The Wonder Years’ “Loosiers” was packed with typical stereotypes of what makes childhood often times miserable: attending gym class with a dull and somewhat competition driven gym teacher, being the unatheletic “nerd” when playing team sports in class, and coping through the dreaded five minutes as you wait to be selected on a team and hoping you’re not the last one to be chosen. We have seen these themes played out time and again, whether through our own experiences or multiple TV shows and movies. However, amidst these stereotypical characterizations and plot devices, the storyline exposes a revealing truth about hobbies and why it is better to retain our childhood innocence and excitement about them and keep them away from the external evaluations and competition.
In this episode, Paul and Kevin play basketball all the time outside of school. They both miss shots, and aren’t necessarily the best players, but they both enjoy the activity and play on a consistent basis. However, the second that basketball becomes a structured activity during gym class – in which captains choose their players and scores are tracked- Kevin and Paul have a hard time enjoying the game.
As with most things in life, captains choose their players based on their ability, and regardless of which team one ends up on, nobody wants to be chosen last, as that is the sign that you are the least wanted / least capable. Kevin is inevitably chosen in the middle, while Paul is chosen last. This separation causes tension between the two, as Paul feels bad and no longer has a desire to play basketball at home, even when there is no “real” competition.
Feeling bad for his friend, Kevin tries to adjust for the inequalities by talking to the gym teacher and telling him it is unfair of how the teams are chosen. The teacher doesn’t like Kevin’s comments, and responds by making Kevin a captain. However, Kevin thwarts the teacher’s plans to make Kevin uncomfortable by choosing all the typical “nerds” that are normally chosen last and selecting Paul first. As expected, the team doesn’t do well and keep making bad shots. However, towards the end of the game, Paul throws a shot, and the audience thinks he will make it, but the ball instead hits the gym teacher, who is eating at the time and chokes after being hit by the ball and has to leave. As Kevin explains, “In that instant…. basketball became fun again.” Once the source of anxiety about ability was removed, Kevin and Paul (as well as the rest of their classmates) were able to go back to normal and have a fun time with basketball. A hobby is best enjoyed when one takes full pleasure in the activity itself and is not comparing one’s ability against others or try to be “the best.” The only thing we should be “the best” at in a hobby is having the most fun.