Saturday, December 29, 2012

No. 523 – Lookin’ Out for # 1

Performer: Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Songwriter: Randy Bachman
Original Release: Head On
Year: 1975
Definitive Version: None

Yes, BTO—the cheesiest non-Disco band of the Seventies—made the list. I make no apologies for this jazzy song, which would’ve fit better with The Guess Who. It’s about as far from sounding like Takin’ Care of Business as you can get.

Since third grade, I always was one of the tallest kids in my class in elementary school, but that extra height didn’t really translate into athletic prowess until sixth grade. I mean, I had always been OK at dodgeball or kickball and the softball throw, but in sixth grade, everything seemed to click physically. One such instance was the rope climb in gym.

I never was able to get more than about a foot or two off the ground, which was embarrassing—particularly when kids half your size were going all the way to the ceiling, about 15 to 20 feet off the ground. So it was with some hesitation that I approached the rope in sixth grade.

I grabbed hold and started shinnying up the rope, and I could tell instantly that this was going to be different. I was going up so fast that I didn’t have time to think about what I was doing.

I still remember the feeling of rising above the windows near the top of the gym and being able to look out over Greensview Drive before boosting myself up the final few feet and grabbing the top of the rope in the rafters in triumph.

The next test of my newfound athletic prowess was an athletic program that I have long forgotten the name of. It was like a decathlon in that you did seven events and depending on how well you did in each, you got a certain number of points.

At the end of the school year, you added up the points. If you got 135, you got a green t-shirt; 155 got you a red shirt; and 175 got you a black T-shirt and your name and picture on the gym wall. I had never gotten any shirt of any color before.

But in sixth grade, the standards just fell. The softball throw and 50-yard dash were first, followed by the standing long jump. I got 25s on my first attempt in each. The shot put and shuttle run came next and 25s soon followed, also on the first day. That left my two toughest events—the high jump and the 440 dash. Make that one tough event, because I cleared 4’-6” after a couple of attempts.

But my first trip through the 440, I could muster only 20 points. I was at 170, which meant a red shirt, but I wanted the black shirt. I was so tantalizingly close, but I couldn’t reach my goal on subsequent attempts, and time was running out. So I did something that was anathema to me at 11: I practiced. With Marty timing me, I ran the 440 over and over. Sometimes I made it; sometimes I didn’t.

Just before the end of the school year, I gave it one last shot, and as I was closing in on the finish line, I remember hearing the gym teacher saying five seconds to go. I put everything I had into the final sprint, and I beat the time I needed by a second. Yes! Yes! Yes!

It turns out, I was the only boy to get 175 points that year. (Four girls did.) Unfortunately, that year, they stopped with the T-shirts and just gave out iron-on decals. Mine was the Upper Arlington Award. Bogus, but I still got my picture up on the gym wall.

The final athletic triumph was in the annual Track and Field event held on one day between all of the classes in the same grade. I had never been on a winning team before, but this year, Mr. Sauer’s class, which wasn’t expected to win, went out and built up a huge lead in the morning

We swept the three places in standing long jump among boys (I took first place), went one-two on the softball throw (I took second), and our girls were kicking butt in everything. By the end of the event, Mr. Sauer’s class was announced as the winner to much tumult in an assembly.

But best of all, when baseball season started, I began to hit the ball with authority. I hit a triple—my first—early in the year. Could my first home run be far behind?

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