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Arian Knops

Athletes

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June 22, 2021

The Internet is playing music for me this morning. It’s 3:28 AM and I can’t sleep so like I sometimes do I sit in my office and listen to music and write. Depending on what mood I’m in when I’m awake and most people are sleeping, I find my mind sometimes finds memories of some of my failures. It is always failures because successes are usually fleeting. I think that may be true of most human lives.  

Most girls like athletes. Most girls like money. Most girls don’t like nerds. I was born a nerd, am still more often than not a nerd and that nerdiness will more than likely stay with me the rest of my life. So, I’ve never been on top of the list as far as being the most desirable man on Earth. That’s fine.

This foible in my life has never bothered the females who have liked or loved me. I consider most of those women to be exceptional people. Girls who have always fallen for the sports heroes are often times disappointed in what they wound up with, but they live by the axiom, ‘you can fake love, but you can’t fake money.’ Living a financial life of ease can give you all the material things you need but can’t bring you real peace. This is true. I’ve been poor, I’ve never been rich, but have enough money now to buy everything I’ve ever wanted. I found that the things I wanted so desperately in my younger days and bought, I no longer want. Some of those things will be on the table at our next garage sale.

By the time I entered high school I was still shy of one-hundred pounds by at least the weight of a good-sized Christmas ham so most athletic activities that would bring out the female admirers were out of the question.

Being much too small to be even the water-boy on the football team I chose wrestling, to attract the girls, since I would compete with people the same size as me. There aren’t many kids forty inches taller than a floor tile with any muscles at all and I seemed to be a king, if not one of the princes of that group. There was one other kid in our freshman year whose nickname was Squeaky, mainly because his voice hadn’t started to change, who fit into the group of two shrimps. Him being one, me being two, who were the representatives of our school as far as wrestling in the lightest weight group went. 

Some of the training/torture involved in training for wrestling included such joys as pushups, deep knee bends, running, lifting weights, climbing ropes attached to the ceiling of the gym and cold showers. For me, the cold showers were the highlight. Our wrestling team had as a leader a masochist coach named Gopher Anderberg. The man had two front teeth that could have chewed through a medium sized forest faster than a herd of beaver. Do beaver “herd”?

I hated running the most because Gopher used a stopwatch to time an athlete’s speed. For me he never did that.  Instead, he used the telephone pole firmly buried in the ground outside the gymnasium entrance. The one that moved was me. Usually.

Gopher paired me with Squeaky for practice.  Squeaky was a farm kid who pitched bales, cleaned barns of cow excrement and could lift a milk can or two full of milk all before breakfast. After breakfast he would run down the quarter mile of their farm driveway to catch the school bus. Squeaky lived by the belief that he might be small, but so was a hand grenade.

I, on the other hand, could lift a cereal bowl and walk the half block to the bus stop. Squeaky was the representative of our ‘A’ wrestling squad and I was the ‘B’ representative. He usually won. I usually didn’t. I did win several times, however and it counted even though most or all of those wins were because my opponent didn’t show up.

Even though I was now technically an athlete, girls were still not hanging around my locker cooing how great I was. They asked me about math instead once they cornered me in some deep recesses of a hallway.  

As for my wrestling prowess, when my opponent did show up, I can describe in one sentence. At one time I could tell you how many light fixtures were on the ceiling of every high school gym in central Minnesota, because I had the opportunity to count them all.


This article was orginally reported by
Arian Knops

Arian is a short story contributor to the Sentinel & Rural News. Arian has written two full-length thrillers which have received critical and popular acclaim. Arian lives in Bruce, WI, with his charming wife, Arlene.

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