Monday, July 7, 2014

Give Me An N

The jacket still fits...
But there's no letter on it.
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

I am not now, nor was I ever an athlete.  I played one failed season of little league more than 30 years ago and a few seasons of soccer, both indoor and outdoor.  Beyond that, the only other athletic competition I was ever involved in was cross country and track in high school

The JV letter
I wasn't great at either, but it was something I did to be social and to kinda stay in shape.  I also knew doing it would be my only way of earning a varsity letter in high school.  This was important to me, why I don't know.  For Christmas during my sophomore year, my parents bought me a Letterman's jacket.  I remember how cool I felt wearing it, with my last name embroidered across the front.  I had already earned my JV "letter" the 91 that went on the sleeve to correspond with the year I was set to graduate.

Letterless with the Dr. Boyle
Pic from an article about my Eagle Scout project at the school

Despite not being very good at running, I was told if I stayed with it, I would eventually earn that big white N to proudly display on my scrawny chest. So I continued to lace up and finish at the back of the pack meet after meet, year after year. But I knew that persistence would eventually pay off.

Somewhere along the way I took my eye off that prize.  My senior year I joined three new clubs: Key Club, the yearbook staff, and the drama club.  Because the fall production was going on at the same time as cross country, I would sometimes skip practice to attend rehearsals. I was also working at the time, which didn't help with my time management skills.  I even missed a couple of cross country meets.

But on Fall Sports Awards night I sat there eagerly waiting for my name to be called and handed that varsity letter.  After all, I was a senior and I had earned it, right?  Wrong.  My name didn't get called.  I was disappointed and it took me a long time to accept the fact that it was MY fault I didn't get that letter.  I tried playing the blame game, but I'm the one who made the choice to go to different activities and skip cross country.  I got too confident I'd get the letter.

The letter I earned for Key Club
Right before graduation, at the spring awards night, I did receive a letter.  It was for the work I'd done in Key Club, a group devoted to community service.  I felt somewhat satisfied with that big blue N, but the athletic letters were white.  The blue ones were also awarded to female athletes.  It's for that reason I never had it attached to my jacket.  It sits in a box of mementos, now nearly a quarter of a century old.  My jacket still hangs in my closet, tucked behind other coats and sweatshirts.  When I see it, I think back to how I slacked off and didn't get the reward at the end.

That's what motivated me to write this.  It's another reminder to finish what you start.  I regret not seeing my senior season all the way through.  Now it's more about just not getting the letter.  It's about letting myself and others down along the way.  I don't regret joining the other activities though.  I just wish I would have been wiser about the timing of everything, but at 17 we think we know everything.  Hopefully my actions will be a lesson for my kids in the near future.

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