Picked First

Ball

Today I was thinking about a particular memory I had long forgotten. When people mention “sports” I generally roll my eyes, and think of how I have some horror story involving practically every sport. I say this equipped with a story about how I was beat up in golf, which I think qualifies me as a sports disaster. I was thinking about this, and then it occurred to me that I did not always hate sports. I still maintain that I like soccer, and although I have my own soccer horror stories, there is one story that keeps me from hating that sport.

I was in middle school, and at my school the cliques had long been established. It would take years to break from them in high school for the few that were brave enough to change, but in middle school we had only just established our adolescent identity, and part of that was having an exclusive set of friends.

Middle School was the last time recess mattered, and as the senior members of the recess crowd we were always playing games with rules. I normally hung out by the creek and talked with my friends, but when soccer or kickball was going to be played I would always play. I think I liked these games because I knew I could kick a ball better than I could catch one. I knew I was bad at sports, and so I never thought about the fact I was picked last. I am sure it should have bothered me, but I knew I was bad at sports. I just enjoyed playing the game, even though I barely ever got to do anything, and I often screwed up what little I was supposed to do.

One day after we had been playing for a week or so, I will never forget. The kid who I thought was the best at the game, who was always a team captain, decided to pick me first. I remember thinking this was strange at the time, and I asked if he was sure. He said yes, and so I pranced, yes pranced, over to him and felt like the coolest kid in the world. I am sure the reason that he did this, was because they knew it would make me feel good. I am not sure if it out of pity, or what, but it was a gesture that truly touched me.

It was nice that for one day that kid thought it was worth handicapping himself one good player to make me feel good. I remember thinking that it was strange of him to do this, because we were not friends. If one of my friends was a captain I would expect them to pick me, but he was a popular kid, and I was me. After that game I spent the remainder of middle school thinking that kid was the most amazing kid ever, and when he would play games I was not good at I would watch and cheer for him. I think I even had a routine where I spelled his name out.

I think it is important to write this down, because I had buried this one positive sporting experience underneath all of the atrocities that were inflicted upon me as a result of my parents forcing me to play organized sports. I am happy to have remembered that there was a time that I voluntarily participated in a game, and that someone was interested in making me feel special even though they had no reason to do so.

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