Maine Stories Volume IV: A Jock Strapped For Talent

Photo Source: MLive

I got hit in the nuts with soccer balls a lot as a kid. I don’t know if that’s a skill, exactly, but if it is I had some serious game. My soccer career only lasted for one season of Brunswick, Maine rec-league, but it was enough to do some physical and psychological damage. I suffered the pain of not winning a single game, not scoring a single goal or steal and not escaping without a few good whacks to the manhood.

Also, wearing shin guards seems to have killed off all my follicles. My legs below my knees would not be miscast in a Nair commercial. I remember pulling sweat-soaked foam and plastic guards out of my sweat-soaked socks, and now I’ve got bald legs. It may be a spurious connection, but I can’t find a better one.

I played one year of tee-ball, on a team that also went completely defeated. I played right field very badly, and I had a penchant for swinging and missing spectacularly. Swinging and missing a ball on a tee. Yet another nonexistent skill that I was extremely skilled at.

Throughout my “career” in Brunswick, I was able to just play with my friends, and nobody cared. When I moved to Florida, at age nine, the teasing began. My chums said I ran like I had a brick shoved up my ass sideways, and much more, so by the time we moved back to Maine, at age fourteen, I was a wee bit sensitive and traumatized.

Attending the same high school as Stephen King, and running laps in the same gym that inspired Carrie, didn’t exactly help matters.

NOTHing in my life ever filled me with terror more than gym class my freshman and sophomore years at Lisbon High School. The fear of running, making an idiot of myself, being exposed, was all-consuming, like taking a walk to the chair. One was allowed to skip five gym classes per semester with impunity, and after that, it was laps in the gym after school. I may have cashed in my five skips my first week.

I preferred doing laps and walking the four miles home. It was easier, less terrifying and even comforting, running my penance in the company of other degenerates. And walking home, I often took the train tracks through the woods and along the river, just like that King guy, and I saw first-hand how Lisbon became Castle Rock and the Androscoggin River became the Royal.

I love watching sports, but I learned early on that I was not going to be the Maine boy that beat the odds to start for the Sox in Fenway. Not a chance. Take enough soccer balls in the junk and you just know.



  1. Please don’t ever start apiece with that line again.
    Of course, now that you have, I’m going to send everyone I know here to enjoy the pain too.
    Hilarious aoutobiographical sketch, Brian. Hope one day you can get over the pain.

    I probably won’t.

    • I swear, I was like Hans Moleman in “Football In The Groin”.

  2. You were destined to write. I hated everything about sports too. I was a “student manager” just to get out of school though.

  3. Loved sports. Loved to play. Loved being on a team.

    Hated always, always, always being the last one chosen when “choosing sides”. Sports, I guess, just didn’t love me.

    Got over it…

    Well done, again, Brian!!

    • Nothing better for the ego than a little Playground Darwinism, eh?

  4. Sports and music don’t usually mix well anyway. I got into “adaptive gym” after a bout of mono and spent all my leftover energy at the piano 🙂

  5. Brilliantly funny stuff, Brian. I’m enjoying these memoir type of posts from you. I identified with much of what you wrote as I was a gym class disaster myself. So much so that I diabolically cooked up several plots to get me out of class on a regular basis. They rarely worked and when I inevitably got busted for talking smack, I spent the duration of class running laps and rolling my eyes. Good times!

  6. The Modern Home Economist said:

    My Hubby is a soccer nut. I have watched him endure some very painfull hits and spills…

  7. I don’t know if you were trying to invoke sympathy (or empathy) for your tortured youth as a..ahem…sports star, but this post had me laughing out loud more than once. Not often does a piece of writing do that. Well done! 🙂

    • Well, fortunately, my sense of self-depreciating humor wasn’t neutered by those soccer balls…

  8. Ha! So funny! I think your story brings back a lot of old traumatizing P.E. and sports memories for a lot of us.

    I think girls have it easier though. After years and years of huge, burly, (and scary) female PE teachers that hated that I was popular, yet not athletic, I finally got into a PE class with male teachers my junior and senior years. With women you can really only fake your period so often before they catch on. Men freak if you even begin to fake cramps…Ha! Easy peasy. The men were so much more understanding though and allowed me to run with the running class instead of torturing me with football, kickball, baseball, and all the other awful ball sports you can think of. I’m glad it’s over, it was almost as stressful as math.

    I have a son that loves to ski, ski raced for a few years even. But when he was in grade school we made him play baseball for 2 seasons. He HATED it. It was during the first and second grade and he would be in the outfield standing on his head, sitting down, lying down…even yelling at me, “MOM! Is it time to go home yet?” Very disturbing to those parents of sports overachievers whom I always had to sit next to. “He doesn’t like sports? Why not? How could he not like baseball?” Oy vey.

    • Y’all are filling me up with great retroactive ideas! I could(‘ve) faked my period! Are you there, God? It’s me, Westbye… Perfect for laps in the gym that inspired Carrie!

  9. edshunnybunny said:

    Your experiences sound vaguely familiar…Our oldest son took a soccer ball in the nose on the first day of practice. He always hated the game after that. Our youngest son hated ANYTHING that involved physical activity…Our daughter? Well, let’s just say she was a “pro” at faking sick to get out of PE…LOL

    • Oh yeah, I had more “illnesses” than I could keep track of…

  10. Living in Andover, Ma for nearly a decade and your storytelling. .
    Surges my 20’s, my parking fines, My Bruins and the simplest purest hippiest time of my life. Thank you Brian for transporting every sentiment.

    • Ahhh, did it get any better than Bourqe and Neely at the Garden? 😉

  11. Football is all about ball control Brian. In England, where the grand old game was invented the phrase “On me nut son!” means a header. Sadly in your case…….Loved it!

  12. Great story that I can relate to big time…try having a high school gym teacher pitch you volleyballs rather than baseballs because he knew how much I sucked at the game…nice blog, I will be back!

    • OWWWWWWIE!!!!

      Great having you here, Sights! Come on back…

  13. Good god! Yikes! I certainly hope and pray this doesn’t happen to my son, he still loves playing soccer but he’s young yet.

    I perked right up when I saw your Stephen King reference. I live in Lisbon. My kids will go to LHS. My own dad used to be a part time janitor there back in the 70s. Oh, the horror! As a matter of fact, I am currently writing a blog post about Stephen King, his book On Writing, his history growing up in Lisbon and Durham etc…there must be something bad in the water here because I also have a dark sense of humor.

    • Um…I’m re-reading “On Writing” right now? Mommy, I’m scared…

      • Me too. Who are you?

        I’m reading that again (taking notes) and his current book that is, as I’m sure you know, based in Lisbon Falls. (cue creepy organ music)

  14. Hi and thanks for following my blog. I loved this story and the irony/humour behind it. I too have been a writer all my life and it sure has taken me in some strange directions!

    • My pleasure and thank you! Looking forward to interacting across our pages.

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