Team Spirit

I played sports during my first year of junior high. I’m not sure why. Maybe I was stoned and thought it would bring me balance in a school system that was clearly divided: people who got stoned on one side and people who played sports on the other.

I joined the cross-country track team and the wrestling team. Actually I was approached by the wrestling coach about joining the team after rumors spread of me giving Steve D a bloody nose in gym class. They thought I had natural ability. What they didn’t know was I was just scared. I didn’t like being held down or wrestled. It freaked me out, so I was good at breaking free, which apparently wins you points in wrestling, and occasionally gives your opponent a bloody nose.

I didn’t understand team spirit. The older team members took much joy in torturing the younger. They would go to the locker room first and shower so when the underclassmen came in (me), they would flush all the toilets so the cold water would get used up and we would all get scalded by the hot.

One night we were rolling the giant wrestling mat out to cover the entire gym floor. Apparently, the upperclassmen decided I wasn’t moving fast enough so they ran me over with the giant mat. Team spirit.

I didn’t know how to quit the team. I was the only guy in my weight class and I was good at this stupid sport. Every time I brought it up, the coach talked me out of it. So I started acting out.

I began barking during my matches. I could see it freaked my opponents out and the referee kept telling me to settle down. I barked at him. The coach seemed very embarrassed and asked me to stop, but it was too late. My other team members — unoriginal jerk-offs that whipped each other’s bare asses with wet towels in the shower — began barking during their matches, too.

We were winning a lot, but the coach was more and more embarrassed. He had a big meeting and told the team there was to be no more barking.  After the meeting, I went to the coach’s office and told him I would have to leave the team because I was having some kind of allergic reaction to the smell of the locker room. My mother had told me I could always tell people I was allergic to marijuana if I ever felt pressured to try it. So I figured I could use that same excuse here. The coach didn’t know what to say. He seemed pissed. But he let me go.

Later, I would see the coach in the halls of school. He would yell out when he saw me, “There he is, the quitter!” He was also my science teacher, so I started to arrive early to his class and pour water around his fish tank. He would come in and say, “The fish tank is leaking again,” and have to buy a new one. His son was a grade higher than me and played on all the teams. He had great team spirit. He eventually became addicted to cocaine. His father (my science teacher and ex-wrestling coach) owned a candy store near my home. One day his son and a few of his team mates — with team spirit — on a coke binge decided to rob the candy store. His father’s candy store. They didn’t do a good job and were caught.

After the robbery went public, my ex-coach stopped yelling out my name in the hall and telling everyone I was a quitter and I stopped pouring water around the base of his fish tank. Somehow the karmic forces of our relationship seemed… balanced.IMG_0277