Monday, September 2, 2013

Man, That Scrawny Kid's Faster Than Walt Flanagan's Dog

When I was younger I was an unseasoned basketball player. Of course we were all kids at this time, so maybe I'm being too tough on myself? Nah, some kids had skills, but I really didn't. I had plenty of practice shooting hoops on the farm, but I struggled at set plays, defense, and general confidence dribbling the basketball.

Before practice I would kill time at my friend Kevin's house playing an X-Men themed board game with some other nerds. This was before comics were cool; before Robert Downey, Jr. donned the Iron Man suit, before Chris Hemsworth was sexy Thor. It was not the coolest thing to do. I wasn't even cool enough with the losers to know who most of these characters were. Rogue? Sure that sounds cool. I'll be that guy. What, it's a young woman? Dammit.

I can't put my finger on it, but Kevin's basement had a unique smell. And that smell became a taste. Like accidentally licking a penny that fell out of someone's shoe after a marathon. So picture this, I would leave this smelly, crazy house and venture into the shitty, piercing cold Iowa climate. I was nervous just thinking about whether or not I would remember where to set a screen or if I would have to attempt a layup with my left hand. It was possible that I would embarrass myself or the family name. My goal was to participate without really being noticed at all.

We're all friends here, so it's easy for me to tell you that the coach didn't like me very much. He kind of poked fun at me a little bit. Let me just say that the guy with anger management issues wasn't really there to teach us naturally un-gifted players. I never figured out what this guy's deal was with me. Oh well, I guess I'll just go on living.

On a related note, a little while later when I was in high school, I ran track. In one particular race I found myself neck and neck in a battle for second place with this other kid. This same coach was one of the people keeping time on a stopwatch at the finish line. I ended up getting third place. I may have been cheated. I may not have. I still think I got cheated. I met that other guy playing soccer a few years later. He was pretty cool actually. So, now I will casually segue into the positive section of this post.

Fast forward to the summer after 8th grade. I already had a few years of soccer (futbol, for my international readers) under my belt. And I was pretty awesome (not to brag). But now I was finally able to play soccer with the high school guys. Some of them were actual men, I was merely a boy at this point, with upper body muscle aspirations. This one guy, Mark, liked to force us to play with our shirts off and tell us how white and puny we were. But I did have a tan. It went from my elbows to my fingers. Okay, I would play along. Vengeance would be mine.

Once my friend Steve and I got out on the field, no one was making fun of our size anymore. Steve was making the older guys look like Swiss cheese. I was showing my speed on defense and literally (yes, literally) stopping everything that came my way. Every single game after that initial practice, I started on defense. No joke. Most games I played the whole damn thing.

I was just more suited to the flow of the game of soccer, no set plays like in basketball. My favorite part of the game was utilizing the slide tackle. I was actually nervous the first time I tried it, but after some 'positive affirmations' from Mark, I just did it. Man, that was great. If things got heated, you just went cleats up and made a half-assed attempt at the ball. That was my favorite form of communication in those situations.

As you can see, I had a mixed bag of experiences with sports in my youth. But it ended on a good note. Now I bring you some of my favorite sports movies.

Slap Shot
"Old time hockey."

Happy Gilmore
"The price is wrong, bitch."

Major League
"Just a bit outside."
"Give 'em the heater."

The Color of Money / The Hustler
There aren't too many movies about pool. These are both pretty awesome. (Bonus points to me for listing two more Paul Newman movies.)

Karate Kid
"Get 'em a body bag! Yeah!"
"Sweep the leg."

The Super Nintendo Hockey Scene in Swingers

Okay, not really a sports movie, but this is one of my favorite scenes in cinematic history. Let me explain - in college, my friends Chad and Andy and I would play a shitload of NHL '95. I would always play Roenick and the Blackhawks. Andy loved Gretzky and the Kings. And then we saw this scene in Swingers and pretty much lost our shit. I was just like Vince Vaughn! 

Honorable Mention - Drago from Rocky IV
"I must break you."
(Did you know that Dolph Lundgren has a Master's Degree in Chemical Engineering? That's badass.)

Stay strong.

- Dapper