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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Taste In Sports - My Middle School Days

I was fat in middle school. I am not going to sugar coat it (although I loved sugar coated food back then!) and I am not looking for sympathy. My summers were spent at home with a lot of junk food. Sure I spent time in the neighbor's pool, but my life was fairly sedentary - especially during the school year.

Other than swimming, my most athletic endeavors during the summer were biking to Kwik Shop and playing hide and seek. Kwik Shop was over a mile away and the route there was pretty much entirely uphill. Once there we would get large Icees and candy - not exactly a healthy trip. Since the road there was uphill, we pretty much coasted back.

Hide and seek was not exactly the most athletic activity, but it was hella fun. We played after dark. Base was the green transformer in my neighbor's front yard. One of the few streetlights on our cul-de-sac was directly in front of it as if highlighting its safety. We would come out wearing black and camouflage clothing and headgear. Our game zone was on both sides of the street within two houses of the transformer. You could hide in the front or backyard but fence climbing and crossing the creek behind our houses were illegal. The person that was IT had a flashlight and no face headgear. We would usually play for about two hours during the summer.

School brought me back to gym class with the hated Presidential Fitness Award grading. It also brought me back to endless hours of sitting. I thought I was healthy at lunch time because I would usually opt for the salad bar (unless it pizza or burritos were being served). Unfortunately, drowning lettuce in a gallon of ranch dressing (which I can no longer stomach) is pretty bad for you. Recess consisted of basketball (21 - the dumbest version of the game ever) or the king of middle school - four square. Never was there a game as competitive as middle school four square. Popularity was won and lost on the four square court. A sixth grader could instantly earn respect by beating collaborative eighth graders on a regular basis. Eighth graders would conspire to hold the top three spots and humiliate incoming fourth players.

We started to practice at home. Never mind that the secret was the way older kids worked together. We thought if we could just improve our technique...

Sometime around seventh grade I realized that the game was rigged. Recognizing the stupidity of a meaningless game as a measure of popularity, I found different ways to spend my recess. Outside there was more freedom. You could kick a soccer ball, hang out on the monkey bars, or play basketball. I did a little bit of each, but started playing more and more basketball.

Basketball was a huge thing at that time. Jordan, Pippen and the rest of the Bulls were tearing up the NBA. Given Iowa's proximity to Chicago, I jumped on the Bulls bandwagon (to which I still belong, albeit halfheartedly; though I do cheer for the Energy's affiliation with Chicago). I had Bulls t-shirts, sweatpants, hoodies, hats, you name it. I wore that crap to school everyday. I watched their games constantly. And I still think the early 90s was the absolute peak of the NBA - Bird, Magic (remember those McDonald's commercials?), BJ Armstrong, Horace Grant, Alonzo Mourning, Dennis Rodman (he was a great baller back in the day), Patrick Ewing, and a promising young giant named Shaquille O'Neal. Other than LeBron and (maybe) Kobe, today's stars cannot hold a candle to the guys of my youth - especially not old, fat, lazy Shaq.

My love affair with the NBA would pretty much die by the time I hit high school. A new sport would catch my attention before eighth grade finished up, but that is a story for another day. Up next is my secret to amazing weight loss.

Continue to Part 5

Tribe 7