In Praise of Rubber Chickens

Booth at a Physical Education ConventionI had several reasons for starting this website (initially, a newsletter) back in the mid-eighties. One was that I love researching sports and fitness topics… another was that I felt comfortable with the clientele. Heck, I even went so far as to marry a physical education teacher.

Several years ago, I was an exhibitor at an AAHPERD convention. That experience re-confirmed the feeling that physical educators and coaches are my kind of people. In fact, I don’t know of any group that is more outgoing, pleasant and generally…fun!

At the convention, it took only one step inside the exhibitor’s hall for me to know I was in the right place. Gosh, it was the biggest playground I’d ever seen— the mother of all funhouses!

Inflatable javelins, beachballs and tail-feathered footballs filled the air. Booths offered juggle-sticks, recumbent stair steppers and footballs with jet-engine design. Exhibitors walked the floor, demonstrating bungee-balls and dressed in Lycra body-bags with big-ball butts. Special demonstrations explained the intricacies of Pickle Ball and revealed “50 things you can do with a bucket.”

Footsore delegates staggered from booth to booth, hauling shopping bags filled with free stuff: giant drink containers, pins, yo-yo’s and a front-end loader’s worth of brochures, booklets and business cards.

On the first day of the convention, one of these harried delegates approached my booth. He was a giant of a man with a physique like Herman Munster’s bigger, nastier brother. And from the expression on his face, he was a very unhappy camper.

I could hear tiny ripping noises as he glared at me and stomped towards my booth…and realized they came from the tortured seams in his XXX-L golf shirt. I started a desperate search through my mental computer… Was this a fellow I’d cut off on the highway on the drive from the airport? Did he know that I think professional wrestling is fake? Had I sent him one too many renewal notices?

Whatever he wasn’t happy about, I could envision my head being cracked like a walnut between his forearm and bicep. But then, just when his hands were within reach of my throat and I was desperately reviewing every move I’d seen in the latest Jackie Chan movie, something unexpected happened. He smiled. He shook my hand and asked, “Hi! Howyra doin’?”

It was like Hurricane Hugo had given way to a gentle, sunny day in June. It was like finding out that Mike Tyson actually has an Oxford accent and collects china figurines.

A former subscriber who had let things lapse, this gentleman seemed sincerely interested in what we were doing. But then, I suspect he’s sincerely interested in whomever he’s speaking with. After a few minutes of chit-chat he left the booth and I thought to myself, “That’s one nice person.”

It was a thought I would repeat, about many people, over the five days of the convention. But then, it seems to be almost a job requirement in the profession. Physical educators are fun people, nice people. Because there’s no better way to get through to kids than to make things fun—and to have fun yourself.

These are the types of people who are drawn to the profession and who will have a profound effect on today’s youth: in inspiring a love for fitness, physical activity and a healthy lifestyle; in teaching sport and the many qualities that competitive activity can develop.

As for the convention, I’ll probably attend another. After all, where else could I hear the phrase (and this is quoted verbatim), “Thanks for the information. Now I have to buy some rubber chickens.”


Dick Moss, Editor,

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