Confessions of a Klutz

Hello. My name is Emma. And I am a klutz.

Why I am here on the Almanac – a sports philistine among aficionados, a klutz among athletes – is one of life’s great mysteries. But I am here, nonetheless.

I didn’t complete any 12 steps to sports appreciation, I just started reading the website (introduced to it by my husband, Stone Cold Steve Baker) and I was hooked. The Almanac immediately got under my skin in a ringing endorsement of original storytelling triumphing over subject. Tell a story and tell it with heart. It’s that simple.

Somehow, I’ve found myself spinning around behind the scenes helping the Almanac crew keep this thing ticking along on a daily basis. I feel so passionately about this community that I even convinced John Harms to enter into a crowdfunding campaign to help fund the site’s digital upgrade (prove to him that it was the right thing to do).

But I feel I need to come clean in order to move freely in Almanac circles, lest I be labelled a ‘rat’ and outed by way of my sheer sporting ignorance. You could say I’ve made a sport out of not knowing sport. And I’ve been a champion at it.

There’s nothing like a physical disability to make an athlete out of someone. My father contracted polio at 18 months of age, which meant he didn’t walk until four, and only then by way of callipers. Teasing from his schoolmates steeled him with the kind of determination that saw him rise above his limitations and become a star amateur athlete; a man of such physical strength no one was game to tease him again.

On the other hand, I was born able-bodied, lacked competitive drive and – let’s be honest – was a bit of a nerd, a combination in my case that provided little motivation for the sports field. I eschewed sweating for books, music and horror movies. My superpower was to immerse myself in text, even when riding on the school bus. I would sit with my best friend, noses in our different books, and we would read alongside each other. Who said reading was a solitary activity?

I was (almost) a straight ‘A’ student, not through intelligence but through perfectionism (that perfectionism has since seen me burn out on occasion, and there’s nothing intelligent about that). My parents would proudly flick through my school reports noting those ‘A’s standing to attention for their adoration. One after the other, those grades would roll out: A, A, A, A… Until they got to Physical Education: C.

“Emma’s performance in class has suffered because of lack of effort. Emma has the potential to do much better.”

Evidence (slightly faded)

Evidence (slightly faded)

That C-grade was a persistent blemish on my academic record. But my belligerence overcame any ‘potential to do much better’ and I got consistently worse instead. My excuses for getting out of P.E. became the stuff of legend.

“I’m sorry, Mr Brooks, but I don’t think I should do being P.E. while I’m on the 40-Hour Famine in case I pass out” was met with a steely glare, a shake of the head and a finger pointed towards the changing room (he didn’t need to say anything).

“Emma has an illness so she cannot do P.E. I will write another note when she is able to participate again” was a message I miraculously convinced my mother to write. And, even more miraculously, that note worked for three weeks until the teacher called me on my ruse.

The only detentions I ever received across my school career were for (a) refusing to stop talking in class and (b) for not attending school sports day… as a spectator.

It got to the point of utter ridiculousness. In year 12, my friends decided to nominate me for school sports captain. They would not be there for that head-scratching moment when my nomination was revealed to teaching staff but just knowing what those teachers would be thinking made it worthwhile. And, for the record, I did not get sports captain.

You might be thinking, ‘OK, you didn’t want to participate in sport and P.E. but that doesn’t mean you weren’t good at it.’ Let me clarify: I sucked. Big time. My physical achievements didn’t extend much beyond jazz ballet (I liked music) and riding my bike (my mode of transport). I threw like a girl, which is an embarrassment to girls the world over. I was the last one to be picked for class teams, except when my friends begrudgingly had to pick me. I was an insult to sport in general.

You can imagine, for someone like me, being pulled up in front of the class for a demonstration was an exercise in humiliation. But when the teacher asks you, you do it, despite the sniggers of amusement around you.

On this particular day, we were playing netball and, when it came down to it, I never minded netball, as long as I could play in the position of centre and not be pressured into shooting for goal. I weaved through the kids sitting cross-legged on the asphalt of the court to take my place in front of the class, facing my teacher and anticipating the level of shame he was prepared to inflict on me.

“Now, I’m going to throw you the ball and I want you to run backwards and catch it.”

That instruction seemed simple enough but it wasn’t beyond me to cock it up, and the simpler the thing you cock up, the greater the embarrassment. Nevertheless, I realised this was something I had to do, so I locked eyes with him, waiting for that call to run backwards and did exactly what he told me to do.

The ball left his hands. I immediately turned my eyes to the ball where I kept them fixed (isn’t that what you do – keep your eyes on the ball?) while running backwards. I remember the ball arcing over my head forcing me to leap up, my feet actually leaving the ground in my own personal Cazaly moment, and then my hands encircling rubber. There was that fraction of a thought – ‘I’ve caught it’ – before the momentum of my leap was cut short by the sudden cracking of my skull against the netball pole.

Thwack!

I’m not entirely sure what happened at that point. I believe I blacked out for a nanosecond before looking up at the astonished faces on my audience, including that of my teacher, jaws hanging slack as they stared at me with limbs akimbo on the asphalt. But with the ball in my hands.

“Look, she’s bleeding!” A kid pointed out in excitement.

It’s then that a tidal wave of blood flowed swiftly like a shawl over my shoulders. My teacher immediately ran over in panic. I raised my fingers to my head and felt a sticky mass of hair and, before I knew it, I was escorted from the court to sick bay amid the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ – and occasional screaming – from the other students.

When I got to sick bay, it was revealed I only had a superficial cut on the back of my head, no stitches needed, but the proximity of the veins on the surface of the skull had made for a spectacularly bloody display. It earned me three days at home and a triumphant return to school with the other kids fawning all over me. “I heard you could see your brains,” one disappointed student confessed.

Suffice to say, my P.E. report showed a remarkable improvement from the previous ones. Mr Brooks refrained from writing any comments this time but his guilt was apparent from the grade he granted me: B.

As you can see, my fellow Almanackers – and I dare call myself ‘an Almanacker’ – my participation as a member of your exceptional online community is one of an imposter. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, I truly feel at home here and very privileged to contribute in some way, even if it is without proper insight into sport or more than a classroom netball disaster to list as my sporting ‘achievements’.

I stand before you humbly, in admiration of your writing, and hope you’ll allow me to ingratiate myself to you and learn from what you all have to offer.

I would even bring my gym clothes if the Almanac asked me.

Give to the Almanac ‘We Even Support Klutzes’ Fund.

About

Emma is a writer, reader and horror movie aficionado. When not having the bejesus scared out of her, she wrangles content creation for her company, Bakewood.

Comments

  1. Neil Anderson says

    No confession required. The Almanac is comprised of 50% literature and writing and 50% sport, so you’re probably over-qualified anyway. Especially being married to a sporty literature person.
    My wife was a potential A student at school while I got excited with the very occasional B.
    i loved footy and couldn’t wait for the two hours of sport each week at school. My wife was the book-worm and realized sport wasn’t for her very early on.
    After meeting John Harms in our local library one day and hearing about his background in teaching and writing, she has been supportive of my writing about football. Academia and love of the Sherrin can mix.
    The worst game my wife had to play and it comes up in therapy, was poison-ball or as the Yanks call it, Dodge-ball.

  2. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Entertaining and very funny Sunday evening read Emma. 40 Famine line was a classic. I once sponsored a girl so I could get a date. Got rejected, but at least she did the 40 hours, if drinking TAB Cola all weekend counts as fasting.

  3. Cat from the Country says

    Delightful story Emma.
    I know how you feel about playing sport.
    I grew up with three brothers and so was probably too rough. I too was picked last and I could throw a goal, really!
    But where we differ is I LOVE football – It is a spectator sport!!!
    My dad put the leather stops on the leather boots back in the 50’and 60’s. I went to the footy with him.
    I learnt the rules and I knew all the Castlemaine Magpies by name … even cleaned a lot of boots, if they weren’t picked up before the game.
    I also have a small autograph book with pen pics and signatures (not all of them unfortunately)
    I a knew a lot of the Kyneton, Golden Square, South Bendigo, Sandhurst, Eaglehawlk, Rochester and Echuca boys too.

    Now I am a member of the Mighty Cats looking forward to that elusive 4th modern premiership!
    Keep up the good work and please write again for The Almanac

  4. Yvette Wroby says

    Hi Emma,
    I think you have a mistaken idea that the almanac is for sporty people. I acknowledge many are…look at David Downer and the marathons he’s running or Yoshi and his bike riding, and the golf matches and the cricket games and the footy games often advertised on this site. The Almanac, (even for those sporty) is way more than that, and you’ve joined it perfectly with humour and good writing and the wish to see this community grow and prosper. More writing please, you make me especially proud to be in the klutz club. When I think that kick to kick might come back, I know I’ll worry about embarrassing myself and missing kicks or breaking my self manicured St.Kilda coloured nails. Nevertheless, I’ll give it a go if I have the chance, just to having something to write about.

    Well done and more please

    Yvette Wroby

  5. Yes but a very likeable klutz. Better that than a dickhead athlete.
    Bravo Ms Emma.

  6. love your writing Emma

    your Cazaly moments

    And confessions…..

    My confession, whilst have played some sport here and there, i only vaguely recall, possibly playing one game of netball ever! In a Pe lesson also. As for a Cazaly moment, that came in the form of a superb empty wine glass catch at a wedding, where it toppled from a tray high above a waiters head. A Classic Catch, by all accounts at the time.

  7. Great stuff, Emma.

    But that’s the thing about the Almanac…it ain’t just about sport!

  8. Really enjoy your self deprecating style Emma. For me sport has always been as much a common language as a physical activity.
    I never played footy much beyond school, and most of my playing memories are of personal humiliations interspersed with pleasantly unexpected team and (very occasionally) personal successes.
    I still haven’t worked out if those experiences define us, or just help to explain us.
    I played cricket until I was 30 and still knock a golf ball around most weeks in my late 50’s, but I have always had a footy team to scream for and identify with since I could walk.
    Almanackers share a love for the game, not a proficiency.

  9. Very, very enjoyable read Emma.

    My take is the PE teacher was actually the klutz for he clearly threw you a hospital pass only for you to courageously attempt a John Dyson (I suggest you Youtube ‘John Dyson catch’)!

  10. Emma Westwood says

    Neil – I think I’d get along very well with your wife. But you’re a playwright too? The dichotomy of Footy Almanac writers.

    Phil – Sounds like she wasn’t worth it. TAB Cola, eh? Did she drink Tang too?

    Cat from the Country – If push comes to shove, I’m a Cats supporter too. Lived in Geelong, and had a Cats patch stitched to my duffle coat. Occasionally donned the scarf as well.

    Kate – Was your Cazaly moment caught on camera? It sounds like it would go viral.

    Smokie, Peter & Yvette – It’s becoming more and more apparent, Almanackers come in many different forms. Sport is the unifying force, acting as the spine on which everything else hangs. And everyone seems to ‘get it’. It’s an unspoken understanding. It’s very refreshing and exciting, don’t you think?

    Thanks to everyone for your comments. Glad this story (all true) could serve as a nice, light-hearted read.

  11. Emma Westwood says

    Jeff – My catch *felt* like John Dyson’s. Probably wasn’t quite as spectacular, except for the injury. Call me Emma ‘Dyson’ Westwood:

  12. And you want to be my latex salesman?

  13. Neil Anderson says

    And I think I would really get on well with your husband Emma. Sporty, literati and most important,, a Seinfeld and Larry David fan.

  14. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    I do not think insight into sport requires any other kind of capacity except that of observation and translation, Emma. You seem to have bucket loads of them.

    I took a similar catch from my two boys (one big, one small) on Seven Mile Beach. A cricket ball. A stunning outfield catch and then … backwards, prone in the surf, new hat and sunnies heading out with the bivalves, severe shock and a sore shoulder, a touch of embarrassment but also lots of kudos from the boys. Probably a B too.

    Thanks for the lovely read.

  15. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Bewdy Emma

    So you were the reason that I was hauling in large slabs of vinyl covered foam (with extra strong velcro) at the end of most winter Saturday afternoons.

  16. Jamie Simmons says

    So you’re saying that you caught the ball? Well, as quite possibly the most talented sportsperson among us, I’d say you’re definitely over qualified.

  17. Malcolm Ashwood says

    The catch by Dyson comparable to capturing the heart of stone cold , Emma ?
    Enjoyable read good on you !

  18. Many a sportswriting or editing career was born from the stark realization among lifelong sports fans that one’s athletic skills are limited. I bet a lot of us fall into that group. But we also all also share an appreciation for engaging, entertaining writing that really lifts our spirits. A wonderful read.

  19. Emma Westwood says

    Mathilde – I think having a husband who is a walking sports encyclopedia is part of the problem. Quite intimidating, if I say so myself.

    Swish – Yep, I am one of those people. Foam is my friend.

    Jamie – Hells yeah. I caught that damn ball and (it appears) I’m still talking about it.

    Malcolm – Don’t let the name ‘Stone Cold’ fool you. He’s a push-over.

    Glenn – I’ll try to remember that. But I’m not ready to unleash a match report on unsuspecting readers. Not just yet…

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