Friday, 15 October 2010

WINNING MATTERS: THE TRUTH ABOUT SPORTS


John Cleese's favourite phrase from Monty Python's Flying Circus is, "Where's the pleasure in that?" I've asked the same about sports for decades. From the examples shown by supervisors, teachers, and my fellow dorm mates, I concluded that winning is what really counts. After all, that's why people keep score and viciously condemn anybody who makes a bad play. From Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), here's how the authorities turned what should have been fun into drudgery.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Playing sports for hours at a stretch was another unpleasant change which I faced that autumn. Since blind children were unable to strike a baseball in the air, our teachers taught us to lay the bat on the ground and the ball was bowled to us. Other than that modification, and having children on base calling to the runner, the rules were the same. We used an old rusty backstop on the plain at the top of Jericho Hill but the field had no proper bases or lines to indicate where to run.

We also played football. I actually scored a touchdown once. Even so, my team lost, robbing the pleasure from my accomplishment. The rudeness of the game also seemed fundamentally wrong to me. Tackling and barging through lines of players was not what I considered fun. The gloating by the winning team also soured what little enjoyment I experienced of the game.

On rainy days, we played floor hockey in the breezeway. I hated that sport too. The captain of my team placed me in goal once. Though I tried my best, I was humiliated when Charlie kicked the ball past me. My teammates hurled angry comments at me as a result of his winning goal. Once again, I was reminded of what poor sportsmanship was by their example.

Mr. Cooper ordered us to lift weights as well. Everyone crowded into a tiny windowless room off of the breezeway and pumped iron a few times per week. Once one of my weights fell off, striking Larry on the top of his head. I felt extremely worried that my carelessness caused some serious damage but he suffered no lasting injury. My unlucky friend had already lost his sight and I did not want to make his health worse because I neglected to tighten the weight's screw properly. I repeatedly apologized to Larry and he magnanimously forgave me. I believe he realized that I felt genuine remorse regarding the accident.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this book and to order it. You may also e-mail me directly for more information.