have to admit it. I’m not exactly the poster boy for fitness.
As Bob Hope once said, “Middle age is when your age starts showing up around your middle.” And now that I’m over 50 I bear a striking resemblance to the Pillsbury Doughboy.
When I was 10 I was so skinny you could have used me as a kite. By the time I was 13 my friends were already weightlifting and developing six-packs. I had a 24-pack. Two dozen ribs to be exact.
It’s not often someone asks a thirteen year-old to put on his shirt at the beach — but I’m sure mom had her reasons.
In Grade 8, our school was invited to participate in the all-city track and field championships.
Tryouts for the 100-yard dash were the next night after school. That afternoon our teacher told us about Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile.
Suddenly I realized that fate had stepped in. It was my destiny to break the three-minute mile! Visions of fame and fortune danced through my head.
Perhaps Lou-Anne Cutter, the sweetest girl in school, might actually notice me. Maybe I’d even get my face on a Wheaties box — although I preferred Cocoa Puffs. Still do!
With my new running shoes in tow, I was ready to make history. Luckily, there were only three other kids there.
Two were short, barely five feet tall, and the third was an obese twelve-year old. The coach took out his stopwatch and blew the whistle. I was off like a shot. My lungs ached and my legs burned but I was going to win the school championship! Halfway down the track I looked up and saw the two short kids crossing the finish line.
As I got down to the last ten feet there was a blur on my right. It was the fat kid. He beat me by a stomach length. They should have timed me with an hourglass.
I’m nothing if not an optimist. After reading a story about Arnold Palmer, I decided to give golf a try. My first time I hit the ball three hundred yards! Unfortunately, it was a three hundred yard slice sailing over the highway straight into a row of houses. The ball missed a picture window by about half an inch, ricocheting loudly off the siding. The owner came running out and yelled at the top of his lungs, “You stupid Smit!” How he knew my last name is still a mystery to me.
I finally found my sport in my late teens. It was tennis. With my longish hair and brand new beard I thought I looked like Bjorn Borg. Who knew, perhaps I’d beat him at Wimbledon some day and win the fair Lou-Anne’s heart.
The tennis club held a tournament that summer. I drew an accountant in his forties. “No sweat,” I thought. I’d just run him all over the court. Unfortunately, his serves came in at the speed of light. We were well into the last game before I accidentally made contact. I sent the ball so high I thought it had escaped the earth’s gravitational pull. It finally landed in the parking lot. I lost six-love. I didn’t bother calling Lou-Anne Cutter. That was the only love I was going to get.
Nowadays middle age has taken its toll. But to say I’m not as athletic as I used to be is kind of like a politician saying he’s not as honest as he used to be. Roughly translated, it means you can’t divide by zero.
Now where are those Cocoa Puffs?
Ray Smit’s column appears regularly in