The football story

Following up on my 7/27/23 posting “Illusory penguins”, in which the illusory penguins were actually football tackle sleds, which I admitted to actually having crashed into, Ellen Kaisse wrote in e-mail:

I was a little surprised that you had [used football tackle sleds] — did you play middle school or high school football? Or do they have these at some gyms? They strike me as possibly falling into a similar category to those giant ropes you are supposed to fling up and down, which I have done a couple of times. Didn’t garner my allegiance as a training method.

(I have, just now, posted a short story of mine, a piece of fictobiography about those goddam climbing ropes: “Enough rope: A short story”.)

My response to EMK  on 7/27:

I think I’ve told this story on my blog, but it’s an embarrassing moment in my life.

But it seems that I haven’t, or at least that I’ve been unable to search it out. So here’s another piece of fictobiography, as told to EMK a few days ago (writing about events at this distance means the stories have been shaped and re-shaped in incalculable ways). Below the line:

I grew up utterly incompetent at all sports, and having no interest in organized sports or sports fandom. This, of course, just amplified my utter unacceptability to all male groups and (along with some other stuff) got me tagged as a fairy-boy.

Summer before senior year, I tried to reclaim some status among other guys by maniacally going out for football — the butchest thing there is, and highly clannish. I did everything, including those tackle practices, at which I got very good. I never actually understood football at all, didn’t gave a shit about it, but was pathetically trying to prove myself, at least at this one thing. I made the team, and, sadly, was lionized for it.

Then of course I immediately quit, because I had things that I really cared about to get on with. The football coach, who was also the upper-level math teacher (a spectacularly good teacher, and a very good man, who later became my friend) was dumbfounded at my behavior and immensely relieved when I dropped out, because he knew my piano career was reaching the semi-professional level and I was about to become the editor of the school newspaper and, more important, because Bob needed me as a math tutor for my fellow students (I had become, in effect, his teaching assistant for all the upper-level courses, especially trigonometry and calculus, though I could deal with more elementary students as well).

This is where I learned how to teach, and then (later) to teach teachers in the craft. A wonderful education. Much better than a high school career in football.

But the football, what foolishness, and shameful that it worked.

EMK spoke soothingly to me this morning:

Great story. I don’t see that it’s shameful to you — shameful to the society that makes men feel like they have to play football and do other equally unpleasant things, but not to young people who are trying to find a place in the world. Actually pretty impressive that you could be so good at something like that, on top of all your other talents.

Many thanks for the balm of friendship.


One Response to “The football story”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    A note: not all the boys, since I had individual male friends who were out of the male groups themselves. Some were friends from childhood, some were new friends in high school (in a relatively big joint school district that drew from a fairly wide geographical area). All of those guys were straight, paid no attention to the aspersions thrown on me by the others; many were geeky, others just nice guys who went their own way. Then I had the girlfriends, wonderful people. So on balance, high school wasn’t socially bad at all.

    (Intellectually, it was paradise. The teachers pegged me as the smartest kid the school had ever seen, gave me a lot of freedom to do what I wanted to do (so long as I helped the others), and tended to treat me as an adult. Well, they mostly weren’t much older than their students, though a few had taught in this school for generations. The teachers mostly had a great devotion to the school, had come back to the place after college deliberately to serve the community they had come from themselves and loved. They were openly hoping I would do the same, and I feel bad about not giving some payback to this truly marvelous school, but I Went Away, and the teachers saw it coming.)

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