As any parent of a second-grader already knows, today is the birthday of Theodore Geisel, the man known to the world as Dr. Seuss.
In elementary schools, March 2—the day of which Geisel was born in 1904—has become a holiday of sorts. School children around the country will spend the day dressed as Mr. Brown or Thing 2, snacking on green eggs and ham, and listening to readings of The Butter Battle Book and There’s a Wocket in My Pocket (my personal favorite). My family will spend the afternoon watching the new Lorax movie.
Dr. Seuss’s published works say very little about sports, unless you count “Ring the Gack” as a sport.
But in the 1960s Seuss started a book called All Sorts of Sports. He set the project aside for several years, but revisited it in 1983 at the urging of an employee. Though Geisel never completed the book, a nineteen-page manuscript survives. Seven of the nineteen pages came entirely from the hand of Seuss himself; Geisel’s assistants had scribbled notes on the other twelve.
The manuscript tells the story of an athletic wonder named Pete who loves sports of every sort:
What am I going to do today. Well, that’s a simple matter. Oh, that’s easy. We could play. There are so many sports games to play. We could swim. I could play baseball…golf..or catch. Or I could play a tennis match. There are so many sports, let’s see… I could bowl, jump hurdles, or water ski. I could blumf.
Seuss was never satisfied with the manuscript and sarcastically suggested that his assistant submit it to Harper and Row. (Seuss had his own publishing imprint through Random House.) He explained his objections to the story in a letter to the employee who’d suggested he reconsider it:
What, in my opinion, is wrong with this story is that…despite the greatness of Pete as a stellar athlete hero…the negative image of him flubbing and unable to catch any ball at all will make him a schnook. This is not entirely apparent in the text, but when you picture these negative scenes in illustrations, you will find that negatives are always more memorable than positives. And I think the reader’s reaction will be, “What’s the matter with this dope?”
Last month Tim Tebow, through his foundation, read his favorite Seuss book, Green Eggs and Ham, for BOOK IT!, a “reading incentive program sponsored by Pizza Hut: