Last Monday, we ran down a list of the all-time lowlights for the weekend warrior, and we came away feeling a little, you know, mean. Snarky. Sadistic, even. Yes, the life of the amateur athlete is fraught with failure and frustration, and sure, anyone who's ever spent an extended amount of time in or around a regular pick-up game knows how it feels to play the fool...but, well, come on Meat:
You know what they say about the sun and every dog's derriere.
All things get illuminated in their time, is how it is, and just because that illumination comes and goes in a short twinkling of forever doesn't mean it's not real, and true, and meaningful in a way that makes everything else fade to black. With that in mind, this week's Spot stays decidedly on the brighter side of the street, with a sampling of five shining moments in the career of the casual jock. You can't win 'em all, of course, but it's also pretty darned hard to go oh-for-eternity, and—
What? One laugh doesn't a comedy make? A tragedy with a glimmer of hope in Act II is still just a tragedy? For Christ's sake, Meat—lighten up, huh? It ain't gonna kill you to play-act your way towards optimism every once in awhile...
Number Five: The Softball Home Run
The setting is entirely irrelevant here. Maybe it's a beer league. Maybe it's a company picnic. Maybe it's another soul-sapping family reunion, and you're just trying to avoid talking to your mothball-smelling aunt from Fort Worth. In any event, the details aren't important; all that matters is that there's a fence, and that you just a hit a ball over it, and that now, Meat: now you get to trot around the bases. Granted, it's not quite Roy Hobbes and the New York Knights...but then again you're no Robert Redford, and truth be told you never will be. Which maybe isn't such a bad thing, really, because at least it means you aren't responsible for that self-indulgent abomination called the Sundance Channel. And that your grotesquely sun-weathered face doesn't look like a neglected old catcher's mitt. Coppertone, Bobby. Coppertone.
Number Four: The Rec League Buzzer-Beater
It's a rainy Tuesday night in Nowhere Important, USA. You're in a middle-school gym, a drafty old lean-to with fading fluorescent lighting and rats scurrying about the rafters. Between the wraps on your knees and the Bernard King-era Converse on your feet, you don't exactly cut what anyone would call a graceful figure...but of course it doesn't matter—none of it matters, as you set up behind the arc in the waning seconds of a two-point game; none of it matters, as you catch and release and then let gravity do the rest. It doesn't matter, Meat, because in that one instant you are Michael Jordan against the Jazz: shooting hand extended, frozen against the world, making love to the giddy madness of it all. Which is a good thing to be, there's no doubt about that—but please for godsakes do us a favor, would ya?: If the Washington Wizards ever come calling, just go ahead and let the damn phone ring...
Number Three: The Full Marathon
The finish area of a full marathon is a heady scene. There's the exhaustion, for starters, and the sweating and the stinking and the chafing is so many places that believe us you don't even want to know. More than anything, though, there's a sort of triumphal populism in the air, a self-feeding communal glee born of the fundamental openness of the marathon-qua-athletic endeavor: It's difficult enough to make you feel like you've accomplished something substantial, but doable enough that anyone with a healthy body and a heap of gumption can accomplish it right along with you. Of course, all good things have their limits, and if you find yourself training for one of those super-ultra-100-mile races that are so popular these days: That's not an achievement—that's a disease. Your friends at the Spot strongly recommend that you get help...or at least that you start managing your neuroses in a way that doesn't entail the consumption of so many globally-scarce calories. Sinner.
Number Two: The Perfect Game in Bowling
It almost seems easy, doesn't it? Twelve good rolls in a row, a dozen consecutive strikes: It isn't—shouldn't be—so entirely impossible. It's just a matter of seeing the pins and hitting the pins, really...which certainly doesn't explain why our games have an uncanny knack for falling apart right around the halfway mark. Maybe it's got something to do with the inevitable fatigue that results from a lack of proper conditioning. Or the accumulation of nacho grease on our throwing hands. Or maybe it's just, you know, the four White Russians we've managed to knock down in the first six frames. Oh well—better the hazy Big Lebowski tribute than a big fat 300 on the scoreboard. Mark it an eight, Meat. Mark the thing an eight.
Number One: The Hole-in-One
This is it, right? The white whale. The green light. The holiest of all possible grails for the weekend warrior, the one impossible feat that you tell your grandkids about. The hole-in-one is it, is pretty much the point, and anyone with the good fortune to actually pull the thing off—he is a lucky bird indeed. Which isn't to say that every ace is a fluke, or that you shouldn't savor freakish providence wherever you find it, but maybe we should at least be straight about this much:
After you dig your ball out of the cup, you've still gotta go play the next hole. And when you shank your drive into the neighboring county—well, memories have got to be good for something, don't they? So hold onto that moment, Meat, no matter how desperately it tries to go slipping away. Maybe your grandkids won't be able to tell the difference...