October 12, 2007
By Dan Morgan-Russell, Denver, CO

“No! Absolutely not! I will not have you participating in that pathetic excuse for a sport when you could play football and become a man!”

“C’mon Dad, I tried football, and what happened? I got creamed! And what did you say before I went to the beginner’s night scrimmage? ‘Blah blah blah son you will love football blah blah I loved football blah blah go play football blah blah.’ Well I did Dad, and it stunk! I can run, sure, but I don’t want to get smashed into the dust by some crazy six-foot-eight 200 pound linebacker! It does not appeal to me!”

“Young man you are going to be grounded if you can’t keep a civil tongue in your head! Now you’re lucky I don’t beat you to a pulp for that kind of language!”

And with that, I stormed up to my room, steaming mad. Why did my dad care so much? Swimming is a sport! I wanted to scream that in his face, but that would only get me in more trouble.

I went to my room and slammed the door, deliberately. My father hates it when I slam my door. And so, just as I expected there was a shout from downstairs. “Stop slamming the doors, Chris, dang it!” I smirked. I wanted nothing more than to make my father as mad as possible at that point.

I lay on my bed, thinking about how much I hated my father. I kept on loathing him, and before I knew it, my alarm clock was ringing.

I rolled over and looked at the clock. It read 7:30. I groaned and rolled over again. Eventually I got up and strolled down the stairs. I strolled into the kitchen. My little brother Jimmy was sitting at the table eating a bowl of Cheerios. Jimmy had just gotten the hang of getting every spoonful of the cereal into his mouth, and ate Cheerios whenever he could to show off that he could do this at age five. I gave Jimmy an affectionate pat on the head and sat down next to him. I grabbed a bowl and a spoon and sat down next to him. Jimmy passed me the box of Cheerios and the milk. I ate my cereal in silence, cleaned my bowl, grabbed my bag, and walked out the door. As the door closed, my mother called out “Have a good day, honey.” I didn’t reply, too absorbed in my own thoughts.

I headed down the recreational center for an early Saturday swim. At the rec center after I changed into my well-worn green Speedo and put my goggles on, I hit the showers for a quick rinse and proceeded through the double doors to the pool.

I stepped up on one of the starting blocks and took a starting position. As I poised myself on the block and got ready to dive in, I thought about my swimming career again.
I continued to think as I soared off the block and over the still waters. I hit the water and shot like a bullet down the past flags. I picked my arms up, slammed them back into the water, and started my 1000-meter butterfly routine. I don’t know why I like to swim distance butterfly so much, maybe it’s because butterfly is a challenge to most, and distance butterfly is unbelievable torture to almost all. So when I can go strong throughout my butterfly workout, it’s like I'm a superhero or something, because I can do what no-one else can or will do, and I like that. When I'm about 200 meters into my routine, my body falls into a rhythm, and I stop thinking about the stroke and focus on my life.
I wonder why my dad hates swimming so much? I start to think about this, and soon my mind is churning with things to say to him to let me swim. I can see it all in my mind, how he will fold to my superior arguing skills, and finally agree with me. When I finished my 1000 meters, my lungs burning, I ignored my exhaustion and continued with a few kicking and pulling drills. After my excruciating workout, I hit the showers. I felt great after that workout, and was sure that I could convince my father that swimming was something I would do, no matter what.
I ran home, ready to confront my father, opened the door, kicked off my shoes, and went to my dad’s office. He was sitting at his computer, typing something.
“Hey Dad,” I said, as I took a seat next to his desk.
“Son,” he said, turning his chair around, “You better be polite, or I will ground you. So what do you want?”
“Well, I’ve just been thinking about things you’ve always said to me, like that I should stick up for what I believe in. So, I want to swim, but you don’t want me to swim, why? You want me to do what I want to do, within reasonable limits, and I think swimming is reasonable, don’t you?” I had to choose my words carefully, or he might explode and never let me swim on a team, ever.
“Yes, son, swimming is reasonable, but I don’t think it’s a sport. Football is a sport, a real sport, a sport that builds character, and you should play real sports.”
“Dad, you earned a huge college scholarship by playing football. They also give out scholarships for swimming, so how can you say it’s not a sport when they give out enormous scholarships for it?” I thought this would get him.
“Ok, so let’s say swimming is a sport, just for the sake of argument. I still think you should play football instead. You can run, you can dodge, you’re strong, football could be a great sport for you, disregarding the scholarship angle.”
“But Dad, I think swimming could be a better sport for me. Why do you hate it so much? Did you have a run in with the swimmers at school or something like that? Is that why you won’t let me be a part of that team? Can we come to some kind of agreement?” Since the scholarship argument didn’t faze him, I thought this might.
“How about this, son: you try out for swimming, and if you make the team, fine, swim with them. But if you don’t, then you try out for football, and I’ll be there, making sure you try your hardest.”
“Deal.” Not as good as I thought it could be, but it was better than nothing. We shook on it, and I went to my room and started on my work.
A few weeks later, I left the house for the swimming tryouts. I had been working for weeks on my distance routines, and had decided to try out in distance butterfly, freestyle, and breaststroke. As I was leaving the house, Jimmy called out to me from the front door: “Go swim bestest brovver.” he couldent pronounce the “th” sound yet. I smiled, waved back and continued walking to school.
At the tryouts, I swam like I had never swum before. My dives and turns were perfect, and I was confident that I had made the team. After someone said the results were posted in the main hall, I went out to check. To my surprise, my dad was there! He looked into my eyes and said, “Son, I watched you swim out there. I saw how much passion you had for the sport, and now the results are posted and you made the team. I may not like it now, but I am willing to accept that you are going to swim with this team. If you can show me the same passion that you did today, I may come around to this swimming idea.” And with that, we walked home together, and told the news to the rest of the family.
So far I’ve been to three of the team meets, coming away with first place points from each event. My coach says that if I keep with it, I might letter as soon as sophomore year. I'm excited, and I think my dad is secretly excited too, though he doesn’t show it.

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