The Schan-Far Side: In search of illegitimate stardom

By Sam Schanfarber

I’ve loved sports since I was just a child—as long as you ignore that I hate everything involving running, jumping, throwing, catching or putting physical strain on my weak lungs.

It’s not that I dislike the thought of athleticism. I’d probably play half of a dozen sports if I were good at them, but I’m far from talented when it comes to athletics. This didn’t pose as a problem until high school, where one of the only ways for an egotistical student such as myself can get his “street cred” is by being recognized as an athlete. It’s only expected that I sought an alternative route to stardom, as life without other students admiring me is simply too ghastly to imagine.

My first roundabout alternative to achieving athlete stardom—without being an athlete—was simply to dress like I owned every football field I stepped on. But standing inside a Foot-Locker wearing Air Max’s, khaki shorts and a Nike tee, I felt more out of place than hand sanitizer in Ke$ha’s tour bus. And even worse, I heard the word “poser” more in the following weeks than I ever heard people whispering quietly about “that new starting quarter back” or “that kid who’s super good at lacrosse.” Add 30lbs and subtract 6 lateral inches of height from my person, and this was just middle school all over again.

The next logical step would have been to just get good at sports via practice and hard work. But instead, I turned to other extracurricular activities where I could perhaps prove myself without having to use my feet for anything other than walking. It was difficult finding a club where I was allowed to do this. The vast majority of clubs at East don’t receive any form of spotlight, and much to my dismay, I discovered that some of the organizations were actually quite good at what they did.

To my horror, the fencing team actually won States, which meant that I was not going to be permitted to stand around and randomly slash people with a long metal rod at their practices. I tried to offer my services as a model citizen for the Space Settlement Club’s imaginary lunar town, but supposedly that doesn’t actually help them win consecutive world competitions. So at the recommendation of a friend, I set my sights on the debate team.

As it turns out, the coaches expect you to actually do work as well as just have your name on the roster. Rather than allowing me to stand around at practice and look like I had something to say, the coaches made me give practice speeches. Even worse, I started to find permission slips in my hand for tournaments at other schools, some even out of state—and on weekends, at that! Outraged at the thought of leaving the comfort of my bed on Saturday mornings, I searched for a way to attend the tournaments as a sort of cheerleader for the other debate team members. I promised them that even the most disgruntled debater couldn’t avoid having their spirits lifted by my excellent pep talks. I even offered to bake cookies for tournament days. But the coaches were persistent, demanding that I apply myself to speaking. So I spoke.

It’s funny that I found something I was decent at doing by looking for a way to not do anything. However, I was appalled that after placing in tournaments, I didn’t get admiring looks from those of the opposite sex when I bragged about how well I did on a speech proposing Schanfarber History Month. Underclassmen didn’t approach me with respect because I excelled at researching speeches. Teachers didn’t congratulate me for my stellar eye contact with judges, but instead shook hands with student athletes who were signing with colleges.

All I found while trying to attain stardom was disappointment. I still sit quietly at Superbowl parties, where it’s useless to try to steer conversation subjects towards me (at the most recent occasion, I was decently surprised when no one wanted to hear about my ability to wear Air Max’s with slim-fitting trousers). I suppose the only way to be a sports hero in high school is to truly be a sports hero, but I’ll always beg to differ. After all, it takes just as much talent, in my opinion, to write a witty column as it does to work for hours on end at throwing touchdowns or to serve a tennis ball at 110 miles per hour.

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