Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Cantaloupe of Sports

Mrs., Kid and I recently returned from a vacation to Hawai'i. (Only Hawai'ians and snobs get to spell Hawai'i with the '.) As is customary during our vacations, my wife and I engaged in that sacred ritual that has occurred once every year (sometimes twice) since our wedding day. I know I don't have to tell you what I'm talking about.

No, not that.

I am speaking of the annual "Wife Kicks My Ass-athon," whereby she finally succeeds in dragging me out of bed in the morning to go running with (behind) her. When at home, I usually avoid this event by asserting that I have to "go to work," "wash the car," "tend to the cat," or "have excess teeth removed through my nasal passage." On other occasions, I simply cite unfavorable environmental circumstances:

Seattle: "Goddamn tree-huggers; running sucks because of them."

Central Park: "These hostile New Yorkers; it's their fault that running sucks." [New Yorker: "Hey, f--- you, f--- ball!"]

This time, though, we are on an island--not an office or New Yorker in sight. So unfortunately, none of the traditional alternatives (excuses) are available to me. What am I to I do? Blame the coconuts?

No. It's time to rationalize. I have some time on my hands anyway, because we are not yet at Mile 1, and I am already passed out on the sidewalk with a colorful tropical bird pecking at my liver. It goes a little something like this:

In the beginning, Man had nothing better to do, and he was being chased by mastodons and sabre-toothed tigers most of the time anyway, so he ran. Because he had to. But then, Man discovered fire and beer, and the mastodons and tigers decided that they would all be happier and much more buzzed if they just partied with Man instead of chasing, killing and eating him. So, there was no need for Man to run. (Also, during one intense drinking session, Man had a moment of self-actualization, where he realized that it was really his own insecurity that he had been running from all along--and there was peace.) Back to the story. With the mastodons and tigers off his ass, Man finally had a moment to sit down and invent real sports. Like cycling. And badminton. And roooowing (say it slowly, with your nose in the air--no, higher). Somewhere along the line, the horseless carriage was invented. Then came McDonald's. You get the point: With these quality diversions, running was no longer necessary to get from Point A to Point B. It had become, rightly, obsolete.

[Aside: Sometimes, I ask the runners why they do what they do:
Me: "Hi *gasp gasp*. Where are you going?"
Avid Runner: "Over there."
Me: "Really? What about after that?"
Avid Runner: "Probably come back here."
Me: "Why not just stay here now and save yourself the trip?"
Avid Runner: "Would you please get your car off my foot, A--hole?"]

With the advent of real sports, running became superfluous. A means of inflicting pain on people as punishment for sucking at other sports. A filler. In short, running became the Cantaloupe of Sports.

You have probably been to a "Carrow's" or "Denny's" at some point in your life. If you live in the Midwest, you have probably seen a commercial on T.V. for "Perkins'" between episodes of "Monster Truck Extravaganza" and the advertisements for personal injury lawyers. (Call me. I can do better than those guys. I promise. I take 30%. If I don't win, YOU DON'T PAY!) Anyway, these eateries are all essentially the same insofar as the "side of fruit" that comes with the pancake meal is a lie. If you have been there--and I know you have--you know very well that there IS no "side of fruit." If you request one, you will instead receive a small bowl full of . . . cantaloupe. Or "honeydew melon." And buried somewhere beneath these faux fruits, you will find a genetically-questionable purple table grape the size of a dinosaur egg. (It's a trick! The grape is a trick!! Don't buy into it!!!)

Running is to sports as the cantaloupe is to the fruit salad--a fraud! A fallacy! A farce! Other words that start with "f"! Many attempt to justify their affliction with this senseless activity by saying that the beauty in running is in its "simplicity." It needs no equipment (except a $169 pair of shoes, astronaut socks, drywick ultra-shirt, neon shoelaces, and a strap-on iPod), and there is no specialized training. You need nobody else to pull you through. But why does such a simple sport need three or four monthly magazines devoted to it? [See titles such as Runner's World, Running, Running Fast, Still Running.] What do these magazines say about such a "simple" sport to fill their pages? "Running: Put one foot in front of the other, real fast-like. Repeat." How do advertising agencies sell that?

Some might say that my beef is really that I suck at running. That is a true statement. At this point, though, it doesn't really matter. The best thing to do is, in my own way, duck the issue: "Honey, I'll stop here and 'do some push-ups.' I'm cross-training. Pick me up on the way back (as you rocket through another six miles, then return to help me limp the last 1/2 mile back to the hotel)." [Note: The Kid will also rocket through the six-mile loop, because at 27 inches tall, she, too, is faster than me.]

Eventually, my annual run will be over. I will have succeeded in transporting myself from Point A to Point B, then back to Point A again, no doubt experiencing a great sense of accomplishment along the way. And then it will be time for the boat drinks (see photo above).

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