My son isn’t quite seven months old, and it’s amazing to already see evidence of my own shortcomings in him. I once prolonged an 8th grade basketball practice by at least fifteen minutes because I can’t go to my left.
It was 1989, and the Crane Middle School boys athletic program was still under the iron-fisted rule of the oppressive Jerry Don regime. Coach A (I’ll show a bit of restraint by withholding his complete last name) was a balding, moustache-wearing cartoonish character who measured about five-foot something (and that’s a generous approximation). His primary goal in life was to compensate for his lack of ________ (the plethora of objects that could occupy that blank exceeds even my imagination) through any or all of the following methods: demeaning 12-15 year-old boys; earning the starry-eyed esteem of 12-15 year old boys; inviting the attention and affection of 12-15 year old girls; telling tales so absurd that even my innocent, almost seven month old son would roll his eyes when he talked.
…which reminds me of my point in the first place: the inability to go to one’s left. As one particular 8th grade basketball practice drew to a close, Jerry Don declared that practice would officially end when the entire squad successfully executed a right-handed lay-up and a left-handed lay-up without a miss and in proper form. Simple enough. Unless you can’t go to your left. I can’t.
I don’t know how many left-handed lay-ups I missed that morning, but before long the entire team was stopping to watch and yell as I botched one after another. [And when I say ‘yell,’ I don’t mean that
sort of yelling where all the normal kids root for the underdog to overcome his athletic inadequacies for a moment of glory ala Rudy or The Waterboy. I mean the kind of yelling junior high kids really do at those who become easy targets of ridicule.]
It gradually became self-perpetuating. In my defense, I have no problem making a lay-up from the left side as long as I can jump off my left foot and shoot with my right hand. Unfortunately, this is not proper left-handed-lay-up form (as declared by hoops deity Jerry Don). You see, if you try to make a lay-up from the left side using your right hand in a game, you’re likely to get your stuff slapped into the stands. This was important for someone like me who saw, I dunno, maybe about two minutes and seventeen seconds of action per game (on the B team). My ability to successfully execute a lay-up from the left side without getting my stuff slapped into the stands was clearly pivotal to the ultimate success of the
8th grade basketball B team. Pivotal enough to warrant this thrilling exercise in humiliation.
Anyway, as I said, I prolonged practice at least fifteen minutes as we repeatedly went through the entire routine – everyone making a right-handed lay-up, then a left-handed lay-up, building to the thrilling climax of….Thad missing another left-handed lay-up. Some of them I missed; some I made but not in a form to Jerry Don’s pleasing (a ridiculous fact which gradually did swing much of the team support my way and scorn Jerry Don’s way). There was no doubt that this little routine was more than exceeding his original expectations in the realm of entertainment. It was neither the first nor the last experience for me in discovering just how much pleasure he took in the belittling of those he knew were smarter than him. I’ll spare you the other stories (for now). I think I finally made a left-handed lay-up to his pleasing, but I’ve never overcome my excessive right-handedness.
Aiden isn’t shooting lay-ups yet, but he’s pretty well mastered rolling over: to his right.
Moral: If you aren’t popular on your first run through junior high, don’t try to compensate for it in your 30s. Seriously. It’s sad. Popularity is overrated anyway, and you’ll just end up playing the jackass years later in some sarcastic late 20-something’s web journal.
Moral #2: If
is anything like
, regime change is a good thing. Can I get a witness?