They just had to work on my aggressiveness and that would require a different kind of bullying.
As I mentioned in another post, I was on a little league football team when I was about ten years old but never played even once… because I was “fat”. So I was used basically as a tackling dummy. I also have this memory of playing football sometime around the time of that day I stood up to Bruce. When I was around fifteen. I’d thought it was on the John Adams Jr. High School team or perhaps a team connected to John Marshall High school where I’d attend the following fall, but… no.
I couldn’t find a photo of me on a football team in any of my school yearbooks so I asked Mom when I spoke with her yesterday.
Mom said that sometime after my growing spurt, I played “youth football”. She and Dad had waited because growing so much so fast left me very uncoordinated and vulnerable. So it was too late to sign me up for the school team by the time they did think I was ready, or something like that. Anyway, I have this picture (featured at the top of this post) which looks to me as if I’m on a team with several other boys from school so I’m not quite sure about the whole thing.
What I do remember is how this was when I decided I wanted nothing to do any more with sports in general, and football in particular.
In that other post (about little league) I also wrote that… The coach was far from new, modern or forward thinking and not surprisingly, the coach of youth football was the same. Mom confirmed this with a little regret for letting me play on that team. I was big for my age so I was put on the defensive front line as a tackle.
Besides the usual stamina exercises like running, calisthenics and strength exercises like pushups, sit-ups, pushing the tackling sled and agility exercises like running through obstacles, serpentine and stepping through tires… the coach had a few of his own personalized training ideas. Like pairing boys of similar weight and having us pick up the other and carry him the length of the field where we would switch and go back and forth until we could no longer stand.
At over six feet two inches and at least two hundred and fourty pounds, I was the second biggest kid on the team, so I was paired with the biggest kid. He was at least twenty pounds heavier than me and… man! that kid was nearly impossible for me to carry. I was constantly being yelled at as I struggled and fell and struggled and fell… it was miserable.
But the worst thing that happened when I was on that team was not the coach’s idea of physical training but… something psychological. During a scrimmage, I was playing defensive tackle as usual. I had not been made a starter at any of the games we’d played so far (and never would) and during this scrimmage I found out why.
The offensive tackle I was up against was not as big as me but he was pretty strong. I was never able to make any tackles on my own but I was at least involved in them on most of the plays during the scrimmage. I was feeling ok about my performance but then… then my opponent started cheating. He grabbed my face-mask and simply pulled me right down into the dirt.
I immediately got up and shouted to the coach to let him know of the violation, but the coach ignored me completely. Like he never even heard me. The next play was starting so I got in position and… the kid did it again!
Again I complained and again the coach made like I wasn’t even there.
So when the kid did it one more time, I’d had enough. I exploded. I went after that kid with uncontrolled rage. I got up from the dirt he’d shoved my face into and tackled him from behind. I threw that kid on the ground and started beating on him until the other kids and the coach dragged me off.
“There you go von Ahsen” the coach said with a big smile. “That’s what I want to see. That’s the aggressiveness that I need for you to be a starter in the next game.” I realized the coach had told that kid to pull me into the dirt with my face-mask.
I never made it to that next game. I wanted nothing to do with a sport that actually wanted me to try and hurt others. A sport that praised me for being violently out of control. Oh I know the coach later explained the need to channel that energy for it to be useful or some such thing, but I wasn’t listening. I wanted out of this stupid sport and eventually, I was glad when an injury to my ankle made that happen without my having to simply quit.
I had only been doing it to keep from disappointing my Dad too much. I wanted to play music, sing, make pots on the potter’s wheel and above all, to just make friends.
Dad didn’t discourage these things but he was an athlete and I knew he would be happy to see me playing football and with my size, I knew he thought I might be successful at it.
I’m so glad I was not.
I’m not sure that this story counts as me standing up to bullies. I like to think that the coach and his way of encouraging aggression is a kind of bullying but…
Either way, it coincides with all that was going on in me that day I stood up to Bruce so…
So I’ll have to get back to that story when this will have to be…
To be continued…