Tuesday, November 23, 2010

old crazy

I have a few thoughts on sport. Not sport on TV or in person, but life sport.

I remember very little about my days playing little league baseball. Then again, I stopped playing at a young age and stuck more to basketball. I remember my basketball playing days (they don’t call it little league; it was the South Southwest Omaha YMCA grouping). Our team won the ‘state championship’ for fifth- and sixth-graders at the big tournament in Lincoln. That was memorable more for the weekend trip, playing on the road, and being in the Final Four. The games themselves don’t stand out. Practice at myriad Omaha area elementary schools on cold and damp weeknights (usually something like Tuesday and Thursday) don’t stand out. If pressed, I can probably bring forth a half-dozen real memories from those years of youth organized basketball. What I do remember of my youth and sport is the hours upon hours I spent playing pick-up basketball at YMCAs, churches, my drive way, and my friends’ houses. I remember me and the neighbors playing hours of a made-up baseball in the front yard: pitcher, hitter, one fielder. A whiffle bat, a yellow Trac-ball, and a fence. Once you fielded the ball you had to hit one of the first three fence planks (1st base/only base) to get the runner out before he tagged it. Repeat. This was far more exciting than any organized stuff I ever played. I remember my greatest pick-up games like they were yesterday. I remember playing Pepper in the front yard for hours.

Here’s the deal, and my crazy talking: get rid of organized sports for kids. Keep the fields, keep them nice, and let them play – just without our getting the way. If they want to play, they will. The practice and sorting of rules amongst themselves is far more of a life lesson than schedules on Excel spreadsheets, bad umpiring/referees, and overbearing parents. Open spaces and open minds. The thought of little league stuff these days just turns my stomach. Why can’t it be like this?

And why can’t we let kids make the teams – or sort the hopefuls and others. It works.

I think I might give you some time to digest this craziness before I continue on with my “let all track-and-field athletes dope all they want” position. That may be too much for one day.

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