Saturday, September 3, 2011

The tortoise and the hare race at last

Years ago my friend Daniel told me he could beat me in a 40-yard sprint. His assertion surprised most people for reasons I have already written, so I will be brief in describing them again.

In 2001 Daniel was a South Davidson High School all-conference offensive lineman, a distinction that typecast him to me as a strong athlete who lacked finesse and speed. His commitment to exercise peaked in his college years, but his confidence waned when he fell out of a water polo inner tube and failed to remount for the remaining seven minutes of the match while both teams watched with awkward intensity. Months later he missed four consecutive uncontested layups in as many seconds in an intramural basketball game before I ended his misery. These insufficient motor skills surfaced again many years after college when we played basketball for the second time.

"I don't think I've ever seen him jump off one foot," I said.

"I think he figures he has two feet and might as well use them both each time," a friend reasoned.

We planned to race a couple years ago the night before the Carolina football season opener, but I could not show for a reason I cannot remember. My absence tilted the odds in his favor.

"Daniel will win," many of my friends said. Over the last two years I let them say what they wanted while I enjoyed fast food, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and beer. I liked the competitive banter and thought racing would end it with a decisive win. I finally agreed to race tonight on the eve of the 2011 football season.

"Will you train?" a friend asked me a week ago.

"Not gonna train," I said. "Gonna win."

The banter will continue at the football tailgate tomorrow. No, I did not exactly lose, but I certainly did not win. And all of you who thought I would miss work next Tuesday with two strained hamstrings, know that my legs are fine. I ought to thank Daniel for that.

Daniel announced he would execute an "active warm-up" alongside my knee touches before the race and pranced around Hooker Field like a ballerina, swiftly thrusting his knees to his chest before extending his toes into graceful, soft-landing leaps. The sight was as memorable as the inner tube incident but without an ounce of self consciousness. I watched dumbly with my unused camera in hand and strained to reach past my knees.

Daniel wanted to win and look foolish before doing it. I wanted to win and look foolish after doing it. I am glad I forgot to buy the cigar.

We naturally tried again. Please note Daniel's post-race trot.

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