Wow. It’s no myth. Sports are big here. Really big, a phenomenon. It starts at age four and does not stop. I have watched it not stop for some time, now. It’s interesting to me, someone who is no stranger to competition, that this is some other kind of competition.
On Saturday mornings, kids who should be home drinking formula from bottles are out on the soccer fields, strapped up in guards and cleats and scoring goals. They have British coaches, from the Premiere League. By third grade, boys are wearing shoulder pads and helmets. Little mini Joe Namaths. Or what’s his name, Romulo. Romeo. Oh, Romo.
I went to a high school football game with my daughters last year. It could have been the Meadowlands. There was a professional announcer, a color-commentary guy, dancers, cheering people, flag-wavers, bands. It was an extravaganza. And on the field, they were ready for the NFL.
My girls juggle balls on their toes, shoot lay-ups into hoops, slam backhands, dash down tracks. We have nineteen bags of team jerseys, which I am saving for posterity. I am a professional spectator. Last night, while eight trillion crazy people were screaming for the college boys, I was thirty miles away in a school gym with 250 crazy people screaming for their eighth grade daughters. It was very exciting, the game in the gym, I mean. 40-4. They are not allowed to lose.
Some people might think that this is all a little much. If I were still in New York, I would probably think that. But, actually, I think that it is good, especially for girls. Keeps them where you want them, on the field, focused, managing time, riding the bus with their buddies, figuring out how to keep their bangs out of their eyes when the refs won’t allow clips. Feminine, tough, all at once. All good.
In ninth grade, I joined the gymnastics team, not because I had done any gymnastics, but because I could dance. I could do the floor ex. That’s short for floor exercise, which I had seen in the Olympics, noticing the dancing involved. I could not do a walkover without getting stuck in the backbend in the middle. Uh oh. Stuck. But pirouette? No one was better.
“I was on the gymnastics team,” I told my kids not too long ago.
“What event did you do?” they asked.
“Floor ex,” I said. “You know, exercise.”
“Really, how’d you do?”
Such questions. “I did well, with the dancing part. And I threw in some cartwheels. They said I should do more gymnastics since it was a gymnastics team.”
“Yes, Mommy, you probably should have,” they said, laughing, in a mocking sort of way. “Did you do any other events?”
“Oh no, I was afraid of the beam. And those bars. So uneven. And high up.”
They could not imagine it. I couldn’t either, in retrospect, though I really appreciated the experience. We wore maroon leotards, with zippers, and warm-up suits with the stripes. We didn’t have the stripes for ballet. Of course by tenth grade, I was cartwheeling into the school newspaper office after school, which probably made a little more sense.
These days, in Texas, I am rediscovering my athletic prowess, though, accompanying my kids to the track or field or court and giving them a run for their money. Oh yeah. Watch this. Out of my way. Slam dunk.