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Tammy Swift, Published May 10 2014

Swift: When it comes to sports conversation, my contributions are few

So apparently there is some kind of hockey commendation – I think it’s called the Larry Cup – that is a big deal these days.

This means that conversations routinely refer to some hockey troupe called the Minnesota Untamed and some guy named Nino Needlehammer.

As usual, I have nothing to contribute to these conversations. When in doubt, I smile supportively and yell out stuff like, “Basket!” and “Gordie Howe Hat Trick!”(And yes, I totally had to turn to Coach Google for even those terms.)

When it comes to sports, I feel like a Martian. Especially in the sports-lovin’ Midwest, where athletic events – from amateur to pro – are such a huge deal. At the risk of being hunted down by hordes of jersey-clad fans, I have to admit that I’ve only seen about five Vikings games in my lifetime – and most of those were spent hovering over the cheese dip.

I routinely refer to sports garb as “costumes.” Most embarrassingly, I lived for years believing that “March Madness” was a term coined for the JC Penney White Sale.

I am not even kidding.

You may wonder how I managed to grow up in modern America so sportsphobic. One excuse is that we grew up in a very female-centric household and my Dad didn’t care about sports at all. (He was much more of a motorhead who was interested in cars and engines and how things worked. I envision him in high school as a 1940s Fonzie, who built his own motorcycle and played pranks on the shop teacher.)

As a result, I never really developed the rudimentary sports skills of a normal person. In fourth grade, my doctor said I had a heart murmur and should refrain from really rigorous sports. This was like manna from a heaven. We later found out the heart murmur was completely harmless – just an extra, little gasp that my cardiac muscle makes.

But I stretched that heart murmur from a short vacation into a career. It allowed me to skip physical education for at least half a year. I happily sat at the sidelines, trying to look pale and fragile and occasionally issuing a delicate cough.

As much as I’d like to say my Oscar-worthy performance fooled my teachers, it did not. I distinctly recall Miss Weiand, my athletic fourth-grade teacher, writing in one of my report cards that “Tammy does not seem interested in participating in sports.”

I would like to say my lack of athleticism was coupled with a Rudy-like moxie and determination to succeed. It was not. If I could have gotten away with it, I would have played my favorite softball position, Across-the-Highway-From-the-Leftoutfield, in a lawn chair while holding a Mai Tai.

This did not make me a crowd favorite. In the barbaric, pre-“Everyone’s a winner!” world of 1970s gym, they picked teams. Naturally, the captains were always the most athletic people in the class. The jocks would actually fight over who was stuck with me on their team.

I would get picked behind the kid who had his leg in a cast. It was a thrice-weekly reminder of my ineptitude, and it instilled in me a deep resentment of group sports.

So I grew up to be sport-illiterate. I’ve tried to work on it a bit, as I am tired of staring blankly when the subject of sports arises. And so begins my education.

Go, sporting-type gala! May your victories be many, your goal-thingies succeed and your costumes be comfortable.

Especially for you, Nemo Neitherbiter.


Tammy Swift writes a lifestyle column every Sunday in Variety. Readers can reach her at tswiftsletten@gmail.com