O’Malley: Power ranking every sport I was bad at as a child
Aidan O'Malley | Monday, November 1, 2021
Here at The Observer, there is one accomplishment, one milestone, one crown every writer and editor dreams of having the good fortune (and fortitude) to place upon their heads — the Golden Sombrero.
Awarded to those among us who have written for not just News — and not just Scene! — but Sports and Viewpoint as well, the Golden Sombrero is something to not just be celebrated, but coveted. I take a perverse kind of pleasure in knowing that, with this Sports Authority here, I am polishing my Golden Sombrero in (dare I say) record time. I’d like to thank my friends, my family and the Academy. I’ve dreamed of this day since I was a kid.
That being said, strap in for the most bonkers Sports Authority this fine paper has ever published. Yes, today I shall be ranking every sport I was forced to play as a child — and failed at.
I’ve got lots of childhood trauma and parental dismay that I could unpack, yet I’ve debated the exact nature of my ranking criteria. Should I rank these athletic events from most despised to least? From the one that I was the worst at to the best? In order of magnitude of my father’s disappointment? In the spirit of objectivity, I’ve settled on the first. Realistically, I was probably equally bad at them all, and my dad would never actually say he was disappointed in me.
This is a good place to clarify that, to a degree, this list is a joke. It is a Sports-adjacent, good-natured goof that fills the pages and dusts off my Sombrero. Let the record show I have a good, loving home!
What is most certainly not a joke is my complete and total lack of athletic ability. Every sport on this list I did, in fact, attempt — each one was promptly bombed. I hope this is proof that even those of us on the speech team in high school have a place in The Observer’s Sports section.
And with that, we’re off to the races.
What was I thinking?
I feel like this is a quintessential toddler sport — the kind of summer activity your mom signs you up for when you’re 2 years old and she can’t handle your hyperactivity any longer. And to that extent, has there ever been a sport better suited to wiping out a toddler than soccer?
My memories of soccer are admittedly blurry — I’m not sure I’d developed object permanence yet — but I don’t remember any, like, rules. I can recall only the scuffling of feet, a cacophony of kicks and the treats we got at the end.
Oh, but the treats! We’re talkin’ Capri Sun, fruit snacks, the whole nine yards (I’m sorry, that’s a really bad idiom to use in a Sports article). I also remember my local park district gave us shirts that could turn inside out depending on if we were playing for the blue team or the yellow one that day.
Otherwise, this sport was super exhausting, I never scored a goal or was taught how literally anything worked and no, they have not yet developed a shin guard that can withstand a toddler’s angry foot. Next.
I ran track in middle school — seventh grade, to be precise — which was painfully awkward because I was still at a point in my sad, dork life where I associated sports with what “the cool boys” did. I simply could not be seen with those plebeians. I, for one, was alt.
Jokes aside, track wasn’t fun at all. At my middle school, there didn’t yet exist any activities or clubs that I was actually interested in (save band, because of course, I was in band). So track was unironically the consequence of my parents twisting my arm and forcing me to play a sport. I had literally one friend on the team and I dreaded practice almost every day. Actual meets were even worse — I don’t think I talked to anyone when I was there.
That being said, this ranks higher on the list than it probably should because I actually wasn’t bad at it. I literally went to middle school track regionals — for two races! I sucked at the field events though, and most of the time I wished I was, I don’t know, watching anime or whatever it was that I did in seventh grade. Next.
I stuck with baseball for a pretty long time, mostly because I really liked watching it. I loved going to Chicago White Sox games as a kid, and I loved watching them on TV, too. I remember Dairy Queen used to serve ice cream in bowls shaped like little baseball caps, and I collected them until I had every team in the MLB — I even sorted them between the National and American Leagues!
But late in my time as a baseball player, the pitcher hit me in the eye and I became deathly afraid of the ball. That pretty much crushed my athletic ambitions.
This one I stuck with the longest because when I was little, I was actually pretty good. But then puberty happened and my height was way too average. Next.
I think I liked this sport the most for a variety of deeply selfish reasons.
The first was that I considered golf as a very solitary sport — a sport I could do on my own and on my own time. I’ve been described by my friends as “an introvert who likes to talk,” so the slow, small nature of golf seemed suited to my personality. I also liked it because it made me feel like an adult, and not just an adult, but a cool one. Or maybe just a rich one.
I’m nearing 1,000 words. Goodbye!
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.