Some high schools focus on football. Baseball is the big thing at others. At Lane Tech High, basketball was the centerpiece of everything athletic. During every P.E. (physical education) class, half the group would play first, while the other half sat in the spectator seats. (This was a large high school with 4,000 students, so the groups in gym class were quite sizable.)
Those of us who were petrified and/or angered by the thought of playing, knowing we would be humiliated one way or another, quickly devised a way to avoid hitting the court at all. When the whistle blew, the first group made its way to the spectator seats, clearing the path for the second group to play for the remainder of the period. Rather than leap into action like our sporting cohorts, our motley crew of incompetents somehow managed – by employing rigorous, innovative techniques to make ourselves virtually invisible to the coaches – to blend into the mob of returning players.
Moments later, we’d be taking our seats as if we’d just finished a strenuous session out on the court. If called upon, when an excessively observant coach was in charge, we might even exhibit a touch of perspiration, backed by a sigh of physical relief, conveying the image of a game well played, with a well-deserved and rewarding rest to follow.
Teachers and coaches knew this was happening, and warned us repeatedly that such antics would not be tolerated. Their words and pleas were futile. We were simply too good at making that transition from outgoing to incoming. We might be worthless with any kind of ball in our hands, but we ranked as all-stars in the quest for avoidance.
Now and then, one or two of us would be trapped, unable to return to our favored seats for a second phase of relaxation, to prepare for the rest of the academic day that awaited. Horrors! We’d have to get out on the court and look like we were playing intently, while actually making a bold attempt to steer clear of that basketball for the next 15 minutes or so. Should someone pass the ball in our direction, we knew just how to avoid having to try and catch it, without looking like we were shirking our sporting duty.
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