Coach was wise, once. ONCE.
To hear some of my classmates tell it, corporal punishment is the best thing that ever happened to them. This means, of course, that if any of them should step out of line — like, say, offering to split the check evenly when you had only coffee — you are legally entitled to punch them in the kidneys.
By the time I went to grade school in the early 1970s, corporal punishment was largely a relic practiced only by fascist, psychopathic, sadistic troglodytes, which is another way of saying "gym teachers."
I personally watched my gym teacher bend over and spank a fellow student so hard that the child toppled face-first into the gym floor. This teacher built up quite a reputation for cruelty, which he was able to naturally segue into the next logical step: elected office.
Mind you, I don't know if he ran on the "I will make your kid eat concrete" platform. But after 2016, literally nothing surprises me. If I heard a politician say, "If elected, I will inappropriately touch you with my tongue," I would give that politician a 51-49 chance of victory.
Anyway, let's call this gym teacher of mine "Coach," but only because it's too exhausting to refer to him as "Coach Drill Sergeant from Full Metal Jacket."
On at least one occasion, his indifference to child pain worked to my advantage. It came on a late-spring day, when we students were outside for track-and-field exercises, which involved, among other things, throwing around rubber balls, which I would subsequently attempt to catch with my face.
Fortunately, these balls were not particularly hard; they were somewhere between a Nerf ball and a softball, roughly what you might expect to feel while squeezing Tom Brady's head. Near the end of class time, I rolled one of these rubber balls back to the ball pit, located on the opposite side of the field. Foreshadowing my luck at bowling, my pitch went a little askew and it rolled directly toward the leg at a fellow student whom we shall call, in another act of foreshadowing, "Sissy Crybaby."
I shouted a warning to Sissy but he was too far away, standing somewhere near the Andromeda Galaxy. As I watched the ball head directly toward Sissy's leg, I thought three things: 1) the ball was traveling at a low rate of speed, 2) its inertia would only decrease with distance and 3) the ball was too soft to do any damage, as long as the target wasn't some sissy crybaby.
The ball tapped Sissy's leg. Sissy let out a howl, jumped high enough into the air to beat our school pole-vaulting record and dropped to the ground in a crying heap. Following him to the ground was my jaw, which dropped open so wide that I still have dirt stains on my chin.
Naturally, Coach was called over to investigate my malicious attack. I showed Coach the round, rubber assault weapon I had used. Coach scrunched up his face, looked down at Sissy and said what Bobby Brown often says during foreplay: "That couldn't possibly have hurt."
That settled the matter, even though, admittedly, Coach would have said the same thing if I had hit the kid in the face with a school bus.
I meant to apologize to the sissy kid — without calling him Sissy, mind you — but he never spoke to me again for the rest of the school year. As far as I know, he's living in a hospice somewhere, cursing my name and collecting disability checks from his wheelchair.
I'd feel worse about it if it weren't the only time in my life that I bowled a strike.