The Sheep Plays Timbits Soccer (Alex Bouman, @Alex_Bouman)

Because I’m a lifelong cartoon geek and aspiring animator, I’m going to start this article off with some wisdom from somewhere, I believe, no other Advocate writer has ever taken inspiration.

“Chickens aren’t very brave, but they’re too smart to do something stupid just because somebody calls them ‘Chicken.’ Sheep, on the other hand, don’t think for themselves and are always following the leader. Sheep are like that; they follow a leader anywhere. And some folks are like that too; they follow a leader wherever he goes: across a highway, over a cliff, into a watermelon patch…”

Let me put this into context for you. This is from an old Berenstain Bears episode I saw as a kid in which Brother is repeatedly lured by the neighborhood bullies, “Too 

Tall”, “Smirk” and “Scuzz”, into doing foolish things such as going through dark caves, taking dangerous shortcuts and stealing watermelon from the local farmer by daring him to. But this isn’t about the weird things people name their kids; this is about me being a sheep.

In my last article, I talked about how I wasn’t the most popular kid. Nevertheless, I had friends. There was this one particular kid that I kind of clung to. I just decided one day that he was the coolest kid I’d ever met, that he was going to be my best friend and that I wanted to be just like him. It was a weird relationship for the first year or so, but I guess I grew on him. Our families did dinner a lot together and the friendship lasted a good few years. There were a number of things I got into because he was into them, the most predominant being Pokémon, a nerd fandom of which I’m going on 15 years. Yeah, I’m cool like that. He also got me into soccer. He was a kid who played pretty much every sport you could imagine. For some reason, soccer is what got me. I played two seasons, and I was good. That is, if you define spending field time repeatedly giving my teammates time-bulletins with the childhood thrill of using my first watch, (before the coach came along and confiscated it) and spending goal time dangling from the overhead bar facing inside the net while not paying attention to the game, as good. After two seasons, I was big enough to admit that I was not good at soccer and it was time to stop, even if Tim Hortons was giving me free drinks after each time I had played. I was a sheep. A sheep who played Timbits Soccer.

As the unpopular kid, I had a constant want to belong. I always tried to get involved with what my classmates were doing. Sometimes these things were fun, like when my friends were organizing the construction of human pyramids. I grew up to do this with my camp kids, which actually went pretty well, until we put the final kid on top. Some things were not so good, like soccer. But we covered that.

As I look back though, I realize just how strongly these guys impacted me. Having wanted to pursue animation since I was a kid, Pokémon was probably the thing I drew more than anything, and occasionally still do. My art was one of the few things that even the kids who didn’t like me very much were willing to admit was something I had going for me. And, along with what I do as a comedian, my art is still the thing that really catches people’s eye about me. For some reason, one of the things people always ask of me is to draw to them (and at one point even my friend’s baby) as a superhero. I’m pretty sure this came about from one original request for a superhero drawing, and for some reason it caught on.

Do our childhood friends really impact us more than we think? I admit that I maintain little or no contact with most of my childhood classmates. Somehow most of them have faded from my Facebook over the years. I don’t know if I stopped being interesting at some point but that’s just how it happened. With the ones that do remain, I maintain little or no communication. Being a part of two churches with few people my age means most of my friends are adults in their 20’s and 30’s. It’s been nearly a decade and a half since I started kindergarten and now, being almost 20, my peers and I are at that age where we’re all going off to college, heading in different directions, developing careers and stuff, and it’s just kind of weird for me to realize that it’s pretty much completely over, and that from now on we’ll have virtually nothing to do with one another.

It’s not to say I’m not happy where I am now, but you’ve got to give me credit for noticing that there’s just something odd about remaining where you’ve always been, yet none of it feeling quite the same. I truly believe, however, that the people I know, and the places I find myself in now, are gifts intended by God and that there’s nothing but good ahead of me.

I can’t wait to see who I’m supposed to be a sheep to next.

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