Machst du Sport?

That might not be exactly right, but I was always entertained by literal translations of German. Basically, this is asking if you participate in sports but literally it’s more like, “Do you make sport?”

I used to make sport, but not very well. In my grade school, it seemed like everybody just did sports. There were tryouts but everybody made it onto a team, except for cheerleading, which I will address in a moment. Starting in third grade, there was basketball, volleyball, and softball for girls. At some point cross country and track happened but as I may have mentioned before, why on earth would you RUN anywhere unless you are being chased by a VERY HUNGRY BEAR? Ergo, I wasn’t paying attention to track or cross country, except to know that some of the boys who did those activities were kind of cute but not cute enough for me to get over my shyness and, like, do running or something.

Sports I enjoy watching include ice hockey and baseball. You just can’t get good ice hockey in Kentucky though. We’re a college sports state and that means basketball and football. I can’t stand football. I have no idea who invented this game, but he should maybe be questioned as to his motives. Football to me is like Charlie Brown’s teacher: waah waaah wahhhh waaaah wah. The one year I was a cheerleader, in seventh grade (and ONLY because not enough girls showed up that they cut anybody) I was constantly watching the other girls and the people in the bleachers for cues. Some girl would start a cheer and I’d just go along – YES! SACK THAT QUARTERBACK! SACK HIM! I went to high school football games and my mom would ask me who won. I never had any idea. I went for socializing, not to watch a herd of adolescent water buffalo stampede on a lined field. I didn’t know a tightwad from a linebecker. Still don’t.

In grade school, I played volleyball reasonably well, in part because I didn’t have to think much. Nor was there much running involved (see above). When the ball is coming at you, you hit it in one of three ways: bump, set or spike. Occasionally you had to serve. Practice got me to the point that once the ball was speeding toward my person, I could fairly regularly and with a decent amount of accuracy return the ball. I think this is hereditary. My parents used to play volleyball at our church. At some point, we were allowed to choose the names on the back of our volleyball t-shirts and for some reason – and I still cannot remember why – I chose ‘Gator.’ Like I was going to spike you with my ferocious gator-powers? I don’t know.

Moving on.

Softball was not my sport either. I have pretty good hand-eye coordination but again, with the running… Also, softball included some thinking. I had to think about throwing the ball and if people were on what bases, is someone trying to steal the base, something called an ‘infield fly rule’ and did that apply here? I also throw like a girl, and not the cool softball-throwing girls. It’s more of an octopus-on-roller-skates kind of situation. Shyness is also not your friend if you want to be a Serious Softball Player. Every time I hit the ball (IF I hit the ball), my overwhelming urge was to run into the bathroom and hide. I was normally kept either in deep left field or at the safe end of the batting lineup.

Basketball. I think I could’ve been better at basketball if I had been less shy. Also, if someone had explained the game to me. I remember at one point in, maybe, fifth or sixth grade, wondering, “How do I know if I’m on offense or defense?” By then it was too late to ask! The peak of my basketball career was fifth grade when my team won the girls’ citywide tournament. We weren’t even the “A” team – the schools let everybody play and divided them into sections. The A teams were the kids who were the best. B kids were decent, kind of the underdogs. C teams were everybody else. I played B team in every sport until 8th grade and I made the A team bench.

The problem with basket ball was twofold: thinking and being watched. There was just too much thinking to do. Who do I pass it to? How do I pass it? What if I miss and the ball smashes into the other girl’s face? I spent a lot of time not looking at the point guard because then, they can’t throw you the ball, even if you are open. “Why did you throw it at me?”

“You were open.”

“Yeah, but I was watching that girl I was guarding. She was eyeing the ball like she was going to take it.”

Also, I have this horrible thing about yawning when I’m embarrassed. I guess I stop breathing efficiently? Or something? But…I used to stand in my little spot – I played center because I was one of the tallest kids in my class – and yawn. Then I would get mad at myself. “STOP YAWNING.” But I couldn’t stop yawning so I’d try to act cool, like, “Hey, this is NO big deal. I’m SO GOOD at this game that I’m just like…ugh…bored. *YAWN* See? I’m so bored. God. Geez.”

Apparently, yawning and refusing to make eye contact and also not really knowing the rules do not make good basketball players.

The one sport I was every even a little good at was swimming. If I had had pushier parents I might’ve done more with that, but as it was, I only swam in rec leagues in the summer. I knew what to do in the pool. No thinking beyond PULL PULL BREATH PULL PULL PULL KICK KICK.

By the time I got to high school, I was into less athletic stuff – I did choir, and speech and debate. In college it was theater. I’m not very competitive, really. My sister got all the sports genes in the family – soccer, basketball, rowing. She’s good at them all. And she’s a smarty-pants with her master’s degree, so there goes any dumb-jock jokes you were hoping to make. I just don’t macht die sport.

The 2012 summer Olympic games kick off tomorrow and I plan on watching the opening ceremonies. I used to be a HUGE Olympics fan. I was totally mesmerized by Svetlana Boginskaya, the Belarusian Swan, in the 1988 Seoul games. She was crazy-dramatical and pretty in that Eastern European way. Plus, this was when people were talking about the inhumane conditions of the Soviet countries and that just fueled the mystery. We were on vacation in Maine during the Olympics and my sister and I watched every night. Once, we were staying with family in a teensy town in northern Maine. “Let’s go watch the Olympics!” we said. My cousins looked at us like we were aliens. “The what…?” They were only vaguely aware that this “Olympics” thing was happening and the best we could do was a super-fuzzy TV channel.

I haven’t been excited about the Olympics for a while. It stopped being about athletic excellence and friendly competition among countries and turned into something different. It’s no longer the Tri-Wizard Tournament, it’s Hunger Games.






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