Growing up in my house, weekends meant sports. Either we were at one of my brother’s games, or we were watching a game on tv. His games I could kind of handle. Watching them on tv, not so much. My brother and father will literally watch anything that features some form of ball being oppressed by both gravity and an opposing faction or person. My mother, not really the sports fanatic that my brother and father are, loves baseball and likes to tolerates a few other sports. And me? For me the whole endeavor was like being waterboarded. I knew it wasn’t going to kill me, but my brain told me it might. I didn’t get it. Every. Single. Weekend. From morning to night. For 18 years. I just never got it.
For starters, the games were always going to end in 3 minutes. I learned early on that 3 minutes meant 20, and 20 meant forever. Of course baseball isn’t timed, so the torture would be over in just another half inning, which, translated, meant forever. I’m half convinced that in some other dimension the three of them are still sitting there in the family room of the house I grew up in under a two foot cloud of Kent King and Swisher Sweets smoke while my mother folds laundry on the couch and my father and brother scream at the players and question coaching decisions with an arrogance and incendiary passion that seems more appropriate to two people whose very lives will be forever impacted by what happens to an arbitrary ball in an arbitrary space within the context of arbitrarily assigned rules than to two guys in the basement of a townhouse in Gaithersburg, Maryland, who have no connection whatsoever to either these strangers or their balls. But I digress.
Where am I in this other dimension? I’m in my room, having escaped the tedium of watching large men take forever to move a single yard. At least they only get four chances. Oh no, wait. Now the other team is going to try. Oh, goody. It’s like watching the George Washington Bridge. At rush hour. Under the Christie administration.
Enter Xanadu. And Flashdance. Enter Dreamgirls and A Chorus Line. Pete’s Dragon! Enter Boy George and Wham! (Well, really just George Michael. What was Andrew Ridgely doing there, anyway? I don’t even think they were sleeping together.) Enter my lifelong obsession with discovering the absolute best Mama Rose. Ethel? Angela? Rosalind? (It was a long time ago, we still didn’t have Bette or Bernadette or Tyne or Patti. Good God, had I been born later I might have never left my room.)
And from below me, a voice would come hurtling up the stairs.
Roger, come down and join the family.
I’ll be down in a few.
Didn’t they know I was working!?!? Accepting Tonys and Oscars!? I’d like to thank my parents for forcing my creativity by boring me to death. I was bedecked and bedazzled, my imaginary sequins catching the imaginary light. I was a maniac. I worshiping in the church of the poison mind. I was waking you up before I went went. I was thankful I was not some people. I was magic. I wanted you to let me entertain you. I was wondering where all the good men had gone and where were all the Gods. I was cutting loose. Footloose. I was step kick kick leap kick touching again and again and again. I was gonna live forever, doing piqué turns around imaginary fountains. I loved it up there.
I must admit, though, some of their fanaticism did rub off on me. I was lured out of my room when we started getting ESPN 2, which beamed Australian Rules Football into our home from halfway around the world. My piqué turns became piqued curiosity. Well, what do we have here? Tight tight shorty shorts revealing thick, meaty legs that blossom into asses like granite? There seem to be no rules, just a bunch of sweaty, hirsute men touching each other inappropriately. It prepared me well for The Eagle. And then we started watching the World’s Strongest Man competitions, which I still enjoy. Because nothing is funnier, or oddly sexier, than watching Magnús Magnússon pull a tractor up a mountain ~ with his teeth. Thanks, Pop!
PS In order to prevent the inevitable phone call from my mother that is sure to come within 30 nanoseconds of her having finished reading this piece ~ a phone call in which she accuses me of painting a one-dimensional picture of our family ~ I should point out that my house was not all sports. There was plenty of theater. A serious love of musicals. Lots of all kinds of culture and food and books and music. We were very well-rounded. Just not on the weekends.