My top ten athletic failures

My top ten athletic failures

Monkey bars. This seems to be genetic: neither I nor any of my siblings have ever been able to swing across more than a couple of monkey bars without falling off. What is it? Too much booty in the pants?

Tee-ball. You know the “mercy rule” in kids’ sports, where the game ends when one team pulls a certain number of points ahead of the other? When I was five years old my parents pulled the mercy rule on my entire tee-ball career after two games in which I refused to pay any attention whatsoever to where the ball was going.

Standing long jump. My Cub Scout den leader was genuinely in disbelief that I was incapable of jumping the modest distance required to earn the badge that all the other Cubs in the den were able to earn. To his credit, he took no relish in informing me that I couldn’t have the badge, because I was insufficiently fit for the Cub Scouts of America to give me their stamp of approval.

Square dancing. Square dancing was the annual highlight of gym class for me, because we actually got to hold girls’ hands and dance with them. The beginning of the end of my faith in God came one day after I’d said an entire rosary—that’s three times around the horn, 150 Hail Marys—to ask the Blessed Virgin to intervene on my behalf and make the teacher partner me with my crush Amanda Luftholm for square dancing lessons. She didn’t.

Basketball. The shooting part was okay, but I could never do the running—I always got cramps about halfway across the court. When I later heard girls complain about menstrual cramps, I imagined them feeling the way I did when trying to play basketball in gym class.

Dodgeball. What a terrifying sport. I swear, those balls broke the sound barrier as they flew across the gym. I tried to hide out in back as much as possible, but when my cover disappeared I knew that actually dodging the balls was futile, so I just turned around and tried to take ’em on the ass, where at least I had some natural padding.

Soccer. The Rutka boys next door were like goddamned gazelles, zipping tirelessly across soccer fields without even seeming to touch the ground. In a half-ass attempt to emulate them, I played soccer on a community team for a couple of years before realizing that soccer made me nothing but tired and bored.

Bike jumping. I don’t know what possessed me to intentionally ride my green-and-yellow banana-seat Schwinn at full speed down a hill and into a packed pile of wet grass clippings, but the next thing I remember was lying on the ground being unable to breathe. The Rutka boys ran and got my mom.

Golf. The most epic of my athletic failures; see my earlier post for the whole story.

Air hockey. Two words: bloody knuckles.

Jay Gabler, continuing The Tangential’s sports failure theme week