I Put the Ports in Sports

My dear friend Andrew requested I take a stab at writing about sports.

I’m here to tell you I know nothing about them!

I think football has been explained to me at least 4 times now. In one ear and out the other. I’ve tried to learn because movies have taught me that if you’re not the manic pixie dream girl who somehow learned everything about life by dancing in the rain, then you’re the girl who swears a lot and loves whiskey and football and the guy realizes he’s been in love with you the whole time in act 3. But as much as I love whiskey, I can’t get behind football. Or soccer. Or golf. Or tennis. To me, there’s just nothing to care about. No protagonist to follow, no interesting motives to study. Two teams are there to win, and even if I wanted one team to win more than another team, I can’t get mad at the other team for doing what they’re supposed to do. I just can’t.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve met many people who, upon seeing me, automatically assumed I was athletic. I am not athletic. I like to exercise. And by “like,” I mean need a vice to combat my anxiety that is not drugs or alcohol. I am terrible at any form of movement that requires speed, agility, or coordination. The only form of movement I’m good at is the kind that’s objective is to keep moving…slowly. I would die immediately in the zombie apocalypse.

I had a note to get out of most activities in gym class (thanks to asthma and that time in kindergarten when we had to run laps and I started to vomit. However, like the little rule follower I was, I knew I was supposed to be running, not vomiting. So I kept running…and kept vomiting. All over that that wooden gym floor, my little gags echoing off the reverberant walls). If I didn’t have a note, I would wait on the line to play and then move to the back of the line every time I got to the front. If it was a team activity and I had no note, I would half-heartedly trot around the field with my hands out in front of me like I was ready to catch something (hopefully a taco).

One time I tried to turn basketball into dancing basketball, twirling away with the ball in my hand. The gym teacher yelled at me and told me there was no dancing in basketball. Which brings me to…

I did go through a phase where I really liked resident-funny-lady-of-the-time Rosie O’Donnell and from that sprung a totally healthy obsession with a little movie called A League of Their Own.

Even at age 9, I knew it was an important movie. Despite my undeveloped understanding of the true meanings and implications of the movie, I knew I felt inspired. I wanted to be just like those women.  And the most logical place I could think to start was with baseball.

I quickly learned that girls don’t play baseball. They play softball. Girls haven’t played baseball since the events of A League of Their Own. Why this is so, I cannot say. Either way, I signed up for the local (girls’) softball league.

I remember being incredibly nervous for my first practice. I’d never really played softball before. I’d never really tried to play a sport before. I had no idea what was in store.

The first thing I discovered was that I was extremely afraid of the ball.

It was huge and hard and flying at my face (no, she didn’t say that. Stop it). Why would I put myself in danger just to get someone else “out”? That seemed unnecessary and bad for their self-esteem. And so I would do my best to get as far from the ball as possible. This was, surprisingly, a point of contention with my teammates.

You’d think I could have made up for it by being good at hitting the ball. I was okay at this, because it was an action that got the ball away from my face. Plus, I got to wear that fetching head gear. But, as you may recall, speed is not a gift I was granted. It didn’t matter if I hit the ball to the corner of the field. It wouldn’t have mattered if I’d hit it out into the parking lot. Someone would have gone to collect it, gotten a smoothie, and then walked it over to first base before I even got there.

Maybe I had PTSD from all the vomit-running I did when I was younger, but I also seemed to be a bit afraid of running. I essentially did a brisk walk to the bases. As a walk, it was pretty speedy, but my knees didn’t want to shift into the running mode. They just locked.

For some reason, even though it made me miserable, I insisted on playing softball for multiple seasons. When I hit age 11, I ended up in “Major Little League,” which essentially meant I spent a lot of time on the bench. Maybe that’s why I stayed on. It was a nice block of time to sit and read a book a few times a week.

So I suppose, one could say I, Jillian Ports, put the “Ports” in “Sports”…because the integral “s” is still missing.

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