Almost every man in the waiting room was paying very close attention to the TV.
A lot of significance was drawn from these anecdotes. Did you know that most people think that they are smarter than they really are? And they are more likely to succeed than they really are? Such delusional thinking is obviously the result of getting too many cheap trophies for "participation." Also grade inflation in colleges and universities, although the educators give the grades and not the students.
My story: Due to some strange mismatch between the Providence RI school system and the Youngstown, Ohio school system, I did kindergarten and first grade in one year. While this did not affect me academically, it meant that I was always a year younger and smaller than the other boys in my class. When it came to outdoor play, playground games, I was not as skilled or coordinated.
Even now, I flinch from that kind of external explanation of how I experienced playing with other boys, as though I making an cheap retroactive excuse for being a loser.
But a loser I was, marked early with that name. Chosen last, assigned to right field where no one ever hit, my at-bats ended with pinch-hitters, even pinch-runners called in on the odd occasion when I was on base.
I remember sharing with my mother my sad frustration at being 'not strong'. She gave me the word that it was OK, because I was smarter than them. It made me feel better at the time, but I don't think it was the most healthy advice she could have given me.
The male body is the site of winning and losing, and this body that I have is a losing body.
About middle school, the losing male body is also seen as sexually suspect, or "queer" back when that term had not even begun to be re-claimed. It is a sad fact that for the young men of my time, sex too, was a game where some bodies won and others lost, and that was as it should be.
No wonder the eyes of almost every man in the airport was fixed on the TV. This news report about "trophy culture" was an ideological recommitment to grim laws of winners and losers that governed our childhood and youth. I could see the pride and shame playing on their faces.
I am now over 65 living in a body that testifies to a lifetime of neglect. I have all the metabolic disorders that come from a sedentary life, a life in which there few moments of joy in the strength, or speed, or skill, of my body. After all, it was an inadequate body, a losing body, from before I can even remember. I am becoming convinced that the poor health of many adults of my age is directly traceable to the culture of relentless bodily competition that ruled our childhoods.
I am not sure that younger people know that there was a time before gyms, and workouts and running as we now know them. Everything like that was tied to competitive sports. Gyms were about boxing, or competitive weight lifting. The idea that you would go to the gym and exercise simply for the satisfaction of your own health and your own bodily improvement was not common.
I have very few regrets in life. This is one of them.