My older brother, Chris, had a subscription to Sports Illustrated, he’d cut out pictures and hang them on his wall as posters. It seemed to me that sports were his exclusive territory, in the same way that coffee was my dad’s, and I didn’t pay much attention. Despite my disinterest, I have enough sports anecdotes to fill a long entry. So, here goes . . .
My brother and I wrestled when we were little. He’s six years older than I am, so we weren’t exactly evenly matched. There were three distinct styles of wrestling in our world, basic Roman-Grecco, Sumo wrestling, and Big-Time Wrestling. Big-Time Wrestling was the low-rent “professional” wrestling show that aired on local television in lieu of the proper Hulk Hogan stuff. We’d bounce around off the couches until Chris had me pinned. I’d yell at him to let me go until my mom told us to stop. And then we’d do it over again. I’m now a head taller than Chris, but I assume that he could still kick my ass.
I was uncoordinated and often only vaguely understood the rules of all the various games we played in PE at school. So when it came time to choose teams, I was always the last person selected by the team captains. Despite this, I willingly played extracurricular sports.
I played parent-pitch baseball in the first or second grade. Our t-shirts said “State Farm Insurance” on them and they were way too small. My mom made a new uniform for me by copying the logo onto a white t-shirt with a fabric marker. I’m not sure that I really understood the subtleties of the game. When it was time to go out onto the field, my coach would tell me what position I was playing and I’d have to have him clarify exactly where I should stand. I had no concept of infield, outfield, or foul lines.
There were a handful of mitts around the house and I’d grab whichever I could find before heading off to a game or practice. The other players would look with interest and confusion at the huge ancient catcher’s mitt that I sometimes had.
I once got confused going up to bat during a game at a park where we usually didn’t play. I went up to the plate and lined myself up on the wrong side. I only knew something was wrong because the other team laughed at me. I rarely hit the ball, the most notable exception might be the time that the ball hit me in the hand during a batting practice. My thumb swelled up to twice it’s normal size and my thumbnail fell off a couple of weeks later.
Everyone on the team got a trophy at the end of the year – just for showing up. I didn’t go back to play the next year.
I had a four-year soccer career between first and fourth grade. Our soccer league was made up of our team and two teams from Prosser. They were called, appropriately enough, Prosser One and Prosser Two. When there were enough players in Grandview for two teams, we were divided into Grandview One and Grandview Two. My friend Justin’s dad was our coach. Our uniforms said “Sunburst Electronics” and we lost every game during our first season. That’s not true. Our last game ended in a 1-1 tie. The team got a lot better over the next couple of years – we won every game during our third season and went to Yakima to play in a tournament.
I went to a soccer day camp one year. I don’t remember much about it, I didn’t play with my teammates. I do remember that we had a group picture taken. Our coach, a professional player, told us not to smile. I was the only kid who followed his instructions. All the little kids look pleased as punch except me – I have a comically intense frown.
Even after four years I was probably almost as clueless and uncoordinated in soccer as I’d been in baseball. I played a forward in the last few minutes of the last game of the season. It was the first time I’d ever been on offense in a real game. Through some accident of luck I ended up unchecked with the ball and a wide-open shot at the goal. I was a little unclear about the concept of offsides though. I understood how you could get offside during a kickoff; but I didn’t understand how that worked when you were at a goal. I just knew that it sometimes happened. I didn’t want to make the mistake of kicking a goal and having it canceled by something I’d done wrong, so I bypassed my little moment of glory and passed the ball to one of the star players instead. He scored the point and that was the end of the season.
The next year my parents gave me the option of taking karate lessons instead of playing soccer. I chose karate – that sounded very cool. But I never heard anything about it again. In retrospect I realize that my parents probably dangled karate in front of me and never intended to get me into a program. They just wanted a reprieve from picking me up from practice twice a week and sitting through the game every Saturday morning.
Chris played tennis all the time when he was in high school and college. (Some of his opponents were my teachers.) I went with him once when he played with his friend Walt. They tried to show me how to hold a racket, but I got frustrated and ended up sitting courtside recording their scores and running alongside the net impersonating the ball boys in televised tennis matches. Later we went to Walt’s house and I admired his collection of Star Wars figures lined up in poses on a shelf.
L.J., an acquaintance at school had a Seahawks shirt with the number 10 on the back. My brother had an out-of-date poster of football stars on his wall, which included Jim Zorn – the Seahawks #10. So I impressed my friend by saying, “Hey that’s Jim Zorn’s number!” Somehow the subject of Jim Zorn came up again and I mentioned the only fact that I knew about him – he had been #11. L.J. said I was wrong. I insisted that I was right and went home that day to check my brother’s poster. L.J. brought it up the next day and I conceded that he’d been right. He made sure to remind me about that every now and then right up through high school.
I joined the track and field team in seventh grade. Practice was pretty lax, we’d do basic exercises as a group and then would be turned loose with a list of the distances we had to run that day. I think that most of us shaved a couple of runs off of the list every day, but that was expected.
I couldn’t run fast, so it was decided that I was a long distance runner. I ran the 1600. At track meets, the boys and girls races were run at the same time and I finished after all the other boys and the lead girl in every race I ran. My dad went to one of my track meets once. Afterwards he nodded at me and said, “Well. I saw your race and you were right in the middle!” I don’t know if he was allowing me to save face or if he didn’t know that there were two separate races being run and I’d gotten last place in mine. Anyway, I didn’t clarify it for him.
Despite my poor performance, I enjoyed myself that year and went into track again in eighth grade. I ran the 800 that year with a record that was pretty much identical to my record from the year before. I also ran the 100, which seemed pretty incongruous to me at the time. I did so poorly in that race that I never checked my time. Maybe each team was required to have a certain number of runners in that race and Mr. Veach just needed a warm body there. I don’t know.
I worked at a summer camp for a couple of summers in high school and stayed at a coworker’s parent’s house in Yakima one weekend. The house was right next to a golf course and I jumped the fence to play from the edge of a nearby green. It took me several swings to make the hole and I broke away a divet with each swing.
As an adult, I’ve had roommates and coworkers who were on soccer teams. And I toyed with the idea of joining them a couple of times, but never really followed through.
Growing up my younger brother, Justin, seemed even less enthusiastic about sports than I was. But he’s transformed into an armchair quarterback now and can talk sports with an authority equal to my older brother.
Chris plays golf and skis pretty regularly now. When he lived in Spokane, he often boasted that there were thirty golf courses within an hour’s drive.
I now live in a city with several sports franchises. They each have their own brand new state-of-the-art taxpayer funded stadium. (And they never even said, “Thank you”.) Some of them have had pretty good seasons recently. But I’m as oblivious as ever. I’d expect that I’d have some clue, just from scanning the headlines or watching the local news. But instead, I only ever get up to date when someone tries to fit sports into small talk.
“We’re doing pretty good in the playoffs again this year!”
“You don’t think so?”
“Well I never was very good in baseball.”