Wednesday, June 9, 2010

All for the Sport

I've never really been into sports. I played little league for a couple of years because... I don't remember why. I suppose it seemed like a good idea at the time. I was terrible at it, though. I played left field (or maybe right field - I could never remember which was which. That was no doubt part of the problem.) and don't recall ever making any significant plays. In other words, I don't think the ball ever came anywhere near me, except when I was at bat. And my at bats always ended in strike-outs, except when I got beaned by the ball or on the odd occasion where I got walked.

I never played football or even watched it. I used to go to high school basketball games with my father, but I never played it at all or even developed a real appreciation for the sport. I usually sort of half-watch the Olympics when they're on, but more out of the same sense that "everybody else is doing it" that sometimes causes me to watch the Superbowl than out of any genuine interest.

As you might imagine, one of the results of this utter disinterest in athletics is that I don't own sporting equipment. And my wife's no more a sports fan than I am, so there no compensating going on there. It occurred to me a couple of weeks ago that the result was likely to be that my kids would grow up with a similar disinterest in sports and with, if anything, perhaps even less understanding or appreciation for our national pastimes.

Granted, I'm not entirely sure I care. I'm of the opinion that the value our society places on athletics is way out of proportion to its actual contribution to the health and well-being of the people in it. The high school sports programs that are intensive prep-camps for college sports programs - the college sports programs that serve as intensive prep-camps for pro sports programs - it all seems like a big waste of energy, effort and money to me.

Still, I've certainly lived a life where I'm sometimes left baffled by sports-related small-talk by colleagues, clerks and neighbors. "How about the big game?" they'll say, looking all excited and happy. "There's a big game?" I'll respond, wracking my brain to at least narrow the "big game" down to a short-list of possible sports and levels. Collegiate basketball, perhaps? Pro baseball? Is it the playoffs already? Who the hell knows - I don't keep track of that sort of thing! But it's a little irritating at times to be left feeling out of step with much of society. I don't mind, really, but I don't want to intentionally subject my kids to that way of life if they don't choose it for themselves. I'd like them to at least have a passing familiarity with some of the more popular sports.

So I gathered up my family and we headed off to the used sporting-goods store. We didn't go hog-wild - I figured we ought to tackle one sport at a time. Plus, I'm not putting up a basketball hoop, so there's no need to get equipment for that sport. Baseball seemed like a good place to start. I at least played baseball once.

An hour later, we walked out with gloves for my three kids (plus one for my wife and me to share. I don't expect to have to do much sharing), a couple of balls, an aluminum bat and a T-ball T. To my surprise and relief, after spending over a hundred bucks on this stuff, my kids actually showed some enthusiasm to go outside and play catch. We've actually tossed the ball around almost every day since. My youngest is having a hard time mastering his fear of the ball and at the moment I'm not coercing him to play, too, but my daughter and son love to put on their gloves and throw the ball. They're getting the hang of throwing and catching, already, and I'll introduce the T and the bat sometime soon.

Hopefully this summer, I'll get them over to a Skychiefs game. I still think of them as the Chiefs and they still play in Macarthur stadium unless I stop and think about the name. It's tough - nearly all of their games are at 7:00 at night, which is pretty late considering my kids have an 8 PM bedtime. I found a 2:30 game in July, though, so that's at least one possibility. I'm never going to be one of those people who gets all worked up about sporting events, particular teams or will sit around watching sports on television. Sorry, kids - there's only so much I can do. But I can at least give them a foundation so that if they want to become sports fans themselves, they won't have to learn everything from the very beginning. And, if nothing else, it gets them outside for a little exercise!

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