March 27, 2011

Sporting Chances

I was just thinking about a little mishap that occurred when I was in Middle School. I was hanging out behind the supermarket with some older kids from the neighborhood. They had built a makeshift ramp out of a wooden board and some stacked bricks and they were jumping it with their bicycles. The ramp started out with two bricks. I watched anxiously as the boys took to the air, fearless and wild. Soon, I was prodded to give it a try. I didn't want them to think I was scared so pedaled as hard as I could toward the ramp. The jump was much easier than I thought it would be, but, of course, it didn't stop there. One of the boys soon got the brilliant idea to raise the ramp to 4 bricks and the incline instantly doubled. After all of the boys had taken their turns, I was once again prompted into jumping. I did it again with success, but this time my landing was wobbly and the height did make me quite nervous. As soon as this height started to bore the older kids, the ramp was raised to eight bricks. This was very steep and I was afraid that they would ask me to jump it. The boys all took their turns and then they turned to me, motioning for me to go. In my heart, I wanted no part of the ramp, but I said nothing. In a moment, I was pedaling with all of my might toward the ramp.

The second that my wheels left the ground, I realized my error--the nose of my bicycle wasn't up high enough. My front wheel touched down first, skidding on the sand. I was catapulted over the handlebars and crashed down face-first on to the cold concrete. I took a few tumbles before I sprawled out, defeated. I could instantly hear the older boys laughing at me. I looked up to find that they were already cruelly imitating my wipe-out and mocking me. I sat up; my arms and legs were a road map of abrasions and cuts. The pavement had ripped a deep gouge into my forehead and my face was covered with blood. I picked my self up as quickly as I could and rode home, leaving them well behind.

I came to realize some time later that those bigger kids were urging me to jump the ramp with the hope that I would crash. My anguish and my blood being little more than a momentary amusement to them. I vowed to myself that I would never buckle under the weight of peer pressure again and that I would always trust my feelings no matter what anyone has to say about it. And that's exactly what I've always done...

There is another memory that I have from High School of a time when I was able to turn the torment of older boys into a victory. It was Phys Ed and the class was on the field for a softball game. I was playing second base.

Now, by the time I was in the 10th grade, I had hair down to my waist and I was a sensitive, artsy type of kid. I had been heavily into baseball when I was younger (and quite a good player), but that all started to shift in Middle School. I no longer looked the part of an athlete.

Anyway, there were a few guys from the Varsity team in the other dugout (big, muscular jocks who always excel in sports). The first one got up to bat; as the pitch came to him, he turned his wrists over and hit a sharp ground ball in my direction. It was still very early in the morning, so I didn't give it much effort and the ball scooted by me into the outfield. As he scampered around the bases, I heard him turn to his friends and say under his breath, "Just hit it to the guy with the long hair. He'll miss it every time." The other team laughed.

It is a horrible feeling when you know that you have been tagged as the weakest link in the chain and a locker-room joke. As I stood out there at second base with my glove at my hip, the embarrassment was overwhelming. In that moment, I knew that every ball hit was going to come at me, so I reached down inside of myself and summoned forth all of my former baseball skills. When the next guy came up to the plate, he once again turned over his wrists and hit a hard grounder up the middle, but this time I WAS READY!

I pounced on it like a cat on unraveling yarn, ranging far to my right and backhanding the the ball. I quickly turned, planted my feet, and fired a chest-high strike to the first baseman that hit the leather with a loud "SNAP." The runner was out by ten feet.

For the rest of the game, the ball wasn't hit at me at all. :)

"I have set the LORD always before me:
because he is at my right hand,
I shall not be moved."

~Psalms 16:8