I remember the moments clear as day. All throughout Jr. High I was petrified of gym class because, as I was often told, I was a scrawny non-athletic wimp.
I tried football in 6th grade and got the dickens knocked out of me. I had no sense of the flow of basketball, and only found small success in track. During summer baseball leagues there was a rule that every kid got to play at least two innings. I always only ever played two innings.
For most of my life I have defined myself as “not an athlete” and “not interested in sports.” I was an actor, a singer, a writer, and an artist. That has all now changed.
Three years ago, I fell in love with Sporting Kansas City, and am now a season ticket holder. But I didn’t realize it then.
Last Spring, I discovered rugby, and began faithfully downloading matches of the New South Wales Waratahs, the Australia Wallabies, and the Harlequins of the English Premiership and Ulster of the Pro12. But I didn’t realize it yet.
I have traveled to see both Sporting on the road and to watch USA Rugby play. But it never occurred to me.
Last year, I began cycling, and my speed and strength have been pretty impressive (if I do say so myself) for a new cyclist. I watched every stage of the Tour de France this year, and sat slack jawed as Jens Voigt broke the Hour Record. But the thought was not even in my frame of reference.
Then, on my birthday (a little over a month ago) I rode 56 miles on my trusty bike, Bullseye. I had ridden a Half Century, my first stated goal as a cyclist. That’s when it hit me.
Looking in the mirror, I said (out loud): “I just did that.” And I broke down in tears.
I was an athlete.
Last week I stood in the upper deck of Kauffman Stadium with three of my best friends and watched the Kansas City Royals advance to the World Series. I was dancing like a fool and hanging on every pitch. I was high-fiving strangers and anticipating the strategy of the game. I cried when George Brett took the mound to throw out the first pitch.
I loved baseball.
This past month has caused me to completely reevaluate my sense of self. The way I defined myself for most of my life was no longer true, if it ever was.
This is not hyperbole, nor is it actually important to anyone but me. But it is huge. I now carry myself differently, and the things I never thought I could do or love are now a part of me.
The Royals may get swept this week, but I don’t care. I had forgotten the name Darryl Motley, but I will never forget Lorenzo Cain.
I just needed to write it down.