My employment at the bike shop has ended for the year. Until the end of January, I will be sitting in front of computer answering questions that may or may not be about bicycles. At this time of the year, the bike shop is essentially a ski shop anyway, and I find sitting on my buns answering questions online more pleasant than waxing endless skis. Outside of work, the seasonal changeover means my focus will shift from being a mediocre cyclist for being a mediocre gym climber.
I’ve never been an elite athlete. Growing up, I did read-a-thons and drawing exercises. My parents didn’t wish to drive me to sport team practices and give up their weekends to watch me score on my own team. My inexperience in sports meant I was often picked last in PE class, but there were two sports I didn’t completely suck at. I was surprisingly good at lacrosse, but because the school didn’t have a team, two deaf friends and I went on to sign up for the grade 8 soccer team. As it was not an official category (eg. Junior or Senior), there were no tryouts: anybody who signed up, was automatically on the team.
With this being an after-school activity, there wasn’t always an interpreter present for the three of us. The coach, who was the father of one of the girls on the team, also looked like Martin Mull (or at least this is how I remember him 20 years later), wasn’t very good at compensating for the lack of an interpreter. He could have learned a couple of signs, or put more effort into gesturing to us, but Coach Mull didn’t sign up to learn how to sign: he was in this to win. Even without an interpreter, the three of us were still able to figure out when it was time to do run laps around the field or work on passing drills.
But there were game days too. What was Coach Mull to do? With a maximum of 11 players on the field at a time and more than 11 of us, his solution was to bench the players with non-functional hearing. I was benched nearly every game.
Not cool, dude. I didn’t sign up to attend practices only to be ignored by the coach, and I certainly didn’t show up to every game to plant my ass on the grass.
A Swiss study found that kids who participated in team sports had greater well-being, were less anxious, and generally happier about their lives. Joining the grade 8 soccer team was supposed to help me be better socially adjusted, yet Coach Mull depleted my self-esteem. I didn’t even bother showing up for Junior soccer tryouts the next year. My secondary school athletic career was over: I reverted to the art nerd that I was.
Four years later, my friend and I got the chance to get back at him in a passive-aggressive way. We even got him to show up at my friend’s doorstep with a pizza for us. Sadly, this was not a free apology pizza. During this time, Coach Mull went from ordering a squad of adolescent girls around to delivering pizza orders. We had paid for this pizza, but we paid for just the pizza. Pizza Guy Mull walked away with a $0 tip. It could have been worse: we could have kicked the pizza box out of his hands and into his face.
This is not the first time I’ve shared this story, but every time I tell this story the person instantly sides with Pizza Guy Mull. Why? All we did was cheat him out of a $5 tip. He was a middle-aged man who spent an entire season constantly sidelining three deaf 13-year-old girls who wanted to play soccer! Misplaced sympathies, much?
I admit I made a mistake: Pizza Guy Mull had at least one daughter to support, and he was doing this as a pizza delivery guy. I should have still tipped him. It’s not like he went back inside his permanently pizza-scented car thinking to himself, “I should have really let them play soccer. Now I cannot afford to buy my daughter a new hair scrunchie.” He would have never made the connection.
I could have told him, “Hey, I remember you. You coached our soccer team in ’96. But you hardly ever let us play in the games. That wasn’t cool. Thanks for the pizza though.”
But, I don’t really know how to communicate my feelings: I’m socially maladjusted from a childhood devoid of team sports.