Beach Ball

Boxing Day 2012 was a bit of an odd one.

I’ve been spending the holidays at my parents’ house in Scarborough, where the free meals are plentiful and the laundry done with only the slightest of grudges held, and in my hometown – like any other – they have some downright baffling customs, like the annual Fishermen (whites) vs. Firemen (reds) football match that’s been held on the beach for, uh, *does a brisk google search* over 100 years.

And, somehow, not only was I in attendance on the beach that cold December morning, but I was actually on the pitch, too. Wearing red.

For those of you that don’t know me personally, I’m sure it’ll come as no shock to you that I’m not a particularly sporting fellow. Please, your gasps of feigned surprise are welcome but not at all necessary. The last time I kicked a football was likely at a barbeque some time last year,  and the last game I played in is so far back in the recesses of my memory that it’s likely a genetic flashback to my father’s school days.

All of which is to say that I’m rather shit at the game.

But when my good friend Tariq (it would be his fourth time) asked myself and another chum to accompany him to this year’s game I thought why the hell not? Just because you’re terrible at something doesn’t mean you can’t have fun doing it.

[Just look at blogging.]

The morning came around, I got ready – and by ‘ready’ I mean ‘dressed’, because wearing jeans, a blazer and four layers of t-shirts probably wouldn’t constitute being ready in any sport – and was picked up by Tariq, who informed me our mutual friend wouldn’t be joining us, choosing instead (wisely, as it turned out) to stay in bed for the duration of the game.

Tariq also chose this moment, as we hurtled toward the sea, to inform me that because this was my first game, it would end with my being ‘dipped’ in the ocean.

There are some guys who’ve just got a knack for timing.

Once on the sand I tried to put this out of my mind – surely I could just keep quiet and sneak off by the end of the game? – and focused my energies on actually surviving the match itself, which by half time seemed a rather Herculean feat. My body had succumbed to the many trips and falls – one sustained when merely kicking the ball – and respiratory troubles that come with playing a game you’re awful at with a bunch of lairy northerners who’ve been drinking rum since 8AM.

But survive I did somehow, and actually enjoyed myself doing it. I even got a good couple of tackles in here and there, or so I like to tell myself. The final scores are trivial (largely because my team lost) because all became moot when I was accosted by a gang of my teammates and hauled – quite unceremoniously – over to the ocean.

I’d like to tell you that I sat there stoic in the face of my watery fate and have that be the truth. But I’m just not that guy. Lies turned to pleading which turned to begging which turned to – by way of quotes from Soylent Green and Planet of the Apes – begrudging acceptance.

Dipped I was, and ice cream was my reward. Peaks and troughs, I guess.

A more pragmatic person than myself would take this whole ordeal as a sign that sport is simply an exercise in self-flagellation, but I guess I’m not as sensible as I thought.

Because I’m kind of looking forward to next year.

[I mean, it’s not like I’m going to train or anything in the meantime. Let’s not go berserk. But my heart’s in the right place so you can sod right off.]

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