Tuesday, March 22, 2011
My Moment of Sports Glory
I have never been athletically inclined. I don’t mind watching some sports: football, for example. But not golf. I’m one of three people in my company who don’t play golf. The other 21,000+ are golf fanatics.
Growing up, and playing sandlot baseball or street football, I was usually one of the kids picked last. I expected to be picked last; all the other kids were better than I was. I was grateful to be picked at all. Even last.
In high school, when sports really matters, I discovered I loved volleyball. I played volleyball virtually every day during physical education class during my junior year in high school. The school didn’t have a volleyball team, but if it had had one, I would have been on it. And we would have been good.
It was my senior year in high school when I achieved my moment (note I said moment, not moments) of sports glory. Volleyball was no longer allowed, for some reason I don’t recall. But we were all herded onto a large football field to play touch football. More than 100 boys (it was an all-boys high school) faced off to play touch football – 50 on a team. The coaches thought it would be funny.
So we lined up; the other team kicked off. And the ball went sailing high in the air and landed right in my arms. As it did, I heard laughter from the other team. Even worse, I heard laughter from my own team. Everybody knew what to expect – I would be caught and my flag pulled within seconds.
Laughter – and ridicule – can have one of two effects. You cave in, or you get mad.
I got mad.
And I took off running.
What no one expected – possibly including me – was that I was fast.
I raced for the goal line.
No one expected me to run as fast as I did. Including me. But I kept focused on the goal line. And ran like the wind.
The laughter from the other team turned to shouting, and then screaming (yes, it was just a P.E. class, but you know boys and competitive stuff – every game is played like the Super Bowl).
“Get him! Get him!”
I ignored the screams and kept running. I dodged opposing players. I bobbed and weaved. I sidestepped. And kept running. My own team had been left far behind. My guess is they stopped and simply watched. They sure didn’t help.
The roar went up from my team. Who cares if it was the sports nerd who scored? We scored! We scored!
On our next possession, the kickoff once again landed in my arms. And I took off for the goal line.
This time, both teams were better prepared. My own team protected me, and the opposing team swarmed around me. I didn’t make it all the way to the goal line. My flag was pulled.
Ten feet from the goal line. We scored on the next play.
What I learned that day, what 100 boys learned that day, was that a focus on the goal, an element of surprise and speed could turn things upside down.
We won, by the way, 14 to 7.
This post is submitted to the One Word Blog Carnival hosted by Peter Pollock. To see more posts on the word “goals,” please visit the site.
Photograph: No, that's not me and my touchdown. But it felt like that. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy.