I think my unenthusiasm for sports and competition probably got its most prominent seeds in middle school PE. Now my experience wasn’t exactly the kind that you’d see on TV, where an unathletic kid gets picked last for a team, but it was in the same ball park.
I don’t think I was necessarily a black sheep of any kind, in fact, I was actually pretty fit, and probably seen neutrally or positively by just about everyone in my PE period, I just wasn’t part of their inner circles. The problem was that each year, it seemed that all of my actual friends, the ones I’d hang out with on weekends and eat lunch with at school, were all placed together in a different PE period than me. I’d always hear about their crazy stories how someone in my gang got hit by a ball or tripped over a base, but I never got to partake in that kind of thing. They were hardly even trying to win, they just had fun; It would have been awesome to be with them.
My experience was quite different due to my unfortunate PE period placement. The teachers would decide that this PE period was going to be playing softball today, so all of the classes would get together and then divide themselves into teams of exactly 10 people, then those teams would be paired up to verse each other. Right when the announcement was made, I started hearing it…
“YO COLIN, YO, OVER HERE! …”
“Billy, me and you for sure, me and you…”
“Who do we have so far? Zack, Tom, Carl, okay…”
“So It’ll be me, you, Edward, Bryan…”
“Hey lets have the same team as last time… Yeah that sounds good, get Kevin over here too.”
All around me people already knew who they wanted, and it was never me. As everyone lined up in rows of ten alongside the field, I would try feebly to stand in back of one of the rows, hoping to sneak on to a team, but it usually never went as planned. Someone near the front would start counting down the line, “two… three… four… five… alright were good, sorry Rob we got ten already.”
“Oh, alright, yeah, for sure.” I’d try to do the same thing three or four more times, and get the same result. Soon I’d be the last one standing up, panicked, looking up and down each row, seeing if any had a space open.
The PE teachers would always make it so much worse… “Alright, everyone has their teams and we can head out to the field? No? Oh we got one person still picking… Okay, go ahead and get on a team…”
“Nope, this one’s full, sorry…”
“Oh, yeah we already got ten people sooo…”
“Nah dude, we already got enough people over here, try over there or something….”
I don’t know how much of the class was watching me, but it always felt like everyone. Soon, the PE teachers got frustrated and put me on one of the girls’ teams, against another girls’ team. This meant that the only two people who could actually hit the softball were myself and the token fat girl who always swung the bat with one arm for some odd reason. Everyone else struck out even though we were pitching underhanded and to our own teams. I was always the MVP, because the fat girl could never run fast enough to the first base before the ball got there, (and the ball would not travel very fast at all, believe me). It was a very miserable time.