Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Baseball Retrospective

To the great disappointment of the grandfather, I was never a baseball player.  My grandfather loved the game, but as a young man, lost an eye in an automobile accident, thus destroying the depth perception necessary to play the game well.  He could never understand why anyone who was able to play the game would not.

I, on the other hand, as a child, could not fathom why anyone would play the game, capable or otherwise.  Sports, in my estimation were (are?) stupid.  Overweight, uncoordinated, and terribly self-conscious, there was little anyone could do to convince me to participate in anything of the athletic variety.  This attitude was interrupted only briefly in middle school when I played basketball.  I still distinctly remember making two baskets in the championship game in the local tournament in which my team placed first my eighth grade year.  They were not last second winning shots, but they were my only successful game-time shots during my basketball career.  Beyond these, I tend to remember any attempts I made in the athletic realm with a degree of revulsion.  Athletic contest lent itself to humiliation, and already ashamed because I was not a good athlete, I chose what I had convinced myself was the higher road.  By the time I went to high school, my attitude towards sports and their participants had reached a level of contempt equaled only by the contempt a housewife has toward a cockroach in her kitchen.  

Beneath all of this remained an abiding sense of shame because others were talented athletes and I was not.  It was fear, mostly, that prevented me from playing.  I would be made to look the fool, and I would handicap my team.  The results of these insecurities were not altogether negative.  I became interested in theater and music and found that I had some degree of talent for both.  One of my proudest high school moments occurred when I received an award for individual excellence in acting at a One-act play competition in my junior year.  Likewise, I managed to get myself elected to the student council and remained in office for three years.  None of these achievements, however, was sufficient to overcome my poor self-image that, in part, arose from doubts about my own manliness because I was never an athlete.

Years in formation and a growing spiritual life would eventually help me overcome these issues from my youth.  My largely negative attitude toward sports still remains with me, though, albeit for different reasons.  I will be eternally grateful that my father never attempted to relive his own adolescence vicariously through me.  I will be eternally grateful to my parents that they never insisted on sports, and that they did not demand athletic prowess as the method by which to prove my worthiness of their love for me.  I will be eternally grateful that my family never lost its souls in the worship of the Sports-God before whom all else must bow in obedient docility.  I will be eternally grateful that I never suffered under the illusion that sports would somehow pave the way for my future.  I will be eternally grateful that in place of athleticism, I gained skills that will benefit me for a lifetime. 

And yet, in spite of all of my residual bitterness and innate doubt in my athletic potential, as the rain fell and I sat watching a middle school baseball game (one quickly learns to love or at least tolerate the things one's children love, after all) this evening, I couldn't help remarking aloud, "I wish I would have played baseball."


  1. Never too late to start a parish softball team.


  2. I can relate to much of this. Had a bully not challenged me to wrestle in middle-school PE, I would've followed much the same path as you. Somehow that one-on-one contest (only JUST short of a whupping) sparked something in me -- I was never an athlete, but I was no longer afraid, I guess...


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