@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
How I Got Football Banned From A Middle School Field Trip
Okay, okay… this title is a little misleading. I didn’t intentionally get football banned from a field trip, but often misleading titles are a way to draw a reader in. It wasn’t like I lobbied for it. It was an accident.
Where I grew up on Long Island, middler schoolers had an opportunity to go to Frost Valley for a field trip. It was a camp upstate. The trip was two or three nights, which was a big deal for kids and parents alike to go away from home for so long. Actually, my year would be the last to have the opportunity to go to Frost Valley for years, since the following year would be 2001 and 9/11 happened— school trips to historical places and especially over night trips were suspended for years after that.
Anyway, my older sister was not allowed to go to Frost Valley or any over night trips. Being the eldest, and also a girl, she was faced with the strictest parenting when it came to this sort of thing. However, in my parents defense and also my own, despite being younger I was instinctively more mature than my sister, so my folks were less worried I’d do something stupid.
I was really excited about the trip. Of course, boys and girls were separated in cabins and teachers stayed with us. I liked the teachers who were the chaperones (while I was ever far from cool in school, I was often a teachers pet due to being a good student and empathizing with the teachers how annoying kids are). Additionally, some of my best friends were going. Woods! Campfire stories! Games! Obstacle courses! Friends! What fun!
It was a fun trip, indeed, and most memorable. The only thing that really sucked was the food. I was happy some of the girls snuck in snacks like cookies and rice Krispy treats, because the food the cafeteria served was the cheapest, blandest crap I ever had in my life. I resorted to a weekend living off rice Krispy treats and milk, which to be honest was totally okay by me at that time.
We did a lot of team building games and my favorite, obstacle courses that tested your agility. A natural athlete and a born runt, I was pretty skilled at such tasks. They had some outdoor rock climbing walls. There were at least two, maybe three, with different levels of difficulty. Most kids couldn’t make it up the hard wall. In fact, I remember a couple kids crying because they fell or couldn’t do it.
I told the camp leaders or whomever I wanted to do climb the hard wall. They advised against it. I might have been the smallest kid on that whole trip. They said I was too small and wouldn’t be able to reach. Even the lowest grip I’d have to haul my whole body up for.
But I persisted and insisted. They shrugged their shoulders, “okay, kid.”
I made it up that wall in about two minutes. Like it was nothing to me. And when I came back down the camp leaders were just staring at me, jaws agape.
“Do you do this a lot?”
“Climbing? I climb trees all the time.”
“No, like rock climbing. Do you parents take you to climbing places.”
“No. We’re poor.”
“Because you’re really good. Like exceptionally good. With proper training, you could maybe do climb professionally.”
“I’m a kid, I don’t really want to do anything professionally. I just wanna play.”
And then I ran off. Like the primate I was.
One of the days, a teacher organized a game of football. I liked playing most sports, though football was never one of my favorites, with being so small and not having a good throw. Sitting on a bench watching a game being played, however, was never an option for me, as I was antsy and wanted to be in the action.
All throughout middle school and high school gym classes, if the kids didn’t know me, I was picked last due to my size. But once playing the game (especially soccer or deck hockey), I became one of the leading picks among the girls because I was feisty and wasn’t afraid of charging boys.
So, we’re playing football on the field at Frost Valley. Some of my best friends were (and are) guys. I was a tomboy. I was such a tomboy that if I changed my pronouns to “he/him,” most of my friends would go “that makes sense” (I’m not by the way, I don’t give a shit about pronouns).
Wesley was my neighbor and one of my best friends. To this day, we are close. His brother, Kyle, is my brother’s age. The four of us spent our free time and summers seeking adventure. And we always found it. We are all surfers and adrenaline junkies. Some of my favorite memories are the four of us together, running amuck around town, or in the dunes on the beach, splashing in pools or in the ocean. We always knew how to have fun.
Since Wesley was a brother to me, he wasn’t afraid of literally throwing me around. And I wasn’t afraid of rough housing with the boys I was tight with. The trust was there, I knew they would never hurt me (on purpose). Plus, I liked wrestling with the boys. I was seen as one of the pack. Wesley happened to be on the other team when we were playing football. Someone threw the ball to me. I caught it! I began to run. I was fast, so I figured if I got a touchdown, I could be a real underdog hero. Wesley, though, was far more athletic than me. And he was at least a foot taller, a lean swimming champion wonder. Wesley ran after me and tackled me right to the ground. As my tiny body smashed into the grass with Wesley crashing on top me, my skinny arms dropped the football. Defeated.
The teacher blew a whistle and ran over. It must have looked pretty bad. He scolded Wesley, to my surprise. I was like, “I’m fine we’re just playing the game.” I was used to playing like this. As I went to get up, my teacher wanted me to stay down, thinking I was seriously injured. Besides grass stains on my clothes, I was truly fine. Maybe I’d get a bruise or two, but I was constantly getting bruises because I was an active kid.
The game was called off. This was embarrassing for me. I could see the disappointment in some of the boys eyes who really loved football. No more contact sports were to be played. Lori Palminteri got football banned from Frost Valley.
And here I thought I would be remembered for being the prodigy who climbed the wall everyone said I wouldn’t be able to do.