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Musing: Confessions Of A Sports Idiot
During our Sunday afternoon walk with the dogs on the neighborhood greenway, we passed a friendly couple we see regularly and chatted briefly. Before going on our separate ways, the man said, “Enjoy the game.”
I replied, “What game?”
Yes, he had the same incredulous look on his face that you have right now. I’ll admit it—I’m a sports idiot. I didn’t use to be, so I don’t know what changed.
I wasn’t sporty as a kid. A junior high school coach once eyed me as a potential basketball recruit because I was tall for a seventh grader. After a few minutes of watching me in the gym, he decided I lacked a few things. Like the slightest bit of talent. I’ve told this story before in more detail if you want to revel in my humiliation.
Sadly, my entire basketball career was a single season on the Redeemer Roaches.
Many of you know my motto—My stories are totally true except for the parts I make up. You might think I’m exaggerating with the team’s name. I assure you I am not. We didn’t have an official mascot, but the name came to be in the first game of the season.
We lined up for the opening jump ball. The opposing team’s captain stuck out his hand, introduced himself, and then said his team’s name. Something like the South Sharks or the East Eagles or West Wolverines. I don’t remember.
I remember our captain looked at us in our uniforms, the word Redeemer on the front from the church that sponsored us, and said, “Redeemer, uh, Roaches.” We all laughed, but it stuck.
That team beat us. So did every other team. We went 0-14. Yeah, I still remember that. We also had scores that looked worse than that.
During one game, our guard was singing as he came up the court (Honest. True story). The referee didn’t find any humor in his attitude and warned him he was making a travesty of the game. The guard pointed at the scoreboard said, “Have you seen the score?”
That earned us a technical. Best one of the season.
Our coach felt so bad for us he arranged a game against our mothers. Not because he thought we were better than them, but because he guessed they might have mercy on us. He was trying to be nice, but the idea did little to soothe our fragile teenaged egos.
I was good at one sport, though—bowling. In a small, Southern, textile town in the 1970s, that was a big deal. I bowled every Saturday morning in a competitive youth league for several years. I was rolling a 166 average when the best team in the league approached me about joining them for the state tournament. Their best bowler was unavailable (apparently you couldn’t get out of juvie for a bowling tournament—go figure) and they thought I was a perfect substitute.
I was so honored. I practiced harder and improved my average. They cornered me and told me to stop it. Turns out, I was the only one who had a low enough average to have a handicap. Yep, they recruited me for my handicap.
We traveled all the way to Fayettenam (aka Fayetteville NC, the home of Fort Bragg). The thrill of victory.
We lost big. The agony of defeat.
So I may not have been much of an athlete, but I was always a great spectator.
My earliest heroes were the Miami Dolphins, chosen largely because my older brother liked them and they were dominant. I grew up knowing all the words to Rocky Top and how great the Tennessee Volunteers were.
I was at the Charlotte Coliseum screaming myself silly the night the Hornets beat the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan for the first time. I was in the same seats the night they beat the Boston Celtics to win their first round of playoffs. I was at nearly every game, a season ticket holder right up until George Shinn moved the Hornets to New Orleans and broke my heart.
And, yes, I was a season ticket holder to the Carolinas Panther from their very first game. We traveled to Clemson for the first season and then sat in our shiny new seats in the Charlotte stadium for years.
And, of course, I watched lots of sports on TV. A group of us once sat in a Mexican restaurant in Fayetteville Arkansas cheering Danny Almonte as he pitched an amazing Little League World Series. And crushed, of course, when it later came out that he was ineligible to play because he was older than his guardians claimed.
Over the years, my interest in sports waned. Between scandals, greed, and other messes, I distanced myself. This former season ticket holder to the NBA and NFL hasn’t watched a single game of either sport in over a decade. Not at all.
Shortly after, the other sports went away. The college level followed. I halfheartedly kept up with the sports news enough to banter with others, but I didn’t watch the games. I no longer even keep up that pretense. I don’t care who wins or loses. I sure don’t care to watch.
This came to mind earlier this week when I saw a link to Nathan Chen’s gold medal winning performance in Men’s Figure Skating in the 2022 Olympics (sorry, I don’t have the rights to share images from the Olympics, but you can watch the amazing performance here). To be frank, I can’t explain anything about the sport. I don’t know how it’s scored. But the performance was mesmerizing.
At the end of that routine, Chen’s grin was huge, his eyes bright, and his cheer infectious. I absolutely loved it.
Maybe if sports had more of that, I might come back.
Interesting Links: Not A Best Seller
Yet another “controversy” erupted over the best seller designation, this time in the UK. A major chain came under fire for accepting promotional payments from publishers to include certain titles in “best sellers” displays. The practice, of course, becomes self-fulfilling because buyers than buy the book thinking it’s already popular.
This is hardly a new controversy. Most “Best Seller” lists have at least some editorial tweaking to include or exclude certain titles or topics.
Books Read: In The Wild Light
I read about 100 novels a year and share the best of those with you.
Sawyer Tennessee residents Cash and Delaney get a chance to escape their lives of poverty, but question whether they deserve it.
Vocabulary Word Of The Week: Aardwolf
This is a bit of a stretch for vocabulary, but I learned about an animal I didn’t know existed—an aardwolf. Most people are familiar with an aardvark and the two animals have a similar etymology. Aarde comes from early Afrikaans, -varken means hog and and -wulf is Old English. Note the strong Dutch influence on the words which traces back through the early Dutch colonization of Africa.
By the way, an aardwolf is not a wolf, but one of the four species of hyena and is much more closely related to felines than canines.
Gratuitous Dog Picture
On our afternoon walk, we found a mailbox decorated with a Cincinnati Bengals balloon. Since we posted this story before the game was over (and we weren’t watching anyway), we don’t know if the owner is happy or sad today. Either way, Landon looks thoroughly unimpressed.
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