Thursday, July 9, 2009

Columnist Seeks Fellow Sports Failures

Posted By on Thu, Jul 9, 2009 at 4:00 AM

John Branston
  • John Branston

It's a small sport, but it's a big nation.

My goal is to win the national squash championship in the over-60 division next year. Easier said than done, I know.

What's your sport and what's your athletic quest? And what are you doing about it?

This column is about playing sports and probably not the ones we grew up playing in school. It's about competition, failure, and redemption, getting worse and then getting better, getting fat and getting fit — all in pursuit of a higher level of mediocrity.

I'm not a sportswriter, but I've played sports almost my whole life. So have my wife and children. As I look at my phone and e-mail contacts, I'm struck by how many of them I got to know through sports. Our sports keep us healthy, sane, and connected.

If this column helps Get Memphis Moving, that's fine, but plenty of Memphians are moving already, like the thousand or so who run past my house every year in the Memphis marathon. Incredible.

Many of us get daily reminders in our knees, hips, and shoulders that we might not have that many shopping days until Christmas.

My strategy is part athletic and part actuarial. One of the secrets of age-group competition is playing your division the first year you are eligible, taking on your elders before your betters can catch up to you. If you can't beat them, outlast them or outlive them.

Whatever sport you're passionate about, I am that rare person who really does want to hear your war stories, training tips, and setbacks. Ever rolled a four-foot putt three feet past the hole, double-faulted on set point, clanged a clutch free throw, or finished last by half a lap? Did you try again and succeed at something else? Would you rather play a sport, any sport, than watch pros or shamateurs? I want your story and comments.

Be warned that I'll be telling you mine. Just don't tell me that I'm unfit to carry so-and-so's jock. I know. I tried.

John Branston writes the "City Beat" column and is working on a book about ordinary people who become extraordinary age-group athletes. He will play any sport, except soccer, that involves a ball.

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