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Wednesday, June 08, 2016

How Getting Served Made Me a Winner

One thing that I have always wanted to do with this blog is incorporate more personal stories into it while still attempting to keep with the pop culture theme.  Sometimes it is easy to do, and other times, it is impossible.

So for today's entry, I'm just going to go ahead and tell a story.  And, I am going to try and make it as positive as possible to keep with the zen state that I am finding myself in recently.  I'll tell you, living this way is so much better for my psyche.  It's great.

As I type this out, summer vacation has either already begun, or it is almost here.  In my area, it begins at the end of June and runs until the first week of September.  And, I am sure that every school has their own traditions signifying the end of the year.  Some may have special activity days where they cancel classes to play sports and games.  Some may have an epic field trip where they stay overnight in a big city (ours was Toronto in eighth grade).  And some may just have a classroom party filled with movies, treats, and comparing report cards to see if you were going to be in the same classes the following year.  And believe me, that was probably the highlight for most of us in elementary school.

My elementary school - Commonwealth P.S. - did have one tradition that lasted for years.  I'm almost positive that it no longer goes on as Commonwealth eliminated the seventh and eighth grades a few years ago.  But back when I was in eighth grade, one of the events that we all took part in was scheduled for the last week of classes.  And it wasn't just the eighth graders that were involved either.  All of the kids from grades one to seven were invited to watch the event from the bleachers in our school football field.

(And if you're wondering why our elementary school had a football field - it's because a high school nearby used it for their home games.)

That event was known as the annual Commonwealth Teachers vs. Grade 8 Three-Pitch Game!

And, yes.  It was called three-pitch.  The reason being was because we never used actual baseballs.  We used those Indian rubber balls that looked like real horsehide baseballs, but weren't actual baseballs.  Real baseballs would have the potential to harm a teacher or a student.  And as someone who took a baseball to the schnozz in my ninth grade gym class, I know for a fact that they HURT!

So, although we were technically playing "baseball", it wasn't "baseball".  You guys with me so far?

I remember watching the games when I was in the younger grades, and I admit when I was in first or second grade, watching the games bored me to tears.  I would have rather have been inside the school playing at the plasticine table or playing "Pick-A-Dilly Pair" on those retro computers that we had in our classrooms.  It wasn't until I got into the junior years of elementary school that I became excited about playing the game.

The only problem was that I was - and still am - a horrible athlete.  I lack coordination, I lack speed.  To this day, I still don't even know how to dribble a basketball properly.  In eighth grade, I had a near perfect report card.  A's in almost every subject but one.

I mean, who gives out a C minus in gym class?  Who?

Well, my 8th grade teacher did, that's who.  And to be honest, I owned that C minus. 

As much as I really tried in gym class - and believe me, I tried to the point where I was slipping on my own sweat puddles in the gym - I just completely sucked.  The fact that I was dealing with asthma as a child just sidelined me even more.  I was always the last one picked for sports, and yet I was the first one to get knocked out whenever we played dodgeball.  So embarrassing.

The thing was that I really wanted to be like everyone else and be great at sports, but I knew that no matter what, I would not be. 

It really wasn't until the Faculty vs. Grade 8 Three-Pitch Game that I came to understand that it wasn't really how good your abilities was how you played the game. 

Well, okay, maybe there was one incident that happened before the game that made me come to that conclusion.

During 4th grades to 8th grades, the school would have some sports games going on during lunch period.  And, I signed up for every single one just because I thought they were interesting.  I signed up for floor hockey, basketball, and volleyball, and kids who were around my age were placed on my team.

Needless to say, there were some sports in which I completely sucked at.  I tried basketball one year and ended up playing the role of scorekeeper more than I was on the court!  I considered that to be a total waste of time!  I was lucky that we never played shirts vs. skins because if I had to be on the skins team, I would not have been very happy!

On the flipside, floor hockey proved to be a much better experience.  Because I was the tallest (and let's face it - fattest) kid in my grade, I made the perfect goalie.  Ended up blocking quite a few shots and my team in fifth grade came in second place overall.  Not a bad track record!

My favourite sport to play was volleyball though.  I liked the fact that it was a small team, and I liked the idea of serving and spiking the ball.  But initially when I first started playing, I couldn't grasp the concept of serving.  I either bounced the ball off the net, or I sent it underneath the net.  But, still...even though I never really did that well, I gave it my all.

It's just too bad that I had one kid on my team that made his disgust known.  We'll call him...Ken.  It's not his real name, but we'll go with it.  From the very moment he realized that I was on his team, he did everything he could to make me quit from cheering on the other team whenever I served to heckling me when I was on the court and he was on deck.  It was totally obnoxious, but not unexpected.  I mean, we were all stupid kids back in the sixth and seventh grade.  For what it was worth, some of the other kids on my team weren't nearly so jerky, and I recall one girl named Meghan who was really supportive and gave me encouragement even though I completely sucked and knew it.

During one game, we were playing a team that was the best in the school, and we were trailing behind by a lot.  Ken was in the front row, and I was in the back, and the guy on the other team launched a powerful spike in my direction.  I was prepared to bump the ball back over the net (which I had some success with in the past), and hopefully keep them from scoring.

What happened was the ball bopped me right on the head.  And while the impact didn't really hurt that much, Ken was laughing like a hysterical hyena, and soon the entire gym erupted in a cacophony of ha-ha-ha's.  I do have to give credit to Meghan though.  She saw that I was upset, and I almost sat out the rest of the game, but she knew exactly what Ken was like and told me to just ignore him and do the best I could do.  And, you know...I never really did forget that.

So it came time for me to serve for our team.  And I guess it wasn't unexpected for the other team to move as close to the net as possible, standing around and not even preparing to deflect the ball.  I had missed every single serve since I joined that team.  Common sense would tell everyone else that I would miss this one too.

But there was just something about Ken and his sneer that made me see a whole lot of rage.  And, I was thinking to myself that he had his fun.  Now it was my turn.

I don't know whether it was just a lucky shot or whether someone was looking out for me, or what have you...but when I served that ball, it was absolutely PERFECT.  That ball sailed over the net without any trouble.  And because the opposing team didn't expect me to hit it, they literally stood around and watched me score a point!

I'll still never forget the cheers from my team at my surprise point.  I imagine I was frozen in shock myself.  And I will never forget Ken's face either.  I think in that moment I served that perfect serve, I had simultaneously served him a nice huge slice of humble pie.  I sure hope it tasted sour!

Of course that serve ended up being a fluke.  My second go-round, the ball bounced off the net.  But still...that one moment made me realize that I didn't completely suck at athletics.  I think that after having fifty bad serves, I was overdue for a good one.  And who knows?  Maybe all that practice helped me develop my volleyball serve.  It's hard to say.  

But I guess it goes to show that anyone can achieve anything if they work hard at it.  More importantly, I believe that once I stopped focusing on the rudeness of a smart aleck kid and focused more on having fun, it made things so much better.

And I took that attitude with me to the Teachers vs. Grade 8 Three-Pitch Game that hot June day. 

On the field, I was always in the outfield because we all figured the teachers would never hit the ball out that far - though a couple of them surprised all of us!  Just as I had surprised everyone on that volleyball court a few years earlier. 

As for hits?  I may have gotten legitimate hit.  The rest were strike outs or foul balls.  But again, it wasn't the point.  This was a game that was a lot of fun, and for all of us in 8th grade, it would be our last hurrah at the school that most of us saw as a second home since kindergarten.  Having fun was more important than winning.

And I think that was a good lesson...since I think the teachers creamed us.  

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