I Coulda Been a Contender!

I have no clue what caused me to recollect this particular day after so many years.  Why I’ve chosen to share these memories is even more inexplicable, but here goes.

When I was nine years old, my family moved from Florida to North Carolina.  It was early June and we were temporarily living in a small duplex apartment while my parents searched for a new house.
playground

Directly across the street from the duplex was an elementary school playground.  At that time, the local Parks and Recreation Department staffed many of these playgrounds with college students during the summer months.  Their primary task was to ride herd on the kids from the surrounding neighborhoods who gathered each day to play all sorts of games and participate in arts and crafts.  The playground was closed each day for an hour beginning at noon to allow for lunch.

One of the more popular activities were the daily tetherball tournaments.   For the uninitiated, tetherball is a one-on-one competition played on a circle of packed dirt in the center of which rises an eight to ten foot pole.  Affixed to the top on the pole is a strong cord, on the other end of which is secured, a tennis ball.
tetherball
The object of the game is for each combatant to strike the tennis ball with a solid wood rectangular paddle.  One competitor directs the ball in a clockwise direction, while his opponent attempts to drive the ball in the counter-clockwise direction.  The game is won by the player who succeeds in completely wrapping the cord and ball around the pole in his chosen direction.

Such was my fervor to excel at this competition that I would quickly eat lunch at home and then rush back across the street to the tetherball pole to practice before the playground officially reopened at 1:00 p.m.

During one particular midday practice session, I was really seeing the ball well, in the same manner that the best hitters in baseball can see the seams rotating on a hanging curve ball and drive it into the left field bleachers.

That day, I was effortlessly catching the furry orb in the sweet spot with forehand after forehand.  Nearing the end of my workout, I tracked the ball as it seemed to glide toward me in a languid, slow-motion arc.  Paddle in hand, I reared back and put everything I had into one final overhead forehand smash!

I found myself awash in a thick fog.  My vision was blurred and the normal neighborhood summertime sounds seemed to be muffled.  As I gazed ahead, the fog began to clear and to my amazement I was staring at our duplex, but it had inexplicably rotated 90 degrees.  It appeared to be standing on end.
left for dead
Suddenly, I realized that I was on my side, lying prone on the packed dirt of the tetherball circle.  Small puffs of red dust blossomed before me each time I exhaled.  As my mind continued to clear, I realized that as I had followed through on my last Herculean stroke, I had struck myself directly on the ankle.  The rest was a simple matter of anatomy, physiology, and free-nerve endings.

I had succeeded in knocking myself out.

Now before you roll your eyes and say to yourself, “No way!  No one can knock themselves out!“, go get yourself a foot-long piece of 1″X 6” and whack that nubby projection on your ankle with it.  I don’t mean just tap yourself with it, give it all you’ve got!

Learn from my experience. Self-induced unconsciousness is a reality.  Like any good scientist, I confirmed this, although not intentionally.  After dinner that same evening, with nothing better to do, I walked back over to the playground for a few quick practice strokes.

Moments later, in the gathering dusk, I found myself wondering, “Why is the school building standing on end?  How’d this dirt get in my mouth? “

Sometimes, practice makes imperfect.

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