I suck at sports.
Not just most sports. In pretty much anything with a ball, a net, a stick, a racquet, a puck, or any combination thereof, I will fail in its implementation. I hide behind the excuse that I never played sports as a child, but that’s a pretty poor excuse. I didn’t drive a car as a child, but I learned how to do that pretty well (I’ve only almost killed someone twice recently). I’m just not an athlete. I never have been and I never will be.
Frustratingly, many of my friends are very good athletes. I envy the way they effortlessly maneuver themselves from one point to the next, dribbling or stick handling or whatever. I envy the way they instinctively know where to go so that the ball or puck or rubber chicken meets up with them like the vertex of two intersecting, non-parallel lines (I was good at math as a kid).
For a long time, I didn’t really have to deal with my athletic inadequacies because I didn’t take gym after grade 10. I could convince myself I would never again have to be the one that others laughed at or pitied, at least not in the context of a gymnasium. Then I went to teacher’s college. Gym class is a requisite.
Once again, I was stumbling, tripping, and falling my way through the scrimmages. But it was fine, because I knew that after teacher’s college, there would be no more need for me to ever have to fumble a ball in front of my peers again. I could safely regress back into my non-athletic, nerdish bubble.
Then I got a job as a teacher. I never really thought about student-teacher sports games before that. And you would think that I would be annoyed at being schooled by my 13-year-old students, but you would be wrong. They are young and spry and heavily medicated with a combination of Ritalin and Red Bull. I expect to feel old when I play against them. Nope, the thing that sent my self-esteem plummeting awkwardly to earth like a North Korean test missile was the other teachers.
Here’s how the damage was done:
There are always enough participating teachers to make two teams. One team is inevitably made up of those teachers that played lots of sports in high school, maybe even in university, and who are (in many cases) playing competitively now. Their job is to run up the score, give the teachers a comfortable lead, and generally embarrass the students. I call them the “A Team.”
The other group of teachers are the ones over the age of 60, the one with a peg-leg, and the hemophiliac.
I call this group the “B Team.” I would often try to get on A Team, running out awkwardly and declaring that I was ready to take it (whatever “it” was) to the net (if there was a net). I would gently be told that they already had the requisite number of players, and that I could go on the next shift. So I would go sit on the bench next to the woman with the inner-ear problem, waiting to go out there to get schooled by a bunch of pubescent teenagers.
What does this have to do with Quentin Tarantino, you ask? Wait, because I’m getting there.
I love inspirational stories as much as the next person. If my experience in sports was a movie, it would star Ed Norton as a kid that practices day and night to learn how to play Ultimate Frisbee and finally gets his shot at the big leagues, where his hours of dedicated training finally pay off, propelling him to stardom. But it won’t happen. There are things you are good at, things you can learn to be good at, and things that you will always stink at no matter what you do.
Tortuously, we have come to Inglourious Basterds. Watching Tarantino’s film, I am struck once again by how effortlessly the man can create a brilliant story, fully rendered characters, and excruciating levels of suspense. He doesn’t do it by the book. He doesn’t follow the “science” of movie making. He’s just damn good at creating films that stay with you for the rest of your life.
He found something at which he excels and he lives by its physical expression.
Thank God he never decided that he wanted to force himself to be an accountant, or a marine biologist, or a professional assassin. Think what we would be missing in our world had he tried to be something that he wasn’t any good at it (maybe he is good at accounting, I don’t know). But seeing his art at work, seeing his God-given talent in play on the big screen, I am lead to one sincere, non-sport-related conclusion:
I want to do something that I’m good at.
“Billy, sir,” Billy stuttered. “That is, Billy Wiesner. William Wiesner, sir, as I was given it, sir. My name, that is.”
The Mayor laughed and gestured at one of the chairs that sat in front of his desk. When Billy hesitantly sat down, the Mayor took the other one, crossing his legs and leaning back. “Well, that is a whole handful of names, son,” he said. His voice was deep and smooth, making Billy think of cold, black water that was deeper than it looked. “Whichever one that I choose to use, you are in fact the young man that has been climbing up the ranks of my… I hate to use the word spy in my description of your activities. Would you be opposed to the term ‘eyes and ears?’”
Billy found himself smiling back at the Mayor. Mistress Bryant walked noiselessly across the room to them, setting two cut crystal glasses on the desk and pouring an inch of amber liquid in each. “Not at all, sir,” Billy replied, eyeing the glass curiously. He had dabbled in drink before, but this didn’t look like the bitter ale of the tavern on Becker Street. “Spy’s as good a name for it as any I would suppose. Better than being a thief, I would reckon.”
The Mayor nodded, still smiling, and picked up his glass. “Well then, to being a spy, I suppose.” He raised his glass to Billy, who quickly picked up his own to do the same, and took a sip.
When Billy was done coughing and wheezing, and the Mayor done laughing at him, Mistress Bryant came back to the desks and refilled the glasses. Billy wiped the tears from his eyes and sat, red-faced, back in the chair.
“Now,” continued the Mayor, “let’s discuss what to do with you. I always have work for talented people, provided they are willing to apply themselves to the job. Can I count on your commitment, Billy?” He smiled broadly again, swirling his drink in the glass.
Part of Billy’s brain was screaming at him to leave, to run as fast and as hard as he could to the clattering lift and head right back up to Becker Street. But as Billy looked around the room, at the statues on gas-lit stands, at the rows of leather-bound books on iron shelves, the voice was pushed down to a muted rumble of distress.
“Yes, Sir,” Billy said. He raised his glass to the Mayor and grinned. “Because I’m going to make something of myself.”