Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Unorganized Sports

It’s that time of year again; my favorite time of year when I get to pretend to be a baseball coach. I am still waiting for the day when my boys’ league will finally realize that I have no idea what I’m doing, but for the time being I have slipped through the cracks again. I was even given a management position for Son Number Three’s team. Maybe they figured if I was busy managing, my coaches would do most of the work with the kids and I would be less apt to screw up their chances at a future in the majors. Who knows?

Who cares, I love coaching baseball. Maybe it’s because baseball is an organized sport. I have a very logical, organized brain, so baseball appeals to me. I love organization. My wife refuses to believe that, based on how I keep my desk, my files, my office, my workbench, my clothes, and just the house in general, but it’s true. She just can’t seem to grasp the subtleties of the system. Just because that three-day-old peanut butter and jelly sandwich is still on the kitchen counter does not mean that I don’t have its existence and location very neatly cataloged in my brain.

My love of organization is probably also the reason why soccer is so annoying to me. At the elementary school level, soccer is a chaotic mess. With baseball, each player has a spot they are supposed to be. In youth soccer, that rule doesn’t even seem to apply to the goalie.

My distain for soccer has been well-documented in the annals of this column, but I am amazed to report that I have recently been exposed to a “sport” that is even more unorganized than soccer. That would be parkour.

In case you are unfamiliar with parkour (pronounced “this is stupid”), it was invented by a French guy with no friends. He could not find anyone to play soccer with, so he decided to run through the neighborhood park and jump over things. He became so great at it that he gave it a nonsensical name, and now people in America are actually offering to teach your children how to jump over things for $180 per month.

My wife won a one-month free trial for Son Number Two at our local parkour shed. “Parkour complex” or “parkour arena” would probably be what the owners would like me to call it, but that is not accurate. They are basically running their parkour business in what appears to be an abandoned warehouse.

Not one to waste a free trial, my wife signed Son Number Two up for four days a week after school. I protested that we don’t even practice actual sports that much, but she kept saying, “It’s only for a month.”

The first time we set foot in the parkour palace of disappointment, my first thought was, “It’s only going to be for one minute, not one month.” The whole place looked like an advertisement for tetanus shots.

Apparently, the “sports equipment” used for parkour consists of boxes and walls and ramps made out of plywood, with metal pipes sticking out of various places. We watched as a group of parkour-ers monkey-ran past us on all fours. The floor was dirty. The employees were dirty. The parkour-ites were dirty. Everything was dirty.

Now, I don’t mean dirty like, “I was just out playing baseball or soccer and now I’m all dirty.” I mean, “I shower on a semi-monthly basis” dirty.

Across the way there were some parkour-enese moms who were obviously lifetime members at the parkour shack. Many of them had dreadlocks. They all had dirty, androgynous children with long, shaggy hair, running wild, doing parkour-ish movements.

I debated just leaving, but I knew I would be sleeping on the couch if Son Number Two turned on me and reported to his mother that we just left and got ice cream instead. So we stayed. I checked him in and told him not to touch anything. Off he went with his grimy “coach,” and off I went to find a spot to sit. The parkour hut offered a multitude of different comfortable spectator seating options, all of which were dirty. I’m a guy, so it’s pretty rare for me to look at a piece of furniture and have reservations about sitting on it, but the couches offered to me looked like something a homeless person who sleeps in a cardboard box might take a pass on.

Five minutes into the lesson, I realized that parkour instruction is basically cat burglar school. Run up a wall. Dive through a window. Swing on this pipe. Jump from this ledge to that ledge. They were basically teaching my kid how to be a second-story man. The running and jumping over things part seems to be the getaway maneuvers.

As soon as I realized that, I immediately asked myself, “If all these grimy instructors are so good at climbing up the side of buildings, why is this place such a dump? They could be running a pretty successful burglary syndicate and rolling in the dough. Slackers.”

Ten minutes into the lesson I realized that being a parkour coach does not require having an actual plan for the half-hour lesson. Basically you stand there and watch kids climb on stuff. Slackers is right!

Up until this point I had thought that soccer was the most annoying sport I would ever be involved in, but now, here was parkour; a bright new shining beacon of suck. Seeing this new level of lame, while standing next to the dirtiest couch in America trying not to get lice, led me to contemplate some sports comparisons.

Baseball in practiced and played in the bright sunshine on a green field.
Soccer is practiced and played in the bright sunshine on a green field that really should just be made into a baseball diamond.
Parkour is practiced in a dim, grimy warehouse with a questionable lease status, and played in YouTube videos of people hurting themselves.

Baseball requires special shoes called cleats.
Soccer requires special shoes that resemble baseball cleats, except they cost twice as much because they are neon and have the laces on the side where they shouldn’t be.
Parkour actually has special shoes only because people who do parkour really want to believe that it requires special shoes.

Baseball has uniforms that are spiffy.
Soccer has uniforms that double as advertisements for airlines and stereos.
Parkour has cat hair-covered sweatpants and stained V-neck T-Shirts.

Baseball teaches you patience, concentration, teamwork, and how to be a part of something larger than yourself.
Soccer teaches you how to run in a clump.
Parkour teaches you how to run from the police.

The half-hour B&E lesson mercifully ended before I could come up with any more comparisons, and I whisked Son Number Two out of the building and checked him for fleas.

When I asked him how it was, he reported that it was the most fun ever.

Hmm… I guess kids don’t really appreciate organization as much as adults do.

See you soon,


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