I have no statistical proof to back this up but I’m pretty sure as whole, millennials have had much higher athletic participation on organized teams than any of the prior generations (source: me 2014). For you NARPs (non-athlete regular person) who got smart and left this trend in high school or college, you probably made up for it significantly with your case races, flip cup times, keg kickball performances, and the like. Regardless of your medium, you have been a competitor since you punched your baby sibling in the eye when Mom started ignoring you. It’s in your DNA. Unfortunately, the avenues for quelling your competitive instincts are dwindling now that you’re a washed up postgrad. It’s apparently not kosher to shotgun your $5 can of PBR in the bar, and no, no one wants to participate in a case race for fun. Don’t fret though. There is a hero, and it comes in the form of your city’s recreational sports league.
I was actually on two varsity teams in college with half-assed but legitimately published rosters and shit. Did I play? Yes. Was I good? No, but that’s irrelevant. What WAS I good at, you ask? Head shots. I absolutely killed the headshot game, because just like during an actual game or practice, my competitive drive simply overcame me both physically and emotionally. I mean, I just had to be the best at something, and since it certainly wasn’t going to be on the field, I found my niche behind the camera. However, these days, no one is interested in putting me in a jersey and taking my picture, and, apparently, that’s one of the weirdest #selfiesundays you can put on Instagram. Thankfully, I still find a few outlets here and there for my competitive streak. And no, I’m not talking about Soul Cycle or anything like that, because news flash: you can’t win if you can’t fucking move. So like the rest of you washed up former JV heroes, I found solace in the classic American institution of rec league intramurals.
However, there is a catch. It turns out that even here, you can go a little too hard. I’m talking flagrant fouls, technicals, yellow cards, and stuff like that. It’s not like they’ll even actually discipline you, but you’ll get THAT look from everyone. It’s the look that says, “chill the fuck out, dude,” or the classic–to quote the great Adele Dazeem–“let it go.” “But Mary,” you say. “That’s not me. I just like to win, and only losers aren’t willing to go the distance to bring home the dub!” Well, Gil, I certainly sympathize, but after a mere 10 months in rec leagues around New York City, I have to pretend I don’t empathize. Here is a short list of some signs indicating you may need to take a lap and rejoin the group after some deep breathing exercises.
Every time you slide into a base or run into a wall or pole trying to save the ball, you probably imagine a series of golden glistening horns playing in unison to praise your effort. In reality, everyone on the fucking field wants to take an air horn and blow your ear drum out with it. Yes, try. No, don’t come limping back with a grimace on your face and attempt to guilt everyone else for not putting forth 339% like you. We are kind of old, and the last time you pulled a muscle was ’97, so, yes, I get it. I pulled a groin on literally the first game of my Sunday morning lacrosse league. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. I also got a fat lip from some man-lady who never forgave her dad for not letting her play football in fourth grade when I was only trying to be the hero and get in on goal. I’ll take only 10 percent responsibility for that one. The point is, it happens, but don’t make it happen. No one likes that shit.
This is a thorny, sticky subject. I personally don’t shit talk a lot because I’m not that good, and my go-to is always calling someone fat. In women’s sports, that’s the WORST chirp ever. I mean, I probably would have gotten a red card if the ref had heard me. But, we all know it’s inherently part of the game. Almost all sports are as mental as they are physical, so getting in your opponent’s head is a must. However, now it’s a bit risky. If you’re using four-letter words left and right and bringing someone’s mom into the picture, you should probably take another Xanax at halftime. It’s for the good of everyone.
Again, this is a natural part of the game. I can’t, in good conscience, let my thunder thighs go to waste, so I post up on the walls in indoor and wait until a teammate comes to rescue the ball from my club feet. Do not, however, go Undertaker on us and just obliterate everyone. Do you know how hard it is to get around on crutches? Don’t be the Brick of the group–otherwise you’ll be excommunicated to shelter with family and have to lay low for a while.
Taking It Too Seriously
This one is also tough. If no one on the team can tell the difference between your right and your left, then yeah, do more. Are you wearing a headband, compression shorts, gloves, and tinted goggles? DO LESS. Not one single soul in the rec league wants to play with Greg Focker, okay? I actually did get nailed in the face by my roommate in backyard volleyball, and it can be funny on occasion, but 90 percent of the time, people just resent you and are scared of you.
Being A Sore Loser
Since most of us grew up with siblings in the era where you could still beat each other up, losing often meant getting your shit kicked in either during or after the “competition.” Naturally, we have trouble losing. Only people who never win anything have no problem with losing. We aren’t those people. Again, however, rein it in. Do a casual cool down lap if you must. Just don’t be that asshole who talks shit after losing, especially when it’s not directed at the ref. I once graciously argued a call (that the referee made up, I swear) and in the middle of my argument, some girl told me to “shut the fuck up.” She lost that day, and she’ll get over that. What she won’t get over is being the biggest dick on the field every time she does anything. Have mercy on her soul.