Every four years I come down with World Cup fever. For three years and 11 months I am pretty much unaware of all sports, but then the Cup comes around and I get a little crazy.
People who know me are amazed by my fervor, and I have to admit that I am, too. I was never much of a jock growing up and my few brushes with organized sport were all disasters.
My humiliation started early (I refer to athletic humiliation; romantic humiliation started a lot later but was no less crushing). When I was in grade school I played baseball for my school’s Little League team. I’m pretty sure I earned my spot solely because they needed a minimum number of warm bodies to field a team; it certainly wasn’t due to my innate skills or that mysterious yet apparently desirable quality the coach called “hustle.”
The highlight of my baseball career came when were thrashing another team so soundly that it became an embarrassment to our coach. When our score began to resemble one more befitting a basketball game, he decided to give the opposition their best possible shot at scoring — he put me in to pitch.
My time on the mound was over nearly before it started. On my first pitch I hit the batter in the head. I didn’t have much of an arm and I honestly don’t think the batter even noticed that I had beaned him. But the ump saw it, so I was out.
I got older but not better. In junior high I played basketball for a YMCA team. I did not think it possible that a sports career could be shorter than my tenure in baseball (seriously – subatomic particles created in hadron colliders have longer lives) but I was wrong.
My hoops career ended before I ever stepped onto a court; in fact, it ended when I went to buy the cup that was required of all players. As I recall the experience (and the years may have embellished my memory) I was being helped by a blue-haired lady who smelled of Tareytons and My Sin. When she asked me what size I needed, I panicked. Size? Compared to what? Sure, I had showered with other guys in gym class, but apart from one or two classmates who had apparently inherited Clydesdale DNA, the cold water rendered anecdotal evidence useless. Before she could clarify that she meant waist size, I was out the door and halfway home. So much for roundball.
College was no improvement. I was strong in both beer drinking and Frisbee tossing, but the small university I attended had programs for neither. I was also potential Olympic gold in what would one day be Mike Phelps’ best event, but sadly I was a terrible swimmer.
I think it’s because I was such a washout myself that I enjoy watching others – young people who are in prime physical condition and at the top of their chosen game – performing in ways I can only dream of. Wait a minute … I’m thinking of porn. Still not a clue about sports.