28 April 2017

This Sporting Life

I think my father wanted a different son.

Not that he was unhappy with the son he received, but that when he envisioned himself as a father he envisioned himself throwing pitches in the front yard while his son learned how to keep his eye on the ball. Alas, he got me, who as a child was too distracted to keep his eye on anything for long. We used to play ghost baseball with bases made out of wood. (I helpfully wrote on them all in marker, so that no one would confuse first base with third.) I am pretty sure his ghost runners always outscored mine.

This stock photo batter has about my skill level.
As a child, my parents enrolled me in a couple different sports: tee-ball and soccer. Tee-ball, I seem to recall, never went particularly well. At a certain point, the tee went away and it just became softball, and then it went even worse. I have trophies, of course, because I grew up in the "participation trophy" era, but even these have bad memories associated with them, because of course my last name is spelled wrong on all of them.

Soccer I was moderately more successful at, playing up until the sixth grade, I think. In the first year I played soccer, our team was a juggernaut, going 10-0 in regular season play and also 5-0 in two different tournaments. (Somewhere my mother has a newspaper article trumpeting our 20-0 record.) For the first game of the post-season tournament, our coach rented a limousine, and it deposited us on the field to cheering from our families.

We lost that game, and were eliminated from the tournament.

Coach Cornelius was an interesting character. A local home builder, he had no boy on the team, though his daughter was in my class at school. He once argued with a ref so vigorously, the ref ejected him from the game. I guess what I'm saying is, he took winning very seriously. In this level of soccer you are obligated to take anyone who wants to play, and obligated to play them for a minimum of two quarters.

So does this stock photo goalie.
Coach Cornelius always played me for two quarters and no more, and he always kept me at fullback (occasionally goalie), a position where the skill of our team meant I could be safely assured of never having contact with the ball. It's hard to blame him, since I am pretty sure I didn't really pay much attention to the game when I was in it. There was simply too much else going on on and around the soccer field.

Later, I ended up on a team coached by one Coach Parkinson, and I will say this for him: he honest-to-God tried with me. He placed me in a number of different positions-- I remember doing a lot of halfback with him-- and even tried to get me in a position to score. Bless him. I did come very close at least one time, but the enemy goalie was sufficiently good to stop me.

Both of my younger siblings ended up much more successful in their athletic endeavors; I remember going to their soccer games, and my parents would reward them financially for each goal. (I don't think they even got to the point of making me such an offer.)

"You know," I'd say as though it were a significant accomplishment, "I almost scored a goal once."

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