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Taking it Personally: Sports and Life

Try not to confuse the two.

Taking it Personally: Sports and Life Taking it Personally: Sports and Life Taking it Personally: Sports and Life

I have to admit up front that I usually watch sports with no real idea who is playing and why one side or the other should win.

I like sports. I played sports all through high school and college. I also played on several teams during my years in the Navy, which was maybe the best place to play because no matter how good you were on the field or court or track, you had a real job which mattered a lot more than whatever sport you were playing at the time.

Oh, I have enthusiasms. You will always find me cheering for Lexington High School football and hockey and you will probably find me at those games with a microphone in my hand. But the two sports I really like are Lexington Bedford In-House Hockey and any T-Ball game.

Huh? T-Ball and kid hockey?

Sports are supposed to be about testing yourself, learning to play with other and finding out about joy and pain while learning to balance the two. That’s why I have personal rules when doing the color commentary for LHS football home games. I never say things like “That was a short kick.”  C’mon—it’s high school football in a place where we want our kids going to college and coming out with their brains intact. Only rarely do we come across a world class kicker. I try never to say potentially hurtful things like “He made a big mistake on that one.” I hope whoever just fumbled or dropped a pass is playing the game for something other than The Big Moment. He is supposed to be testing himself and that is unlikely to produce a 100% mark every game. Most athletes are already very tough on themselves without some non-playing adult commenting on perceived shortcomings.

You had better be playing for something other than eternal glory, because those who are good today will probably be part of the pack just a few years hence.

It was a sobering discovery when I returned home from college to find that my brother, only four years younger than myself, was playing no high school sports. I thought he had just wimped out until he pointed out that the marks I had set in high school would not have been good enough to make the team that year, and the level at which I was playing in college wasn’t that much better. I was just barely ahead of a tsunami of talent rising behind me. I would like to say that I had some perspective on this, but it would be many years before I realized that it had always been that way and always would be.

My mother and father never came to see me play in any sport at any level.

I thought that was odd at the time, because they had both been athletes through college. In fact, my father paid part of his college tuition by playing semipro basketball and my mother toured Europe with a field hockey team. I would be a parent before I realized what many parents go through when their children participate in sports.  The behavior of some spectators at games is not to be believed (“Just wait until I get you in the car, young man”) but you also have to realize how often athletes hear themselves described negatively by an amazing number of people. I think my parents knew that.

That’s why I like In-House Hockey and T-Ball and others efforts like those. I like to see a real effort made to just get players into the game. No yelling. No inappropriate cheering.  Who cares who won the game?  Win or lose, the ice cream at or the is going to taste the same.

And that brings us to the soccer game the U.S. women played against Brazil in the World Cup competition. It is exciting to see victory snatched from defeat at the very last moment. It would be almost overwhelming to be in a game like that.

Deep down though, I felt for the Brazilian player who first scored a goal against her own team and then missed the critical goal during the shootout. That is an incredible burden to place on one person. Some years ago in a hockey game I scored an own goal and I can assure you that I am still catching flak about it.

I have never played in a game big enough to be called “one for the ages” or “USA against the world” or “the best game ever played,” nor have I personally done anything to merit a caption like “the best goal in World Cup history” so I will content myself with more personal victories.

I was there when Tim cleanly fielded a grounder for the first time in his T-ball career after trying all season. I was there when a fetal alcohol syndrome player managed to stay awake for three innings of a Farm League game. I was there as Victoria came off the ice holding up her whole hand and saying “Five goals, coach!” I was there when John stayed with a pop fly to third in a Little League playoff game and made the catch after bouncing it off his nose and breaking his glasses. And I still have the bat Matt gave me after that season as the first ballplayer to take the field in Lexington in a wheelchair. He played without assistance, too.The legend on the bat admonishes me to “Dream Big.”  Good advice, Matt.

With all of that, I NEVER liked the Yankees and I will NEVER forgive the Brooklyn Dodgers for moving to California.

Even I have limits.

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