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Sticking Up for the Little Guy, as a Little Guy

Written by Alex Koroknay-Palicz Feb 17, 2006

A thread in the NYRA forums about gym reminded me of some experiences of mine in PE class, and indeed in all sports going back to when I was quite young.

In elementary school we had these raucous soccer games during recess. One part of the playground had a very small field set up with goal posts at either end. The length of this pseudo-field was no doubt less than the width of a regulation soccer or football field, but it was the place to be. Lots of kids from the playground (boys mainly) would participate in these epic battles.

It was soccer, but… with a twist. It wasn’t exactly an organized match. No captains, no picking teams, no positions. Heck it was probably 20 on 20 (or 25 on 15) for most of the ‘games’. Small field, lots of people, it was pretty chaotic. Part of the twist is also that all the bullies and best athletes always picked to be on the same team. Sadly that isn’t very unusual, but more on that later. The last twist was the game didn’t always respect the rules of soccer. It wasn’t uncommon for one of the bullies to pick up the ball and walk straight ahead towards the opposing goal with all his teammates walking around him in a pack beating down anyone who got in their way.

Usually that “anyone” was me.

I didn’t stand for it. I was always on the other side in these competitions, always the leader of the opposition. I was the guy rallying together all the misfits, outcasts, and honorable athletes into the team that played fairly and confronted the bastards on the other side. We usually lost.

I wasn’t the best athlete in the world, but I played my heart out. I was also always our team’s main cheerleader, driving everyone on, encouraging them to keep fighting. Sometimes my team would get a lead and then all the bullies and jocks would switch to our team. Sometimes I’d welcome them and take it as a sign of my success, other times I’d just switch to their old team and keep fighting. Sometimes it would pay off and we would actually win.

Thinking ahead to future years in gym or recess that same pattern seems to have stayed. Odds are if we were playing a sport and weren’t picking teams with captains then all the jocks would join together on the same team. When that happened I was always on the team with the 2nd best people seeking to take them on. Once again my role was always that of bolstering my team’s resolve and morale to keep fighting. Each game became more than a simple pick up game it became a moral crusade for justice. Defiance against those who don’t play fair. Sometimes we won, often we lost. But damn it those times we won meant so much more.

It is very interesting how the patterns of one’s life are evident even early in life. I played those soccer games on the muddy field at Van Raalte like they were a moral crusade against injustice, well now, later in life I truly am on a moral crusade against injustice. Bringing together all the misfits, rebels, and second bests to try and challenge the powers that be.

What I bring to the cause seems to be the same as well. I am becoming more and more aware of my limitations as a non-profit organizer. I really don’t have the talent, intelligence or energy needed to run a movement as ambitious as youth rights. I wish I did, but I don’t. Wrestling with that reality has brought no small amount of stress and depression my way over the last few months. It really sucks to face that.

However I am encouraged by the memory of my days on the playground. Was I the best athlete on my team? No, usually not. But I kept us moving, I kept us striving, I kept us united in a common goal and working toward a common vision. My enemies were not the bullies on the other team; my enemies were desperation and apathy. I knew that there was enough talent and strength among all those kids overlooked, excluded, and sneered at to be competitive if they just stuck together and worked as a team. I feel that impulse more strongly today than I ever did then.

If the youth of America, all overlooked and excluded by adults, actually banded together, and worked as one, then damn it we can win this thing. There will be defeats along the way. A good many defeats. But with ultimately we shall overcome. I have no doubt. None. I can’t win this battle, but if I can give others the energy and the drive to do so, then my destiny will be served.

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