5 Things That Are Apparently OK To Do in the Name of Sports
We're all Internet people here. As a Cracked reader in particular, you are no doubt a suave, considerate and popular person, but you probably have a "friend" who is socially awkward and a bit messy and has other habits frowned on by society.
Your friend should take up sports. Not because it will make them cooler, but because sports let you keep doing all those uncool things -- and more -- and you're immune from criticism. And unlike explaining away your purchase of a replica Frostmourne sword by saying you need it for LARPing, which just makes things worse, explaining away your goofy sports goggles by saying you're training for a triathlon magically makes the shame go away.
Actually you'd have to pretty much be an NBA MVP to get away with owning this shame-free.
I just found this out firsthand. Doing a 100K bike ride really opened my eyes up to what you can get away with. Suddenly, all of my bad habits were forgiven. Like ...
Poor Fashion Sense
Have you ever noticed how all of the cool looking clothes in the world are made for someone other than you? Do you feel like people are smirking at your outfits behind your back? Have you given up, and now just wear track pants wherever you go? Well, I want to introduce you to a magical world where not only will no one judge you on your terrible fashion sense, but virtually all of those choices are made for you.
As I said, I participated in a bicycle race recently. Here's what I wore:
And nobody said shit. I was among hundreds of other cyclists, everybody was dressed this way.
Obviously team sports make you wear a uniform, but even the stuff you do on your own -- in my case, cycling -- completely removes all of those decisions since this is a world where function trumps all. As I've mentioned before, bike clothes are among the least flattering clothes in the world, and it doesn't matter. Someone wants to make fun of your neon yellow windbreaker? You can smugly explain to them it keeps you visible to traffic on the busy roads you ride. Anyone mocking your tight pants? You can point to your chain and all the other parts that can catch loose cloth. It's all done in the name of a bigger cause.
"I'm suffocating my balls to raise awareness for whooping cough, you asshole."
Sure, if you're participating in some kind of novelty race like I was (the all-women's Cinderella Classic) you might get roped into wearing some embarrassing team costume you can't easily explain away, like that ridiculous hat. But that thing hanging in front of my eye is a mirror (helps me see traffic behind me at all times) and that plastic tube hovering to the left is a water tube (from a CamelBak water reservoir, good for hands-free drinking). Both of which are convenient as hell.
I'd wear them all the time if allowed -- they'd be just as handy for keeping an eye out behind me while browsing the Internet at work or refreshing myself during a WoW raid. But the difference is that in those contexts, people will look down on you for it.
Not socially acceptable.
Take those items on the road for something athletic though, and you're golden.
You know how sometimes you just eat a whole pot of macaroni and cheese at one sitting? And how people look disapprovingly at you, especially if you're eating it with your hands? Tell them you're "carbo-loading."
"THIS IS MEDICALLY NECESSARY."
All endurance athletes take care to "carbo-load" before an event, mostly with healthy things like bananas and sandwiches -- or if you see this as a free pass to eat tasty food (like me) -- pizza and cupcakes. And maybe a banana. All this takes a while to digest, so you want to start getting it in to your tummy the day before, so that the cupcake molecules will be floating around in your blood the next day when you need them.
Saying, "I'm about to (run/ride/swim) 60 miles!" silences all criticism. Athletes know that when you're exercising for hours and hours straight, you need a pretty abnormal amount of carbohydrates to keep up your energy, and if you run out, you "bonk," where your muscles just quit on you.
The cyclists I talk to dread the "bonk" more than anything -- I heard a lot of people express worries about bonking and none about falling, which is a little weird when they go down twisty roads shared with cars at 40 miles an hour, but whatever. To prevent it, not only do you carb-load starting from the day before, but you also keep eating during the ride.
In other words, you wind up on the eating schedule a lot of us would be on all the time if society and biology would allow it. The goal on something like a long ride is to keep eating healthy crap as long as you can -- nuts, fruit, bars, etc. -- until your stomach basically quits on you, which can happen after many, many miles. At this point things actually get more awesome -- you just shove sugar down any way you can.
Candy -- special expensive candy made by nutrition bar companies. And gels -- which basically look (and sometimes taste) like little travel packets of toothpaste.
It really isn't as bad as it looks.
It's the same deal with any long endurance event, though cycling doesn't usually jiggle your innards around the same way, say, running a marathon does. That means that at least for your pre-ride meal and at your lunch break, you can eat almost any kind of food you want and not worry about throwing up ... or about disapproving looks. I can eat a cheese steak and no one can look at me sideways because I AM RIDING 100 MILES GODDAMMIT.
This map says I can eat a cheese steak if I want to.
Having all that fat in my stomach doesn't really do me a lot of short-term good, but think about the morale boost! It's the intangibles, man.
Ignoring Norms About Hygeine and Propriety
Are you tired of society always telling you when and where you can expel bodily fluids, like the guy who peed on my friend's shoes in a crowded club? Once again, sports to the rescue!
"Damn the man and his fascist 'bathrooms.' "
Society has rules about things like snot -- namely that you're not supposed to wipe it on your hands or your clothes. But if you've ever watched a football game that's being played in the winter, you know that shit goes right out the window as soon as you strap on a uniform. Those guys will just bend over and blow snot all over the ground, right on camera. Marathon runners leak bodily fluids (and worse) mid-race, and you can bet Michael Phelps doesn't get out of the pool when he needs to take a leak.
I found that snot is the big issue with cycling (it's so common you can Google "bike runny nose" and get many pages of results), and when you're on a long-distance bike ride, you often don't have anything to blow into, especially if you don't have time to get off the bike.
No. Some things are too silly even for cyclists. Also it's not very aerodynamic.
That's actually why most bike gloves come with a terry or fleece patch along the inside of your forefinger and thumb -- precisely to wipe your snot on.
Soft, absorbent terry cloth ... just needs aloe.
If that's not enough for your prodigious nose fountains, there's a product called Snot Spot you can put over your gloves for more wiping power.
So nobody can really fault you for rubbing snot all over your gloves unless they expect a limo to drive up next to you and hand you Kleenex like a bottle of Grey Poupon -- and then take it back afterward. On the other hand, nobody who knows this will shake your hand after a race.
The other bit of propriety you can discard is where you pee. Hey, if you're riding for five to 10 hours, you'll have to pee sometime, right?
It's not like wearing a wet suit, where you can just pee whenever you damn well please.
Most events set up rest stops at appropriate intervals along the way. But if your bladder is a jerk, like mine, you will pee at the rest stop -- an unimpressive amount -- and then 15 minutes later you suddenly have a gallon in your bladder. This is a common medical condition known as "mean bladder." That's why sooner or later, everyone's got to stop being gentlemanly or ladylike and just go whiz in a field.
If you're a dude, you don't even have to get off your bike.
Sure, you might have to ride 60 miles before you get to pull out your excuse (and your genitals), but it'll all be worth it when you can piss on some farmer's fence and then throw your hands up innocently when he gets upset, like, "What else could I do?"
Pee freely at a family BBQ and you're a weird asshole. Do it on a ride, and you're hardcore and focused.
And after you pee -- whether in a field or a port-a-potty rest stop -- odds are there's not likely to be plumbing, which means that unlike in a normal public restroom, you don't have to guess who's washing their hands, because you know that nobody is washing their hands.
But if anyone turns down your high-five, they'll look like an asshole. Because these aren't regular pee hands they would normally shun. These are a winner's pee hands. HIGH FIVE THE MAN.
Poor Social Skills
I'm an introvert, which doesn't necessarily mean I hate people (well, I do but for completely different reasons). What it does mean is that it takes energy to make small talk and get to know people, so I'm not very bubbly and chatty. This is usually a weakness at parties and workplaces and dinners and, well, everywhere. Someone usually makes a big fuss about how I'm clearly cold-shouldering them, when I'm not.
"I'm totally listening to you, there's just a very interesting article in the Sun."
But in a big athletic event? Talking to nobody is not only an advantage, it's practically required. In a big bike ride, there are a lot of small but important things people miss when they're chatting, like stoplights. Last week we were just out of the gate (and therefore in a large clump) when we came upon a stoplight, and, naturally, stopped. Two ladies behind me had been chatting the whole way until that point when suddenly one of them cursed and there was a crash. Apparently she had been so interested in the conversation she did not notice the 50 bikes slowing down in front of her. See? That is what happens when you try to make friends, lady.
Such is the price of socializing.
Yes, this is one setting where it's the outgoing social types who stand out as the target of anger and ridicule. It's the opposite of high school.
For instance, on last weekend's ride, there were groups of three people just riding side by side, a good five feet apart from each other (just enough so you can't slip between safely), chatting away about office politics or their kids or something. Calling, "On your left," (the standard signal that you are passing) had no effect on them, so I ended up having to ride into the oncoming lane of traffic just to get around them. I swear the only reason they are still alive is because I'm too clumsy to take my hands off the handlebars long enough to deliver a chop to the neck as I passed.
"You know what my favorite part about cycling is? Everything but the riding."
Lack of Respect For Authority
If you watch professional sports, or are aware that they exist, you know people can get away with pretty much anything if they are good at sports.
And some athletes can get away with a lot, even if they're not very good at sports.
What you may not know is that lots of sports let you break society's rules and get away with it. Recreational bicyclists aren't on the level of pro athletes -- I have to serve my time for domestic violence just like everyone else -- but I did find that even bike rides are still pretty much at the point now where breaking the law is almost required.
Now personally, I hate breaking the law because I was raised to do whatever the Man says (though, pirating software is OK for some reason), and you don't drop that easily. For that reason, and also because I don't want to get run over by a car, I like to stop at stop signs. Apparently I am a rarity. Cyclists have lots of arguments explaining why it's a big ordeal for them to stop at stop signs and I don't want to get into that here and ignite a car vs. bike fight, but the point is they really don't like to. Hell, lots of people don't like to -- drivers or bikers.
"Yeah? Well why don't you stop, sign."
And if you're riding in a crowded event and you try to stop, like I did a couple of times, it's a topsy-turvy world where you're the crazy dangerous one that almost causes a pileup behind you.
Occasionally the cops will pull over a whole pack of cyclists when a neighborhood gets fed up with this kind of behavior (or when the city needs funds), but they can't pull over all 2,500 people in a ride event.
So if you've ever dreamed of sticking it the man, here you go. In a large enough group participating in some kind of race, you are above the law.
"Oink oink, officer penishead!"
The reason I'm attempting this crazy journey from couch potato to bike rider is because I'm trying to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through a big old 100 mile bike ride in June that will probably kill me. Find out more about it here.
Check out more from Christina in The 6 (Wrong) Questions Men Love to Ask About Women and 4 Nobel Prize Winners Who Were Clearly Insane.