Looking back, I shouldn’t have been so surprised that I didn’t make the basketball team my freshman year in high school. It probably wasn’t my lack of talent that mattered so much as the fact that my high school was well known for being athletically competitive and always “winning” games; the coaches apparently only wanted people on the team who were “capable” of “physically exerting themselves.” I took the failure personally, however, and underwent the sort of transformation usually reserved for comic book characters who become super-villains after their dreams of social acceptance are thwarted. Cackling gleefully from my secret hideout in an abandoned locker room deep within the school’s core and across from the cafeteria, I aspired to be the anti-athlete. I couldn’t join them, I sure as hell couldn’t beat them, but I could laugh at them from the bleachers while eating icing from the can. Twice a year the Phys Ed Department rounded up all us team-sports deadbeats and made us take fitness “tests,” which involved seeing how many crunches we could do in a minute (or in the case of me and my cronies, how many we could avoid doing…because you don’t miss 100% of the crunches you don’t do). Together my friends and I pushed each other to depths of laziness and ineptitude that I wouldn’t have dreamed possible. We ran forty-minute miles. We fainted after two push-ups. We tripped and fell and then let ourselves go limp when anyone tried to offer us assistance. I truly believed that my Phys Ed teachers were personally insulted by my utter lack of coordination and endurance. I would imagine them thumping their chests in fury or punching the wall in impotent rage as they read over the wretched results of my fitness tests.
Around the time I decided that I had fully explored all the wonderful things inertia had to offer, a friend introduced me to the sadistic field of intramural teams. I was hooked, probably because intramural sports involve only a little more teamwork and a slightly greater group dynamic than you find during your average city riot. Intramural soccer in an all-girls high-school is beautiful in its brutality. Rules are irrelevant. Assigned teams are of little importance; grudge matches are the order of the day. Whether or not you and the girl who corrected your pronunciation of the word “bourgeoisie” in history class are on the same team, you’re going to confuse her shins with the soccer ball as often and as hard as possible.
Rather than regret my days of aggressive inactivity, I prefer to consider myself an activist in the field of passive resistance at an early age. I refused to let my shortcomings push me into doing something that might have resulted in personal injury, humiliation and, at the very least, sweating. I can’t condemn someone who decides to overcome athletic incompetence through determination and hard work. It’s their choice. But I can be proud that I stood my ground and refused to take part in a struggle in which there would have been no winners.