Editor's Query: Tell us about a time when you were the unexpected star of the game

Sunday, April 11, 2010

When I was a kid, I was a huge tomboy. I hated pink, playing with dolls or anything else "girlie." I loved sports and played in the girls soccer and T-ball leagues.

One day at recess when I was about 9 or 10, I watched the boys playing two-hand touch football. The next day, I watched again. The third day, I asked if I could play. Some of them ignored me and some laughed at me -- "Girls can't play football!" The next day, I asked again. They were short one player, so they grudgingly let me in the game.

On the first play, the quarterback passed me the ball -- I was wide open since no one saw any need to guard a girl -- and I caught it and ran. I can still recall how I arched my back when an opposing player came close to touching me and missed me by an inch. I ran all the way for a touchdown. When I turned around, the boys were staring at me stunned. Then, my team burst into cheers. After that, I was not only allowed to play football, but I was one of the first picked when teams were formed.

I played on various team sports from elementary through high school, but the triumph I remember with the most pride was that football game in the parking lot at recess.

Deborah Wilbur, Potomac

***

I was principal of Herbert Hoover Middle School in 1994 when we lost a student to cancer. As a memorial, the school decided to run an all-day student/staff basketball game to raise money for cancer research.

Each student needed to provide a $10 contribution to earn a spot on the court. On the day of the game, students from all three grades rotated into the gym to play, and teachers brought their kids down to cheer throughout the day. It was hectic, hot, energetic and great fun. I am not an athlete and had never played an organized sport, but I rotated into the game, where my two greatest fears were breaking a sweat or a nail. I managed to do my part, and not score a point, without embarrassment.

Toward the end of the day, the gym was packed with more than 800 screaming middle-schoolers waiting for the final whistle. The referee called a foul and then called me out to shoot the free throw. He grabbed a microphone and held up two $50 bills, announcing: "If Mrs. Goodman hits the rim, I will donate $50. If she makes the shot, I will donate $100!"

His challenge was a complete surprise to me, and I started laughing in astonishment. But then I realized that I couldn't turn him down when the money was going to charity. The pressure was on!

The students got eerily quiet. Sweat trickled down my back as I approached the foul line in my Reeboks and silky black running suit. I eyed the net, shot the ball and shut my eyes, muttering a little prayer. Swoosh! Nothing but net! The gym thundered with cheers, claps and stomping feet, and I brushed my hands together in mocked superiority. The kids talked about my awesome performance for the next three years, until I left Hoover. But the sweetest victory was that we donated $4,000 to cancer research that day.

Carole C. Goodman, Rockville

NEW QUERY

Tell us about a time when you got your sweet revenge.

If you have a 100 percent true story taken from your own experience concerning the above query, send it to queries@washpost.com or The Washington Post Magazine, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Include your daytime phone number. Recount your story in 250 words or fewer.


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