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The Home Team / Actually? Nobody really cares

Updated 5:34 pm, Thursday, February 21, 2013
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I huffed and puffed, grunted and groaned -- and cranked out that last bench press. "What was that, 500 pounds?" I joked to Tim the Trainer.

"Seven hundred," he said. "At least that's what I'll tell people for you."

We both laughed. We often wax philosophical during our training sessions, and today's topic was the things we do for show -- despite the fact that nobody else on earth gives a you-know-what.

Two more gym examples. Body Pump is a class I used to do regularly. The instructor would constantly encourage us to put a little more weight on our barbells, so every few weeks I'd step it up a bit. I remember one time I was slowly and deliberately stacking the plates on the end of my barbell, making something of a show of it. Subtly, I snuck a look around the room to see who was taking note of what I was about to lift.

Absolutely no one.

Four years ago we went on a family vacation to Hawaii. My two older sons and I -- all of us pretty proud of our fitness level -- tried our first-ever spinning class at the resort's gym. It was the three of us plus a bunch of moms in Spandex; how hard could this be? We heard a lot of nervous chatter as we mounted our cycles: Apparently today's instructor had a reputation as "The Spinning Nazi." And a half hour into our 50-minute session, all three of us were ready to cry uncle. But we sucked it up. We didn't quit. We weren't going to be shown up by ladies in tights.

At the end of the class we slowly got off our bikes. We were soaked in sweat. We stretched, conspicuously. We toweled off, at great length.

Nobody noticed.

Last spring, I'm driving my Jeep Wrangler on the Post Road, top down. I pride myself on staying on top of current music, and on the depth and breadth of my iPod repertoire. I'm listening to an eclectic playlist I've put together: A little Best Coast, a group that's currently enjoying cult success. The Black Keys, winners of multiple Grammys. Adele. Eric Church. Foo Fighters.

I stop at a red light in front of the Compo Shopping Center. A young woman, very attractive and less than half my age, pulls up alongside me in an Audi convertible. Adele has just finished singing "Someone Like You." And what comes on now, out of my up-to-date and diversified catalogue? "Light My Fire." Great. This gorgeous girl is going to be thinking, Look at that old-timer in the Jeep, listening to his '60s music.

Wrong. She's talking on her cellphone. And clearly not thinking about me or my music at all.

Back when I was in college, I thought of myself as a pretty good tennis player. Nothing great, mind you, but I once had a summer job as a tennis pro at a country club, and I took the game somewhat seriously.

On a Friday afternoon I went down to the university courts with my friend Jack to hit some. Jack was a total novice, so I assumed we'd just rally, but he talked me into playing a set, just for a goof. Somehow I managed to lose the first game, tensed up, and all of a sudden, I couldn't keep the ball on the court. All I could think about was what the guys back in the fraternity house would say if I lost to Jack. Which, of course, I did -- 6-4. An absolute choke, pure and simple. A humiliation.

Walking back to the house, I thought about how I could spin this. I was mortified. I cared a lot.

Jack found the whole thing was kind of funny. He cared, but clearly not as much as I did.

We got back to the frat house. "How did it go?" one of the guys asked.

I braced myself. "He beat me," I mumbled.

Our brothers went right on playing whales tails, our house drinking game. They couldn't have cared less.

"The Home Team" appears every other Friday. You can also keep up with Hank's adventures with his dog, Ricky, on his blog, "Beagle Man," on the Westport News website, at http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/. To reach Hank, email him at DoubleH50@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @BeagleManHank.