The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Jul 5, 2011

Sports Day

Unlike other pusillanimous schools where competition is frowned upon and everyone is concerned about children's sense of self-worth, the boy's school is fairly rough and tough, and sports day is as fiercely competitive as one would like. Among the senior students, that is; the juniors are a bit more lax.

I took a day off work to see what all the excitement was about. I had missed last year's do, and was rather keen to see what all the moolah I was shelling out in private education was doing for the boy's sportiness. Fair play, that traditionally British norm, and giving it one's uttermost was evident all over the field.

In the case of the little fellow, there was more emphasis on the former attribute than on the latter. He has such a perfect understanding of fair play that he scarcely bestirred himself to outrace his classmates. In his heats for the obstacle course, he ran languidly, grinning happily at the spectators, casually bringing up the rear. While the winners scarpered off to get their medals, he dashed back to the starting line at a considerably quicker pace than his race. He then waved at us.

His next race was a relay. Ever helpfully, he offered to run the last leg. Owing to some mix-up or the other, his team ended up with more runners than the others. After the last of the other teams scrambled home, the boy got his hands on baton. He then ran - grinning happily again - to the finish line, scarcely touched it, and rushed back to join his team. By then, of course, everyone's attention had moved on to the other competitions taking place elsewhere on the field.

What a peculiar organisation, observed the wife. In her time, the sports day took place in a stadium in Kuwait, complete with march past and sequentially arranged competition. She was a champion runner-up, perpetually coming second in the sprints and long jump. (She never ceases to rub this in my face.) The boy's sports day, on the other hand, was a cheerful riot of parallel races. Shortly after the relay, he and his classmates were hurried to another side of the field for the tennis ball throw. Most of his classmates appeared to be rather ineffectual chuckers of the ball, spraying it in random directions. There were a couple of boys, however, who hurled it in masterful fashion. We clapped laconically; the parents of the successful boys screamed themselves hoarse. My boy's performance was strictly middle-of-the-pack.

The parents were then invited to a tug-of-war. The idea was for parents of kids from the same house to be on the same team. By the time I hurried over to my son's house team, it had lost the tug-of-war. The boy was not concerned - he only wanted to see me participate. So I joined another house and pulled so prodigiously that we won in less than a minute. The boy shrieked in celebration, jumped on me, and then went off in search of the bouncy castle.

My own stellar athletic career was kindled in middle school. I remember a 200 metre race in my fifth grade. I ran against a fat fellow, a little fellow and a tall fellow. The fat fellow and the little fellow handily beat me, and the tall fellow brought up the rear. I was incensed to discover that there was no third prize. 

At short put, I competed against the fat fellow and the tall fellow. The former tossed the iron ball as though it was a tennis ball; the latter had arms long enough that by the time the ball left his hand, it was already farther away than my first effort. I figured that I could only beat them by using brains instead of brawn. Having read somewhere that projecting the ball at a 45 degree angle would send it farther off for the same unit of effort, and using my legs for liftoff rather than my spindly arms, I hurled the ball so felicitously that even the headmaster stopped to gape.

'Disqualified,' intoned the sports master. I had stepped over the line. Disheartened, my third attempt was particularly putrid.

And that was the end of my athletics career.


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