Warning: All of this will be patently uninteresting to anyone who is not left-handed themselves, or at least sympathetic to left-handers. If it’s interesting, non-Lefty-intensive reading you’re after, I suggest you contact Mr. Dickens in London, as I am sure he can provide you with something suitably absorbing. (I hate reading literature online too, but it’s free.) So, let’s begin.
Yesterday, August 13th was Left-Hander’s Day, and most news outlets ran features cheerfully spotlighting the 10% of us who slog through life with pencil lead covering the oblique arches of our left hand. Most of the features I read also included sometimes funny and knowing lists of obstacles we face each day: water fountains, desks, spiral notebooks, can openers, etc. Once every 5 years or so, it’s enjoyable to re-visit this stuff, mainly because most of us gave up complaining seriously about it, and adapted long ago.
However, even though I have jokingly commiserated with fellow Lefties over the years and acted like I was an oppressed minority, yesterday’s celebration reminded me how much I’ve always secretly enjoyed being different, especially in relation to sports. Think on this a moment: though every day life can be slightly bothersome because everything we encounter is created for Righties, all of us Lefties, if we’re being honest, must concede that we possess a decided leverage in almost any sport we take up. Like all kids in the 80s, I was distractingly preoccupied with most every sport. And as I got further into them and started to understand the history of each, I realized that Lefties had the jump on everybody when it came to athletics.
Boxing: It’s obvious, is it not? We are so blessed in the fight game it’s almost unfair. Manny Pacquiao, Marvin Hagler, Robert Allen, Pernell Whitaker, Hector Camacho, Zab Judah. I’ve seen every one of these guys frustrate opponents, and I have huge esteem for any Righty fighter who solved them. I didn’t want to include Rocky Balboa, but I sort of have to, because we’re on the Internet.
Basketball: This is likely the most ambidextrous sport in the world, because just about every great player you can name developed the ability to go left. Micheal Jordan’s most famous highlight involves him switching to the better hand in mid-air. While good Lefty outside shooting isn’t as much of a competitive edge, it still amuses me to catalogue my favorites: Chris Mullin, Sam Perkins, Manu Ginobli, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, (Memphis is awesome!), David Lee, Gail Goodrich, Dave Cowens, and Bill Russell. I realize that a list of great Righties would be just as swell and probably a hell of a lot longer, but still, holy crap.
Football: Well, shit. I guess in football, handedness is only something to talk about at one position. Though it’s become America’s overwhelmingly favorite sport, those of us with a little class hate ourselves for enjoying it so much. Not for the brutality necessarily, but the small-mindedness that deifies people as disgusting as football coaches. And would it surprise you to find out that most of the husky self-promoters in charge of men who have actual athletic talent want naught to do with Lefty quarterbacks? In an NFL Network Top 10 show that ranked the best left-handers, the overall tone was “Must we deal with these misshapen freaks?” Then I got REALLY pissed, because that hoary old rubbish about receivers not being able to catch the ball because it’s spinning the opposite way was brought up. Let me clear that up for you right here: this is a fucking joke, and it’s telling that such things come out of the mouths of people who aren’t very good at sports. If a Lefty is a good quarterback, he should play.
Hockey: The most progressive Lefty sport puts no onus on hand dominance, despite some misguided studies by media rubes telling us otherwise. While coaches seem to be rather encouraging to their left-shooting players, the main drawback is that there seems to be no true advantage. Alas.
Baseball: And here we have the sport that makes all Lefty kids feel less alone when they first discover it, because no other sport seems to celebrate Lefty accomplishment more. If you’re in 4th grade using a pair of scissors that are rounded and have green insulation on them while everyone else gets knife-point sterling silver, you end up feeling tremendously exhilarated once you’re told that Babe Ruth was left-handed. Then you get more into baseball cards, read each guy’s stats and vitals, and become enraptured by just how many ballplayers share at least one part of your lifestyle. Then you take up the sport, and you’re sad again, because everyone tells you that your talents are unwelcome at all but one infield position, and you can forget all about catching, you friendless weirdo. So while the guardians of America’s Former Pastime will spill ink about your sweet swing, and champion Lefty pitching, hitting, and outfield defense, they slam the door on you in other areas. No matter, because I made my own way, playing the hell out of 3rd base in unsanctioned games every chance I got, making that extra turn and not getting the ball over to 1st in time. I can still smell the irrigation.
I am hopeful that southpaws will come to the same realization I have: that while the world is not set up for us, not only is it never going to change, but we don’t have it all that bad. Yes, it sucks when your algebra homework looks like hell because your grubby left hand got smudges all over it. It’s also unfortunate that in less-enlightened times, people would be drawn and quartered for living their lives the way they were born to. And it certainly isn’t any good when you’re trying to place-kick, and the holder lines up on the wrong side, and you were too reticent to just kindly ask him to move, so then you accidentally stomped his thigh with your plant foot, and the ball went comically nowhere.
But all of this can be overcome by the sense of community that being left-handed makes us a part of, with sports as one of the great levelers. Listen not to those who are suspect of people whose mousepad sits on the wrong side of their desk. In fact, shun them utterly, because they’re probably football coaches, and football coaches can all go to hell.