Gym class was the death of me.
Well, for a number of reasons. I had grown up mastering the moves of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, dominating people in Mario Party and planting proximity mines in GoldenEye. The idea of having a class of physical activity was a little intimidating. I mean, I was no athlete, and still to this day I remain husky, yet handsome.
The first day of gym class in grade nine we were all instructed to purchase a pair of gym shorts, horribly expensive and almost inappropriately navy blue gym shorts. My school’s logo was screened onto the right leg of the shorts, and was accompanied by a dull grey t-shirt. We we’re all goons, uniformed goons, running laps around the gym at the demands of our gym teacher.
We’d go through various sports each week. Running, long jump, ringette, soccer ⎯ just about anything to keep us moving and active. I felt pretty silly; I’d much rather be shooting off red shells in MarioKart 64.
We learnt how to skip. Not just the normal kind of skipping, but that fancy athletic skipping. It’s kind of stylish. It was the most exhausting thing of my life, and I wanted to crawl into a hole and die after every 20-minute group skipping activity.
I feared my gym teacher, but I think back now, and feel he was a pretty decent guy. He whipped my tubby butt into shape; even though everyday I dreaded walking into that gym and sweating bucket after bucket through my shirt. I was terrified, but I’d contribute the best I could.
As for being a professional athlete, that was never my goal. But I was pitted right next to the rest of grade nines that we’re naturally nimble and speedy. I had no sport that I could call my own. Picked last for just about every team. There wasn’t a single sport that I was truly great at. That is, until European Handball week showed up.
And for whatever reason, I was a god when we played European Handball. As the chubby kid, I was thrown into the position of goalie. That week I destroyed my grade nine class. I leapt, I swung my arms and stopped a barraged of rubbery balls. After months and months of dreading gym class, this sport just made sense to me. It was completely natural. I was where I belonged.
It felt good, and I could feel the natural high you get from pure unfiltered victory. It was scary; I started dreaming about my career in handball. The shoe endorsements, the celebrity status, I wanted it all.
My classmates would hoot and holler as I made diving save after diving save. For that week I was king.
It was my moment of victory. My moment of complete Zen and nobody in the world could take that away from me. For that week I felt no defeat, I felt euphoria and I felt the world crumble in my hands.
And just like that, it was over. We moved on to Frisbee the next week, and I would be officially retired from the universe of handball. It was fun while it lasted, but I realize now that maybe handball wasn’t for me. Everyone has their moment, and I had accepted that my career was now over. Buried, thrown away.
And as for those diving saves, well I was just getting lucky.
By Michael Burton
01. El Paso
02. Faith (When I Let You Down)
03. Best Places to Be a Mom
04. Sad Savior
05. Who Are You Anyway?
06. Money (Let It Go)
07. This Is All Now
08. It Doesn’t Feel a Thing Like Falling
09. Since You’re Gone”
10. You Got Me
11. Call Me in the Morning