Virginia Woolf once described her father Stephen as a “jack-of-all-trades but not a master in one.”
Immediately, I think of my father and the world of athletics. You hand him a ball, and he can swoosh, drive, hit, smack or score with it. Back in Wisconsin, he won the state basketball finals, but, of course, that was Wisconsin in the 1960s and his race to the finals did not compare to the classic movie “Hoosiers.”
He has had two hole-in-ones in the arena of golf — exactly eight years and two days apart. According to the linear model I created on my computer, he is set to score another ace on Oct. 10, 2006.
For fun in the 1970s, he played recreational tennis — every morning. During the ’80s, he played basketball every night just for fun. He loves to tell me about the time he was playing at midnight and the neighbors called and wanted to know if “Dale was preparing for a career in the NBA.”
So yes, my dad is a jack-of-all-trades, but he never really became a master in one particular field.
Needless to say, my dad wanted to groom me to follow in his footsteps — maybe someday I could play for the Milwaukee Brewers, while I scored touchdowns for the Green Bay Packers and won Wimbledon in my spare time. Curse growing up in the era of Bo Jackson. Why did Bo know everything?
I remember the faithful day when I was 8 and my dad introduced me to the “5-15” program. It had a catchy title, and like all 8-year-olds, catchy titles, whether for cereal or chewing gum, entice you to do almost anything. His concoction required me to play five sports every day for 15 minutes each.
How did he invent the title “5-15?” Years later, I found out 5-15 was a type of insurance program he used in conjunction with government housing projects. It is a term I would later throw around in AP Human Geography essays concerning urban development. The teacher had no idea what it meant, but somehow my essays were always “insightful.”
So in the eighth year of my existence, I played football, basketball, baseball, tennis and foursquare every day for a month.
Yes, foursquare was my dad’s idea of ending the day on an easy note. A month passed, and my father asked me to pick a sport to dedicate my childhood soul to. I announced gleefully, “I want to play foursquare!” I will never forget my father’s face, a combination of laughing and crying — probably a little closer to the crying side.
He tried to explain to me there was no foursquare league and that foursquare wasn’t even a sport! He crushed my hopes of winning an Olympic gold medal in the sport and possibly doing Wheaties ads.
I was devastated, and under the ensuing pressure, I randomly picked baseball. Who knew that for the next six years of my life, I would be playing baseball in fall and then spring, while selling chocolate candy bars during the summer to finance the league.
Do you know how hard it is to sell 60 chocolate candy bars in the middle of summer going door to door?
Forget about catching the baseball, peddling the candy was tough enough! Those six years had their ups and downs. I was voted most improved 9-year-old, but my improvement still left me near the bottom of the batting order. My favorite moment was the time my father was the coach pitcher for the game. He struck out my entire team. My teammates loved me for that, while my dad complained our strike zone was too small.
My love for sports grew as I decided to drop baseball and play tennis. At age 16, I hadn’t picked up a tennis racquet since the infamous “5-15” incident of 1990. I was a sophomore and took lessons for three months. January rolled around, and I decided to try out for our high school team. First, I arrived at the meeting and found out only five guys make the team. Second, three of the guys at the meeting were talking about Nationals. Third, I didn’t even own a tennis bag.
So, naive Chris went to tryouts and came out of the round-robin tournament with a 3-8 record against a group of young men who would go on to win the Florida 6A State Championship that year.
Coming to Yale, I was relieved to enter the world of intramurals.
Within the first weeks, I had some lighthearted volleyball matches and played mixed doubles with my friend Tami from South Dakota. — I didn’t even know they had tennis courts in South Dakota, but she informed me they are made out of a sort of cow pie substance dried in the sun for a few months.
I found pleasure in pingpong with my mixed doubles partner from Thailand, and we had fun despite our 1-2 record. But, hey, we made a secret handshake out of our failures.
Innertube water polo has reintroduced me to the pleasures of late-night swimming and chlorine. After a match, I grow nostalgic for my Florida swimming pool.
And who could forget bowling? The queen of intramural competition. My father would die if he knew beer drinking and actual athletic competition were mixing.
Intramural competition has allowed me finally to sit back and enjoy sports for what they are worth. The spirit that sports is supposed to encourage has finally been realized, even if TD did get in a little fight with Jonathan Edwards during one insignificant polo match. I enjoy playing volleyball, soccer, tennis, pingpong, bowling and water polo.
Last night I finally realized that I have become my father. I am the IM jack-of-all-trades — too bad I am not really a master in one. So, when does IM foursquare start?
Chris Hanson is a freshman in Jonathan Edwards College.