Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A [ey]

It's FWG versus the dictionary. This should only take a hundred years or so.

I was twelve, thin, slightly more than average height and blessed with a knack for athletics. I had just stepped onto a lacrosse floor for the first time in my life, strung up in out-dated, cumbersome, ineffective lacrosse pads.

Immediately the coaches divided us into sides and dropped the ball for a practice scrimmage face-off. The ball squirted off to the boards and I won the race to it, eager to show the in-crowd boys what this new kid could do.

And what I could do, as it turns out, was get immediately clobbered from behind by a mutant 12-year-old who could have passed for a chunky 16-year-old, and get driven face-first into the boards. Apparently Brutus was just as eager to show what he could do.

I hauled myself off the floor as promptly as my spinning head would allow and then spent my entire first lacrosse season playing defense only, conveniently losing loose-ball battles, pasing off too quickly and trying to avoid getting maimed.

Our squad's veteran players harrassed the coaches to name a captain and two assistant captains; a pointless ceremony at our age, but the experienced boys knew that jerseys looked more impressive with a C or A stitched on them. So the coaches relented, though ironically, and assigned the honours to the three rookies on the team; myself included, which the vets accepted with surprising grace.

I would return the following season with my pads cleverly modified and an inexplicable new confidence and get placed on the top line with the fourteen year-olds and soon develop into a better-than-average player but with a lack of spirit and very little 'touch' around the net for lack of opportunity.

In my sixth season which I knew to be my last of minor lacrosse, I finally tried out for the travelling team and made the cut, though barely. And in the game which I soon understood would be my last; an elimination match in the year-end Provincials tournament, as we went into the third period down a couple goals, I suddenly mourned what was seeming to come to an end, and I came alive. I played my heart out for twenty minutes, crashing into an opponent to win a loose-ball battle just before the closing buzzer halted my uncharacteristic charge to the opponents' net.

In the quiet dressing room after, though I hadn't scored a single point as was often the case, the coach said loudly, from across the room, that I'd played a great game, and other players, some who'd snickered at me in earlier years, looked at me and nodded their heads. Some echoed his words. I said nothing. It only made this fine experience harder to let go. I would only miss it more; this very skilled team; this fine sport at this elevated calibre; this sudden new feeling of belonging.

In that final twenty minutes I had finally re-discovered the eagerness which had been born and lost years earlier, in a span of five seconds.

I can't help but wonder how many people's lives have run according to this metaphor; spirit lost too early; regained too late. I hope my own is not.

Brutus - I think his actual name was Stu - turned out to be a nice kid, by the way, and right after that first practice he apologized to me for the hit. I never did take any opportunity to perform in a role of assistant captain that year and I never had mom stitch an A on my jersey.