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Memoirs of a Sporting Cad
James Skinner

Ever since my mother made me get into a potato sack, hop up and down like a drunken kangaroo along a field of cow pats towards two geriatrics dressed in white, wearing pith helmets and holding a piece of white tape, I have loathed exerting myself. I think I came in second.

No sooner had I finished the event, that I found myself hung by my legs by some lanky moron who insisted in me paddling down the same field on my bare hands as fast as I could go. I remember ending up with my nose and upper teeth dug deep into the mud grovelling for worms. This time we won. My parents were thrilled.

I continued my primary school sporting days by playing rugby and cricket. We were not allowed to play football. That was a rabbles game. When I scored my first try, some bloody fool trod on my hand as I grounded the ball. I got up, finger bleeding, feeling sorry for myself only to have my jubilant team mates hug me to death because we had won the match. My try had done the trick. From that day on, I hated rugby!

Being in a boarding school, we were all classified into mythical houses. You either belonged to the house of Sparta, Corinth or Athens. Little did I know at the time that this had something to do with the Greeks. You know, Gladiators, Vikings, Olympians and all that jazz! I was a Corinth boy. After my first year, I had survived the winter rugby season only to be confronted with the opening of the summer cricket season.
We were all clad in whites, although being only ten years old, I was naturally in short pants. On this my first game I was sent out to what was called the boundary. I had no idea what to do. There were these two other boys, I think they were from the opposite house, Sparta. Each were with their so called cricket bats, poised, at either end of the section of the field known as the pitch. To me, it seemed miles away. A lot of ball throwing went on without much happening until suddenly, one of the Spartans hit the ball and sent it in my direction. I ran for cover as fast as I could.

I loved cricket because they never let me play again.

© James Skinner (the bright looking one)
Then came athletics. Once we had finished with rugby and cricket, the whole school now turned out to compete in running, jumping, throwing, tossing and generally spinning around the race track to ones heart’s content. This was the real McCoy. Spiked shoes, numbered shirts, shot gun starts, and plenty of mums and dads to cheer you on. I thought that I would like this until I realised that you really did have to run, and jump, and throw and in general completely and utterly run yourself into the ground until you could hardly breathe. By the end of the day I was limping and sweating and generally feeling bloody awful. I had won the sprint events and the long jump and everyone thought I was a hero. All I wanted to do was to go to bed. I hated athletics more than anything.

I finished school and went on to college to study engineering. First day briefing was quite simple. We were shown our quarters, the washrooms, the restaurant, the allotted classrooms and were told about our weekly pay. We were given a briefing on what to do and what not do and about weekend leave. What I was not told was that the college had all the sporting ingredients that I had left behind at school. Only this time, if you did not oblige and participate, you could be ostracised. You could be black balled, literally!

Being an absolute coward, I volunteered for the ones I knew something about such as rugby and athletics and also tried my hand at a couple of new ones – tennis and squash. I liked tennis doubles. You could get away with murder by just pretending and doing bugger all, and letting your partner do all the work. We never won a game, and I was never invited to play again.

On the other hand, squash was something else. I kept bouncing off the wall, falling flat on my face and doing contortions with my wrists in order to connect one racket to one wretched little black elusive ball. I made the college team and everyone thought I was great. For me, it was the pits as no other game had ever left me so exhausted in my life.

When I completed my academic studies and was sent into the working world, I had left behind me a curriculum of sporting successes that would have given any college dean an everlasting memory of his term prodigy. As far as I was concerned, good riddance. I could now proceed to a life of everlasting leisure and forget about breaking my neck for no reason whatsoever.

Apart from a bit of golf, which is not a sport but more a way of life, I’m glad I no longer need to exert myself in order to win more medals similar to those tucked away in my attic. To be honest, I really couldn’t give a monkeys about sport!

© James Skinner 2001

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