Hello sports fans. Check out the dude in the photograph above. In high school that guy pictured was labelled as a bit of a 'goof', very much the 'geeky nerd'. He was stereotyped more so on his looks than his personality. I suppose you realise that the young fella' in the picture is me. It is a fresh faced seventeen year old posing for his high school graduation picture. Stigma in life knows many forms.
So based on perceptions, there was no way I was athletically inclined? I mean, guys like me were too busy hanging around the high school library studying up for the next exciting test in science class. So athlete and nerd in the same sentence? Some kind of weird contradiction..or maybe not.
At the start of every physical education class we would do a one mile run. I hung back with the really slow dudes. They were my buddies, we had a right good laugh...at the back end of the one mile run. One P.E. class I made the following announcement to my pals. "Hey guys, today I'm gonna' try and win the race." So I wont be back here acting silly with you guys." "Yeah right Gary, like you can beat the guy who always wins the race!" "I can but try, I will give it my best effort." was my response.
Week after week, this lad won the race. He not only won the race, he won it by some distance. He was usually a good thirty seconds ahead of everybody in the P.E. class. A good looking guy, the envy of many and adored by the girls. Would this one mile run be any different? Would he, once again, coast to an easy victory?
The P.E. teacher blew his whistle and the race commenced. "See you guys later," I said, somewhat unconvincingly to my mates. Stride for stride, I matched him. He became quite concerned and proceeded to up this pace. As he ran faster, I ran faster. I was determined that he would not shake me off. Somehow, I had to make this my day.
We were on the last lap, just the two of us, way ahead of the rest of the class. The pain in my chest was excruciating, yet I found that last little bit of resolve to give this guy the race of his life. We raced uphill to the finishing line, it was close, oh so very close...
The end result? To the shock and bewilderment of all who had witnessed that event, I, the 'high school nerd', had won the race. My buddies cheered, my P.E. teacher was puzzled and infuriated. "Gary, why have you not put in this effort before?" "Well sir, I just couldn't be bothered. Today I wanted to prove something to myself. Next week, I will be back with my buddies at back of the race."
Not sure why I was like that. I guess I wanted to prove that I could do things on my own terms. I recall that year I had one more surprise for those who labelled me according to their own perceptions. In the high school gymnasium, we had an awards ceremony for people who had mastered various athletic skills. They read out name after name, all the usual suspects were called up to receive their award. Then they called my name and I was presented with a gold medallion for sporting excellence.
I had kept my achievement a big secret. Especially the one where I had broken the high school record for most sit ups in a minute. The gasps from the unsuspecting crowd, gathered that day in the gymnasium, gave me a rather strange sense of delight. Hopefully I demonstrated that you can't judge a person's potential by the way they look.
So I reflect back on those high school days with some fond memories. Okay, the fact I was the athletic 'nerd', did not increase my potential in the 'babe magnet' stakes. Yet I didn't mind because I stayed friends with those dudes at the back of the race. One of them became the best man at my wedding. That friendship was more important than winning some high school P.E. one mile race.