Sunday, November 29, 2009

An Autosportography

So sports don't come naturally to me. Not playing, not watching, not understanding their crazy rules. Partially this is just my family culture, although I did have a sister and a brother who played soccer in high school. I just would never be Sporty Spice is all. I've been trying to make myself more literate, like those Great Works requirements for the Honors Program: watch X number of games, play in X number of sports. I even subscribe to ESPN the Magazine, which, I'm willing to defend, contains some of the best writing in journalism. Here, by, is a brief psychological association of my experience with sport.

I only learned to play tennis this summer. My awesome roommate Danger taught me. We'd practice together, play a little, and sometimes we'd play with her brother, and sometimes he'd bring his roommate. I'm not great at racket sports: I run fast for the ball, but never stretch my arms out.
My dad played tennis in high school--there are pictures, so there's proof--but I don't remember watching him play ever. My across-the-street neighbor played. I was best friends with his son "Davey", and sometimes he'd take Davey to play tennis in the park. Mostly, though, I remember getting yelled at with Davey for being too loud during a match on TV. Davey's dad got flesh-eating bacteria (really) and they almost had to amputate his arm, but he pulled through by a miracle. A few years later, he left the Church and his family anyway.

Track and Field/X-Country
Easily one of the things I'm most ashamed of. It was an open-team, so I decided to run track in high school instead of taking PE (in jr high I had dealt with a bully in PE, so it seemed reasonable to avoid the class later). I was lousy. Not only was I dead-last in most heats, but I didn't even practice that hard. It was the last period of the day and, regularly, when the bell rang I would just go home. I was pretty awful. This is even worse because my entire paternal cousin side are track stars. I think track was the worst grade I got my entire high school experience. I don't think I redeemed myself until a couple of years ago when I ran my first 5K and did pretty good. Really pretty good. Running is probably the sport I do with the most frequency now, although if running is a sport, couldn't elliptical also be one?

Ah, heavens, football is also kind of shameful. I played in the powderpuff game as a junior in high school. "Played" is to strong a word. I sat on the bench and read a book about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I don't remember why I signed up if I didn't care. I have been to my first live college football game recently. It was actually pretty great, but mostly because I had someone to explain what was going on to me. Games are just so long.

I feel a lot better about my experiences with basketball. I was actually in the top six or so of players in my basketball class at BYU. It was kind of a surprise, but not too much. Basketball plays to my strengths (running around quickly, invading people's personal space) and I had a little experience with it. I used to fool around with "Davey" from across the street on his basketball hoop, but it wasn't until I was at the MTC that I really learned to play and like basketball. I was in the MTC in winter, and so it was either basketball or volleyball...

I am really, really bad at volleyball. I never know when to "call" for the ball. I'm timid about running into people. I have no idea when to hit the ball with the spike or the set or whatever. You do not want me on your picnic volleyball team.

Soccer is probably the sport that I most enjoy, playing and watching. It helps that it's a short game--I have the attention span of a 4th-grade chipmunk--and I admit that I have the "Stuff White People Like" satisfaction of liking a sport that everyone in the world but Americans love. I played soccer against some young hooligans in Russia and --let me remind you that in Russia (and most places) soccer is not a girl sport--thoroughly impressed them. I took a soccer class and played intermural soccer, but I don't just like to play. I've been to a handful of Real games and have a Real sticker on my car. I watch European championships and follow the conference games and know who Donovan and Mathis and Beckerman are and their playing history. However, during the MLS championships, one of my roommates asked me about how many players are on the field at a time and I had to stop and count off positions. Lame.

My grandpa and Tiger Woods play golf. Not together--that's just about all I know about golf.

The sport I can never spell correctly on the first go. Also, I never thought that I could play racquetball, but Boy taught me how. Our second date was racquetball--he bought me my own racket! We played a lot, actually as percentage of dates. It was fun, he discovered that I'm a backsweater, and I never, ever, tried to do worse than I actually could. Racquetball is still kind of associated with Boy. I went yesterday to practice by myself and I thought of him.

I still don't like baseball. Or get baseball. I'm willing to have my mind changed, people, but am still flummoxed by this sport.


There is a special place in my heart for hockey. I watched the Women's Olympic Hockey semi-finals just a mile away from my high school. I followed the Capitals (still my favorite hockey team) as part of a statistics-gathering project my freshman year. I even took a hockey class at BYU (at which I was definitely in the bottom third, but it was a class of mixed skill-levels). I like to think that I could be a hockey fan, but it hasn't blossomed because I don't know anyone else who follows it.

I'm not hip enough to surf.

(see surfing )

I had long had the idea that I'd like to be a snowboarder, but it turns out that I'm too cheap. It's just so dang expensive. Still, I like snowboarding, and felt like I was getting better at it by the end of the season when I had a pass. If I had a sugardaddy, I'd probably still snowboard. Skiiing, though, is a disaster for me--I'm always crossing my skis, which reminds me...

X-Country Skiing
I actually love X-country skiing. My sister took it up out of desperation while her husband was at medical school in Wisconsin, but I find it very pleasant. All of the swish, swish of skiing without the lift passes and major bodily harm. Most of the major bodily harm, I should say, because I once fell and had to get stitches. The doctor who stitched me up asked, "so how'd you hurt yourself?"
"Cool--I was a nationally-ranked skier in high school and skied by helicopter in the depths of the Alaskan wilderness." (I'm paraphrasing here.) "Where were you skiing?"
"Er, Aspen Grove..."
"Aspen Grove? Isn't that just a cross-country skiing place?"
The doctor proceeds to laugh at me while jabbing a needle through my bloody chin.

Now naturally you could say, "What about your experiences with sailing? And kayaking? and hiking? and roller-skating?" I'm sorry, but I've got to be a little selective here. This post is already too long. Maybe I'll hit some of these other sports later. Until then, though, it's amazing how much sports are a part of my life despite around 20 years of efforts to the contrary. I guess it's all around us, then...


Makayla said...

Volleyball is a horrible sport.

Basketball is a terrific sport.

I suppose there are pros and cons to the rest of them. ;)

Sam, The Nanti-SARRMM said...

This last football game was very very long. I agree. They usually only last 2 hours or so.