There is a very important reason why I'm writing for the comedy section and not the sports section. No, it has nothing to do with my argument that 'pro wrestling' is a sport. I know it's scripted, that's why I recommended dating tips from them in the past. And I'm still single. Thanks Scott Steiner.
I was never that coordinated with a ball in my hand. Football, never threw a tight spiral; baseball, I could catch sometimes but was always afraid of the ball hitting me; volleyball, I was too short. Yup, all ball sports have eluded me.
But it was my short experience as a soccer player in grade school that made me finally realize my true calling was theatre. Let me explain…
GOD I WISH SOCCER WAS LIKE THIS.
My father was a CYC soccer coach back in my grade-school in St. Louis. My older brother was coached by him, and by God, I was to be as well. While my brother wasn't a Pele either, he at least showed some drive and verve on the field. Both qualities I lacked, but not because I wasn't motivated…it's because I was playing pretend.
I was a "garbage bag full of comics" kind of kid. I spent hours developing whole story-lines for my action figures. And though the size ratio of a typical Transformer never lined up with my Spawn action figures; they were in the same world darn it! Onslaught was threatening the entirety of reality itself, and only Titanium man (super obscure Iron Man villain) and Violator (Spawn villain I made "good" in my head) could stop him.
I've already made 3 credible references to action figures to my one reference to Pele. You see where I'm going here.
During practice I would often fabricate imaginary reasons why I was playing soccer.
"The goalie is actually a martial artist! And my soccer ball is a fireball I will use to defeat him!" This often explained why, with pinpoint accuracy, I would shoot (that's what you do right?) the ball right into the goalie's hands. My father on the sidelines meanwhile, would look slowly into the sky and squint. Probably to see if God was laughing at him.
But I don't want to give you the wrong idea about my dad; he never failed to support me, even when I waited in the Ford Eagle crying while a torrential downpour was ripping thunder outside. All the other kids, including my dad, were laughing their butts off getting soaked and playing a quick scrimmage game while I was bawling inside the car, afraid that lightning would hit me just like I read Lex Luthor did to Superman.
Needless to say, my dad put me on defense. One of the wings I think.
My crowning achievement came during one of our games. I couldn't tell you if it was in the middle of the season or the end. All I knew was if this game didn't end on time I would miss "Freakazoid" on the WB, even if I was recording it I could never be sure unless I was watching it happen. I've been burned before by setting the VHS to SP instead of SLP.
What? Do YOU want your VHS to cut off right before the end of "Batman the Animated Series"? No. No you don't.
I was playing a pretty good game for myself. I had run up and kicked the ball a few times. Usually away from our goal. Which I heard was a pretty good strategy. Dribbling, passing, I would leave that to the other kids. I'd usually run right up to the other kid not wearing my jersey, right up to him, and just wail at that ball with my feet. The ball would typically get knocked out of bounds but I didn't care.
But as I was standing there "in defense" the rest of the team playing the game seemed to be so far away. I knelt down and began playing with the weeds in the field. Checking for bugs, seeing if there were any Pogs down there.
Then I noticed my own shadow. I saw that if I put my hands above my head in a circle, that I would look like a giant eyeball person.
I was hooked.
I spent what must have been 3 and half minutes just dancing. Moving my shadow eyeball back and forth, like I had just discovered the coolest thing in the world. I even tried to get the other defenseman to do it with me but he was distracted for some reason. Like he was paying attention to something else happening on the field. I, however, continued having fun as "Eyegore" the two legged cyclops. The ants beneath my feet were foolish humans that dared not to pray to their zero depth perception god. The only tribute worth anything to me now were their deaths!
"SAM! THE BALL'S BEHIND YOU!"
My head ricocheted to the sidelines to see my father jumping up and down like a madman. I had no idea what I had done wrong. A bunch of the players ran past me. I was left alone. I looked behind and saw the ball go in our net. Somewhere our defensive line had broken down. I was convinced it was our other wingman; he had been so distracted earlier it would've been no surprise to me.
My dad called me off the field.
"What were you doing, Sam?" he said, completely perplexed.
"I was 'playing eyeball' dad, I'm sorry…" I responded, realizing my mistake.
Later that evening full of guilt and depression I finally took off my sweaty shin guards and tried to sneak downstairs into the washroom. My mother intercepted me.
"Sam, dad wants to say something to you…"
I steeled myself, expecting the worse, expecting that I had crushed my dad's soccer dreams over 'playing eyeball'. Coaching was important to my dad, and here I was screwing it up.
"Sam," my dad started "do you like playing soccer?"
"Of course! Yeah! It's super great!" I lied.
"Are you saying because you like it or because I'm coaching you?"
"Well…I…I don't really like playing soccer." I confessed.
"Sam, if you don't like something, don't do it. You don't have to play soccer." Dad spoke serenely.
"But what about you coaching? You love coaching!" I squealed.
"Sam, I hate coaching. I don't really know much about it. Your brother liked soccer. I was just doing it if you liked it. To be honest, I always thought you wanted to be an actor instead." My dad spoke, arms crossed, chuckling in between his closed eyes and half smile.
From that moment on. I knew that my dad, no matter what I wanted to do, would support me. And that ball sports, no matter the form it took, would never be my forte. The last thing my dad asked me would finalize my decision to play pretend the rest of my life.
"Now…what the hell is 'playing eyeball'?"
For more tales of the author's inability to play sports and lessons from his father, follow him on Twitter @cravesam