When I was a kid my dad got me started in sports. T-ball was my first experience. It really should have been called herd ball. Occasionally, someone hit a ball and we’d form a pack to chase it down. While my team fought over who was going to keep it, the other team ran the bases, backwards.
Later, there was basketball. The goal seemed to be for my team to keep the ball away from me as much as possible while I ran back and forth across the court for the required two quarters.
Football lasted all of two weeks. I was, mercifully, cut from the team.
One day, I happened upon a trophy store in a strip mall. That’s when I realized I could just buy the damn things!
I started out cautiously – swim team, soccer, field hockey – sports that most of my contemporaries had no clue about. This got me through grade school, middle school, and high school. In college, no one cared that I had soccer trophies from three different high schools. (I had bought the demos to save money.) My claim to fame in college was that I could tap a keg in 22.3 seconds, a fraternity record.
Now that I am a career professional, the sports monster has reared its ugly athletic supporter again. I joined my office’s fantasy football league. I picked various professional cheerleaders and put them in high heels and garters. I was extremely disappointed when a friend explained the meaning of the term “Fantasy Football Team.”
I, then, realized just how far out of touch I was. I had always thought The Super Bowl was the all you could eat salad bar at Roman Bob’s Food Trough; the US Open reflected our immigration policy; The Final Four was an episode of Survivor; and, the World Series was something on the National Geographic Channel.
I had assumed the NBA was the network’s first attempt until they got to NBC; the Phillies was a band of horses; and, The Kentucky Derby was a hat, of course! What else could it have been?
March Madness I avoided completely. The title, alone, made me sweaty, which I don’t like.
My daughter, tired of being embarrassed at my total lack of sports knowledge when her friends came over, sat me down for a quick lesson.
“Dad, listen. You don’t know squat about sports and you prove it every time you talk. So, this is all you have to say when the conversation turns to sports. Write this down,”
I grabbed a pencil and paper.
“College football – S- E- C.”
“Ok, S-E-X,” I replied.
“No! Listen! Say S E C and, then, shut up. The conversation will take on a life of its own. Pro baseball – just say steroids. Pro football – Free Agency and Basketball – they call it a free throw for a reason. Hockey –Hockey don’t worry about it. Just stay out of Canada.”
“What about soccer? You know, I won several trophies from various schools,” I said triumphantly.
“Yeah, right dad, the only kid in your county to play on three rival teams. I know better. The price tag is still on two of the trophies. O K soccer – say, ‘Wasn’t it exciting when they almost scored?’ Then add, ‘Wasn’t it exciting when they almost scored again?’”
“I think I can remember that.”
“Great. Give me $20 bucks. I’m going to bet on the Steelers-Broncos game on the over under.”
I am not sure what she said but, for a 14-year-old, she seems to know lot. I think I will just settle back while the rest of the world is tuned into that other big football game, the salad bowl one, where one of the New York teams, probably the Yankees, is playing the Miami Heat.
My local PBS station has Baryshnikov and the Bolshoi performing at the MET. I decide to watch it and relax with a nice, dry white wine, a lovely Cab from a mature French vintage. I switch the TV to PBS. Baryshnikov is on stage and he is wearing one of those New York team football jerseys.
I look up at my mantle of fake trophies and think, is there no escape?