Monday, May 15, 2006


I’ve already revealed in this space that I’m not so good at sports. I can’t run, I can’t shoot, I can’t throw. I can’t do anything. I can ski, though. Is skiing a sport?

I was on a softball team once, and my nickname was “power bunt.” The pitcher would throw, and I would swing for all I was worth. The ferocity of the swing would cause the infielders to back up, expecting a high fly. Instead, the ball would hang listlessly about 4 feet off the ground for a few moments before landing with a thud somewhere between home plate and the pitcher's mound. I made it to first base quite often with my power bunt, but that’s about the only trick in my sports book.

Anyway, despite my deficiencies, I actually found a good place to play sports where my talents are a little more appreciated, the Special Olympics.

Now before we go any further, I should mention that I haven’t seen the movie “The Ringer,” but I understand it’s about some guy who pretends to be handicapped so he can throw the Special Olympics. You can get it on DVD now, I think. There may have been a South Park episode with a similar premise. But my point is that I haven’t seen “The Ringer,” and this post isn’t about me trying to rig the Special Olympics.

Didn’t mean to give away the ending, but I know some readers wouldn’t be able to pay attention unless I cleared that up.

But back to the Special Olympics… several years ago, I did some volunteer work for the San Diego area Special Olympics. What they needed was people to play practice matches with the Special Olympics floor hockey team.

Special Olympics floor hockey is a little different than regular floor hockey. Instead of the regular “L” shaped hockey sticks, players use a straight pole with a rubber tip on the end. The puck or ball is replaced by a “O” shaped disc covered in felt. You put the pole into the center of the disc, and the game is on. It’s really quite fun.

Now there is a certain art to being a volunteer player in these games. You have to find a way to play almost exactly at your opponent’s ability level. Play too hard and you administer a crushing defeat to a team that is genuinely trying to get better. But if you just roll over and play dead, that’s not going to help much either. What’s more, the Special Olympians are actually quite savvy and can get insulted if you don’t really try at these games.

For me this was an easy balance to achieve. I just played all-out balls-to-the-wall floor hockey. And when I did, I was at almost the exact ability level of my Special Olympics opponents. As a matter of fact, we were so well matched that, after a few weeks, I was involved in the following exchange.

Me: Good game.

Special Olympian: You too. So, are you playing in Anaheim next weekend?

Me: No, I’m not on the team. I’m a volunteer.

He just laughed and walked away. I probably should have gone to Anaheim.


At 1:18 pm, Blogger Winter said...

I wonder if they would let me play..

At 5:07 pm, Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...


If it makes you feel any better, I wouldn't qualify as a volunteer for anything hockey related. I can't skate just to stay up (let alone with hoards of people coming after me).

Sounds like a great experience, though. The Special Olympics, I mean.


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