My interest in the current Olympic Games is both unanticipated and uncharacteristic. I don’t have the best track record when it comes to sports (although sports puns like “track record” probably give me some bonus points). After years spent marveling at others’ fascination with playing (and watching) sports games, I have come up with several possible reasons why I never made the Sports Page of my town newspaper. First possibility: I lack the necessary competitive spirit. Why choose to participate in an activity whose outcome requires there be a loser, when you could do something like ride a tandem bicycle? I think we can all agree that everyone on, and around, a tandem bicycle comes out a winner. Second possibility: I have always been too busy to participate in team sports and their incredibly demanding schedules. I don’t choose to live and breathe soccer. I’d rather breathe the sweet air surrounding a picnic, or live the syncopated eighth notes in Dvorak’s Cello Concerto. Third and final possibility: I’m just not talented at activities in that arena (more points for sports-related expressions?). I think I’d prefer not to elaborate on this one.
My first foray into the world of sports was through the town soccer league. It was part of the back-to-school schedule – find out who is in your classes, go shopping for pants and pencils, and sign up for soccer. I don’t remember much about my time spent as a member on the team, except that I scored one goal the entire season. In some twisted fraction that has to equal 100% success, right? Honestly, I think what I enjoyed most during that season was not the game, nor was it the team bonding, but instead the sweet watermelon slices we got to eat after practice. Nothing says hard work like a juicy piece of fruit.
Despite my being a disappointment on the playing field, my parents were determined not to give up hope on my future as an MVP. Thinking about it now, I’m more convinced they just wanted to get me out of the house where I would have no access to my “totally 90’s” addiction to Math Blaster. Their unfailing persistence is evident in the sheer number of sports I have attempted.
Swimming lessons lasted no more than three sessions, after the instructor publicly insulted my abilities and forced me to take part in an exercise called “Let’s see how long you can hold your breath underwater before you are overcome by extreme panic!” Turns out, not very long! Because of Nick’s evil sensibilities, my water expertise starts and ends with a weak doggy paddle.
We all thought I might have a little more luck with basketball considering I had had some practice with the old hoop on the driveway. Apparently countless evenings spent playing “HORSE” with the neighborhood kids do not a Rebecca Lobo or Kobe Bryant make. Sadly my stats followed in the soccer trend: one basket in one season. But damn, it was a good basket. Unfortunately this success was not caught on film, as I had insisted my parents swear to leave the camera at home due to my desire not to see the truly hideous goggles I was forced to wear. A victim to near- and farsightedness, I had no choice but to protect my eyes by sporting a pair of thick clear plastic frames secured to my ponytail with a bright red strap. I was that kid.
In third grade I took a different, more fashionable route, joining the town cheerleading team. Sadly, this stint failed to last more than one season for two main reasons: my parents felt it inappropriate to support the “Mighty Mites” football team, a group of third grade boys who seemed more intent on violently tackling each other than learning the rules of the sport; and I could not tolerate being told I was not as loud or animated in my cheering as fellow squad member Crystal. Our coach was Crystal’s mom. Unfortunately I was at that time unfamiliar with the concept of nepotism. The only thing I took away from my foray into cheerleading was the navy jacket, which still fits.
Oh, I guess I should mention tennis. But this time I went in the direction of private lessons. My instructor was named Quinn, and he was beautiful. His girlfriend dropped by during our fourth session. After that I lost interest. In the game, of course.
My final attempt at sports involved a leotard. I decided to be the next Kerri Strug. This dream lasted about two weeks, as I soon discovered that my only interest in gymnastics involved jumping into the foam pit (the conclusion of every session), and not the sport itself. My inability to do a split didn’t help either.
Luckily my parents tweaked their dream by allowing me to find my way to sports that are either performed solo, or with a family member! My physical activities of choice are either working out solo on the Arc Trainer, my current boyfriend, or riding the family tandem bike. Yes, we also had a family band. You can skip the Brady Bunch comment.
But back to the Olympics. My mom takes the Olympics very seriously. During the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, my freshman year in college, I received a photo showing just how seriously she takes them. It appeared my mother had bought every piece of USA Olympic paraphernalia for sale. Decked out in a wool beret embroidered with “TORINO 2006,” and a t-shirt worn under a jacket (both of which also specified the event in large text), my mother sat smiling in front of our television, majestically waving a United States flag in her right hand. There is no arguing with that amount of dedication. Two years later, once again away from home, I am eagerly awaiting a new photo of her in her more heat-appropriate Olympic garb. Any day now…