I can’t handle success.
I fumble / mishandle / botch / butcher / sabotage / ruin / boot / flounder / flub / mar / mishandle / mismanage and muck up any good fortune I stumble upon on an athletic field.
How I’ve managed to win a handful of soccer tournaments and not strangle myself in the goal net, only St. Pele knows.
This applies to me, individually, on a field of play. It seems to go to my head, perhaps. Or my butt.
But first, let’s recap:
I’m the fourth-grader who took a whole Actifed for allergy relief before a rec basketball game, and, in my hyper cloud, lit up the scoreboard like Wilt Chamberlain; then, in my next game, fouled out in the first half and sat on the bench in tears when the drugs wore off.
(Barry Bonds, do you feel my pain?)
I was also the backup to the backup fullback on the J.V. football team who, on a rare day of playing time, went on a tear of at least three straight runs of 5 yards or more (epic!); and, in my haste to make history, hyperextended my thumb while getting down in a three-point stance.
At least my pants didn’t fall down.
The latest chapter of my athletic prowess happened as a soccer coach. During a one-on-one drill designed to teach the girls (under 10, mind you) to ward off a defender and shoot quickly, I got to play goalkeeper.
No matter who you are reading this, you have more experience and ability to play goalkeeper in a real soccer match than I do.
But I was on fire.
These kids couldn’t touch me. Two by two they tried, only to be turned away with a dive here, a leap there. Every save spawned the next. I pounced. I stretched. I saved.
I became 9 again, my head a sweaty mess under my mop of hair, my warm-up grass-stained, my legacy in bloom.
Then, I got cocky.
When things go my way in sports, it’s good practice to look for Haley’s Comet. It comes around about as frequently. When I get a hit in a softball game, my next time at bat, I get a little waggle.
You know. Rock the caboose. Shake my money maker.
Apparently, stopping 9-year-old girls’ shots has the same effect.
My stance developed more animation. I nodded my head and taunted a bit.
Shake, shake, shake. I.can’t.be.stopped.
So, my last great save was a dive to the left, in which I stopped the shot, lost the ball, the scrambled to recover. I could hear Hope Solo cheering me on from Seattle.
And crushing on me.
The coach at UNC Charlotte kicking himself for not realizing that pesky campus reporter who came to his games was actually a play maker.
U.S. Soccer needed me.
The shake took on a life of its own. I even bounced a ball off two girls’ feet as they ran back to their lines after that spectacular save, just for emphasis. The world? My oyster, for sure.
Then, the clapping started. Very close.
“You got two with that one, coach!” said the even closer voice.
I turned to see a gaggle of soccer moms, perched right behind the goal. Including the dreamy mama who makes half the coaches act like sailors at port every time she comes around.
A goal net makes a lousy barrier, y’all. All that butt-wagging? Turns out it wasn’t just for me.
Suddenly, I went cold. My knees stiffened. My technique wilted. Score once. Score twice! I unraveled, all because of the exposed butt waggle. I went from Hope Solo’s eye candy to Charlie Brown and the entire history of the Chicago Cubs all rolled into one.
I’m sure it wasn’t the quality of butt that drew the audience. My butt’s nothing to write home about. Not even in soccer pants.
It’s puny. Like, someone messed up on the ass-embly line. They attached a size 3 on a size 6 model. It’s functional, but I’ll never win any contests. I’m pretty sure the 3:6 ratio is fine if you’re a silverback gorilla, but a human soccer coach?
Not so much.
Without the waggle, I became ordinary. Show over. My jacket couldn’t stretch long enough to cover my shame.
For a moment, I had the limelight. Until I realized the light was on me.
All is right in the universe now, though. Practice is over. The moms packed their kindles and rounded up the kidlets. It’s time to grab dinner and find those lost water bottles.
As soon as the lights go out, this’ll all be a distant memory.
But I had my moment.
Bet your ass I did.