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2.0 BASIC SKILLS

(If you are new to BUILDING THE IDEAL AMERICAN, please start with 1.0 INTRODUCTION, below or on the right sidebar.)

2.1 MOTOR SKILLS

Many first-time builders of Ideal Americans are intimidated by the sheer number of things their American is able to do. But don’t worry -‘ many of these basic skills, such as digesting food, operating a light switch, or looking at things -‘ have already been installed at the factory. Indeed, our research has shown that mastering many of these basic skills does not require being an American at all, and can in fact be handled by ordinary Swedes or New Zealanders with minimal supervision.

When we discuss BASIC SKILLS, we are referring to the most simple and basic behaviors unique to Ideal Americans. And while pouring the foundation does not complete the house, many of these skills will teach your American important and powerful lessons that he or she will use everyday and in ever-changing combinations.

Develop these basic skills carefully and methodically, and like any sound foundation, great edifices may be built upon them, and their weight will be borne with confidence.

2.11 GENERAL FITNESS

The Ideal American must maintain at all times a basic level of general physical fitness. Why? Well, while the American exploration and conquest of the solar system still remains a few years in the future, many perils and opportunities await us here on Earth. So while we prepare our younger Ideal Americans to be ready for the strenuous work required to haul automated weather stations up the side of Olympus Mons, or to construct Plexiglas biodomes underneath the seas of Europa, in the meantime any number of situations may arise where basic physical fitness is a must.

For instance, Americans are statistically overdue to go ashore under fire and rescue duplicitous allies from destruction. This can be grueling work -‘ best we are prepared for it in advance. Also, the great weight of American steaks can tax the arms, shoulders and lower back of your American during 4th of July barbeques. In addition, maintaining well-developed thighs and calves is essential for general and sundry ass-kicking, and a good sit-up regime certainly helps relieve cramping and ease breathing, as your American frequently laughs all the way to the bank.

And as a quick glance at all the good pornography will reveal, Americans are the best-looking and sexiest people alive, and benefit greatly from a solid cardio-vascular workout, whether during fornication or, less frequently, when used in the sanctity of marriage.

2.12 RIDING A BICYCLE

Riding a bicycle remains an excellent way for the Ideal American to maintain fitness. The pre-teen Ideal American boy will treat his bicycle with far more love, attention and care than he will his sister, for example. In fact, one very encouraging sign in your prototypical American boy’s development is a healthy and natural concern for the state of his bicycle. This stands in direct and noble contrast to his complete and total disregard for his own injuries following any one of the calamitous and frequent high-velocity impacts that help preserve our privately-owned medical industry, and keep it financially liquid and free from the evils of Creeping Socialism.

A story from the conforming prototype may help illustrate this phenomenon. It occurred at age seven:

A bunch of us used to hang out with our brand new ‘chopper’ bicycles. They looked like Harleys, with a tall sissy bar in the back and three gears that were shifted with a lever on the upper frame, like a stick shift on a car. Mine was yellow and it said CHOPPER in big black letters. The first time I rode that bike it was like being crowned Lord of Creation. You had no idea it was possible to feel so good or shift gears so frequently.

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We used to do tricks at this abandoned house, down at the bottom of a hill. It had a driveway that came down to a little level circle in front of the house. If you didn’t turn into the circle, you could launch yourself off a small hill and onto the flat, grassy field beyond. The ‘jump’ wasn’t much more than four feet high, but then again, neither were we’

Anyway, I saw this kid come down that hill this one time’ It was a steep hill, too -‘ so steep we’d usually ride the brakes (a little). If we were secretly praying for death, we might coast.

This kid stood up off his banana seat, and started pumping, downhill, for all he was worth. He just went for it. When he reached the edge of the hill, he pulled back as hard as he could on his handlebars, and at that exact moment time slowed down for me so I could soak everything in.

The front wheel jerked off the ground, all right. It jerked free of the front fork, too. For a moment, it, and the kid on the bike, were in the same orbit above the earth, but these began to diverge rapidly as the wheel took off and up.

That kid never yelled or anything. He just watched that front wheel depart and hunkered down a little, gripping the handlebars tightly and getting ready for the big finale. He didn’t look scared at all. He looked grim.

Anyway, the front forks came down, hard enough to bury them halfway into the grass. This then became the pivot point upon which the kid and the bike rotated, somewhat like a mousetrap springing shut. He want face-first into the grass (it left a very shallow little depression, but not enough to make out his reverse features or anything cool like that), then the bike landed on him. A minute or two later the wheel came down and rolled a hell of a long way away.

We were running out to confirm he was dead before he even landed. His face was a sheet of blood. He broke his nose and kinda bit his tongue pretty badly, too. He never made a sound -‘ not a peep. Not once. All he did was look around, spit out some blood, and ask: ‘Is my bike okay?’

It turns out that the bike was not okay. It was so badly bent it was ruined. His dad did not rush out and buy him another one -‘ he went bikeless until next Christmas. As for his injuries, the kid was fine in a week -‘ boys are indestructible at that age. But this American boy knew, instinctively, that his own decision to haul-ass down that hill had been responsible for what happened. His first thought was of the only property he owned in the whole world. That bike gave him freedom. As a matter of fact, that bike had given him what man has dreamed of for millennia: the gift of flight.

Was it worth it? Well, that story made it into this manual. You’re reliving it right now. Prints of this book are scattered around the world and exist on the internet. Who knows? That boy’s story may still be around when the sun goes out.

Broken nose, sore tongue and a bent bike: Not a bad price to pay for immortality. But more importantly, look at some of the lessons your Ideal American can learn from this story:

First, what that kid did took guts. The willingness to take a risk to achieve something never achieved before is a core value that you must install correctly in order to get the advertised performance specs from your Ideal American. (We’ll talk later about the Judgment module that significantly reduces guts-related injuries)

Second, this young Ideal American never for an instant complained about the consequences, nor did he try to blame others for his pain and misfortune, and nor did his father immediately eliminate the negative consequences of his actions. This demonstrates another essential structural element of your American, namely, accepting responsibility for one’s actions. This ability is wired into the chromosomes of Ideal Americans, as well as most primates and cetaceans, but is undetectable in viruses and bacteria, as well as university faculty lounges, Hollywood movie sets and the entire San Francisco Bay Area.

Third, note carefully that no lawyers were involved. For more information, consult your encyclopedia under ‘Kudzu.’

And while we have no evidence either way, we believe that anyone with the guts and daring to do such a thing, just to see if he could, and who showed the willingness to not cry and complain when things went very badly, has probably gone on to do very well for himself. This American kid knew, on some molecular level, what Goethe once wrote and which lesser, so-called ‘sophisticated’ adults can only read about and discuss while getting baked in their eleventh year of college. Namely:

Be Bold, and Mighty Forces will Come to Your Aid.

More on this later in the manual.

We highly recommend that all Ideal Americans learn to master a bicycle as a means to general physical fitness. Furthermore, recent studies reveal that an average American, one filled with incapacitating anti-cancer medicine and repeatedly subjected to near-fatal radiation, can quite easily win bike races spanning an entire small country. Therefore, as a minimum requirement, we recommend that all Ideal Americans be able to win the Tour de France.

2.13 CALISTHENICS

There is a good reason why a vigorous routine of Calisthenics produces excellent results in your Ideal American: extreme physical pain builds not only heart, lung and muscle‘it builds character, as well.

Consider the case of an Ideal American named Steve. Steve was a very bright kid; shy, unbelievably gifted with the ability to draw anything and effortlessly play guitar and piano. He considered himself the typical 98 lb weakling. During the Presidential Physical Fitness awards -‘ this would be the Nixon Administration -‘ he could do not a single chin-up.

Steve joined the Air Force in 1979, and became an Air Traffic Controller. Then, one day, for no reason he could discover, then or later, he signed up for Combat Control: the Air Force’s elite special forces squad. Surrounded by fire-breathing, whiskey-gargling warriors, this soft-spoken, mild-mannered milk-drinking American teenager managed to keep up.

How’d he do it?

Guts.

It may surprise many of you to know that a recent survey showed that Americans possess over 94% of the known world supply of guts. We know many of you expected that number to be higher. It should be higher: hence this manual.

The development of pure guts, that sense of dedication, perseverance, mental toughness, and the triumph of desire over physical pain are the core qualities that allow your Ideal American to grow and prosper in all walks of life.

Here’s a memorable day in Steve’s Combat Control training, told in his own words:

We trot over to the bars, where they stand alone, the sole free-standing structures on this entire vast infield. But there’s only two of them, so there’ll be just two random guys at a time, straining and struggling to lift their chins to the bar as fast and as many times as possible, and all to the lilting tune of the rest of their buddies hurling disparaging remarks at them the whole time.

Chin-ups have never been my forte. Even after basic training I’ve seldom been able to exceed a baker’s dozen of the damned things. And after having just finished seventy-four friggin’ push-ups, I kinda’ doubt my arms have got a whole lot of dead-lifting left in them. But today, all bets are off.

Early on, Sgt. Beauregard had chosen to hop up there and fire off a score or two of his own alongside the first guy that went, and that disrupted the even pairing of the rest of us. So by the time that I, as the last man, step up to the bar, I am alone in the crossfire of shouted insults and ‘incentives’ being slung by my ‘team.’ Strangely enough though, this actually helps.

I piston my way through the first fourteen reps with so much ease ‘- along with so much harassment from the peanut gallery ‘- that I actually start to giggle while I’m pumping. I go hammering past fifteen, sixteen, seventeen reps -‘ each one a new personal record -‘ as if each one is my first.

The freshness begins to fade at eighteen though, I’m bogging down at nineteen, and, after a mighty heave at twenty, I finally drop to the full extent of my arms ‘- the death knell of any good run of chin-ups. I’m panting heavily, gathering my forces for a final push, and trying not to collapse with laughter at some of the comments coming from the goon squad.

Then, before they can loosen my last knotted sinews, I growl and heave ‘- both loudly ‘- and yank my chin over the bar in one fierce lunge. Twenty-one! Gravity hauls me right back down of course, but again, before I completely bottom out, I throw every last jot of energy I have into one more screaming, clawing, squirming, kicking, swearing, farting, whimpering grapple with the bar. The guys are really behind me on this one though. All their disparate voices fuse into one excited roar as they watch my dripping, quivering chin slowly drag over the bar, then slip off again an instant later.

‘Twenty-two!’ barks Beauregard. The rooting explodes into a stupendous cheer — of Superbowl-touchdown proportions, no less — only to revert right back to more disparaging remarks about my dubious lineage, and the gynecological qualities of my physique.

For some bizarre reason though, I don’t let go of the bar right away. Instead, I just dangle there, looking like I’ve been crucified with my palms facing backward. I’m gasping so hard, it starts me swinging in place. And after a few moments of this, it finally dawns on my peers that I might just be contemplating another struggle for the high bar, and the barrage of insults, taunts and disparagement starts with a renewed urgency.

I have to start with a bounce ‘- a slight upward tug, followed by a drop and a rebound ‘- just to set myself in motion. Then it’s an all-out thrashing drive for that iron pipe, twitching like a fish on a hook. Everybody’s shouting now ‘- even me – but there’s nowhere near enough strength left in my arms for another one. Still’

With my arms trembling, just able to hold this half-curl, I start jabbing my chin toward the bar, thrusting upward, again and again and again, hiking myself higher and higher with each nudge, propelling myself upward with my jaw alone. My arms are on fire and I think I can feel both shoulders dislocating.

Around me, the voices of my comrades are calling me things that are physically impossible, but they’re hefting me up on a wave of sheer volume and ferocity. You’d think they’d never seen a chin-up before, that they were witnessing a levitation or something. Regardless though, I’m so friggin’ close, there’s no way I’m ever letting go without finishing this one.

Then my chin clunks the bar ‘- the underside of the bar ‘- and the crowd goes, ‘oooo!’

I lead with my chin again, quickly, while the momentum’s still there. And it clunks the bar again ‘- the inside of the bar. And the crowd goes, ‘aahhhh!’

Once more, I ram my chin at the sky ‘- and it lands, hard, on top of the bar!

‘Twenty-three!’ Sgt. Beauregard proclaims.

I drop to the ground like a sack of hammers. And the crowd goes apeshit!

They don’t exactly hoist me onto their shoulders ‘- if they had, I probably would have drooped between them like a hundred-and-eighty pounds of warm taffy ‘- but they do laugh at me. A lot. They poke me with the toes of their boots, slap the back of my head in congratulations, and pat my ass looking for my wallet. And of course, they all call me a pussy.

Music to my ears. No greater accolades could I receive. I feel like I’ve just won an Oscar. Now, if someone would just pour me into a bucket and carry me up to the stage’

Of course, it’s not like I’ve done anything that’s actually heroic or even superlative here. Anyone can do chin-ups, and three guys here did more than I did. But two things are definitely recognized and appreciated with this group: the constant striving to top your own personal best, and good all-American dogged perseverance. Doing either makes you part of the gang. But accomplishing both is what vaults you into the ranks of the truly elite. Ergo, the denigrating macho ‘applause’ to which we all aspire.

Today has been a good day.

The Ideal American doesn’t go through this kind of pain just to buff up like some lost, self-centered, narcissistic metrosexual. No sir!

The Ideal American does things like this — climbs, swims, runs, pedals, hikes and lifts -‘ in order to discover how much they have in themselves beyond what they can see.

Steve didn’t succeed because he did the 23rd chin-up. Steve succeeded in that instant he made his decision, hanging there, utterly spent, and by all accounts rightfully proud of what he had already accomplished. He didn’t know if he had anything left. In fact, he was sure he didn’t. But in that one magical instant, that Ideal American decided he needed to find out for himself.

All Ideal Americans eventually learn that the key to life, wealth, success and happiness lies somewhere between the 22nd and 23rd chin-up. The willingness to endure the pain of getting up earlier, working harder, going to bed later and doing it all over again, year after year, if need be -‘ this and this alone is how the Ideal American improves not only his own life, but those of his children -‘ not to mention all the freeloaders out there’and no, we’re not going to mention any names here, so you can relax, Mexico and Canada.

Remarkable work with precision lasers now allows you to ensure the success of your Ideal American by tattooing on the inside of their eyelids this essential axiom:

There is no substitute for hard work.

The instant Steve tightened his grip to continue he had already won. Getting his chin above the bar one more time was completely meaningless; he had already succeeded, whether he accomplished that task or not. This is why Ideal Americans are out in their cars having sex with the Homecoming Queen while other nations are flipping through the yearbook down in the basement, muttering about what a stuck-up bitch she is while half-heartedly watching the WKRP in Cincinnati marathon on Dad’s workshop TV.

We recommend, therefore, that all Ideal Americans perform at least one more chin-up or push-up, and three more sit-ups, than they think possible at the moment of greatest exhaustion and pain.

This being America, once you explain what you are doing, and why, you will find scores of people willing to hold your feet and scream encouragement as you do your sit-ups or push-ups in line at the bank or post office.

2.14 SPORTS

Your Ideal American should participate in least one team sport. Here’s why: there is in fact a very thin line -‘ a circuit breaker, if you like -‘ between a lonely child that reads in his bedroom all day and a murderous Commie rat who writes manifestoes in the basement all night. That circuit breaker looks like this:

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Can you imagine Hitler, or Stalin, or Mao, or even Saddam, becoming the monsters that they did if every other day or so they went outside, got a little sun, some fresh air, and shagged a few flies with the guys for an hour or two?

Impossible!

Team sports build loyalty, teamwork, respect and a sense of acceptance and belonging. Any one of these qualities are antithetical to a career as a mass-murdering dictator, and are very highly prized by the Ideal American as a sign of social and mental balance. Trusted teammates (the American word is ‘friends’) also provide the Ideal American with constant feedback regarding potential social pathologies: again, all highly desirable in the prevention of self-absorbed, self-centered, self-hating loners that have such big plans for revenge on everyone else, once the revolution finally arrives.

This is something the Ideal American sees immediately, so don’t be surprised when he or she wonders how many of the world’s great evils could have been prevented by the act of opening a window, picking up a small sphere or oval of some kind, and going out to burn off some steam with a few good friends.

Followed by a beer. Or two.

BASKETBALL

Basketball is primarily useful as a lesson to Ideal Americans that through hard work and practice, Man can gain victory over the cruel tyranny of the Laws of Gravity and Thermodynamics.

Recent biometric studies of NBA films from the 1960’s has shown that at the current rate of development, by 2025 the average American NBA player will be 11′ 4′ tall, be able to jump 125 feet vertically and remain in the air for anywhere from 6-8 seconds.

By showing how massively-sized individuals can plow at full steam through a crowd of defenders, hobbled by the ridiculous handicap of bouncing a ball at the same time, and then twist, leap, spin, feint, lunge and soar to the basket while never once even touching an opponent, basketball teaches your American that often times grace, finesse, skill and precision can accomplish amazing results without the necessity of brute force.

Basketball will also begin to develop a very subtle and unique kind of confidence. This fleeting moment -‘ akin to the very rare green flash sometimes seen at sunsets — can be observed by carefully watching a player making a shot from beyond the three-point line.

What your American should be watching for is this: every now and then, the shooting player will take his eyes off the shot, and begin his turn down court -‘ while the ball is still in the air! No need to follow the shot, no need to rush for the rebound -‘ that ball is on a rail, it is going through that hoop and there’s no need to waste any more time and energy on it -‘ it will take care of itself. This lack of worry is the polar opposite of the ‘uninformed ignorance’ preached by those small-spirited professional doomsayers who envy and hate Ideal Americans for their ingrained, natural, easy-going optimism. This is the certainty, based on experience and skill, that good things will flow from actions committed with care, preparation and talent.

Your Ideal American, therefore, should be able to watch a basketball game and immediately identify these moments of transcendental confidence -‘ first by shouting the word ‘IDEAL!!’ at said moments, and then silently after sufficient supervision.

FOOTBALL

While Basketball teaches your American about the values of finesse, Football demonstrates what wonders can be achieved through the studied application of speed and raw power.

Because the Ideal American is a participant rather than a spectator, we advise all Ideal Americans to remain lifelong adherents to the occasional touch football game -‘ even if it’s just an annual or semi-annual tradition on the 4th of July (to boast about the upcoming season) and Thanksgiving (to bitch about the just completed season.)

During these informal, family-based match-ups, care must be taken to observe the prime rule of multi-generational football, namely that no one under the age of seven, or over the age of sixty-five, or female, may be tackled, stopped, blocked or impeded in any way. Successful delivery of the football to said players results in automatic touchdown for that team.

In contrast, scratch football games comprised of Ideal American males will often exceed professional matches in terms of intensity, drive, vindictiveness and aggression, though far, far, far behind in basic skill and general effectiveness.

We recommend that all Ideal Americans develop two basic skills regarding football:

First, the Ideal American must be able to master the basics of diagramming a football play on a teammates chest while in the huddle. The actual execution and success of the play itself is irrelevant to the future success of your American; contrary to popular belief, most will in fact not go on to become professional quarterbacks.

(By the way: this skill, when applied to coed games, is a profoundly effective courtship technique when accomplished with the exact degree of shy but flirty smile.)

The essential American skills being developed in this exercise are leadership, teamwork, strategy, improvisation, subterfuge, daring, trust and coolness under pressure (especially during the three-Mississippi rush hold).

All Americans should be able to quickly glance at any opposing team, read their defense, and construct in real-time several elaborate and complex receiver routes that will confound, confuse, shock and awe them -‘ and none of which will be correctly followed.

Drawing these patterns on the grass is too likely to reveal these crucial and highly nuanced attack plans; therefore, for reasons of security, they should be diagrammed on the chest of whatever player is facing away from the defense in the huddle.

All Ideal Americans should be able to diagram, if not actually execute, the following receiver routes: Down and Out, Down and In, Post Pattern (left and right), Flea Flicker, Screen Pass, Go Long and the undefendable Buttonhook Left and Buttonhook Right.

Secondly, all Ideal American males must be capable of executing the diving catch. Ideal American Females, who bruise somewhat more easily, must be able to perform the falling catch. The diving catch is defined as having the longitudinal axis of the body within ten degrees of horizontal, at a height of at least three feet above the ground, and the distance traveled (including skidding on the grass) must be not less than two body lengths. The falling catch is defined as being no longer on your feet at the end of the play.

Executing a diving catch requires courage. Those poor collectivist weenies who contemplate such an action from the security of their parent’s basement can anticipate only the pain and shock of launching one’s body at full charge through the air, only to land face-first or shoulder first into hard and unforgiving terrain.

However, the miraculous thing about football is that it presents the Ideal American with the magical experience of completely blocking out such worries of pain and injury when confronted with the opportunity for unrefined sandlot glory.

The diving catch demonstrates two remarkable facts about intense competition. First, any natural fears or worries your American might have will automatically disappear in that instant when the diving catch is called for. Repeated exposure to the diving catch will instill in your Ideal American the quiet and humbling confidence that he or she will be able to perform in the clutch. This is a priceless gift.

Furthermore, it will instill in your American the firm and indisputable wisdom that, over time, bruises fade but glory grows. The conforming prototype has spoken of (in fact, continues to speak endlessly of) several instances of Pro- or even Superbowl-quality receptions made on schoolyards and park fields, where trusted and highly valued friends would look over with expressions of amazement and mutter, ‘Damn, man!’ He reports no memories whatsoever of the bruises, cuts or abrasions he incurred during these efforts.

Execution of the diving catch is therefore essential in reminding your Ideal American that great effort will often incur great pain and suffering, but the satisfaction of having made such an effort ‘- successful or not -‘ outweighs the negatives by many orders of magnitude. In doing so, your American begins to develop an unconscious willingness to endure hardships in order to achieve great and noble goals.

The American moon landing -‘ July 20th, 1969 -‘ was the greatest diving catch in human history.

This familiarity with risk and reward, and the post-game evaluation of both which is unavailable to lesser creatures unwilling to take a risk to achieve a reward, will well suit your American and will make him or her a wise and trustworthy companion when he or she is called upon to make momentous decisions in the future.

BASEBALL

The ability to hit a baseball is what separates Americans from Animals and Socialists. It has been often said that there is no more difficult task in sports, for the very best practitioners in history are successful less than 4 times out of ten.

This ability to measure real success in the face of repeated failure is a core element of the Ideal American; therefore, we recommend that all Ideal Americans be able to hit a flying sphere with a wooden or aluminum stick.

Carefully note this photograph taken of the conforming prototype at age eleven:

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Observe the level of concentration and focus, required to connect with a 22mph fastball in the face of intense ‘hey batter batter batter batter SWING batter!’ countermeasures from the opposing dugout.

However, even more important to the success of your Ideal American is the inculcation of a sense of commitment and duty required by team sports.

We’ll let the conforming prototype explain why in his own words:

After living in Bermuda for several years, my dad took a job as a hotel manager on Key Biscayne, Florida. My first day of Little League, they divvied the group up into six teams, named after the color of the T-shirts and caps that constituted our uniforms: Royal Blue, Navy Blue, Kelly Green, Maroon, Scarlet Red and Black. I got Scarlet Red.

Scarlet Red was coached by a pair of psychopathic brothers in their late twenties -‘ the Palmetters (I’m not sure about the spelling). These two solid-gold bastards would throw baseballs at us — hard! ‘ not to mention gloves, helmets or whatever whenever we would make a mistake, which was continuously. Any minor infraction was enough to send the entire team running over to the church and back again at full sprint. These prize sonsofbitches made us practice sliding into home plate by swinging a bat at face level so that we’d slide underneath it. I wish I were making this up. Much later I heard that one of the Palmetters was later written up in the Miami Herald as one of Miami’s Deadliest Cops (based upon internal investigations and brutality reports). His asshat brother went on to be a Metro Dade fireman. I expected to read about him carrying babies, pets and old ladies into burning buildings on a daily basis.

The pricks. I hope they both died of genital leprosy.

I lasted two days on Scarlet Red. I just couldn’t handle it, so I quit. My dad asked me to go back and try a different team. I said I’d go for one practice and see.

I got reassigned to Maroon. Maroon! The worst. Our coach was a man named Mr. Kirkwood -‘ I think he used to be an insurance salesman. Anyway, I showed up on a Saturday and he put me in the game. We got creamed. I was heading for my bike when he motioned me to join him and the rest of the team.

He walked us over to the 7-11 and bought us all Slurpees. He said we had a lot to work on but we did a real good job and that we’d get better. I decided to stick around.

We had games on Saturday mornings and practice on Wednesdays after school. I loved the practices -‘ loved them. I got put in right field.

Right field is sort of the garbage bin position. Most of us were right-handed batters, so a hit to right field was the result of a late swing with not much power. This is where you put your weakest player -‘ the slow ones with no arm. I didn’t care.

I could catch, though. And there was nothing like a Wednesday afternoon, just before sunset, about a half-hour before mom’s gonna start calling you to come in for dinner, when you’ve got your hands on your knees hunched over in a field, watching an adult toss a ball into the air with one hand and then effortlessly knock the hell out of it with a CRACK! Up it would go, up, up’and then, without thinking, you’re running like the wind, heading on GPS autopilot to that exact square foot of grass where that ball is going to land. Glove up, waving, screaming ‘I got it! I got it!’ Coach squinting with his hand up, shielding his eyes from the setting sun — ‘Two hands, Bill!’ — and then that almost soundless tug on the glove, that perfect, painless catch right in the webbing, and that ancient, battered baseball moving seamlessly to your throwing hand, followed by that constant disappointment of how much farther you wished your hardest throw would go.

Crack! Liner, flat and low and fast -‘ no problem. Those goddam grounders that would bounce up and hit you in the face at the last instant as you charged them. And those sweet, sweet high fly balls that would be up there all damn day, just giving you all the time in the world, and then some, to amaze your eleven-yea-old self.

I played right field all season. We went 0-10. Always got the Slurpee after the game from Mr. Kirkwood, who of course always paid for the whole team out of his own pocket.

I won Sportsman of the Year that year for being willing to sacrifice playing time. That was mostly out of fear, though -‘ the games made me nervous. I hated the idea of screwing up. Somebody else wanted to go in, I’d let ’em. Chicken of the Year is what it was.

But the only time Mr. Kirkwood ever got angry with me was the one time I missed a practice. People were counting on me, he said. Don’t let it happen again.

People were counting on me. The right fielder. There was a thought for the bike ride home.

Next year, they moved me to 1st base. Like I said, I was a good glove, and I was tall. I could catch anything thrown in my general vicinity and keep one foot on the first base bag. Plus, I hustled. I was the kind of kid that always sprinted to first even on easy fly balls. Hey, kids drop things sometimes.

So when I got to 1st base I was playing with my head to make up for my lack of talent. Always trying to be in the right place -‘ covering the 2nd baseman slot if a runner kept him close, being in position to cut off throws from the outfield -‘ that sort of thing.

During the all-star game, I caught a line drive to end the inning, and the crowd went absolutely nuts about it. It took me a full ten seconds, the time it took to sit on the bench, to realize that I’d caught that hard line drive with my bare hand. That was 32 years ago and it still makes me proud. Anyway, we went from 0-10 to 10-0. Won the conference and were the best 12-year-old baseball players in all of Key Biscayne, Florida. True story.

As for Mr. Kirkwood’wow, he must be in his eighties now, if he is still alive. I never really saw him again after that last game. I hope he has led a great and happy life. And I hope and expect that when he gets to heaven, the angels will take him out on Saturdays and Wednesdays and get him a big cold frozen cup of happiness and self-respect, and treat him with the same kindness and affection and respect that he gave to all us kids, a long, long time ago.

These are the kind of experiences your Ideal American will not get from skateboarding or Grand Theft Auto. And as exercise, they can be continued for many years. The conforming prototype has provided the following tips for older players:

Here is the sequence you will need for a 44 year old Ideal American to hit an 80 mph fast pitch baseball in the local batting cages:

1. Observe ball drop down gangway into the rotating donuts. Ball is launched.

2. As predicted by Einstein, the ball will blueshift slightly as the compressed light waves hit the eye.

3. THWACK!!!!!!! Ball strikes rubber mat in back of batting cage.

4. Begin swing.

5. Sound of first laughter heard. Continue swing.

6. Swing continues.

7. Maintain constant eye contact with ball as it rolls downhill to launcher. Swing continues.

8. Good follow-through is essential! Continue swing.

9. THWACK!!!!!!! Second ball strikes rubber mat. 1st swing continues.

10. Swing continues.

11. Swing ends.

12. Grunt. Proceed to ATM. Repeat sequence.

Here is the audio script for that same 44-year-old watching a 20-year-old semi-professional attempt the same task:

1. Note compactness of stance (silent)

2. Note speed, power and timing of swing. Say: (sotto) ‘Man!’ Note absence of grunt.

3. PLINK! Note ball tear through netting. Say: (sotto) ‘Good one.’ Silently continue to despise sound and feel of rented aluminum bat.

4. BINK! Note ball disappear into stratosphere. Say: (sotto) ‘Good hit.’

5. TINK! Note ball rip through and destroy neighboring launcher. Say: (sotto) ‘Beautiful.’

6. BINK! Hit ball moves too fast to track with unaided eye. Say (sotto) ‘Nice One.’

7. PLINK! Ball reaches escape velocity; catches fire. Say (sotto) ‘Way to connect.’

8. BINK! Ball explodes at point of contact; last shred of manhood also destroyed. Say (sotto) ‘Yup.’

ICE HOCKEY is discouraged for impressionable Ideal Americans. Ice Hockey is a Canadian import, and can be an exciting, fast-paced game. Unfortunately, Ice Hockey also brings the typical Canadian ultra-violence, mayhem and disrespect for the rule of law that so marks Canadian culture.

With their sharpened steel, cockspur-like skates and vicious, hooked clubs, this horrific Canadian orgy of violence and mindless beatings shocks and horrifies the naturally serene and peaceful American nature. Indeed, there is no more terrifying image in sports than that of a horde of Canadian killbots spilling onto their frozen killing field to kill or maim an opposing player or the referee.

One hopes that a society as vicious and prone to violent outbreaks as Canada has a vibrant and widespread National Health Care system!

Not recommended for Ideal Americans.

SOCCER is also not recommended for the Ideal American, although it is immensely popular over every square inch of land beyond the US border. You will soon discover that Soccer is a complete mystery to your Ideal American. This is certainly not due to it’s complexity; soccer has two rules, one strategy, and can be instantly understood by amphibians and mollusks.

No, Soccer baffles your American because it so obviously reeks of incompetence, and this is deeply unsettling to all Ideal Americans. Your American will rapidly progress from shocked, to confused, to dismayed as he or she watches a team of eleven or twelve or however many they have run back and forth for an hour and a half on a field the size of New Jersey and still not be able to put a ball the size of a small pumpkin into a goal the size of an aircraft carrier at least two or three hundred times.

Furrowed brows and occasional muttering are actually healthy signs to watch for should you subject your Ideal American to a televised soccer game. Another would be to see your American grab a notepad and pencil, and in the space of ten minutes, diagram six or seven attack strategies involving wedges, blocks, diversions and concentration of forces.

If, after twenty minutes, your American has not become enraged, disgusted or depressed, or has not shouted something to the effect of ‘Oh, for the love of God, hold those two idiots back for point defense and put everybody else in front of the f**king goalie! Make everyone strikers! Everybody! Move ’em up! Now take that guy out! Him! You idiot!! Now shoot! Shoot! Shoot the f**king ball, you moron!!‘ then perhaps there is legitimate cause for concern. Should this be the case, we recommend that you schedule an appointment with a competent endocrinologist to be sure that your American’s hormone levels are normal.

(Somewhere during the course of your American’s life, it should become obvious to him or her that other nations love soccer for the same reason they love the UN General Assembly: one guy has the spotlight for a while, does nothing, passes it to another guy who putters around for twenty minutes, who is then cut off by some other guy who goes the other way; much yelling and confusion, the referee steps in and makes effeminate and ineffectual gestures, then another guy dicks around for forty more minutes resulting in absolutely nothing happening, with the only excitement coming from yet another faceless guy pretending to be injured over some trivial event that an American would shake off without pausing for a second breath. Then, at the end of the day, after much huffing and screaming and cheers from the stands, everyone goes home smug and satisfied after having accomplished precisely and absolutely NOTHING.)

Soccer is not recommended for Ideal Americans.

UP NEXT: More BASIC SKILLS, including MARKSMANSHIP. Many thanks to Steve, our very own Great Hairy Silverback, for his true story.

Also, if anyone is familiar with the category setup in Movable Type, please contact me at the e-mail address in the upper right. I’m dying here.