I, Boys and Girls, am a Fucking Athlete

Oh stop laughing, I actually was, once.  I really could run all day up to about the age of thirty, when a series of back injuries pretty much did for my fitness.  I’ve also played football at a reasonable enough level, and stuff like that, I was in a pretty successful high school basketball team, and could perhaps have been forgiven for having delusions of adequacy were it not for one thing: I’ve seen myself on film.

I remember someone saying in a Friday Five once: “ever tried to film yourself having sex and realised that you just aren’t all that physically attractive?” It was a bit like that.

At high school my senior basketball team won the European International School championship, and when I lived down South I played football for a team who won a pretty significant amateur level cup final.  Both these events were filmed for posterity, and Christ I wish they hadn’t been.

To be clear, I was fucking good in both games.  The football game was against the highest-scoring team in the league, they had us on the back foot for the whole game, and we won 1-0.  I played centre-back, and anyone who knows anything about football will know how satisfying I will have found a game like that.  I remember one tackle late in the game where some lad skinned our full-back, I was running in completely the wrong direction, was sure I was going to give away a penalty, but guessed where he wanted to go, adjusted and managed to just get a toe on the ball and concede a corner.  It was a cracking tackle!  And we won 1-0, and they humped us, and I was a defender – I was good!

In the basketball final, we played a team who had beaten us in the group stages, who took shit infinitely more seriously than we ever did, and I scored eighteen points and didn’t miss a single shot.  100% from the floor and 100% from the free-throw line.  That’s a superb performance in anyone’s book.

Then I saw the videos.

Fuck.

It was dreadful.  I mean, I am not one of these deluded idiots who secretly thinks he’s an amazing sportsman, by any means.  I know I’m slow, a little clumsy, and make up for my lack of real talent in most sports with good reading of the game and plenty of physical courage.  I wasn’t expecting to see an effortlessly graceful athlete on those videos, but fucking hell I didn’t think it was going to be that bad.

In the basketball game I just looked stupid.  My arse was sticking out all the time, I looked like I could barely jump ( although I could actually dunk at the time – just!), and basically I was stumbling about the place like someone who’d been shown a basketball for the first time that very morning.

The football game was probably even more depressing, because I am actually a lot better at football, so I guess my expectations were a little higher.  Nope.  The whole game just looked so slow, it was embarrassing.  I worked my tits off in that game, and it genuinely looked like I wasn’t doing anything at all – I can barely remember even seeing myself involved.  And that tackle?  It looked like he just ran straight into me for no reason.

It was all so depressing an experience I can offer only this advice: if you think you look good, if you think a dress or a shirt look snappy, or if you think you’ve managed to strike a casual pose or you’re secretly quite confident in your elegant, upright gait or anything like that at all… NEVER try and prove it to yourself!  Never.  Just keep your delusions and go about your day, because the cold hard snigger of reality is not something you ever want to face.

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