Wednesday, October 09, 2013

A trivial pursuit

Believe it or not, I used to be a competitive athlete, with a much stronger emphasis on the competitive part than the athlete part. Not that I wasn't a good athlete but something about participating in sports would get me really fired up and I'd get into it to crazy degrees. Even though I was usually among the biggest kids on the field, I rarely played like it. I dove head-first, chattered incessantly and got really pissed off when things didn't go my way. I was a classic "red ass", a term usually applied to 5'6" slap-hitting middle infielders from the Dominican Republic, not 6'3" slugging first basemen from the Midwest.

These traits tended to endear me to teammates and aggravate opponents which is exactly how I wanted it. I was once thrown out of a church league softball game for swearing. While protesting the ejection, I asked the umpire to tell me exactly what I said, not because I doubted him but because I honestly didn't know. He said there was no way he would repeat it and was so angry he wanted to fight me. I'm sure he was right but I still don't know what I said. It must have been really bad. I probably called someone or something either a cocksucker, a motherfucker or, most likely, some colorful combination of those bon mots, enhanced by a shit or bitch or two.
I'm still a passionate sports fan but now that I'm no longer an active participant, I'm not wired as tightly. I'm happy when my team wins and sad when they lose but I recover pretty quickly either way. I'm fortunate in that regard because I'd be a mess. I know some people who are and it's not pretty. Or healthy. People like that are not fun to be around unless you're their teammate actively involved in a sporting event. I assume this part of me died when I hung up my cleats for the last time and I'm glad. As it turns out, it might have just been hibernating all along, lying dormant until awakened.

A while back, I met a friend at a local Irish pub for dinner. As we were sitting there, there was an announcement that the weekly trivia contest would be starting soon. I figured that would be a fun way to pass time during dinner. And it was. But something happened about three questions in...

  • There were numbers being written down on sheets of paper.
  • Somebody was keeping track of the numbers being written down.
  • There were rewards (prizes) at stake for who had the best numbers.
"Wait a minute", I thought. "I know what this is. This is sports! That's what this is!" With that, a switch was flipped and I got serious about it. Suddenly, fellow diners passing leisure time in a contest were opponents, standing between me and triumph. I needed to destroy these cocksuckers. My dinner companion left before the end, leaving me there to intently battle to the death, if necessary. I listened intently and hunched down over my answer sheet, shutting out any and all distractions. I don't remember paying my tab but I guess I did. I pumped my fist when I'd get an answer right and stare down at the floor and blurt out expletives when I'd miss one. My reactions feeding directly off the emotions demonstrated by those at the other tables as the answeres were read off.
I finished tied for fifth. Out of the money but I was competing against whole tables of people who were playing as teams. At least I didn't get thrown out for mouthing off.

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