I never played catch with my Dad. Don’t worry; this is not going to turn into one of those sad tales about missing opportunities. I have already covered how I am finally trying to squeeze in the occasional ‘I love you’ when I talk to my 82 year old Dad but shoehorning that into our conversations is about as natural as eating ice cream underwater. I still keep trying though, to see if it becomes a little more comfortable. We are not a touchy feely mushy family, but we know where we all stand. No, I bring it up because I come from a long line of very unathletic people.
In my entire life the only connection between my Dad and any sports whatsoever that I can recall is one time I saw him watching about 10 minutes of a football game at an Uncle’s house before he dosed off in his chair and when I was 12 he took me to a Mets game with a couple of his friends that had scored free box seats. I do not think my Dad even knew the rules of a baseball game but he had fun shooting the breeze and drinking with his buddies. After the game we hung around in a Shea Stadium bar while the crowds waned and I ended up getting first baseman Dave Kingman’s autograph when he came in to have a few drinks with the fans.
My oldest brother has always been athletic. He was on the track team in high school and even in his 60s he still runs marathons but, being 13 years older then me, he moved away for college when I was five and did not have time to set an example. My brother Neil is to athletics what peace and tranquility is to the Mid-East and my sister is not far behind. The brother closest to my age follows some sports now, but growing up he was definitely more of a brainiac type.
Spending my early childhood in Queens New York, I did play some ‘city’ sport games with my friends. Stickball was pretty rare because in my immediate neighborhood there were not a lot of kids my age. I did play a lot of stoopball, a two player game that involved one player throwing a Super Pinky small rubber ball as hard as they could off the edge of a step in front of a house and another player standing several yards farther back out in street trying to catch it. There were other handball-like games like boxball and Aces that were fun too.
At about 13 I started growing tall so it made sense that I started playing a lot of basketball. I liked the Yankees, Knicks and Giants because my oldest brother was a fan, but around then I really started following them myself. Unfortunately that was also the era when they were all pretty bad. College football was not really popular in the city but when I moved to Florida I started watching more and since I was already anti-Jets, I became a fan of the Miami Dolphins.
On a whim I ran my first road race in Bethel CT while visiting my oldest brother in the summer of 1979. My training for the 10,000 meter race consisted of riding a bike for a few miles a couple of days earlier. Out of the 520 people that finished I came in 494. My brother and his friends that also ran cleaned up and eat lunch before I made it to the finish line.
In high school my best fiend Mike was very athletic so we used to shoot hoops and occasionally play pick up games of football. When we went to college we both signed up for a flag football team marking my first pathetic foray into organized sports.
In my third year of college I got it in my head that I should do something different every semester. I heard there were very few people signed up to run for several student government positions. I found one that I could have run uncontested so I zipped in and filed during the final moments of eligibility. At the last minute they decided to change the rules and extend the entrance dates to allow the Frats and Sororities to add more candidates. I got pissed and dropped out. Grabbing a student newspaper on my way out the door, I signed up for the first activity I saw an ad for. That is how, with never having played or knowing any of the rules, I ended up becoming a manager/player/coach of an intramural volleyball team.
I was bad. Very bad. I even got thrown out of our first game because I adamantly argued with the umpire about a poor call. All my teammates / players had a lot more experience then me but they never made me feel bad about my lack of abilities. We won one game legitimately and picked up two other wins on forfeits. We did successfully reach my lofty goal of not being the worst team on the league. Riding that wave of mediocrity I joined a bowling team the next semester. We did equally as bad.
When I met my wife ten years ago she was on a company softball team. I always thought that would be fun but because I traveled so much for work, I never really had the chance. For the hell of it, one afternoon I went to the batting cages behind a local mini golf course. I threw my money in the machine to see if I could hit some pitches. After quickly embarrassing myself I walked away with the knowledge that maybe I should just watch ‘real’ sports on television. I think maybe I will stick to the more casual stuff like disc-golf or darts in a pub.