The View From the ‘Hil: Getting in the Game

Every so often, my father likes to tell me about the culture shock he experienced when he first moved to the US. There were the people who asked him if everyone in India rode tigers to school. There was the dinner meeting where he ate steak for the first time and vomited into his napkin.

Most frequently, my dad likes to tell me how, having grown up around field hockey and cricket, he knew nothing about the American traditions of football or baseball when he moved. But after teaching himself how to play these games, he was determined that I would grow up with them.

Thus, much of my childhood revolved around sports. When I was seven, my dad sat me down and started diagramming football plays on a whiteboard so I would understand the concept of first downs. The whole ordeal must have taken hours.

My father thought I would love sports. In actuality, I’m not a sports guy at all.

I know more about Arnold Palmer the drink than I do about Arnold Palmer the golfer. When I played baseball, I refused to slide into third because I didn’t want to get my baseball uniform dirty. The first soccer goal I scored was against my own team. My only “skill” emerged when I was the team catcher in baseball, although most of my catches were flukes.

So I quit—soccer, baseball, swimming, basketball, tennis and golf.

I’ve accepted that I won’t be playing Major League Baseball any time soon—I don’t think it prudent to build a career on baseballs accidentally landing in my glove. But I do regret giving up on sports so quickly.

I think everyone has a story about something he or she wishes he or she had tried harder at, even if it’s not sports. Maybe it was yodeling, drama, math class, spelunking or architectural sculpture. But the best thing about being teenagers is that we still have time to learn about these things.

And even if you end up not liking the things you try, at least you’ll learn something from them. To this date, for instance, I’m unsure how a “Hail Mary” relates to football and if there is a connection to the religious phrase. If I had stayed in sports, maybe I would know that.

So while my father couldn’t instill in me a love for sports, he did instill in me the value of staying in the game. There have been lots of things I have loved—writing this column, for instance—that I wouldn’t have found if I hadn’t experimented or had quit early.

And if students take it upon themselves to be bold and experiment, they’ll probably strike out a few times. But chances are, they’ll eventually find things they love.