EDITOR’S NOTE: This column is written in the present tense, but we don’t know why. We suspect that Eric wasn’t paying attention when he wrote it. We’re not sure.
It is Thursday, November 15, around noon. I am standing on a volleyball court in the gym at Elsinore High School, hoping against hope that no one hits the ball to me. My team, which I agreed to manage during this tournament under the firm assurance that I would never actually have to play, has strict orders to form a human wall around me to prevent the possibility of me actually having to come in contact with the ball.
The game has not begun yet, so I have a moment to fill you in on the rather loony turn of events that led up to all this.
It seems that one of the team members, Chris, went home earlier today day because 1) he had a chemistry assignment to finish, and 2) his father is a teacher, so he could get away with it. He was supposed to have been back in time for the game, but he wasn’t. And since I was technically the alternate, I had to play.
“Eric, you’ll have to play,” said Jeff, one of my teammates.
“What, are you nuts?” I asked politely, adding that I wasn’t even wearing the requisite baggy, tacky-looking shorts that all true volleyball players wear, nor had I a tank-top, since I am prohibited by law to wear tank-tops in public because of the condition of my upper arms.
But here I am anyway. I’m looking to the sideline, where several of my supportive friends have gathered to make fun of me. Chris still isn’t here.”Everyone hit it to Eric Snider,” says one of our opponents, Mitch, to his teammates. Mitch is legally a football player, but he is disguised as a volleyball player today, undoubtedly because there is no way I would ever get close enough to football for him to humiliate me there.
The game has started. Everything is going well. I am standing in one corner of the court, technically playing, but not really. The ball is coming at me! “Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!” I say in a perfectly calm manner that elicits several giggles from my friends on the sidelines. “Get it, David!”
David gets it. Good. I almost had to hit it myself, which might not have been so bad, since it probably would have veered to the left and hit one of my friends on the sidelines. But we would have lost possession.
Now they’re telling me I have to “rotate.” Thinking this to be a vulgar statement, I tell them they can rotate, too. They explain to me that in volleyball, “rotate” means to move to a new position.
“Why?” I ask. “I’m happy here.”
“Those are the rules,” David says.
“What a stupid game,” I mutter as I look toward the position they want me to move to. It’s the back right corner. The serving area!
“Wait a minute,” I say, looking nervously for Chris. “You want me to serve?!?” I laugh hysterically, hoping to get everyone laughing so that I can escape out the side door. It doesn’t work.
“Yes, it’s your turn to serve,” says David. I hate David.
So now I’m standing in the serving area, holding what appears to be the volleyball. I’ve never held one before. It’s nice and soft.
I hold it in my left hand and swing my right arm back. I hit it. It’s going up in the air! It’s going over the net! It went over the net! I can’t believe it!
Unfortunately, I’m being told, it didn’t go over our net. It went over the net on the next court. They insist that doesn’t count. I insist they are wrong, informing them that I am a team manager and that I know what I’m talking about. They tell me to shut up. I spit at them.
Chris showed up just in time to see my serve and laugh at me with all the rest of my friends. We are trading places now. My friends are telling me, once I am safely off the court, that I did well. I spit at them, too.
As I leave, I reflect on what just happened. I played a game of volleyball! Not very well, but I played, nonetheless. And all my life, I’ve hated sports! All these years I’ve been avoiding sports, the way you avoid enormous aunts who want to kiss you and pinch your cheeks and who you always want to strike with a heavy, blunt object, such as a car. But I actually had a little fun today! Maybe I’m broadening my horizons. Maybe I’m making myself into a well-rounded person. Maybe I will become one of those people that everyone envies who can play sports and is smart, too.
Or maybe I’m just trying to stretch something that only took five minutes to happen into 750 words so I can get paid.
Yeah. That’s probably it.
The second of my "present-tense, you-are-there" columns, I really find this one very funny. "I hate David" is one of my favorite lines of all time, although I suppose it has to be read in context.
This wasn't the case then, but nowadays, I'm not too bad at volleyball. In fact, I actually enjoy it, and in fact, it's the only sport I don't suck at. But in 1990, I was pathetic, and everyone knew it, and boy was I ever embarrassed to have to play for those five minutes. Chris received a swift kick in his hind quarters from yours truly, let me tell you.
All my aunts thought that bit at the end about "enormous aunts" was about them, but it wasn't. It was about fictional aunts that I don't have, but that lots of people do. So there.