense. But I was stealthy and quick. I could sneak in and snatch a ball, sending it to a teammate before the opposition knew what had happened. You think the other team would catch on, and I’d get away with this maybe once per game. But I could make it happen again and again. So I racked up the steals and assists, and earned my after-game pizza.
Around that time, I took my bicycling to the next level, and raced BMX at the local track. This one was my idea, the natural progression of my longtime love affair with the bicycle. It was never really about racing, though. I went to the track on a non-race day just to fool around. The father of another kid riding the track while I was there suggested I give racing a go, and I did. My utter dis-interest in competition (along with the aforementioned timidity) prevented me from moving up in the national rankings. But it did not prevent me from having a good time.
In high school, I wasn’t confident. Nevertheless, I acted on the notion of playing a sport on the school team. I don’t recall what led me to that. I can only suspect that it was one of those “do it, or die wondering” thoughts. I initially considered playing football. Actual football, mind you, also called soccer. I had friends who played, which likely influenced my own decision to participate. It was not to be, however. The spots filled up quickly. My hometown has a strong Portuguese and Brasilian population (I’m among the latter), and many of my schoolmates have been dribbling a soccer ball since the moment they took their first steps. There was no room for mediocre. The desire to participate hadn’t left me yet, so I tried out for tennis. I wasn’t good at tennis, having only just learned to play that year through my involvement with the high school tennis club. Anyway, due to lack of participation, I was accepted to the varsity tennis team at my high school. And before you say I mustn’t have been all that bad, there was no jr. varsity team due to low participation. We had a few good players, but as a team, we were bad. And I was the worst among us. But I played. When my school was up against particularly formidable competition, unless we were short a player, I kicked back on the bench. But most other times, I played a match. I can’t recall if my doubles partner and I ever won a set. But overall, the experience was positive.
That was 30 years ago. I’ve since played a little golf, and still bowl occasionally. I’m neither good, nor competitive. But I enjoy the play. I believe I actually enjoy it more than I would if my aim was to win. For me, the outcome is already certain: it’s going to be a good time.
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