If you can do it, do it. If you can't, write about it.
That is the sports writer's motto.
And during a summer with nothing else to do but reflect on my life's athletic non-accomplishments, I've realized those are the words I live by.
As a child, I dreamed of playing college basketball - even though I had small hands, no speed and zero hops.
But that delusion ended when I recognized that on a court I'm as confused as a squirrel trying to cross the road. Unfortunately, it took the most embarrassing event of my life to convince me.
When I was in the fourth grade, my YMCA team got the chance to play in a five-minute scrimmage at the half-time of a NBA basketball game. After my teammate missed a foul shot in the last minute of the game, I snatched the offensive rebound.
For a moment, I was the focus of over 20,000 sets of eyes in the Charlotte Hornet's arena. But I didn't exactly seize the moment.
Instead of putting the ball right back in our own basket, I dribbled all the way down to the other end of the court. After scoring an uncontested lay-up on the wrong end, I wondered why the other team hadn't even tried to chase after me.
"You scored negative-two points," my older brother said after the game, laughing at me harder than the first girl I tried to kiss.
My dad put his head down just like he did after any event I competed in.
In fact, every time he watched me play sports he would rub his eyes in distress. Sometimes he would push his fingers over his eyes so hard that when he finally finished erasing his youngest son's latest athletic disaster from his memory, he resembled a red-eyed pothead.
But despite the embarrassment I caused, my parents wanted me to stay active.
Unlike dad, mom said I could do anything I put my mind to. Luckily I still had enough self-respect not to take piano lessons, so I tried my hand at tennis.
In response to my mother's unwavering support, I made her drive me all across the state of North Carolina and watch hours of my pathetic attempts in junior novice tournaments.
And after mom had spent hundreds of dollars on gas, a new belt for our minivan and tournament entry fees - I finally won enough matches to be ranked in my age group. I actually felt proud to be named the 140th-best 14-and-under tennis player in my state (148 was the lowest ranking...man, that kid must have really sucked).
But my vision of becoming the next Pete Sampras ended when I got to high school, because I didn't think carrying around my tennis bag would be an effective way to attract the ladies.
I wanted to be a football player.
During the first day of practice my freshman year, the head football coach told me I wasn't nearly athletic enough to play anything but offensive line. But being just over six feet and less than 150 pounds, he said I would have to gain weight just to do that.
So I responded by becoming a fat boy.
I had eight meals a day plus snacks (thanks again, mom) and gained 100 pounds over the next year. I also frequently lifted weights (but I don't want to fool you into thinking I was Fabio...from my classmates, I got more comparisons to the Michelin Man).
When I showed up for practice as a sophomore, my teammates nicknamed me "Fatty Matty." But my coach was impressed with my dedication to do whatever he said with no regard to my health or reputation.
However, he said I needed to work on my speed and footwork (I couldn't even break six seconds in the 40). He recommended jumping rope.
After I practiced long enough to actually do consecutive jumps, I became cocky. On my very next jump...I fell and sprained my ankle.
"Non-athletes shouldn't jump rope," my coach joked behind my back, according to my friend.
For the next two weeks at school, I had to learn the hard way. Instead of just being the fat wanna-be athlete, I had to play the role of the fat wanna-be athlete who was barely coordinated enough to properly use crutches.
So what sport is left for any unathletic man who by the age of 15 had made the Pillsbury Dough Boy look like he a needed a meal?
One word ... golf.
When my dad keels over, I will inherit a 300-acre farm (the perfect size for 18 holes) in South Carolina. After my billion-dollar career as a writer/founder of my own sports magazine that overtakes Sports Illustrated, I plan to build a golf course more immaculate than Augusta National (but nobody will be invited to play on it).
That way I can finally enjoy playing a sport everyday by myself without worrying about anybody laughing at me.
However, it is more likely that over the next 40 years I'll end up covering middle-school cheerleading for The Smallestville Weekly. My earnings won't even support my own putting green.
But even if I have to retire as a no-teeth South Carolina farmer and am unable to afford Matt's Dream Golf Sanctuary...at least I can remind my fat, ugly wife everyday that I once wrote a few paragraphs about it.
- Matt Giles is the sports editor of The Daily Beacon and a senior in journalism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Journalist reflects on his sports failures
Published: Tue Jul 13, 2004 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 06:12 p.m.