One reason this whole “sports” thing is so crazy for me is I’ve never been an athlete. Oh sure I “lettered” in track & field in high school, but it was a pity lettering. I joined the team freshman and a bit of sophomore year before leaving sports to work in the theater department. Even when I was a team member, my friend and I would sneak to the store while everyone was doing their long-distance run, and the only events I participated in was throwing (shot put and javelin) because I didn’t have to run. Basically, I was just there cause my friends did it. I’m not sure my coach even noticed when I stopped showing up.
I’m an arts girl through and through, and most of the time the arts kids and jocks separate like oil and vinegar. In fact, for much of my life I was proud of how I didn’t know shit about sports. Still kinda am. I know Kobe, LeBron and Babe Ruth. That’s enough for me.
But ask me about writers, directors, painters and we can have a real conversation. Wanna go watch a football game? I have no idea what’s going on. But want to go to a gallery? A film festival? I’ll be enthralled. By not knowing much about sports I prove my artistic street-cred. (And vice-versa. Great jocks are not known to be art-lovers. In fact they are more known to beat up the art kids in high school.)
And even when I started playing Ultimate Frisbee, I still didn’t get it. When I got hurt, I was out. Done. Finito. But when my Ultimate loving friends get hurt, they hobble around the field, grimacing, driving themselves to a point of immobility.
And not even that, but just the practices were bad enough. Temps in Xiamen soar above 100 degrees regularly, and even if it is below, the humidity is so thick the temps feel much higher than they are. Who the hell wants to run around in the bright sunshine in our heat?! At one practice we were throwing the Frisbee and I kept fanning myself and wiping away my sweat. Jackson, the coach, noticed.
“Becky, you look hot.”
“Because it’s a million degrees out here,” I testily replied. (I get cranky in the heat.)
“Everyone’s hot,” he said. “You’re the only one that looks hot. Everyone else is ignoring it.” I thought everyone else was an idiot. it was hot out.
One day, in mid-July I sat down after finishing a game of badminton. I can’t even describe how wet with sweat I was. (But I’ll try.) My shirt was clinging to my body because it was so wet. My leggings had giant sweat stains on the front of my knees. (Have you ever been so hot where the front of your knees sweat?! Sadly it happens to me with regularity.) My hair was as wet as if I had taken a quick shower, my eyes were burning with the salt of my sweat getting into them and my wrist sweat band was soaked on all sides. It was disgusting.
And yet, I didn’t really notice it until I stopped. And after a quick break I got right back to it. Jackson’s words came back to me. I got it now. When you are focused on something you don’t even notice how hot you are. I bitch and moan when I’m off the court, but on it? I don’t give it any mind. And the more you get used to it, the less you notice. Just the other night, in practice, my teacher was showing me how to scoop up a birdie with just your racket. I was leaning over, looking down at the birdie on the ground and I noticed a drop hitting the ground. Then another. I was totally curious at where these drips were coming from, so I looked up and the drops stopped. Looked back down, more drops. I lifted my hand to my head, and felt my ponytail had kinda flipped onto my shoulder and was so wet, big, salty drips were coming off the end. I knew I was hot, but I hadn’t even realized how damn sweaty I was. And I wasn’t annoyed by it, nor did I take a break to towel off, or want to sit down even. I just kept at it, trying to scoop the damn birdie. (I’ll get it.)
So what does it all mean? I’m still an art girl, obsessed with reading, writing and watching movies, but these days even though it bristles with my teenage/art girl self, even I’ll concede that maybe I have become an accidental athlete.