I’m being forced to play kickball. That’s right, forced. As in “have to” as in “no way around it” as in “do you really want to be out of a job in this economy?” Let me explain. My office is having a team-building activity (their motto: “You WILL have fun!”) and, in this case, team-building means a game of kickball (my motto: “I haven’t felt this nauseous since middle school P.E. class.”).

Here’s the problem: I am not an athlete. I don’t shoot hoops or sink putts or run around a football field trying to grab a yellow flag from someone’s Umbros. I’ve never asked someone to “play a little one-on-one” or “shoot the 8-ball,” and I’ve never, to the best of my knowledge, uttered a sentence that contained the word “pigskin.” Hell, I don’t even watch sports on TV, unless of course, you count professional wrestling as a sport, which sadly, most people do not, choosing instead to think of it as a gigantic pimple on the butt of the TV screen, not unlike late night infomercials, and the dancing old man in those Six Flags commercials.

Bottom line: I’m just not a sports person. What’s more, there’s not a whole lot I can do to change that. You see, Sportsessence (a term derived from the Latin phrase Ix-nay on Sitting on your ass-nay and watching TV-nay) is actually a hereditable trait, much like handedness, tongue curling, and the ability to see a 3-D image in those posters of multi-colored, mish-mashed waviness. There are, however, plenty of people out there who have managed to inherit Sportessence. These are the folks who go jogging at 5 AM on a Saturday, and do things like participate in intramural sports for no reason other than, get ready for this one, THEY ENJOY IT! These are the same people who use that ridiculous piece of exercise equipment at the gym. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s where you sit down on the little seat, place your outer thighs against the sweaty pads and then spread your legs obscenely far apart, thereby feeling, not only “the burn,” but also quite the draft. These are the folks who, back when they were teeny, tiny cells, actually camped outside the Gene Dispensing Factory (at 5 AM on a Saturday) to ensure they received the coveted Sportessence gene.

I missed out on getting that gene. Probably because I was in the next building over, the Klutz Cafe, watching sitcoms and eating a pastrami sandwich. But Rob, you say, surely you learned some athletic skill after all those years of playing catch with your father! Ha ha! While my dad and I have certainly had our share of beautiful bonding moments (“And that, Son, is how you make an Egg Cream!”), “playing catch” was not one of them. Not that I blame him in any way. The complete lack of any and all athletic ability whatsoever among members of the Bloom family dates all the way back to 1896 when Stavros J. Bloom attempted to compete in the first Olympic games. Taken from Bloom family records, here is the actual transcript of a conversation held between Stavros and his track coach in April of 1896:

“Please-a pick-a me for the team-a, Coach!” Stavros said.

The coach frowned. “Your shoes are on backwards.”

So Stavros wasn’t chosen for the team, which truthfully, was probably for the best. Between his clubbed foot, frequent dizzy spells, and rare allergy to Oxygen, Stavros had no business being outdoors, let alone in a sporting event. This would prove to be consistently true for future generations of Blooms as well. Blooms and Sports just don’t mix. Especially during adolescence when you’re short, uncoordinated, and wear glasses with three inch-thick lenses. Welcome to my P.E. class at Rock Lake Middle School in Longwood, Florida.

I was always picked last for teams. Always. It didn’t matter what sport we were playing, either—I was last. The teacher would pick two team captains, guys with names like Travis or Conner or Austin or Colin; guys who were a foot taller than I, with biceps bigger than my thighs. What’s more, these boys had very cleverly made a deal with God (a huuuuuuge sports fan) because they’d already started going through puberty, meaning they had hair in places that I didn’t even have yet. For these guys, P.E. class was the reason they went to school every day, whereas I greeted each class with slightly less enthusiasm than I did a dental cleaning.

So the entire P.E. class would stand in a big group and the captains would pick different students to join their respective teams. Brown. Turner. Palmer. The chosen boys would jog over to their fellow teammates where they’d begin hi-fiving and slapping each other on the back. Young. Morris. Harris.One by one, my fellow classmates would get chosen. Stewart. Miller. Anderson. More names would get called while I stood there, uncalled, watching as the crowd around me got smaller.

“Okay, let’s play!” TravisConnerAustinColin would say.

“Hold up,” the teacher would reply with a snicker. “Nobody picked Robbie Bloom.”

Now while this sort of embarrassing event would actually happen MANY times over the years, there is one incident in particular stands out in my mind. In fact, this particular P.E. class was so awful that it solidly ranks as #2 on my “Horrifyingly Embarrassing, Wishing I Was Anyplace Else In the World, This Can’t Really Be Happening” Scale, coming in just a notch below #1: Performing the Tango in my college Ballroom Dancing class with Mauricio, who, in addition to being a hairy-chested Colombian man with a Village People moustache, was also the teacher.

I was standing alone in the middle of the baseball field, while my classmates stared at me like I had some dreaded disease. And then the debate started.

“C’mon, coach! I had Bloom last time!”

“Well I don’t want him! We won’t stand a chance!”

“Please don’t give me Bloom! He’s useless out there!”

The debate lasted nearly two more minutes before the teacher mercifully assigned me to a team, a decision that was met with mixed reactions (“Ha ha! You got stuck with Bloom!” or “Crap! We might as well not even play now!”).

Thankfully, I was placed in the outfield. This was perfectly fine by me because it meant I could stand all by myself, very, very, very far from the action. Seriously, my classmates were playing baseball and I was a zip code away. Now you’d think this would’ve been a comfortable enough distance to prevent me from suffering any additional humiliation, right? C’mon, that would’ve been a direct violation of the Klutz Code, which clearly states:

“regardless of the distance between the Klutz (referred to herein, henceforth and backwards as “Schmoe”) and the athletic activity taking place, Schmoe will always, without fail, find him/herself involved in a situation where Schmoe is called upon to perform an athletic feat. Naturally, this feat will be accomplished with disastrous results.”

And that’s exactly what happened. You see, in addition to being a big sports fan, God also has a tremendous sense of humor, which explains why, despite the fact that I was so deep into the outfield that I couldn’t even see the actual field without squinting, the ball went sailing through the air (in dramatic slow motion, with the Jaws theme playing) and came directly to me!

Good one, God.

So the ball came right to me and, of course, I didn’t catch it. I didn’t even come close. Instead, the ball landed on the ground and I went chasing after it, listening to the respective cheers and groans from the two teams, until I finally got to the ball and heaved it with all my might, sending it sailing triumphantly through the air… about ten feet before it dropped to the ground.

I ran to the ball and threw it again. It went another ten feet. So I chased it again. And threw again. Only this time I watched in despair as the ball, which now weighed 45 pounds, traveled a measly five feet. Several minutes and nearly a dozen throws later, the ball landed in the vicinity (read: a good quarter mile) of one of my teammates, who quickly scooped it up and threw it effortlessly to home plate—while still finding time to yell out, “Thanks for nothing, Bloom!”

Unfortunately, this type of thing was common as I grew up. However, as I got older, I realized that my lack of Sportsessence was actually OK. I mean, so what if I couldn’t catch a stupid baseball? Who cares if every time I went to bat, the other team chanted “Easy out! Easy out!” while the pitcher instructed his teammates to “Move in closer!” And does it really matter that one time in high school, when teams were chosen for a soccer game, I was picked last—behind Sam Tiffs, the kid with one leg? HELL NO!

Sure, I’ll agree that being good at sports does provide some advantages in life (“And so we made the deal right there on the golf course! 30 million, just like that!”), but c’mon, there are plenty areas of life where athleticism is not a prerequisite for success. Like being a mime, for example.

Besides, that stuff is ancient history. After a lifetime of obsessing over and reliving those moments from my childhood, I’m finally ready to let go of the past and start focusing on the present. Like this stupid office kickball game. And how I’m going to get out of it.


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ROB BLOOM is the Arts & Culture Editor at TNB. He's also a comedy writer, screenwriter, copywriter, somewhat decent juggler, pro wrestling historian, former Disney character, and, perhaps most impressively, a connoisseur of all things deli. He has written for the Cartoon Network, McSweeney's, Opium, CRACKED, Fresh Yarn, Monkey Bicycle, Funny Times, NPR, and the Travel Channel. Last year, Rob’s original screenplay was produced by the Upright Citizens Brigade and shown with the trailers in movie theaters across the country. Rob is also the writer of a regular humor column, which has been praised by the Erma Bombeck Writing Institute as well as his parents who proudly display it on their refrigerator with magnets shaped like fruit.

Rob grew up in the sunny Orlando ‘burbs but now lives in Philadelphia with his wife, newborn son, and Shih Tzu badass. You can contact Rob at [email protected]

42 responses to “Kick Me When I’m Down”

  1. Hey Rob:

    While I was, in many ways, born deficient of the sports gene, I have learned to love the game of kickball. In fact, if I do say so myself, I’ve gotten pretty good at it. Hey, it’s what you have to do when you’re a fifth grade teacher. Adapt or die, my friend. Adapt or die.

    • Rob Bloom says:

      Rich,
      Sadly, I think you’re right. I do believe a game of kickball is in my future. Maybe I’ll be surprised and it won’t be as bad as I’m anticipating. Yeah, maybe.

  2. Irene Zion says:

    Rob,
    Learning to make an egg cream at the foot of your father! That is true fatherly love!
    We don’t have the sports gene on either side Victor’s or my side.
    My poor boys got no interest or understanding of sports AND the balding gene.
    Beautiful, fabulous hair until college. Then it all falls out.
    They probably hate us.

    • Rob Bloom says:

      Irene! Wonderful to meet you here in the wonderfulness that is V 3.0. Sorry to hear about the lack of interest/understanding of sports AND the balding gene. That’s a double doozy. Are your boys short? It could be a trifecta!

  3. Irene Zion says:

    I wouldn’t call them actually short, but I’m afraid that no one would call them tall, or even tallish.
    Yup.
    I think it’s a trifecta.
    I’m sure that they hate us now.

    (BTW: I lost my instructions on putting up a gravitar. I’m sending out a general plea for anyone to tell me how to do it or send me Brad’s instructions in an attachment. [email protected])

    • Rob Bloom says:

      Oy vey. My wife just gave birth to our first child, a baby boy. Maybejustmaybe he’ll grow to be the tallest Bloom yet. I’m thinking 5’7″ or, if we’re really lucky, 5’8″.

  4. Irene Zion says:

    Our tallest boy, and I use that just relatively, married into an uber-short family. Their kids will probably be even shorter. Great. Shorter and balder with each generation.

    • Rob Bloom says:

      I’m guessing what your boys lack in height and hair they (more than) make up for in humor and wit. On another note, sorry I can’t help you with the gravitar thing. However, there’s something awfully charming about your faceless grey-scale cube person. Simple yet sophisticated.

  5. Zara Potts says:

    Hah! I was always picked last for the sports teams too.
    I’m not a big fan of the office ‘bonding’ rituals either. Although having said that, we did once play cricket in our office with an orange. As our boss walked through the doors, having just come back from lunch, my colleague whacked that orange for six. It sailed through the air and right into the boss’s face.
    Oh how I laughed…

    • Rob Bloom says:

      Wow, what a story. I can almost hear the perfectly-timed canned laughter. Only thing missing is a co-worker to utter a witty catchphrase. Something like, “orange you glad you came to work today, boss?”

      • Zara Potts says:

        Oh! That would have been great! I’m laughing right now imagining it.
        I think we were all a bit shocked by the sudden flow of blood streaming from her nose and onto her nice white shirt to respond with anything funny.
        Although I seem to remember having to stifle a giggle.

        • Rob Bloom says:

          Blood? Really? Okay, that takes us out of the sitcom realm and brings us into, say, a delightful black comedy. Can we talk about casting choices for your boss? Who do you see in this key role?

        • Zara Potts says:

          Well, she needs to have glasses (which also broke under the orange attack by the way) be a little overweight and quite red faced.
          I’m going to have to think about this one..

        • Rob Bloom says:

          First, blood. Now, broken glasses. This story keeps getting better and better. Zara, I think this story is worthy of a YouTube-style reenactment. This whole orange incident screams “comedy gold”!

        • Zara Potts says:

          Wait until I tell you about the office bonding session of ‘Swallow That Banana.’
          Now THAT was something to see. Fun with fruit. Good times.

        • Rob Bloom says:

          Okay, this is too much. What kind of office was this exactly? Was this is a legal business? And what’s up with the fruit-themed activities?

        • Zara Potts says:

          No, it was a newsroom.
          Journalists are obsessed by fruit I think.
          ‘Swallow the Banana’ started as as ‘Quick-Draw Banana’ where you had to holster your banana at your hip and then everyone stood in a circle and on the count of three – peeled and ate the banana as quick as possible. First person finished got to whip the other players with banana skins.
          Okay. This is just sounding weird now isn’t it?

        • Rob Bloom says:

          I think we’re beyond “weird” at this point. What kind of a newsroom was this? Sounds like something out of a Coen Brothers film. Okay, you’ve got to tell us more. We know about the oranges and bananas…were there any other fruit-oriented activities you’d care to share? Something involving plums, peaches, or, perhaps, strawberries?

        • Zara Potts says:

          It WAS a strange newsroom!! Television breeds ’em odd.
          And no, I think it was only oranges and bananas.
          There may have been some mandarin action too.
          After the boss’s nose was broken, the fruit cricket was banned. Shame really.

        • Rob Bloom says:

          The real shame would be not going through with my YouTube reenactment suggestion. Comic gold, I’m telling you! In the meantime, I’ll keep thinking of casting choices for the boss.

        • Zara Potts says:

          Okay. But I want someone really cool to play me.

        • Rob Bloom says:

          Of course! I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  6. Lenore Zion says:

    i feel for you, my friend. i am oddly athletic, but i don’t like sports. the sound of football on TV makes me depressed. i can’t stand it. i don’t understand why it’s supposed to be a good thing for girls to really like sports. like, hey, she’s just one of the guys! she’s cool! well fuck that, man. i’m one of the girls. and mr. bloom, if you’d like to join me over here with the ladies, you are more than welcome. we have lemonade and cookies.

    however, one of these days, i’m gonna give you a nice lesson in Pig Latin.

    • Rob Bloom says:

      I’d love to hang with the ladies. Maybe we could play Red Rover. That was one game I was good at in middle school. That and Four Square.

      What’s wrong with my Pig (or should I say H1N1) Latin?

      • Lenore Zion says:

        “ee-vee-tay” is TV in pig latin.
        don’t worry. stick with the nerdy women. we will help you with your pig latin.

  7. […] While you’re there, be sure to check out my piece about being short and unathletic and being picked last for the team (every team) in middle school P.E. class. Read that here. […]

  8. What? Mime isn’t considered a sport???

    (damn!)

    God (a huuuuuge sports fan) had me nosing my Diet Coke. Good one, Bloom.

    • Rob Bloom says:

      Thank you, Ms. Wetherell. On another note, I never realized how similar our gravatar photos are. Check it out. Both of us looking ever so slyly at the ground. Oh, we’re so damn coy. I’ll tell you what I was looking if you tell me what it was that caught your attention.

  9. Richard Cox says:

    I love to play golf and football and basketball, but I’m not sure why I like watching them. Well, at least with golf you can marvel at shots and compare professional skill levels to your own. But why do I care what 22 dudes in weird outfits and pads and helmets are doing on a rectangle of green grass? Does their success or failure at throwing and running have any effect on me as a person? No. And yet when the Dallas Cowboys lose I feel a frustration that is completely displaced from reality. It makes no sense.

    Good luck in kickball. Work-related team-building activities are silly. Maybe you can sneak in a flask?

    • Rob Bloom says:

      A flask! Now there’s an idea! I think drinking makes everything more fun (including work). Thanks for checking in, Richard. And don’t let those Cowboys get you down.

  10. josie says:

    Oh my god, I’m having some serious flashbacks. Though I wasn’t the last kid picked, that woulda been the girl who smelled like urine or the boy who ran with his eyes closed, I still remember the torture of team picks.

    You go out there and kick some ass on that field, Bloom. You may not know squat about sports by by golly you’re old enough to fake it 😉

    • Rob Bloom says:

      No joke, there was a kid in my class who always ran with his eyes closed too! And yet, he was picked before me. I repeat: the kid who ran with his eyes closed…who couldn’t see where the bases were on the baseball field…was picked before me. Maybe I’ll take Richard up on his suggestion and start drinking now.

      Thanks for the encouragement, Josie. Appreciate the support and good kickball vibes.

  11. josie says:

    Don’t listen to anything Richard tells you, doll. I’ve seen his golfing videos… booze and sports… it ain’t pretty.

  12. I’ve never had the pleasure of playing kickball. It never really seemed like a real sport to me, either. Not that I’m a sporty guy. I used to play football (soccer) but got injured.

    Also, I wonder how many writers want to write the ‘I was never into sports…’ piece. I suspect many of us.

    • Rob Bloom says:

      You’re right about a lot of writers and the “I was never into sports” theme. Of course, in this case, it’s more like “I would’ve been into sports if I didn’t have the athleticism and coordination of a popsicle stick.”

  13. What the hell is kickball?

  14. Rob Bloom says:

    Leave it to YouTube to have an assortment of fun kickball-related videos. Here’s a :16 clip of a kickball game-turned-fight. Again, cue scary middle school flashback.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2nGy36XO_M

  15. What kind of hell is this that forces adults to play sports? I too spent the bulk of my formative PE years hiding in the outfield… isolation rules. My condolences, Rob.

    • Rob Bloom says:

      Too bad we didn’t go to the same school, Robin. We could’ve hid in the outfield together (and made fun of the kids who were making fun of us).

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