Sunday, April 6, 2014

the losing side

I am at yet another sixth grade basketball game and as usual my grandson is on the losing side. This has been a recurring theme in my life and I don't know why.

Why are our boys always on the losing side, I asked my daughter one spring evening as I watched the opponent whip around the bases followed by two more of his teammates. It's not that my prodigy jinx the game process or are weak and incapable athletes. They just end up on the wrong team. Every single time.

I don't take losing well. I avoided all competitive sports in my academic years. I was short and stubby like a cigar butt and was always the second to the last kid to get picked for a team. And the last kid was Betty Rae who had polio and wore this awfully thick brace on her skinny leg and she couldn't bend that leg at the knee. Watching her run was a terrible process, the braced leg swinging outward in an arc like an out-of-control helicopter blade.  I preferred to sit under our cottonwood tree and read. Go play with your friends, my mother would say. Why?

I started thinking it was my presence that was poisoning the boys' efforts. I started experimenting. I would go to the bathroom, buy some popcorn, go watch the miniature golfers whenever a grandson went to bat. If I wasn't there watching him, it would be all right. There was something in my cosmic make-up that caused him to miss the ball, drop the ball, run the wrong way, whatever. Sometimes I would just miss the entire game, take my negative force out of the arena but to no avail. They would almost always lose and I would be left with a double heaviness on my heart, my boy's and my own grief.

Did I mention there are a disproportionate number of tall kids on the successful team? There always is. Losing builds character, says one of the winning kids' parents, that annoying little half smile lingering on her lips.  Fuck you, I think, losing breeds self-contempt and hopelessness and I secretly long for her tall kid's neon yellow shoe lace to unravel and cause him to fall backwards on the hard floor shattering his skull and all her hopes. I'm still picturing the pinkish-colored brain material seeping onto the floor when, "Dawn, ready to go?" That's the husband.

I don't ask for much, just a little fairness in the midst of all this eleven-year-old angst.


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