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Kick Me When I'm Down
By Rob Bloom

I'm being forced to play kickball. That's right, forced. As in "have to," as in "no way around it," as in "my job depends on it." Let me explain. My office is having a team-building activity (their motto: "You WILL have fun!") and, in this case, team-building means a game of kickball (my motto: "I haven't felt this nauseous since middle school P.E. class.").

Here's the problem: I am not an athlete. I don't shoot hoops, or sink putts, or run around a football field trying to grab a yellow flag from someone's Umbros. I just don't do these things. I also don't ask people to "play a little one-on-one," or "shoot some 8-ball," and I've never, ever, uttered a sentence that contained the word "pigskin." Hell, I don't even watch sports on TV, unless of course, you count professional wrestling as a sport, which sadly, most people do not, choosing instead to think of it as a gigantic pimple on the butt of the TV screen, not unlike late night infomercials, and the dancing old man in those Six Flags commercials.

Bottom line: I'm just not a sports person. What's more, there's not a whole lot I can do to change that. You see, Sportsessence (a term derived from the Latin phrase Ix-nay on Sitting on your ass-nay and watching TV-nay) is actually a hereditable trait, much like handedness, tongue curling, and the ability to see a 3-D image in those posters of multi-colored, mish-mashed waviness. There are, however, plenty of people out there who have managed to inherit Sportsessence. These are the folks who go running at 5 AM on a Saturday, and do things like participate in intramural sports for no reason other than -- get ready for this one -- they enjoy it! These are also the people who use that ridiculous piece of exercise equipment at the gym. You know the one I'm talking about. It's where you sit down on the little seat, place your outer thighs squarely against the cushy pads and then spread your legs obscenely far apart, thereby feeling, not only "the burn," but also quite the draft. These are the people who, as teeny, tiny cells in their mothers' stomachs, camped outside the Gene Dispensing Factory (at 5 AM on a Saturday probably) to ensure they received the coveted Sportsessence gene.

I missed out on getting that gene. Probably because I was in the next building over, the Klutz Cafe, watching sitcoms and eating a pastrami sandwich. But Rob, you say, surely you learned some athletic skill after all those years of playing catch with your father! Ha ha! While my dad and I have certainly had our share of beautiful bonding moments ("And that, Son, is how you make an Egg Cream!"), "playing catch" was not one of them. Not that I blame him in any way. No -- the complete lack of any and all athletic ability whatsoever among members of the Bloom family dates all the way back to 1896 when Stavros J. Bloom attempted to compete in the first Olympic games. Taken from Bloom family records, here is the actual transcript of a conversation held between Stavros and his track coach on April 1896:

"Please-a pick-a me for the team-a, Coach!" Stavros said.

The coach shook his head and snickered. "Your shoes are on backwards."

So Stavros wasn't chosen for the team, which truthfully, was probably for the best. Between his clubbed foot, frequent dizzy spells, and rare allergy to oxygen, Stavros had no business being outdoors, let alone in a sporting event. This would prove to be consistently true for future generations of Blooms as well. Blooms and Sports just don't mix. Especially during adolescence when you're short, uncoordinated, and wear glasses with three-inch-thick lenses. Welcome to my P.E. class at Rock Lake Middle School in Longwood, Florida.

I was always picked last for teams. Always. It didn't matter what sport we were playing, either -- I was last. The teacher would pick two team captains, guys with names like Travis or Conner or Austin or Colin; guys who were a foot taller than I, with biceps bigger than my thighs. What's more, these boys had very cleverly made a deal with God (a huuuuuuge sports fan) because they'd already started going through puberty, meaning they had hair in places that I didn't even have yet! For these guys, P.E. class was the reason they went to school every day, whereas I greeted each class with slightly less enthusiasm than I did a dental cleaning.

So the entire P.E. class would stand in a big group and the captains would pick different students to join their respective teams. Brown. Turner. Palmer. The chosen boys would jog over to their fellow teammates where they'd begin high-fiving and slapping each other on the back. Young. Morris. Harris. One by one, my fellow classmates would get chosen. Stewart. Miller. Anderson. More names would get called while I stood there, uncalled, watching as the crowd around me got smaller.

"Okay, let's play!" TravisConnerAustinColin would say.

"Hold up," the teacher would reply with a snicker. "Nobody picked Robbie Bloom."

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