My retirement from sports

Al Bundy once had 4 touchdowns in one game. Hank Hill won the Big 8 Championship. Michael Jordan won 7 Pro championships.

What is that you say? He only won 6? While it is true that he won 6 with the Bulls, he won another in the movie “Space Jam.” While he will not get an Oscar or an official championship ring for that victory, all of us in our mind are fictional champions, so why not count the lesser known victories?

The reason I suspect that Michael Jordan does not get credit for that victory is because when all was said and done, that championship belongs to Bill Murray. What eluded Bill Murray in “Caddyshack,” finally became his in “Space Jam.” Bill Murray did what Michael Jordan failed to do…go out on top.

Michael Jordan retired, but came back, a shell of his former self (although still better than almost anyone else). Bill Murray blew out his knee, but went out a winner. Not since John Elway has a player been able to ride off into the sunset and stay there.

I think about these things not only because the idle mind is the devil’s playground, and I sometimes become an amusement park. I wonder if the world understand how difficult it is to be sports hero, even in one’s own mind.

I had 8 sacks in an elementary school football game. Then the bell rang, and it was time for school. No statistics were kept, it was not videotaped, and history books will not reflect this achievement. I worry about this because as I get older, my chances for heroics get slimmer and slimmer as my tv-watching waistline gets fatter and fatter (although still able to be hidden by clothing).

When I turned 26, a group of 6 of us were playing soccer. At that moment a pair of 8 year old boys, Geo and Jose, wanted to play. We let them join us, but these kids were not kids. They were little Pele’s in training. I played goalie so I could relax in the sun while everyone else chased the soccerball, until Geo came up to me. “Mr. Eric, sir, may I play goalie.” I let him. He told me to guard Jose.

At this point I had a dilemma. If I succeeded in taking the ball away ( 50/50 chance at best) from Jose, then I was a bully. If I failed to take the ball away, I would need years of therapy for being “schooled” by an 8 year old kid. So I did what any fictional hero would do. I negotiated. “Look Jose. I’m tired, and I worked hard all week. My friend over there is your teammate Uri. Pass him the ball. Good boy. Now go run along.” I then told Geo to get out in the field, and my friend yelled “Way to play defense.”

At age 31, I realized I did not have what it took to be a softball God. Realizing that the only thing heavier than the bat were my eyelids due to the previous night’s carousing, I did what all great fictional athletes do. I negotiated. I yelled out “Phony mound conference!” and went to talk to the pitcher. When I told the pitcher I wanted to discuss strategy, he replied “You’re the batter on the opposing team.” I then explained my point of view. “Look. I’m tired. I was up ’till 5am last night. I see 4 balls coming at me. I swing at the middle one which is red. That would be ball 2 1/2. Now I am totally glazed over, so here is what you need to do. Pitch it low and outside, and walk me. I will probably get into a double play when the next guy bats. However, if you pitch strikes, and somehow I hit the ball, we are all going to have to run. I am over 30. I don’t need that.”

The umpire demanded play resume, and despite my pretending to throw the bat down and recharge the mound, I was out of stalling tactics. Desperation set in. I asked the pitcher one final question. “Did you ever see that X-rated adult video with Bea Arthur in it? It’s called Golden Showers with the Golden Girls.” As my own teammates cringed, the pitcher winced, and the Umpire threatened to remove me from the game for “not breaking the rules, but something vile.” The pitcher was so distraught that he threw the worst 4 pitches in the history of my softball career. Like Babe Ruth, I called my (un)intentional walk to 1st base in advance.

There are days when I think I could come back. Evander Holyfield did. Some people never retire. Maybe I could go out on top. I could be Bill Murray.

I continue to play due to my love of the games, although it seems much easier on Sega. My kids will know about my 8 sacks in one game. I will show them the autographed football that I bought somewhere. It is the same size as a regulation football, with a prettier Hawaiian red, yellow and blue design.

I might need 2 or 3 years to rest up between games, but if Minny Minoso can play at age 80, I can come back again and play again before then.

I am not retired. I am just taking a break. The Olympic games in 2012. I will be ready. My remote has already been polished and new batteries have been put inside it. I only hope the chips and soda in my earthquake kit will have held up as well as I have.

Put me in Coach. Someday. I am ready to play. Well not ready…but getting there.


3 Responses to “My retirement from sports”

  1. Thanks for sharing this information. Really is pack with new knowledge. Keep them coming.

  2. Shooter says:

    This July, if you really want a vicarious sports thrill, watch a stage or two of the Tour de France with me. I’ll probably watch with my bike shorts, jersey, and biking shoes on.

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