Bellevue Herald-Leader Guest Columnist

The recent mention of Bellevue’s Winter Carnival in “Years Ago” brought back some bittersweet memories for me.  For those who don’t know, back in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, the firemen would flood the softball diamond at Cole Park for use as an ice skating rink.  

As a pre-teen, I spent a lot of  evenings and weekends flailing around on the ice covered ground. Having seen ice skaters perform on TV,  and with  the utmost confidence only possessed by the young,  I really thought I could just charge onto the ice and with  a flourish befitting a ballerina,  turn a sweeping turn into a beautiful pirhouette.  Not so. It seems it would take a lot more practice.  So, after numerous times falling and bruising, I knew what I must do.  That’s right.  Quit.

So I thought I would put my effort into speed racing as there were races coming up during the Winter Carnival.

 Now, here you have to realize, that I have never been in a competive sport, other than back yard baseball games during which I learned the true secret of how to be successful in sports...be big.   No, really, since I couldn’t be big I would try to be fast.  I skated tens of ones circles around the rink, until I was sure I was ready for competition.  I trained for almost two weeks ( that is, if there wasn’t anyone to hang out with).  I wasn’t about to cripple my social life.  And if enough kids showed up we could have a rousing game of crack the whip, which ultimately resulted in a “crack the wrist” for me.   Anyone else remember being on the end of the whip and being launched like a heat seeking missile when the “whip cracked?”  No fear, I got my little lace up thing that looked like a bowlers glove and was back on the ice in no time.

 The day of the races finally arrives, all blue skies and sunny, and cold.  I skate (yes, skate-once it snowed the streets around town seemed to stay ice-packed all winter, which made it great for me to skate to the rink and then down the hill to my house and fall in the kitchen door so I wouldn’t cut the linoleum with my skates). I stand around, watching the younger kids race. My age group is finally announced and my heart is pounding.  Adrenaline is kicking in and I am exhilirated.  I can taste victory!  Even though it is cold, I am sweating.  I am pumped! I am ready! I eagerly jockey for position at the starting line.  People are lined several deep around the rink to watch the competition, but I am unaware, focusing solely on getting out of the gate and gaining an early lead. The wait seems never ending. Finally, the starting shot:

  And we’re off!   I take two long strides on the smooth as glass newly frozen ice and sprawl like a  drunken sailor on a greasey deck floor.  “Oh, no!” (or something like that)  I think to myself “Is this really happening? The embarrassment!  The humiliation!  The indignity!  I was mortified. Maybe I should pretend I am hurt?  No, that would just draw more attention to me.”

   Moral of the story is... You know those motivational sayings like:

  * Failure doesn’t come from falling down, failure comes from not getting up.

   * Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time.

   * You will fall many times in life, but you will pick yourself up and become stronger and wiser for each trouble you pass.

   * Even if you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward.

    * Failure doesn’t come from falling down, failure comes from not getting up.

  Well, I call b.s. on these, as I did fail when I fell down. The only positive was that I didn’t trip any one else.  And as  far as getting back up again, it was either that or be skated over as the other skaters executed their remaining laps. So it would be a whole year before I could again compete.  Did I brush myself off and start working for a future win?  Did I listen to Vince Lombardi: “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” Or Theodore Roosevelt “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”   Did I become stronger and wiser?   

Nah.  I just kept skating with my friends and having fun.