When Tim was over for dinner not too long ago, we got to talking about how awful high school phys ed classes were. One of the things about phys ed that we all agreed was especially irksome was the games they made us play, whether we wanted to or not. For a week or two we’d play football, then baseball for another week or two, then soccer the next week or two, and so on. It was never enough time to get good at it or even to learn all the rules, and it was never a good experience.
When I was in junior high school, I weighed maybe 125 pounds dripping wet and I couldn’t run 100 yards in twenty seconds to save my life. I had to regularly play football with boys who outweighed me by forty pounds. Some of them could bench press twice my body weight. Several kids routinely lined up opposite me just for the pleasure of flattening me at the snap.
Tim confirmed that phys ed hadn’t gotten any better since I’d been through it in high school. And then he told us how he dealt with it. One day, when they were picking sides for la crosse, he went up to the phys ed teacher and told him, “Look, I really don’t want to do this, so I’m going to go run laps or work out on weights, okay?”
The teacher laughed as though he thought Tim was kidding. When he saw that Tim was not, he said, “You have to.”
“Well I’m not going to,” Tim said, and started to go.
“Tell you what,” the teacher said, “if you write me an essay, say 500 words, about la crosse, I’ll let you off the hook.”
Tim laughed when he told us this part of the story because apparently the teacher thought 500 words was such a burdensome assignment that Tim would cave, join the rest of the kids to play la cross, and that would be the end of it. But of course Tim didn’t cave. He agreed, and the next day he turned in a twelve-page (typed) essay, easily 5,000 words, about the history of la crosse: its origins, how the gave evolved over time, the best players, every record ever set, and so on. After that, the teacher gave Tim a pass on phys ed whenever he asked for it.
The pride I feel at his ability to use the power of the pen to overcome an adversity is almost matched by the jealousy I feel because I would never have even dared to suggest something like that to my phys ed teacher, let alone been allowed to get away with doing it if I had.