Monday, April 23, 2007

Sports and Darwin

if he looks pissed, it's cause he's plotting how to kill me.

Two sports that kids love: basketball and fighting.

Exhibit A: Fighting.

I got punched in the face by a 7 year old yesterday. I think my nose is broken.
Carson, bless his wee heart, has learned to throw a punch. This, theoretically, is wonderful, because after months of trying to teach him to throw a baseball, kick a football, and catch a Frisbee, I was losing hope. The kid just has no athletic talent, and that’s coming from someone who can barely run a mile without wanting to throw up and kick someone in the face. I worried about him growing up in a city full of scrappy footballers as the only kid who can quote Family Guy and Simpsons episodes by heart (I’m proud, but I don’t know how much weight “Eat my shorts” will carry when some punk is elbowing you in the eye socket before he charges past you to score).
My worrying was unfounded. The kid can fight, and I’m a bit excited for him to be able to throw his weight around. I don’t consider myself a pacifist by any means, but I’ve never really been down with kids fighting. Of course, that was before I moved to Belfast and immersed myself in a way of life that revolves heavily around violence. Even in playtime, no kid plays nice.

As we spent time in a North Belfast park during Dep ’04, Malia and I saw two kids in what appeared to be a full-on boxing match. Thinking she was about to witness a death and not wanting the hassle, Malia tried to break them up. They paused only long enough to observe,
“You’re not from here, are you? This is how it is here.” Then they went back to kickboxing. What they really said was, “This is how you have to be to survive around here.” It was a lesson impossible to forget, and one that has been driven home dozens of times over the last eight months. And now, my splitting headache has pulled me straight into the muck of a culture full of playground Darwinians. Send ice.

Exhibit B: Basketball.
Dogpile. Basketball turns into martial law around here.
Marlo and I, in a burst of neighborly goodwill, started playing pickup basketball with the kids across the street (yes, the same ones who have been brainwashed to think we’re lesbians). We’d gotten fairly used to the kids banging on our mailslot and yelling into the house “YA COMIN’ OUT?” We hope it means “out to play” rather than “out of the closet,” and are generally willing to play a few games of HORSE. Last week, however, Marlo answered the knock only to discover about a dozen kids standing eagerly on our front sidewalk, ready to play. “Laura, I, uh… think they told their friends,” she called into the house.
What we thought was a friendly game of two on two (using the “No Ball Games” sign as our makeshift hoop) has turned into the Glenbank Afterschools Program. This is a classic example of “You don’t even have to build it, they’ll still come,” and we love it.
Jessica :)

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