Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Double Post

Also, I fear sea captains and being thrown into the ocean and eaten
by sharks.
I dislike being the outsider. I dislike not fitting in and that feeling of walking on ice, hoping to pass for someone who ought to be there. I hate being alone; I fear it worse than most things[1]. Fear is probably why I’m a Christian—not fear of Hell or God or judgment, as it ought to be, but fear of having to go it alone.

Then again, I hear tell that’s what Hell is—eternal separation from God and therefore from everything and everyone. Hell is loneliness.

When I think about the times I’ve felt alone, it doesn’t seem like an unreasonable belief. Being third wheel is pretty awful and being the new kid in town is worse. Korea has its moments, too. Sometimes at the beginning of a class when all 52 students are ignoring me and jabbering in Korean, I think Goodness, I could start talking about practically anything, and no one would understand—even if they bothered to listen.

Not a great feeling. Luckily, it’s not one I feel very often here in my post-pubescent days. I have an overabundance of confidence and I’m generally secure about finding my place. But there are exceptions to every rule.

I’ve never gotten the hang of soccer, in a social way. Pretty early on I understood the whole passing thing, and the don’t use your hands thing, and even the off-sides thing clicked before I was ten. But I have never—never, during all my nearly 20 years of soccer playing—figured out how to relax like a proper jock while kicking a soccer ball around.

Consequently, the joy of soccer has always come with a huge opportunity cost: awkward loneliness in left midfield. Most days, I’m okay with awkward, because of how beautiful the sport is and how inexplicably joyful passing, dribbling, shooting, and defending make me feel. Most days I’m willing to pay it, but not today.

Glad that’s out of my system. Now, because I hate sounding like Harry Potter in The Order of the Phoenix, here’s part two of this post. Here’s why not today:

I would rather...

...hear an entire opera sung at two very slightly different pitches the Epic of Gilgamesh for the eighteenth time
...listen to an hour-long sermon about how women should learn in silence and full submission. a silver Solstice get smashed up by a Hummer
...smell whatever my downstairs neighbor cooks in the lining of all my clothes for the rest of my life
...have every single one of my students use the word “fastly” instead of “quickly;” misuse “good” and “well;” use articles at random and just as randomly not use them; confuse there, their, they’re and your and you’re at every possible, maddening opportunity. In short, I would rather hear people wildly butcher the English language

...than have to watch and be a part of lazy soccer.

Maybe that makes me a terrible English teacher but, lazy soccer is boring. Half-assed defending, passing, and moving all for the sake of one cool move or a too-high shot makes for the dullest game on earth. Bad soccer like this is—and I am freely admitting this without anyone aiming a gun or 6-iron at my head—worse than golf.

I get it. Really. I understand that there are very, very few people possessing an iota of the competitive drive that I have. Nor are there myriads of soccer players diseased with the perfectionism that plagues me. So it makes sense that for that enormous majority, playing soccer isn’t always about precision and speed and intelligent passing patterns, but more about hanging out with friends and goofing around.

The Little Prince and his rose and me. Nevermind - third wheel's kinda fun!
I get it. Really. Except I don’t. I missed something—probably somewhere in middle school or high school when I was reading books about mice with swords—I missed something about how to have fun the way jocks have fun. And it’s even harder when everyone else is speaking Korean. They could all be making horribly racist, sexist jokes about me and I would have no idea. Not that I think it would happen, but it’s a pretty lonely realization to have.

On Sunday, a friend and I were walking on Haeundae beach and we saw this sand structure (pictured above). It was such a perfect rendition of the Little Prince—so meticulously done and exquisitely proportioned. As we walked away, I looked behind me just in time to see some little kid kick the sand Little Prince. The Little Prince’s boot sprayed back into nothing but sand and the sculpture was marred. I felt wounded. If you’ve read the book, I think you’ll understand.[2]

That’s what lazy soccer is like to me: watching some little kid destroy something whole and perfect for ninety minutes. It’s awful, and it is way worse than “fastly.” Sorry, Grammar Nazis.

I know where my loyalties lie.

[1] Snakes being a huge and ever-present exception.
[2] For the Harry Potter nuts out there, I can’t help but compare this to killing a unicorn. Remember the first book?


  1. I can't help but be mad at that kid. My grandmother gave me The Little Prince book as a child.

  2. That Little Prince is magnificent!!!!