Without Sports, Still a Sport
It is totally amazing that I am writing for Bleacher Report, the place “for fan-journalists to create and critique high-quality sports analysis.” By this definition of the on-line journal, I am through and through disqualified.
An amateur sports writer I am not. I am no athlete; I’m not even athletic; and, to be honest, I’m no sports fan by any stretch of imagination. My knowledge of sports is despicably low. I wouldn’t say it is zilch. I can name a few teams: Mets and Yankees, because I live in their city.
I know Phillies; I know Giants. But, fire-engine red in shame, I don’t know Red Sox from White Sox, except that one is red and the other is white.
I am nevertheless proud to say that I have been, all my 76 years, perfectly consistent in my lack of interest in sports. At the semi-annual track meets in my elementary school days, I was always the last in a race, any race. I was the family joke; if I made an about-face, I’d be the first, I was cheered, or, rather, jeered.
All my classmates were jubilant on track meet days because classes were off all day. I dreaded the day. I never could catch a ball, hit a ball with a bat or a racket, or throw one straight, even a basketball. I was hopeless. Little wonder I grew up hating sports.
In my undergraduate days, there were athletic requirements, and I chose two courses that seemed tame enough for me to manage if not master. One was golf. After a week I was excused and got the credit just loafing around for an hour watching fellow golfers golf.
I ruined the turf by hurling more tufts of grass than the golf ball. So, I didn’t get much physical exercise. The other was archery, and that went better. I got a lot of exercise because I missed most of the arrows and had to run a large area behind the target to hunt for and pick up the arrows I had missed during my hour’s practice.
In my senior year, I had to take swimming as the requirement for graduation. There is a family picture I’ve been shown as I was growing up more times than I needed. I’m about five, sitting on a sandy beach and looking ferociously ugly because I didn’t want to get in the water. I was afraid.
I was told that I spoiled that weekend outing because I didn’t even dip my feet in the water that came rushing to me threateningly. It was probably a slow, chirping tide. In my senior swimming class, I got in the water. The instructor kept dry by walking around the pool with a pole to save sinking bodies.
One exercise was to hold on to the edge of the pool, and then drop down straight in the standing posture, hit the bottom of the pool at its deepest end, and bounce up. I never learned the knack of bouncing and had to be helped each time by a teaching assistant who, thank God, managed to catch me before I drowned.
But I learned a few things and passed the course with the lowest possible passing grade and felicitously got my degree. For one, I learned the backstroke. At the time I could go a couple of yards before I started making a gentle descent into the water. Pretty good, I boasted.
I never managed any other strokes—breast stroke, crawl, butterfly, or whatever. Then, better, I learned to float on my back, and that was a prowess by my standard that gave me confidence to get on a sailboat. If I had fallen or been thrown overboard, I can float until a kind soul came to my rescue.
Curiously, I loved sailing. No, I didn’t sail; I enjoyed being invited aboard a sailboat, large or small, and go out full sail into the sea. I don’t get seasick, and I love rough seas and gusty wind on my face. Perhaps this may qualify as a passive sport.
I didn’t mind heights, either, and there was a time when I wanted to learn flying trapeze as a circus acrobat and also flying a small aircraft—but only in my idle imagination. No sportswoman, I am nonetheless a daredevil.
Perhaps the best indicator of the despicably low degree of my interest in sports is that on opening the newspaper at breakfast, I would habitually take out the Sports Section and, as my first morning ritual, pitch it.
Yes, well, I can’t say I don’t know how to pitch. Once in a while, however, when I dare throw a crumpled paper into a waste basket a yard away I miss it almost invariably and get a beneficial exercise getting up from the chair, walking over the the basket, and depositing the ball of paper gingerly into it.
But it’s not quite accurate to say that I have no interest in sports. I could have developed interest but never did, only because I never succeeded in any sport activities. But, then, I wonder. I won’t be surprised if there were avid fans of spectator sports who don’t exercise and settle comfortably as couch potatoes, sinking deeper and deeper week by week.
But maybe they are men and women who at one time or another practiced sports. I certainly can’t imagine any sports writer with no interest in sports, and anyone interested in sports who don’t do some sports.
Thoroughly “unathletic,” I am nevertheless very healthy. I starved growing up in wartime but after gaining back health, I have always been exceptionally healthy all my adult life. I visit my doctor no more than twice a year for general examination.
I have osteoporosis and Type two diabetes, but they are in control. At 76, I can still climb up three flights of stairs without panting, and I can touch my toes with great ease—with my knees straight, of course.
I don’t shun walking, and I do a lot of that in New York. I have no strength but I have stamina. I don’t do sports, and I don’t watch sports.
A rookie writer is proverbially advised to write about what she or he knows first hand. Seasoned writers nevertheless create characters unlike themselves who engage in imagined activities far from the writer’s own experience.
So, here I am writing for Bleacher Report, as if I am a sports writer that I am not, and yet enjoying surrealistically pretending to be one, writing on matters non-sports. A good sport I think I am, or else an infatuated fake.
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