October 18, 2011

Sports: Enriching My Life Since Third Grade

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I don’t think I will ever forget my first kiss. It was a cool August night, and Mrs. Dalzell’s third grade class from St. Scholastica was on a field trip to see the Pirates play the Mariners. Naturally, all my boys and I were fully decked out in Pirates gear, and we made sure that we were all sitting as far away from the girls as possible. However, after an extremely intense game of rock, paper, scissors — it was best out of seven, so you know we meant business — the impossible happened, and I was forced to sit next to the new girl. Let’s pause for a moment. If any of you reading this ever went to a Catholic grade school where the average class size was usually around 20, you know what I mean when I say that getting a new kid was a big deal. That kid would be scrutinized and talked about for the first five weeks of school, and by the end of the semester, if the kid had not dropped out of school already, he or she would possess a distinct stereotype that would carry with him or her through the rest of  grade school. It was not easy being a new kid, and in third grade, it was even harder to talk to them. Needless to say, I was very nervous. The first three innings of the game went relatively smoothly. We only made eye contact three or four times, and I think she asked for one of my nachos in between the second and third innings. Other than that, I was golden. But just when I started to think I’m in the clear, my friend Peter did the unthinkable. When we were in line for the bathroom, he went up behind me and quietly whispered into my ear: “I double-dog dare you to kiss the new girl.” My stomach dropped. This was not some playful dare that I could walk away from. This was a classic double-dog dare, and my reputation was on the line. I decided to man up and perform that horrible and disgusting act that all third-grade boys dread more than vegetables and early bedtimes combined.I will never forget the conversation that ensued once we returned. With all the boys watching and my heart pumping 400 beats a second, I turned to the new girl and spat out the words: “So, you want to kiss me or not?” She didn’t act surprised or shocked at all, and nonchalantly shrugged her shoulders to say “yes.” I didn’t wait any longer, and went in for the kill. After the deed was done everybody started yelling and I told Peter I would beat him up after the game.Did you get the moral of my story? My point is that a world without sports would be the definition of miserable for me. Let’s face it, if it was not for that Pirates game, my first kiss probably would have been in the back of a car on the way to some lame high school dance. This sounds a little pathetic, but for about 50-75 percent of the week, I am either playing a sport, talking about one or thinking about it. I’ll even break it down for you — I have practice six out of the seven days of the week, and that doesn’t even include extra workouts that I do during the day. However, this is not even the tip of the iceberg. On that one day we get off, I travel to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the Steelers play football with my friend Mike. It doesn’t matter how tired we are or how cold it is, you can always count on us being there watching the games. In addition, the most meaningful conversations I have ever had have come on the golf course. I guarantee that if I were to write a book about the different people I have met and the various dialogues that we had, it would become a New York Times Bestseller within a few weeks. I would probably call it The 19th Hole: A Walk Down Memory Lane, and on the back cover would be a massive picture of me in a v-neck sweater sitting with my dog, who would be named Atlas. I am telling you, this book would be golden. Finally, I never ended up fighting Peter. Actually, looking back at it, I probably should have thanked him because, although I did not realize it at the time, that new girl would become my best friend for the next 15 years of my life, and someone I still talk to every day. So yeah, I guess my life would have been a lot different without sports.

Original Author: Nicholas Rielly