So My Son Doesn’t Skate…

Sam Keeley is back in AZPX Land, although he never really left. Since being the AZPX Videographer Sam has really expanded himself…..he came out here with everything his family owned in a Subaru and is now a proud home-owner and ‘Jack-of-a-lot-of-trades’ to where shooting video wasn’t enough to contain his creativity. Fast forward a few years and Sam has added author to his repertoire and I asked him if he would like to contribute an essay here and there on the site. The answer was YES and here we have his first installment. He wrote this a few years ago but it’s a pre-cursor to his next essay which I am looking forward to. Welcome back Sammy! -Rubber Toe

I have been skateboarding a very long time now. So long, that it has infiltrated every part of my life. Almost every person I have met since school, came into my life by way of skateboarding in one way or another, from my job, to my wife, skateboarding has been the hub my life has rolled on since I was 10.

My son is just not into it, he kind of was between the ages of five and nine, but that might have had more to do with getting to hang out with daddy than really wanting to skate. The brain has a way of turning most of the shit we did into a glamour shot, complete with spangled background and satin undertones, given enough time, so I may never really know, and honestly, I don’t really want to.

What I do know is that at eleven years old he could give a shit less about skateboarding. He likes the fact that I skate, he respects skateboarding, but it has not reached out and bearhugged his imagination, and I’m not hopeful it will one day. He really isn’t a “rough and tumble” kid, where I would charge in without looking or considering the physical consequences, he is calculating considering very carefully, the risks he is taking.

I wish I could say that this hasn’t bothered me from time to time, but I would be lying… When running into someone I haven’t seen in a while, someone who knows I have a son, and they ask the dreaded question “Does Logan skate with you?”, or going skateboarding with the Rennie boys, seeing Nate and Tristan share the same love of pushing plywood that Bill does… I get a twinge… a bit of a pinch in the pit of my stomach, and I will probably always feel it, at least a little bit. Fathers look for themselves in their sons after all. I am no different.

I have come to terms with it though, with a little help from my own father. My dad loved to play football, and he was good at it. My first day of high school it became really clear how good at it he really was (he has always downplayed his accomplishments to me). Right in front of the main entrance doors was a trophy case, and right in the middle of that display was my dad’s football helmet completely covered in stickers. For my “skateboarding only” friends, every sticker was something “outstanding” he had done on the field, like make a play, or break an opponent’s leg.  Later that day, in gym class, the football coach found me and started giving me the hard sell, telling me stories about how mean my old man was, how good the football program was, etc, etc… The coach talked me into joining in on an unofficial practice after school, at the time my cousin was the quarterback (and my ride home), so I had plenty of reasons to give it a try, but the most important reason was that helmet in the trophy case.

That afternoon I “unofficially” practiced with the varsity football team. Some of the team hated my guts, it was 1990, I was a skateboarder, and for some reason that made me the enemy, a “faggot” a “pussy” (I would later go on to faggot all over a couple of their girlfriends, but that is a story for another time).  I was naturally good at it, I’m small (at 5’5″tall), but I have always been good at sport, they have always come as natural to me as breathing, that’s not a boast, it’s just genetics, and compared to the technical physical nature, and constant risk in skateboarding, running from 8 or 9 guys who wanted to hurt you while carrying a football really seemed easy, they weren’t even wearing badges, or carrying guns.

Practice went fine, really it went better than fine. The coach was stoked, by the end of practice even the guys who hated me were trying to convince me to play, except for one thing: I was not into it. I got no enjoyment from the activity. It was basically chess with hitting and running as far as I was concerned, and worse, with every “go team” chant, pat on the back, pep-talk, I wanted to be there less, I saw it more and more for what it was, and none of it was “me”, I wanted freedom, I wanted to be my own man, not too get lost in a team color, or school slogan.  I craved glory, but not this glory, this school was not my identity, this team was not my identity, I was never going to understand the team, nor the mentality of the people in the stands, and they were never going to understand the glory in doing a 3am parking block slappy in front of only three people, then having to run from the cops, the jocks, and everyone else who just didn’t get it, and really wanted to hurt you and make you pay for their ignorance .

The 20 minute ride home with my cousin that day was hell. I really loved him, and he really loved this thing that was complete bullshit to me. He never stopped the entire ride home “we are going to dominate”, “the way you run…”. It felt like a huge waste of time to me. I kept thinking “you are never going pro, you are not even going to play college ball”, ”You are going to play high school football, then watch football for the rest of your life with no other connection to the team than where you are from, even though none of the players you are getting worked up over are even from the city, or state, they are playing for. You are going to cling to the idea you are an “athlete” even though all you did was play football for 4 years at a class F school before sinking deeply into a Lazy-boy, while wearing $200.00 shoes, eating garbage housed in a Frito-Lay bag for the rest of your life. While I, the “skater-fag”, will still be pushing, still be slamming my body into the hard concrete at 30 miles per hour, still bleeding for it, still hurting for it, because unlike football, this thing I was doing could not be stopped. It all seemed really grim to me. I had no future in skateboarding, but I wasn’t looking for one. I knew with 100% certainty that I would not stop skating myself, but living and dying by what I watched other men do, while doing nothing myself… Like I said, it seemed really grim to me.

When I got home that night and talked to my dad about it he didn’t have the reaction I was expecting. I was expecting something along the lines of what I had just went through on the car ride home, but he completely surprised me- “do you like football?” “You have never seemed very interested in football, if you don’t really like football don’t do it, football was my thing when I was your age, that doesn’t mean it has to be your thing”. He really meant it, he wasn’t trying to let me off the hook, he really cared that I was about to jump into something that I didn’t enjoy for all the wrong reasons, and he was smart enough to see it. His accomplishments on the field so many years ago, had nothing to do with me, and they shouldn’t have anything to do with me, small town mindset be damned, his pride was not as important to him, as me, being me, being my own man. He didn’t understand skateboarding. He was never going to, but that didn’t matter, he did understand the difference between his path and mine. It could not have been easy to admit to himself that his first-born son did not care about the same things that he cared about, but he was a man, and he didn’t put that shit on me, and I can’t put it on my son.

My son may never want to skate, but that is not his problem. It’s not something he should have to think about. Skateboarding has been my path, one I will continue to walk, and while I walk it, I will watch my son walk his own. I refuse to resent where that path leads him, no matter how far from me that may be.

Oh, I should probably mention that the kid loves motorcycles. He loves riding on mine, and when he gets home from school the first thing he does is jump on his and goes for a ride. So it’s not like the apple fell so far from the tree that it landed in a different orchard…

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