We moved to the suburbs in the middle of my junior year in high school. I was heavy but not fast, ambitious but not especially talented and yearned for the acceptance of my new schoolmates. Of course, this led me to try out for the football team.
The coach, Mr. Marx, was also my Chemistry teacher, a subject I did so poorly in that it actually embarrasses me to recall it. None-the-less, I showed up on the first day of tryouts along with most of the other sophomore, junior and senior boys at the school who were ambulatory.
He wanted to see me run. I ran until I couldn’t run any more. Maybe 50 yards. He asked me to crouch and block. I was immediately steam-rolled by a boy a year younger and half my size.
Thinking, I guessed, that my real talent might be as a receiver, he asked me to run along the sideline as he had one of the really popular kids, the quarterback, lob me a high spiral. It came right to me and I cringed as I felt it slip through my hands to the ground where I promptly tripped over it, falling flat on my face.
That was the experience. Now for the advice:
Mr. Marx walked slowly over to where I was picking myself up off the ground and offered me his hand. Reluctantly, I took it and stood in the shadow of his nearly 7′ tall bulk. He bent over and whispered the best advice I ever got from a coach in my ear:
“David, I’m not sure what you are best at, but it is clearly not sports. Go home before you get hurt and if you go to football games, be sure to stay in the stands.”
It hurt to hear that, but he was certainly right about me and sports. Anything beyond ‘˜hucking’ an old pin-ball machine or playing bowling on the Wii represents a continuing risk to my own well being as well as to those standing near me. Thanks Coach Marx!