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A True Underdog Story of a Chubby Kid
I was a cute kid. I mean everyone says that, but I really mean it. However everyone who says that also does really mean it as well. But whatever… I was cute. From the ripe ages of four until eight I was wild, fun, cute, and full of adventure. But then all of a sudden, at the age nine I became fat and BIG (saying “big” is how sensitive guys recall their fat days).
I’m not sure how it happened. One day I was sitting at home eating chicken nuggets for lunch -- happy and cute, the next day I was eating chicken nuggets for every meal and I was fat. It’s a mystery to all nutritionists across the nation how I became fat. Some say it was from eating so many chicken nuggets, but nothing has been proven as of yet. Who knows? But somehow I became a husky kid.
Husky…another word to avoid fat.
However as my cute years were winding down…my athletic days were just blossoming. I became the best basketball player in my grade, and in my mind, the world. Nothing could stop me. By the time I hit 5th grade I forgot about being cute and only remembered being large and in charge.
People called me “Baby Shaq” in those days. Was I actually good at basketball? Maybe not, but I was so large and coordinated, that I thought I was. I would throw the ball up at the hoop and with my 5’4”, 150lb frame, miss it, get the rebound, put it back up, miss it, elbow a kid in the face, put it back up, miss it, jump into a kids chin, put it back up, and then it would go in!
No one could stop me!
I would average about 40 points and 60 rebounds per game. I was getting so good at basketball that I forgot that I looked like Danny Devito from behind.
Hey, if someone would confuse me for Danny Detivo from behind. I would sign autographs, and then answer any questions about the show, “Taxi”.
Also being Dom Deluise’s look-alike didn’t bother me until one day…
… when I met a girl.
However in 5th grade you don’t meet girls and develop a crush on them. That makes too much sense for a pre-pubescent boy. I saw a girl, knew her name and how she acted towards her friends, and just pictured what it would be like to be with her.
Nothing dirty, a pure 5th grade crush. Afterall, I was still under the impression that babies came out of a woman’s stomach. I liked her for the simple reason that I was growing up, discovering independence, and believed in love. I wondered what it would be like to have an outlet for this love. I wanted to discover what love was… that thing that had been described to death, yet still not understood by anyone.
Now I had no idea how to go about dealing with this crush. Do I ask her out? What does “asking out” mean? Where would I take her? In fifth grade, where can I go by myself? What would I tell my baby sitter Patricia? Would we kiss … how do you kiss? What is sex? If I got to close to her would that be sex? What do I wear on a date? I look good in my basketball uniform, would that impress her on a date? If I ask her out does she become my girlfriend right away? Wait….would she even want to go out with me?
All I knew about talking to girls was what girls had told me about it over the years.
“Just be yourself Tyler, you are really funny!”
However I didn’t realize that girls said that to me in the past because I was fat. They didn’t mean “really funny”, it was a secret girl-synonym for not being attractive. But this was the only advice I had gotten from the opposite sex on this type of matter…so I had to go with it.
I walked up to the girl I had a crush on -- and I started cracking jokes.
The best one I had went like this:
“Do you play any sports?”
“Yeah I play basketball” she replied
“Well, you don’t look very athletic, so who do you play? The school of retards?!”
At the time I thought this was very funny.
After being “really funny” I asked the girl’s best friend what she thought of me. She thought I was weird…?
I thought being so good at basketball would get me some girls, but then I realized that a chunky kid with a buzz cut, whose fashion sense consisted of making sure to have basketball shorts hidden under his sweat pants (just in case it got too hot ), was surprisingly not such a hot commodity on the relationship circuit…
The school year ended, and I went into the summer determined to become hot. And no…not so hot that I would have to take off my sweatpants.
That summer I was on a mission to become a new man. Instead of Basketball City Camps (everyone went to those), I was going to go on a diet, get a new haircut, and buy new clothing. And then come September I would enter middle school a new man.
Becoming a new man had many similarities to basketball. My team was down, and we needed to take a timeout to re-group and make some substitutions. The substitutions were simple ones that should have been made earlier in the game. Instead of going to the playroom in my basement, I now went to the adjacent gym in my basement. I ate grilled food instead of fried food, and stopped eating chicken nuggets … but that still proves nothing. Once those substitutions were made, I was set-up for the victory.
I also started to go shopping at stores that didn’t only sell AND1 tee-shirts that had that faceless guy on it, with trash talk like “I’m going to eat you! Then dunk it!”. I would sometimes wear an AND1 t-shirt and unintentionally offend someone’s mother. These shirts were indeed awesome and provided white Jewish kids an outlet to display their trash talk, without actually having to say it out loud. I never had the guts to trash talk. It was mean. Some people say it is part of the sport, but isn’t the sport part of life, so being mean in the sport is still being mean in life.
Stores like the Gap and Banana Republic were new and simple, and provided me with things I had never owned before.
Have you ever heard of those things called “jeans”? Yeah, the things in the movies? Well, they are basically like sweatpants except not as fluffy and kind of rough and tight in weird places (I did still prefer sweatpants, because it felt like blankets on my legs, but sacrifices had to be made).
I was 5’4”, 150lbs coming into the summer.
I was 5’6”, 115lbs coming out of the summer.
Was I hot yet? I didn’t know. I hadn’t seen any girls during the summer, so in my mind I looked exactly the same.
However when I came into that first day of school, I was not recognized.
“Tyler?? You lost so much weight!”
“Oh my God … Tyler!!”
I went from buzz cut and sweatpants to jeans, tight t-shirt, and long black hair flowing out of my stylish beaten up hat.
Was I hot? Yes…but I had shorts in my backpack to change into, so it was fine.
However the benefits of losing this weight were not only presented in my features and figure. When I played basketball that day, I was quick, fast and light on my feet. The coach saw me and was astounded.
“Silvers! You look great! This is going to be a great year of basketball!”
So wait…I was actually good at basketball! Not just BIG. I was also good at it this whole time! Awesome!
However as 6th grade crushes go, I no longer liked that silly girl from 5th grade, she was young and immature. I was now into older women….
I was growing up. I was learning about life and sports. I was discovering who I was and who I wanted to be. Sports and life would always be connected in my life, some days were going to be great, and some were going to be bad. But there is always another game, and always another day.
So with the basketball team on my shoulders and my new look, I was ready to become the jock basketball player who dates the head cheerleader.
However there were no cheerleaders at my school, and it turns out that to be that guy – the one depicted in all of the movies, you have to be a complete jerk….something I would never be.
Boy’s dream of being good at sports, being a so called jock, and guy’s reminisce about it. However men, real men, learn from it -- and this is what makes a real man. Everyone is a boy at one point, however to become a true man, a true person, a true soul, you must learn and adapt from sports and life.
Are you a jock? Are you a nerd? Are you a loner? If yes… then you are also a cliché. Write a new character for yourself. Don’t become like people, let people become like you. Learning to be yourself can only be done ... by yourself. Discoveries are made at all moments, the past moments stay forever in the past, and the future moments stay forever unknown. All you can ever know is that you control it all.