The neverending nightmare that was Block C

Some of us suffer from ‘jock angst’. This is an inflammation of the soul that is arguably more disagreeable than jock itch, and is likely more pervasive.

Although I’ve suffered from it for years – nay, decades – nay, my entire life from the time I entered first grade. It came to me this morning, however, that I wasn’t alone in this.

Wendy said this morning she’d be really interested in utilizing the flashy new fitness room at our town community center. But, she said, she was hesitant because she probably wouldn’t meet the standards of the regulars at this place of treadmills and exercycles and other stuff that probably doesn’t render one any fitter than a good walk can.

“Aha,” I said. “You’re afraid they will laugh at you and treat you with scorn.”

“It goes right back to school PE class,” she said, while agreeing with me.

PE class. The entire concept fills me with pent-up stress from a time gone by. That’s because, to me, there was nothing worse than those few blocks stuck in my timetable that demanded I don what was called ‘strip’ (navy blue shorts and a white T-shirt) and show up at the gym so I could face an hour of remorseless humiliation.

You see, I was one of ‘those’ kids. Not the fat kid who was picked last and even then grudgingly because the other guys had him last time, but the second last kid. You see, I wasn’t completely terrible at whatever athletic prowess garbage we were charged to participate in on a particular day. Not completely terrible, but ‘pretty’ terrible.

Apparently Wendy was the same. It’s one of those areas of commonality that makes me love her because I know we’re not going to ever ever spend a Wednesday evening on a volleyball court.

Oh, I have no quibble with jolly good exercise. I have always kept moderately fit and I love to walk, hike, swim and assorted other things that demand expenditure of musculature. And when I was in school I was a merry participant in assorted track-and-field endeavors. No, it was in team sports that I flailed. It was when somebody had to count on me. As I have told assorted wives, “just don’t count on me.”

And the ethic of gym class always got me down. You know, if a kid is hopelessly thrashing about in, say, math class, a decent teacher will try to pound the concepts of sums and long-division into his thick skull. Math klutzes don’t become objects of group derision. In fact, I know otherwise respectable people today who say with undisguised pride “Don’t ask me to add it up. I’m hopeless with numbers.” Others in the area will nod approvingly.

PE class was different. In the first place, the bozo in charge of it was a jock. Jocks were, it was my belief, guys that weren’t smart enough to be ‘real’ teachers. I know that by now I should have altered that opinion, but I just don’t choose to.

And in that same gym class there were other fledgling jocks and, as is the case with certain species, they recognize their own and regard them with favor and even affection. Part of that favor stems from pointing out the really hopeless kids (like me) and an encouragement that they must be treated with contempt because the hopeless kids weren’t going to ever amount to a pinch of coonshit because they couldn’t dribble a basketball or spike a volleyball.

So, the junior jocks regarded PE class with delightful anticipation. They ‘knew’, you see. They knew that in class they could work out latent sadistic impulses by taunting the non-jocks and they knew the teacher (a larger version of them) would ignore their behavior. And some of them were even smart enough to be able to speculate on the future. They knew, you see, that even if they didn’t make it to the ‘majors’ of whatever their field of athletic prowess was, they were bound to score a ton of nookie in high school and college (which they’d attend on jock scholarship – that wonderfully inspired contradiction in terms that means big bucks for taking meathead English seven times and never really passing).

And then, as years go by, they could go to a local fitness center and mock (albeit a little more subtly) the people of non-jock mien.


13 responses to “The neverending nightmare that was Block C

  1. Oh god! Actually, this seems pretty good evidence for there NOT being a god or many of us would have been spared that crap!

  2. Not sure how we did it, but it my last year of P.E. (9th grade), A girl named Lisa and I were able to convince the teacher to let us do our on thing – which was gymnastics and tumbling on the mats up on the stage while everyone else participated in team activities down on the gym floor. We would pretend we were the top Olympic gymasts of the time and actually had fun together.

    • You only had to take PE to 9th grade? We had to stick it out with the bullshit until 11th. Actually, my story in 11th grade is similar to yours. A couple of buddies and I convinced the moronic teacher to let us go and work out in the weight room. We went there and did nothing other than to drill a hole through the wall with a geometry compass into the girls’ change room. We had our priorities right.

  3. Ah, the humiliation of gym class. I hated gym, and not least because of the weird blue bloomers we had to wear (catholic school). I suck at team sports, always have always will.

    On the other hand, the jocks were at their peak in high school and college. It’s sort of sad when you think of it, if your best time was when you were 15. And therein lies my revenge.

    So there.

    • Yeah, the jocks peak in high school, no doubt. But then they go on to become school administrators. Those ranks, with their big fat pensions and large salaries are filled with ex-jocks. Old boys’ network, of course.

  4. I hated all sport except cricket.
    I hated being forced to faff about on wall bars in the gym…and as for the idea of walking on an upended plank…! And then those communal showers…yuck!
    I developed African Foot Rot as a protest and retired to the library for the next six years ion the strength of it.

  5. Um … voice of dissension here. I loved PE! I worked really hard at it, not being a natural athlete at all. Some parts I never did figure out (gymnastics), but some I got good enough to be on the school teams (basketball, badminton, floor hockey, cheerleading). I did it because I was actually a “smart kid”, not a jock, and I could see that the jocks got all the respect at school, not the “smart kids”, and I thought I deserved a little respect, too. So there actually was a method to my madness, plus it turned out that I actually enjoyed all those team sports. I always felt a bit like an outsider anyway – and being on the sports teams didn’t seem to get me any more dates in high school, either!

    • And in my case, sister ‘not’ being on a sports team didn’t get me any more dates, either. Anyway, it’s nice that somebody held up the athletic end for teh family.

  6. I was pretty much near the end of those chosen as well. Whip balls at each other? Run in circles? Climb things? Why?!


  7. Ian, when I moved to Texas in my senior year, they were aghast at my lack of P.E. (didn’t need them in N.C. for the academic degree). They made me drop Chemistry II to take tennis. That’s Texas for you. And I liked tennis.

    • Tennis would have been OK. I mean, I suck at it, but at least it’s not a team sport. My cousin, who was the junior women’s tennis champion for Washington State tried to teach me tennis. That was amusing.

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