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Posts Tagged ‘Gold medal’

I knew I’d never win. So I did the next best thing. Lose better than everyone, and walk away with the anti-gold-medal.

Like many kids, I grew up feeling pretty inferior when it came to athletic events, and with good cause. The closing ceremonies for any Olympic career of mine occurred in the birthing room. The last kid picked for kickball on the school playground? That would be me. Scrawny. Timid. Loaded with all the confidence that comes from repeated athletic failure.

But at one event, perhaps a vicarious victory could be achieved. You see, in my hometown, we had an annual fair in October. This was a big deal. And each year, there was a frog-jumping contest. My brothers and I had a lot of room to roam in the neighborhood, with a brook and some ponds, so catching frogs was not much a challenge. But catching winners? Not so easy.

Somewhere, somehow, other kids in town would find genetically engineered amphibians that looked like they ingested as many steroids as Russian weightlifters from the 80’s. When they’d finish wiping out all competition with jumps of approximately 39 furlongs, they wouldn’t merely “ribbit,” they’d croak out, “I’ll be back…” – as in, next year, to clean your clocks again.

But some town father had the prescient notion that self-esteem might be important to preserve for the young competitors who had underperforming Kermits, so while the big cash prices went to the win-place-show beasties, the poor loser whose frog jumped the smallest distance in three hops was awarded a $5.00 Booby Prize. Ha, ha, loser. But hey…5 bucks is 5 bucks.

Searching in vain one fateful October for a gold-medal leaper, I came across only the standard garden variety frogs – those who would comfortably finish toward the back of the pack, those who were probably always picked last on the lily pads at Square Pond. Then my eyes lighted on the smallest of them all – a veritable 12-year-old Chinese gymnast of a frog, who could barely cover the width of a finger with each jump. The light went on in my young, shameless, opportunistic mind. Why try in vain to wrestle with the Sumos? Let’s lose BIG and at least have 5 smackers to waste on cotton candy and rides!

Feeling slightly nervous yet smug at the contest, my turn came to unveil this prime athlete, this once-a-year choice for townwide competition. As I placed Junior on the pad for his turn, chuckles began to ripple through the crowd. What’s with that barely visible thimble-sized amphibian, after watching the muscular leopard frogs go at it hammer and tong? But he performed true to form. His nearly undiscernable leaps undercut all others by a wide margin, and I was happily awarded the first Booby Prize fairly sought and won by a boy who knew what his chances really were. Five bucks and a fool’s gold medal were better, after all, than hopeless elimination at the hands of athletic professionals. And I’ll bet I knew which frog everybody talked about that day when they went home…

(thanks to Ann Handley for sparking this recollection)

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