Well, I knew it had to happen eventually. Sara, my seven-year-old, is beginning to figure out that her daddy was born with little (if any) natural athletic ability.

Without really intending to, I’d managed to keep my ineptitude at sports hidden from her by virtue of being several times her size. Whenever I kicked a ball 20 yards, it probably looked like a half-mile to her. Whenever I launched a wiffle golf-ball over the garage with a nine-iron, I probably looked like Tiger Woods to her young, innocent, admiring eyes.

It began to dawn on me just how badly she’d been misled when we were watching a Titans game early in the season:

“Daddy, you really like professional football, don’t you?”

“Yes, sweetie, I do. I’m glad you like watching with me.”

“Well … if you like it so much, why don’t you play professional football?”

Apparently she assumed it was just a vocational choice.  Let’s see … computer programmer, or linebacker for the Bears? I dunno, I’m not sure I want to put up with the millions of dollars and the adoring fans.

I was flattered, but figured it would be better in the long run if I began to disabuse her of the notion that Daddy is the strongest man in the world.

“Sara, these are professional athletes. They train their whole lives to be this good. And they’re way bigger and way faster than I am.”

“Oh. So did you play college football?”

“No. College football players are pretty big and pretty fast too.”

“Oh. Did you play high school football?”

“Uh … no.”

After a thoughtful glance towards the TV, she attempted to offer me a graceful exit.

“Is it because you don’t have dark skin?”

“What?”

“The football players all have dark skin.”

“That’s just the defense. I mean, no, they don’t all have dark skin.”

“Well, most of them do.”

Time to fess up.

“Sara, I went to a Catholic high school with a very good football team, and only a couple of the players had dark skin. I didn’t play football because I wasn’t strong enough or fast enough.”

“Because you ate a lot of sugar when you were a kid and you weren’t healthy?”

“I’m sure that was part of it, yes.”

So she accepted that her daddy wasn’t a good athlete. But at the time, I don’t think she fully gasped that her daddy is, in fact, a bad athlete. For that to sink in, Santa Claus had to give her an evil, despicable, klutz-exposing contraption known as “a Wii.”

The hugeness of my physique relative to Sara’s provides no advantage whatsoever in Wii games, because everything — golf, baseball, sword-fighting, bowling, tennis, archery and Frisbee — is played with a small electronic paddle. Strength is meaningless, and hand-eye coordination is everything. Consequently, she regularly beats me in golf, baseball, sword-fighting, bowling, tennis, archery and Frisbee. For reasons I can’t quite figure out, I still win in ping-pong and basketball.

Pretty much every day now, she lays down the challenge.

“Daddy, can we play Wii?”

“Uh … okay.”

“What do you want to play?”

“How about ping-pong?”

“Naw.”

“Basketball?”

“Maybe when I get a little better. Let’s play baseball.”

In my defense, I think our Wii paddles may be equipped with a klutz-detector installed by some aging jock at the Wii factory who misses his carefree, youthful days of picking on weaklings. I say this because during several of our baseball games, Sara hit a fly ball to the outfield and my Wii character — I’m not kidding — dropped the ball.

If you’re not familiar with Wii baseball, all you do when the other player is batting is throw a pitch. There’s no fielding. Your Wii characters play defense automatically. And mine automatically drop fly balls now and then … just to make sure I never forget why I hated recess and gym class.

My lack of hand-eye coordination might not be so embarrassing if not for the fact that Sara is turning out to be a natural jock. Even though she quite obviously inherited my frame — all the way down to the almost-freakishly-long thumbs — Mother Nature somehow managed to infuse her copy of the frame with a large dose of jock-DNA from her mother’s side. (My father-in-law was an all-conference halfback in his youth and is still built like one at age 67.)

The signs were there from birth. When Sara first popped out, she held her head up and looked around as if demanding to know who turned on the lights. By the time she was six months old, if she decided she’d just as soon wear that poopy diaper for awhile longer thank-you very much, it was a battle to hold her still and change her. More than once, my wife and I looked at each other and said, “Man … how can something so little be so strong?”

Now that she’s seven, she’s still strong, and she’s turning out to be athletic as well. I already suspected she was blessed with good hand-eye coordination, because when we toss a football around in the back yard, she throws spirals into my chest. I just didn’t suspect her hand-eye coordination would exceed mine quite so vastly, quite so soon.

Last night, we played Wii baseball. When I was batting, Wii responsed with a more or less continuous string of helpful on-screen tips:

You swung too early!
You swung too early!
You swung too late!
You swung too early!
You swung too late!
You swung too late!
You swung too early!
You swung too late!
You seriously suck at this!
You swung too early!
You swung too early!

Sara’s on-screen messages were more along the lines of:

Double!
Single!
Double!
Double!
Home Run!

This was in spite of the fact that I’d discovered if you press the “A” button before pitching, you toss a fairly wicked screwball.

When she hit a grand slam and pulled ahead by something like 20 runs, Wii produced a message I didn’t know was even in the programming:

Mercy Rule. Game Over.

Well, okay, she’s having fun and all that. I mean, she loves me, she admires me … it’s not as if she’ll stop respecting me just because You swung too early! and You swung too late! feel like exactly the same swing to me. Right?

It snowed nearly five millimeters in Middle Tennessee last night, so the schools were closed today. After I woke up and drank some coffee, Sara asked if I’d play Wii with her. I said sure, but I need to check my email first. A few minutes later, she poked her head in my office.

“Let’s play Wii now, Daddy!”

“One more minute, Sara.”

“Awww!”

“Just one more minute.”

She left for the kitchen. A moment later, she yelled for me.

“It’s been another minute already! Come on, old man, I’m going to kick your butt!”

I guess that pretty much answers my question.

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11 Responses to “Klutz-Busted By A Game”
  1. GHarkness says:

    ” When Sara first popped out,”

    Only a man would ever use the term “popped out” in the same paragraph with a mention of birth. ;-)

    I just consulted with my wife. She agrees with you.

  2. Mark Green (GHS 77) says:

    Another great article! I don’t remember you being THAT bad athletically. Besides- it wouldn’t be fair if you athletic and scary smart!

    You’re daughter sounds like a real gem!

    I became adept at hiding my inadequacy, mostly by participating as little as possible.

  3. Anna says:

    Oh, just wait a few years. My 12 yo son is merciless when it comes to my athletic inadequacies (his dad gets a pass because he grew up in England and didn’t play American football or baseball). Though somehow I managed to set a record on our Wii ski jump event that hasn’t been beat yet (and I can’t even come close to again, myself), so that still has his knickers in a wad.

    The way she kicks my butt now, I may have to come up with excuses not to play when she’s 12.

  4. Be says:

    lol “Come on, old man, I’m going to kick your butt!”! I don’t think you have to worry about her delusions. She’s got it figured out! And now… you really are doomed!

    I love daughters!

    Oh yeah, I’m toast.

  5. Amy Dungan says:

    I understand how you feel all too well. My kids have been wiping the floor with me on Wii games as well. I bought the Wii Fit with balance board for myself some time back. I’ve learned I have absolutely no balance what so ever. There’s also nothing like a tiny little voice insulting your weight and telling you that age 37 you have the body of an 80 year old. At this time Wii Fit and I are no longer on speaking terms. I’m waiting for it to apologize.

    That’s why I don’t use those electronic machines at the gym. I don’t need to be insulted by a computer chip.

  6. Brian says:

    Ooohhh…great tip on baseball. I’ll have to try that. Besides getting smoked by them in everything, know what else chaps my hide about the baseball game? The fact that my 8 yr old can smoke ALL of her pitches in the low 90′s. Mine? Lucky to hit 65.

    My excuse for losing to them? Daddy’s hands are crooked so the attachments don’t work correctly. :-)

    Maybe there’s a dad-detector that skews the game in their favor. My pitches are around 65 mph, while hers are in Randy Johnson territory.

  7. TonyNZ says:

    I think it’s neat. I believe half the problem with parenting these days is that the parents just sit on the sidelines. People can be pretty anti video games, but you’re using them constructively by playing them with your daughter. Even if she does “kick your butt.” Too many kids wouldn’t even entertain the idea of playing with their parents because the parent’s don’t have the time to encourage it.

    By the way, my wife says “popped out”. Should I be worried?

    It’s fun even when she kicks my butt, and at least we’re jumping around and moving a bit. The real letdown will be the day she beats me in chess.

    I presume you’d know by now if your wife was hiding anything.

  8. Lucy says:

    My second girl also lifted her head up and looked around right after the “popping”… all signs point to strength, dexterity and millions of dollars in endorsements (hoping…)

    But the mercy rule, on a game? You can disable that, right?

    Perhaps it could be disabled, but I figure by the time Wii enforces the mercy rule, it’s doing me a favor.

  9. Auntie M says:

    When one of my nieces was 8, she kicked everyone’s butt at Wii bowling. Oh, the other adults were bitter and unhappy about it! I make the two nieces play against each other or my husband, to spare me the humiliation of losing. These kids grow up with the games, and I think the designers make them specifically so children will beat the adults. There must be a secret handicap involved somehow.

    Also, @Amy, I hate that little Wii Fit Balance Board on the screen. It sounds so happy while saying, “That’s overweight!” or “That’s obese!” I would throw the Wiimote at the screen, but that’s an expensive temper tantrum. I haven’t checked my weight with it in months because I want to kick it in the teeth every time I hear that obnoxious voice.

    While receiving a butt-whuppin’ from a seven-year-old can be humbling, it is of course a wonderful technology that allows an adult and a child to compete on fair terms. (Maybe not entirely fair … I still wonder if my remote has a dad-detector that handicaps my Wii players.)

  10. Kim Øyhus says:

    Gyroscope!
    That helped me a lot. I fitted one of those egg sized gyroscopes to the end of the Wii controller, and suddenly it went from being a vague paddle like device to being a precision rapier.

    It all has to do with the input to the games becoming more physically precise.
    Suddenly I could use my physical mental understanding of the world,
    and I went from being a loser to beating everyone.
    It worked for me, so it will work for some other people too.

    If only I can keep my daughter from noticing I rigged my paddle …

  11. sabine says:

    Mercy Rule!
    Oh, my gosh, I could not stop laughing. Can we get one of those for real life, too?

    That’s a nice idea. You’re out on a really bad date, for example, and “Mercy Rule” suddenly pops up. Then you get to just leave without explanation.

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