When I was about 7 years old, my parents decided it was time for me to try out sports. They had determined that baseball would be my sport. I was actually pretty good, despite the fact that I couldn't hit or catch. I did manage to get on base every time I was at bat, but it wasn't because I could hit. The fact was that I was very short for my age. While at bat, I had a way of holding my body that made the strike zone only about 1 inch square. None of the kids could pitch to me. Even if they threw the perfect pitch, it would be called a "ball" because my strike zone was so small. I only swung the bat one time-- it was the last game of the season so I figured I should at least try. The pitcher threw the ball and I swung and the bat actually connected with the ball. The ball flew far into the right field. I dropped the bat and started running. As luck would have it, my shoelace was untied and I tripped on it. As I lay on the ground somewhere between home plate and first base, trying to retie my shoe before procedding, the other team managed to get the ball back into the infield and tagged me out. My moment of glory was extinguished within a few seconds.
I was selected to play left field. A safe position since very few little leaguers ever hit a ball to the left field. I didn't mind it- I felt like at least I could play the part and no one would notice that I was bad at it. There were clover patches in the left field and I spent most of my time looking for four leaf clovers, and hating our 2nd baseman, who's name was Booger-- swear to God! His Mom would be sitting in the stands and cheering for Booger the entire game. Of course he was great-- he could hit any pitch or catch any throw. He looked like an overweight, shrunken down, childish version of John Denver- complete with the round eyeglasses and the string blonde hair. He didn't care if the ball hit him- I was terrified of the ball hitting me. What if I got a bruise or a black-eye or something- I could be disfigured by a baseball. My looks were all I had going for me at the time, I felt. I guess that's why Booger was a better baseball player- he had nothing to lose. And with a name like Booger, you've got to be good.
When it was determined that baseball wasn't my calling, we contemplated our other choices. I explained that I was really good with a Pogo stick and a jump rope. Maybe we could leave it at that. No, the parents wanted me to be involved in team sports, so we moved on to basketball. My growth spurt hadn't yet kicked in and I was still a shorty-- about 2 feet shorter than anyone else on the team, or in the entire league. I didn't have a prayer. The worst part was that I had to wear orange shorts and a purple tank top. It was a bad wardrobe, combined with the fact that I didn't look good in purple and orange. The shorts were very short and they accentuated my skinny legs; the tank top was huge and I just looked pitiful. I only played basketball for one season, but that was enough. I don't think I ever touched a basketball-- no one ever passed it to me, not even in practice. All I did was run back and forth between the nets- trying to keep up with the other kids. Hell, I didn't even know the rules or how the scoring went-- I must've had a really bad coach if they didn't even explain to me how the game was played or give me a chance to at least try. I don't blame myself for that failure, it was truly the coach's fault that time.
The next sport was bowling. Thank God-- I was finally good at something. At the age of 12, I had a 180 average. I rocked! Of course it couldn't all be good-- the drawback was that I had to use my grandmother's bowling ball-- it was black with pink polka dots. It wasn't my choice. Mommo donated her old ball to the cause. It was even mongrammed with her name, just to add a little more shame. Despite the appearance of the ball, I was good and that feeling of excelling in something never left me. I finally knew what it felt like to be Booger. He had learned it years before, and I finally got it!
I bowled on leagues throughout highschool and college. When I moved back to Atlanta, I found a few friends that would commit to bowling with me once a week. I always said that I loved any kind of sport that allowed smoking and drinking, and I found that sport in bowling.
That was years ago- those friends are no longer in my life for one reason or another. I moved to a city that doesn't have a bowling alley- it burned down five years ago. I tried bowling last month for the first time in years and I didn't do a great job. It was a combination of being out of practice and not having Mommo's bowling ball.
But-- at least I understood the rules, I got to actually touch the ball during the game, and I didn't trip over my shoelaces again. I guess that's progess!