So, in the next 900 to 1000 words I'll bare my soul to you with the simple hope that it will inspire you to do the same.
That way we can all move on and feel empowered to get beyond our shame.
It all really began in 5th grade at Gross Elementary school back in the Chicago Suburbs.
I was a big kid so my gym teacher naturally thought that I would make a great football player.
Little did he know that I would not.
I was totally terrified, dazed, and confused on the football field. I didn't get the sport, and I just wanted to go sit on the bench and pray for the game to end. As a youngster I had grown up in Europe playing European Football (soccer) and tennis. These were the sports for talented young men in Europe. But in the hometown of "The Bears" it was all about Football and touchdowns.
So when I intercepted a pass in the big 5th grade game at Gross Elementary and ran it down for a touchdown, I was elated by the cheers and yelps of the watching crowd, and I must say a bit confused by the odd reaction of my teammates.
They were all stunned into silence as I crossed into the end zone with a look of pained horror on their faces. I wondered if they were so stunned by my lighting quick hands and sprint to the end zone that they could simply not believe that I had scored a touchdown.
Was that the reason for the boos I was hearing?
Alas it was not the reason. I had, in fact, ran the wrong way and scored a touchdown for the opposing team.
In the process I had lost the game for us and earned the nickname Wrong Way Roman for the rest of my elementary school career.
It was perhaps one of the most painful, humiliating, and from today's perspective funny things I ever manged to do in elementary school.
So while many 5th graders saw the humor of the situation, I was painfully aware that they were certainly laughing at me, and not with me.
That was the end of my short lived Football career. I went on to play tennis in High School until my senior year when my tennis coach pointed out the obvious when he said, "Roman, Let's face it. You're no gazelle out there." By "there" he meant the tennis courts, and I instantly knew that he was spot on in his assessment of my potential hypo like tennis court control.
But unlike my horrible football failure, I didn't take this news with shame or even sadness. It was the truth, and I had done everything in my power to be the best tennis player in the Chicago Suburbs. I was simple not blessed with the same skills or genes of my fellow Czech tennis players with last names like Lendl and Navratilova. I was no gazelle and that was OK because I had stretched my talent as far as it would take me.
As I watch new age group athletes take on swimming, biking and running, I scream in my head..."Let's face it, you're no Gazelle out there. But that's really OK, the main thing is that you are out there." And I can't help but be extremely impressed by their strength, courage, and tenacity to pick up a new sport late in life, grab it by the neck, and wrestle it into submission.
I really worry that too many new athletes are like I was when I played football. They are terrified of the sport, they are terrified of making a classic mistake, and they are terrified of failure. So much so that they never even consider the possibility of success. They worry that they'll run the wrong way, or swim in the wrong direction, or fall of their bikes before they can unclip.
And you know what Newbies?
Run the wrong way,
Swim in the completely wrong direction,
and fall from your bike like a freshly cut tree before you have a chance to unclip.
I should know because I've done all of these things and I'll probably do them again, but that's all besides the point.
Here's a quote I recently read in an email from a Michael, a newbie, who just bought my new book:
"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely
in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up,
totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -- WOW--What a ride!!!"
OK, I'm not sure I want to totally use up my body yet. I hope to still use it for a few other fun activities outside of sports. I'm sure you can think of few yourself. But...life's is certainly in the journey, and not the destination.
In college I used to like to say, "Life is what happens to me in between the times I do my laundry."
Today I'd probably amend that to, "Life is what happens to me in between the times I pay my mortgage."
But certainly I've learned since 5th grade that life is too short to worry about running the wrong way.
What are some of your biggest, funniest, and best sports blunders?
Please share your story for all of the newbies reading this column.
Roman "Wrong Way" Mica