Being a good sport.
Not that I am a bad sport, it’s just that I am no sport. That is, I don’t do sports at all.
Now before anyone throws eggs at my house or accuses me of being un-American, I must confess that I have had some experience with sports, enough to get by.
I grew up in a small Midwest town where sports were the only game going. So I tried for cheerleading, but flunked the tryouts again and again, probably because I wouldn’t know the difference between a football and a gumball. I would have cheered the opposite team wearing bright colors that I fancied would match my knee socks. It might have had something to do with zits and a body that hadn’t grown into kangaroo legs, also, or that I couldn’t memorize, “C’mon team fight!” without cue cards.
As I grew up, my step-father was obsessed with who won and who lost some elusive ball that bounced, was thrown or kicked, not chewed. He was most proud of photographs of him during his college football days. I asked him why he was laying on the ground when he had perfectly good legs to hold him upright. We did a special outing one Sunday to Tiger Stadium, then called Briggs Stadium, in Detroit. As we came up the ramp to our seats, I immediately wondered when the singers and dancers would arrive. And why was the field so huge and green when stages are wood with footlights? He had given up on me long before when I wondered why the players wore cleats and not white tights.
After that I became a city rat where theatres and ballet studios existed without cheerleaders that wanted people to “team fight.” My legs had grown beyond the kangaroo stage into the get-injuries-quick stage. At least I was on stage, rather than an arena where gumballs do something-or-other.
There were other occasions, however, when I found myself out of my element. I had an acquaintance who was a certified heavy metal musician complete with his own band and an ear plug supply. He had never been to the ballet, and I had never experienced a heavy metal concert. So we decided to open our minds into a culture exchange, much like a fairy godmother might attend a mud wrestling event or a death row inmate might read Shakespeare.
I was warned about certain things, like the perils of the mosh pit and my daughter’s pathetic instructions about not dressing in clean clothes or combed hair. I think what she meant was that perhaps I should have worn my clothes tattered and inside out. It was also the first time that I had seen ushers with mop buckets ready for action, though I wasn’t quite sure what.
I survived, however, and it was his turn to attend the ballet. He wondered right away why the musicians didn’t wrestle with each other in the pit, so I corrected his impression that not all pits are mosh with added information that the dancers did not throw themselves into it. Nor did they destroy set pieces or set them on fire. When the music built to a crescendo at the finale, he whispered, “This must be when they’re getting’ down!”
So we learned to be good sports with our cultural exchange. I have since learned that there are times when you just reach out of your own box and appreciate other boxes. Though I think most would agree that I should not attempt to be a sports writer with all those lively gum balls in a green arena where people want to “fight” each other.