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Point of View: Experiences of failure help jump life's hurdles

Nov. 30, 2010

By Chris Derrett
Sports editor

When people ask me why I want to be a sports journalist, I give them two cliché, mildly humorous answers. I'm not good at anything else, and I'm much better at writing about sports than I am playing them.

Now that I think about it, the second reason would be a lot funnier if it weren't so pathetically true.

You'd think that the kid whose dad had the fifth-fastest 100-meter dash in Rice University history would find something, one position on the court or field that would lead to athletic excellence.

Nope. Some situations are win-win. Others are win-lose. My history in organized sports? Lose-lose-lose-lose etc.

The saga began when fourth-grade Chris' father decided his son needed to play a sport, a team sport. Naturally I chose the least team-oriented sport, and for good measure it was the one about which Dad knew the least.

I was a quick learner. On the first day of practice I learned that second base is not played by literally standing on second base. A few weeks later I knew both how difficult a baseball is to hit as well as how to discern balls and strikes.

The season also showed me what happens with exceptionally poorly thrown pitches. They hit you. I cried every time, which was quite a few times because of my apparent attraction to bad pitches.

I also sobbed every time I struck out, which was every time I didn't draw a walk or get beaned. That's right; I hit .000 my rookie season.

As the seasons progressed, my teams could never quite make it to the top. One year we were one win short of qualifying for the championship game. The next year we had the best regular season record, but they instituted playoffs and our No. 1 seeded squad lost its title game bid to the No. 4 seed.

It wasn't Fun Fair Positive Soccer, either, and there were no trophies for second place.

So baseball wasn't my cup of tea. That was OK; I knew I really wanted to follow in Dad's footsteps.

For a time, it seemed like things were great. I went from the seventh-grade pipsqueak who wanted to pee himself before every race to a growth spurt-aided eighth-grade star collecting several ribbons at every meet.

But before freshman year of high school began, my coach introduced me to hurdles. They introduced themselves in the form of frequent bruises and cuts.

Still, I entered the freshman division district meet having won all but one of my 300-meter hurdle races that season. That loss came to current Rice running back Sam McGuffie.

I had every reason to believe I'd grab a gold medal at district, and I did.

For 150 meters, at least. Then I did my best Wipeout impression and crashed my way into eighth place. Guess what color ribbon you get for that finish.

Still guessing? Trick question -- the only things they stick on you for that kind of performance are bandages and hydrogen peroxide.

By junior year I figured out I wasn't going to be a scholarship athlete, and by then I enjoyed track like a Baylor fan enjoys watching the Aggies win at anything.

Fast forward a few years, including a track-free senior high school year and a few internships and freelance work, and here I am.

When I look back on it, sports taught me the obvious: that I'm not the greatest athlete in the world. But in an almost pitiful way, they also helped me.

I don't swing at strike three, nor do I smash hurdles anymore. Instead I get letters like the one I opened after Thanksgiving break, telling me the Dallas Morning News regrets to inform me it is unable to offer me an internship for 2011.

This time the finish line is in sight, and I know a thing or two about absorbing a hit and moving on. Now all I need is a metaphorical batting helmet.

Chris Derrett is a junior journalism major from Katy and the sports editor for The Lariat.