No prizes for playing second fiddle to the school grunts

© The Sydney Morning Herald  |  Article link

January 31, 2007

I’M NOT sure what happened. I study hard and get good grades. I play a musical instrument, I debate and I have friends. I appear to be a well-rounded, perfectly happy teenager. But I’m not. I’m bad at sport.

It’s not that I don’t like sport. I’m all for teamwork and hand-eye co-ordination and muscles bigger than my annual school fees. What I’m not a fan of is the way I feel when I see the rugby firsts and the swimming squad hoisted on a pedestal, with more awards on their blazers than Desperate Housewives and The West Wing combined on Emmies night.

These adolescent gods of throwing balls and running fast strut onto the stage every week to get further accolades for their smug collections, while the rest of us mere mortals look on. They get shields, they get cups, they get pennants for Most Sports-Obsessed Zealot under the age of 18. And while they swagger, preen and bask in their glory, I pray for larger muscles and faster legs. They have trophies on their bookshelves. All I have are books.

It’s not that being sports-crazy is a bad thing in itself; the people I know who excel at sports usually turn out to be nice guys, some of whom I’ve come to be good friends with. Yet what I (ignorant fool that I am) fail to get is, why sports?

Why is it that we give the best tennis player a huge trophy and the best violinist a slightly less uncomfortable seat in the orchestra? Why are all the girls in love with the brilliant striker’s grunts and in stitches over the brilliant Latin scholar’s stammer? Why does society, and the school community in particular, deify the sportsman and crucify the thinker?

I’d like the school community – with particular emphasis on rabid parents and coaches projecting their failed aspirations on the children – to get a grip on reality. I’d like students to realise that, in the vast majority of cases, sport isn’t going to bring them fortune or fame or even true satisfaction in the long run.

I’d like to see the violinist brandishing the trophy, drenched in champagne, in a stadium of screaming fans. I’d like to see the Latin scholar fending off love-stricken admirers with the collected works of Ovid.

Most of all, I’d like people to realise that being good at things other than tests of physical ability requires skill too.

I’d like people to give us – the nerds – feeble of muscle and unco-ordinated of hand and eye, the respect we deserve. Or maybe I’m just jealous.

Got performance enhancers, anyone?