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I have always been opposed to team sports. Throughout much of my childhood, I consistently chose individual sports to pursue when given the choice. My parents, having led somewhat melancholy and underprivledged childhoods, bombarded my schedule with activities that they wished they themselves had the chance to participate in. The end result was an extremely overstimulated child being rushed around in a frenzy to tennis, gymnastics, ice skating, soccer, softball, swim team, field hockey, horseback riding, violin lessons, tap dance, chess, nature camp, skiing. In the end, I only enjoyed the horseback riding, perhaps the most expensive of any of the pursuits I could have chosen. I was underwhelmed by the remainder of the activities, and regarded the team sports activities with emotions that ranged from extreme terror to complete apathy. My parents, enthusiastically hollering from the sidelines during softball and field hockey games, were disturbed my by utter noncompetitive nature. It didn’t help that my dad is the type to yell at referees and parents of kids on other teams.

I remember lying in bed during the summer, dreading tennis camp. Completely paralyzed by disgust for the sport, I would curl into the fetal position and pray for rain so that the courts were too slippery. I don’t remember why I hated it so much, but I hated it. The ball machine richocheting balls of neon green fuzz my way, the patronizing tennis pro commenting on my backhand, the smell of the courts baking in the August heat, it makes me queasy even now to recall. And the gymnastics. Probably the worst of the worst, I lasted only two years before my mother sympathesized with my protests. Perhaps she realized I was having a terrible time. Perhaps she realized I wasn’t going to be a gymnast like my dad always dreamed I would be, me leaping around in leotards, my hands covered with chalk. She was right, I ended up tall and top heavy, and my earlier dislike of gymnastics was probably connected in some way to a complete lack of predisposition for the sport.

The painful memories of failed after school activities are almost too many to list: playing the violin blinded with my eyes swollen shut from posion ivy, traipsing hopelessly around the field in a plaid field hockey skirt (our rather unfortunate school colors of orange and black not making this any easier), falling off the block at swim meets due to terror of the impending gun shot that started the race, a softball smashing my glasses at second base.

I escaped into my world of horses and didn’t come out. Actually, I’m still there. However, lately something interesting has been happening. I’ve discovered the world of adult sports.

Adult sports are trendy these days, particularly in the trend setting Portland community where people reproduce later and later in life. Faced with additional spare time from the absence of driving kids around to activities, people decided to drive themselves around to their own activities. What better way to provide a forum for bringing back everyone’s insecurities, playing out all those deep seated junior high anxieties, showcasing dormant athletic abilities, and addressing all those feelings of inadequecy that developed over the years?

 It began, innocently enough, with a desire to “hang out with my friends” and “get more exercise over the winter”.  I couldn’t do the whole “dodgeball” or “kickball” crap that composed the intial adult sports craze. It started for me with an indoor soccer team that someone talked me into joining. After the first game, I was horrified to discover some sort of animal inside of me. That asshole was NOT going to get the ball from ME if I could help it. Later I hovered around his ankles, threatening a swift kick when the referee wasn’t looking. I earned the name “Mad Dog” from my teammates. We celebrated every win by hitting the pub across the street, making the exercise obselete by washing down our fitness with copious amounts of beer. It took longer to relive every moment of every stupid game than it took the actually play the game. My mom came to visit and watched me play, openmouthed. “If only your father could see this.” she mused afterwards, still astonished.

By the second season, my first adult sports experience had deteriorated. The team began gossiping about each other. Some people were too controlling. Some people stayed on the field too long and didn’t sub out. Others subbed out too quickly. Some came to games intoxicated. And some people just plain old sucked at soccer. It was suddenly apparent to me that although we were in our 30’s, the team sports experience had not changed from junior high. And what’s worse, the men in the league were constantly trying to show everyone how fucking great they were at sports. It didn’t help that our team was composed of 5 couples, so not only did we have the junior high dynamic going on, we also had couples playing out their relationships on the pitch.

So I did what I do best when it comes to team sports, I quit. Ahhh, that felt good. Now, that felt more normal! Nothing comes to me more naturally than quitting a team sport. Over the years I have quit enough sports to know how to quit in style. I prefer to go out with a bang, too. You know, make sure everyone knows why I’m quitting. Miss the last game, make a statement. Nobody seemed to notice my absence and they continued the saga, and I experienced secret heartbreak over this matter.

Then it was softball. Whad’ya know, somebody got injured and they desperately needed a female replacement. So desperately, in fact, that they would consider me for that job, somebody with ZERO softball skills, bad eyesight, and who hadn’t physically thrown anything anywhere in 17 years. Softball sounded kind of good, however. The reason: this is bar league softball and it involves beer drinking in the park on Sunday afternoon. Can you beat that? So I joined. I tucked away the Mad Dog tendencies, and I had a great time. I smiled at everyone, I didn’t get worked up. I swung the bat, drank a beer. Tossed some softballs around, cranked up the 2 stroke blender my boyfriend fashioned from an old weed eater engine and made everyone margaritas. I had a fantastically amazing softball attitude.

Eventually though, adult sports got the best of me and the Mad Dog reared her ugly head. I suppose, retrospectively, that it was inevitable given my sordid team sports past. On Saturday, some fucker plowed me over at home plate. I had caught the ball and tagged him out, so he braced his elbows and launched into me in an attempt to get me to drop the ball. I fell backwards, my neck snapped back, I hit my head, the ball dribbled out of my glove, and the Dog was released.

“YOU FUCKING MOTHERFUCKER!!!!!!!!!!!!” I screamed at the top of my lungs, oblivious to the kids playing behind the field and my friend’s mom visiting from England nearby. “YOU’RE OUT YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE!!!!!!!!!!” I writhed on the ground in pain, shaking my head in some kind of whiplash induced daze. He was not out, because you’re apparently allowed to do that. Even though it’s a co-ed bar league with chicks as catchers that wear no body armor or any sort of protection, and his team was already up by ten runs. It certainly doesn’t make him any cooler that he was playing for the dorkiest team in the league, the Willamette Week, which is a substandard old people’s weekly. I’m not even sure how they got into the league anyway, since they are NOT a bar and don’t drink beer.

I subbed out and sat wiping tears of embaressment and pain on the sidelines, nursing my whiplash with an ice pack. I accepted the sympathy of my teammates, pulled myself together, and cranked up the 2 stroke blender. Sipping my icy margarita, Mad Dog left the building and regular Katie returned.

I’m still going to have another go at adult sports. I don’t have any kids to drive to any activities and I do like the exercise. I’ve signed up for another soccer team, this time one where I don’t know anyone so I will feel embaressed if I try to kick anyone’s ankles. And in the meantime, you’re not going to believe this, but I’ve played not one, but several rounds of tennis this summer. I even caught myself hoping it wouldn’t rain one night, because then the courts will get too slippery. What’s happening to me? Who am I?

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