Friday, May 09, 2008

No Games, Just Sports

One of my favorite movies is Mel Gibson's "What Women Want", and the title of this post is from that movie. If I have to tell you that, then you haven't scene it.

Speaking of Sports, my childhood experiences taught me to hate and fear competition involving balls - round and otherwise.

I grew up nearsighted and neither of my parents needed glasses. I remember going hunting with my dad and his buddies from work. I quickly learned how to go along with what was said. "Wow, look at the antlers on that buck!" Sometimes the speaker was putting down a deer with very small antlers. I could tell by their tone of voice if I should agree or just keep quiet. I never realized I was blind. And I made sure nobody else did either.

One time I shouted "that house is on fire" as our family drove through town in mid-summer. The dead tree in that back yard looked like billowing smoke to me. They thought I was kidding. That should have clued them in to my blindness.

On another occasion I was in my mom's second floor classroom. She was a science teacher. Someone had left their glasses lying on the window sill. I put them on, and for the very first time I could see the footprints on the playground below and leaves on the trees. My mother found me standing there going "gaaa ... gaaa" and somehow didn't realize how very blind I was.

When they had vision tests at school, I would go look at the chart, memorize the last two or three lines, and then correctly call out whatever line the school nurse pointed to. I didn't realize they were screening us for glasses.

I always sat as near the blackboard as possible in school. During tests I'd have to get up and go nearer the board to see some of the questions. In those days they wrote the questions on the board. There were no xerox machines or printers.

My dad - who was normal - took me to sporting events. I used to curl up my index fingers so there were just two tiny holes, and then hold my hands up in front of my face and look through the holes. I could see what was going on quite well that way. Of course that really annoyed my dad. I was being a geek again.

Most people thought I was stuck up. They'd pass me on the street and I'd completely ignore them. This came up several times in conversations.

When we played sports in PE at school I had no idea who was on my team and who wasn't. I could never catch a baseball. A fly ball would just hit me in the face, except that I learned to turn the other way when I heard the crack of the bat. I never did well at bat either. Basketball wasn't quite as bad - basketballs are so much bigger. Forget golf.

I don't remember how my parents or my teachers finally realized I needed glasses. Toward the end of high school I got my first pair. There were three young women in my neighborhood and two other boys my age. We did everything together. I remember coming home with my new glasses and looking at Marcia and Ruth Ann and Diane and saying, "Wow! I thought you were pretty!" I actually said something like that. For the first time I could see the tiny veins, the bumps, the lines and wrinkles, and the other imperfections that I'd never seen before.

I don't remember how they reacted, but I'll bet it wasn't pretty.

I went on a mission for my church. When a group of missionaries got together they (of course) wanted to play basketball. I would always find some excuse not to play, because by that time in my life - even though I could see just fine - I was totally unable to dribble/pass/rebound. I couldn't have made a basket to save myself. Oh, how I dreaded those times.

As my life has gone on my aversion to participation in sports has naturally broadened to a complete disinterest in spectator sports. Here are some headlines from a recent Sports Page.

Slumping Ellis, A's walk off winners - by inches
Zito looks better but loses
Stanford baseball contending again after off season
Dallas out to overachieve
Nadal not invincible - surprised by Ferrero on clay
Arkin's triple leads to Albany win
It's Cup or bust for Red Wings
Ex-Raider Rhodes goes back to Colts
Gaudin relegated to bullpen

All of that means absolutely nothing to me. I have to give them this: there was a great sale on firearms on the back page.

What do these headlines mean to most guys? I think they recall with a very visceral fondness the halcyon days of their youth, when they successfully participated in sports. They can relate!

From time to time, when a particularly important local sporting event has taken place, I've read up on who did what to whom so I could go to work the next day and feign a certain degree of intelligence and understanding of the subject. That has seemed to work. Now that I'm retired I don't even have to do that any longer.

In conclusion, I'm waiting for the next life, when I'll possibly be able to SEE and when I'll have a new, improved (athletic) body. Yes, I believe we'll all be resurrected. Maybe I'll spend some time playing sports then, and learn to love watching other people play. If we are going to live forever, there should be enough time to learn how to do it all!


At 4/21/09, 2:49 PM, Blogger JSLindgren said...

I remember being so excited when I got contacts that I jumbled my words and exclaimed to my mom, "The leaves have trees!" And I did have friends who accused me of giving them crusties (glaring look). So since I related to your childhood blindness, I feel like I can cringe and wince and laugh along with your great post.


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