Seeing HS Sports DIfferently
I don't need the calendar to tell me that it's August. The sight of so many teenagers running in the neighborhood, getting in shape for their fall sport, is a tell-tale first sign of fall, as chirping birds are to spring.
I'm not sure which high school sports season I enjoy most. I love a crisp Friday night (under cover) watching football. A warm gym on a winter's night watching hoops (sitting on a soft cushion) with friends always works for me. And you can't beat the rare warm spring day at a baseball game or the three-ring circus that is a track meet.
I have come to enjoy each game I attend as simply that --a game. It's simply a form of entertainment, a learning experience and confidence-and-character builder for the kids, and not a battle of us-against-them, good versus evil, or some kid's big chance at a college scholarship that I see others in attendance try to make it out to be.
I have to admit my perspective has evolved from when my son played. It began to change one summer when he was still in high school.
His summer baseball team had a weekend tournament back in Pullman. I offered to transport (along with my son) two other boys on the team, one of them the son of the coach of the cross-town rival (whose teams regularly won every game in the rivalry). It didn't take long before the barbs about each other's school were flying, and by the time we'd made it to Ellensburg the talk grew more heated. Wishing to be a gracious guest, but not wanting to let my son have the last say in their war of words, the coach's son used the ultimate weapon, that certain ten-letter word that ended all the trash-talk for the weekend - ‘Scoreboard'.
For the remainder of the weekend, I saw the coach's son in a different light.
Here was a polite and respectful young man. He was as dedicated to playing the game the right way as every other boy on the team was. He was committed to the ideals of team play and hard work. I knew his dad loved the game every bit as much as I did.
And it occurred to me that the only real difference between him and my son was which side of town they lived, and the school they attended.
Then I began to think of the similarities between them.
The boys liked many of the same things ---the same foods, the same subjects in school, the same movies and TV shows. They spent downtime that weekend playing video games with each other.
They both had parents who were deeply involved in their upbringing and instilled similar core values in them.
The boys were from, essentially, the same community, the same state and same country, as well.
Now when I watch high school athletes perform this, rather than seeing enemy combatants vying to determine which of them represents some higher form of human superiority, I see players with hundreds of similarities for every actual difference between them.
And I will be grateful to all of them for entertaining so many of us with their effort.
There's no question about it.