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"My Athletic Career"

My friend Don Fronczak foolishly asked about my athletic career.

Dear Don,

I could never play basketball.
The ball is too big, the baskets are too high,
and the other guys are too tall.
They ought to have a league for shorter guys,
with lower baskets and smaller balls.

My neighborhood, growing up, was all sports.
(Well, maybe just a little bit of playing doctor.)
There was a grassy lot on the next block
that was perfect for football and baseball.
We were there most every day when school was out.
Also our street had median islands down the middle,
and they made good ovals for track.
So, by the time I got to high school I was a pretty fair athlete.

It turned out that I was the only freshman to make the football team,
because the practices started before the beginning of school in the fall.
I knew some guys from high school,
and they took me out to football practice the first day.
I wasn't even enrolled in the school yet!
I was about 5', 10", and weighed 183 lbs.
I think that was my birth weight.

The first day was "tryouts",
and the coach had everybody race the length of the field,
to see who could run.
I was wearing loafers that had stretched out
and kept falling off my feet.
The only thing I could do was kick them off and run in my socks.
I was worried because I never ran as well without shoes.
There were about 60 guys racing the 100 yards,
and I finished several yards ahead of the second fastest one.
The coach noticed my lack of shoes,
and asked smartassedly if I was from Kentucky.
He called me "Kentucky" for the whole first season,
and made me quarterback until I left school,
three years later.

In baseball,
they first put me in center field because of a good throwing arm.
Only one trouble:
I couldn't throw a straight ball.
I didn't even realize it until somebody hollered:
"Hey! This jerk is throwing curves from the outfield!"
So they tried me as pitcher.
I only had about three pitches: a curve, a drop, and a fast ball,
but they kept me in that spot.
About every other ball I'd pitch would take a last minute turn
directly at the batter's crotch.
You never saw such a bunch of jumpy guys.

In the winter we went to Delaware park every non-school hour
to play hockey under the bridge.
There were arches under there where the snow never fell.
It kept the ice smooth as glass.
There were three of these,
each about the size of a regular hockey rink,
but the walls were jagged rock, just to keep us alert.
We didn't have hockey in school,
but I later played a season of semi-pro hockey.
We got uniforms and transportation,
and we were the G.O.P. team, sponsored by the Republican Party.
That's the closest I ever got to being a Republican,
and the last time I ever exercised.

Now, Don, I think you're the only person besides me,
who knows about my brief athletic career.
The rest are probably too senile to remember.
If you had waited any longer to ask,
I would be too.

Your buddy,

Copyright  January 10, 2002 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved.


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