It would seem that I have too much time on my hands today. I stumbled across this little story on my computer and thought that I should give it some air. Perhaps I have already done so in the past. I apologise if that is the case. I am beginning to go a little senile and tend to forget things.
The Football Season
It was a cold June Saturday morning in the kitchen when my father broke the news. He was looking me up and down as I stood in a singlet, new football boots, socks and shorts attempting to warm myself by the oven. I felt ridiculous and more than a little scared about what was to come.
“There’s nothing wrong with being dumb you know,” he said, by way of a soft opening, “Hell, I’m no genius, myself. Your sister is stupid. And your mother….. Christ, your mother, bless her, is as thick as two planks.”
“Oh,” I said.
“So,” he continued, “it’s a simple matter of genetics. You’re dumb too.”
“Oh,” I said again, “thanks for that.” But the sarcasm passed right through him. He just looked at me.
“Dumb as shit,” he added, to make it clear.
There was an obvious flaw in the genetics argument and I leapt upon it. “What about Uncle Wally and Uncle Stephen?” I asked, referring to my mother’s siblings, “they’re both doctors.”
“Your mother was adopted.”
This was a disturbing revelation. The sudden unveiling of a family secret was not provided for educational purposes. Clearly there was sinister intent. Secondly, and more importantly, it dispelled forever my optimistic half-belief that it was I who had been adopted. And, of course, it added to the mounting body of evidence pointing to my own stupidity. “Oh,” I said once more, “so that’s it then.”
But he had not finished.
“So let’s just hope that you’re half decent at football.”
He looked me up and down again as I stood, white knees shivering before him. And we both knew then. That there could never have been any such hope.
That one season of football was predictably awful. In the beginning things weren’t too bad – the coach was reasonably patient with my ineptitude and, to my surprise, even some of the other boys were there with an occasional comforting pat on the back when I made some dreadful error. The second worst player in the team welcomed my involvement with open arms.
And, early on, we actually won a couple of games.
I spent most of my time on the bench, of course, to limit the damage, but when, at my father’s insistence, a rule was introduced requiring that all boys be given at least ten minutes on the field per half the losses began to mount. My twenty minutes per game seemed to coincide with crucial shifts in the momentum of play. I am not sure what position I played – I think it varied quite a bit, but wherever that place was was quickly identified as an attacking opportunity by opposing sides. And as all hopes of a semi-final appearance began to fade my teammates began to look for somewhere to place the blame. I was the obvious choice.
One day late in the season after a particularly inglorious loss the coach’s son suggested (in front of my father) that I try my luck at netball.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because you’re a fat fucking girlie spastic,” he said. Whether this was an attack on just me or whether he also had issues with women’s sport and the disabled was unclear at the time. I think he was just expressing his frustration over lost opportunities.
My father saw it as an opportunity to express his frustrations as well. He broke the boy’s nose.
This was at a time when assault charges were not so commonly laid and my father, on this occasion at least, escaped arrest. But we were not welcome back at the football club and I never again laced up a football boot.