Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sporty Things (so to speak)

Philosophy:  I believe most of us want to dream of places to go, people to see, things to be.  There are things that I wish I could do - be a part of - particicipate in - y'know, y'know, y'know.  

Example:  I would love to be President of the United States.  There are many things I would like to say or to do as President.  A mere pipe dream that is.  No way I could be elected to the local school board, much less the Presidency.  { that should have read "elected to dog catcher."  We don't have a dog catcher out here - just a deputy sheriff or 50.   I'm certainly not being elected Sheriff of Navarro County.   Already have one - don't need two - }

I am happy with where I am and what is going on.  More?  Sure I want more, but be realistic here folks.  I was a public school teacher.  We don't generate money - we spend your money - remember how government works.  So I take what I have and we move on to oblivion.

All of this conversation started when I had a short online conversation with my brudder Jim.  I made the comment that I never could make a hula hoop work.  He said something brilliant like,

          "Yes, why would I make that up?"
I see 4 year old kids on TV making a hula hoop work.  Not me.  Maybe it is just my inbred embarrassment of shaking my tooshy in front of normal folks  (is it spelled  tooshie?)  Who wants to wiggle their bottom surrounded by a hoop which falls down around your ankles leaving you there with a protruding behind -  unexplained?  Not me for one.   I did try the hoop in my youth.  No luck at all.  In my humble opinion  the hula hoop was originally designed to be thrown to the street into incoming traffic.

It made me look back to what other things never worked for me.  JACKS.  In the 6th grade in Levelland, I was new - friends were fewer - recess or lunchtime would come and outside we'd go.  In Levelland this was to a playground devoid of grass - mostly blowing sand and stone.   Certain boys would take off - run and chase - throw / catch ball - play marbles for keeps - Burp - most of those things kid-boys do today.  The girls gathered on the outside the south door on the sidewalk and played jacks.  Onesies, Twosies, Threesies ...

Several guys would stand around and watch.  Sometimes we special boys would join in to show the girls how it should be done.  I NEVER could play jacks and even beat the most spastic girl.  Toss the ball; grab a jack or two; catch the ball; repeat the process.   My skills were lacking on that playground.   The bouncing ball would arrogantly float off into a surrounding sand dune.

Sure as with all playgrounds of those days, jump ropes came out.  Those little girls would be skipping back and forth, up and down, never missing a beat.  The rope either hit me in the head or tripped me into the West Texas sand.  How did those girls jump two ropes at the same time.  I could help out by twirling a rope.  Perhaps that was my true calling - rope twirler - not head whacker or foot tripper.

I know this is something others won't understand.  I could not do a somersault worth a darn.  One P.E. class had a regiment of  doing rolls and somersaults.  Others would plop down and flip right over.  I was afraid of that.  I had a great fear of breaking my neck as I flipped over.  Still today I marvel at how kids can flip and come out smiling.  Somersaults - not for me.   

Baseball in my youth was not organized.  By the time I graduated from high school, Levelland had organized baseball for younger boys.  I remember going to games and seeing little brother Pat pitch for his team.  I thought he was great for being able to do that.   An aside story:  has nothing to do with stone.  I remember watching a baseball game where Pat had some type of sticker or Pin attached to the front of his official baseball uniform cap.  It was a nothing.  He was the pitcher.  The umpire behind the plate stopped the game and made him remove the sticker from his cap.  The whole episode seemed to really bother Pat at the time - probably had a great deal to do with the way the umpire addressed the problem - something about Yelling.  Young kids, pitching, should not be disciplined by the umpire via yelling.  Just sayin....

My younger days of baseball were few and far between.  The town or neighborhood boys would gather on a vacant lot - choose up sides (guess who was usually chosen last) - and played ball with no official umpire or adult supervision.  The guys just got together and played ball.   Normally, I was pushed "out" to the "outfield."  {In case you wondered where "outfield" got its name }  There were several of us "out" there.  If 26 kids showed, there were 13 on each side - 6 in the infield and 7 in the outfield.  If 42 showed,  21 on each side.  Do the math yourself.    The hunky boys would hit the ball outta sight and we 7 "OUTfielders" would chase as best as possible as the infield yelled words - not usually of encouragement .... there were words of disdain - razzing - off color remarks about one's heritage.

A couple of games stick in my mind.  One spring day in Crete, Nebraska, a grouping of town boys showed to play ball.  As usual I made it to my home in the outfield.  Did I mention that I had a baseball glove of my own?  No uniforms, no caps, no spiked shoes, nobody had anything.  It is funny how I can remember that day like it was yesterday.  Some Clod hit the ball to the outfield; it was not a long fly ball, but a skirting grounder aimed right at me.   [ Cue the comments from the rest of the team. ]   I put my glove down in front of the ball to snatch and gain my approval of the crowd.

The stupid ball - yes, balls can be stupid, that stupid ball hit the glove and rolled right up the glove and right up my arm into my nose.  It knocked me down - bleeding nose and all.  I have not the slightest idea whether the Clod scored or some budding athlete was able to grasp the ball and sling it home.  I had served my purpose as a backstop in the outfield.   

I had had no formal training.  Certainly my father never played ball with us and taught me the ins and outs of the game.   I do remember one of the boys walked over to me as I withered on the ground.  He showed me how to place the glove with my free hand in position to stop the ball from rolling past the glove into my nose.  Stupid ball.  Good tip  though.

My only other memory of baseball happened in Levelland.  I couldn't tell you why, but Jim and I were on the playground of West elementary with a pile of boys for a pickup game.  Since we lived nowhere near the place, being there is still a wonder to me.  As normal, I was placed in the outfield.  This time it was a location close to 1st base.  Fine.  I still had a glove.  

The play developed.  There were 2 outs.  One kid was on 1st base while another occupied 3rd base.  I had no idea how many outs were there.  All I could see was the kid on 3rd base trying to sneak home.   As you would have predicted the ball hit was a grounder straight to me.  I gloved it and slung it at home.   I think it came close to home base but the kid scored anyway.   All yelling broke out at me.  Y'see, if I had merely tossed the ball to 1st base, it would have been an out and end of the inning.

Up until that moment - that very moment -I had never had certain baseball strategy explained to me in such clear and graphic terms.  Young boys can be very graphic.  From that day forward I started trying to learn a little more.  I cannot remember ever playing another game of baseball or softball for that matter.  I didn't need it; didn't want it; and above all baseball didn't need me.

It is probably time to summarize this little bluggy up, but not before I mention a few other exciting sports.  (1)  bowling.   You have got to be kidding.  People play this all the time.  I did it a few times.  You get a heavy ball while wearing Gosh Awful funny colored shoes and no explanation of previous wearers.  Everyone selects a ball from a long line of losers.  Which bowling ball hurts the least was my philosophy.  You roll the ball and try to stay out of the gutter.  Blisters form on your thumb.  I always enjoyed the experts (other kids who rolled the ball 3 times a year too) trying to teach me the 4 step approach - or is it the 3 step?  My style worked for me.   

Probably shouldn't tell this....once took my future wife bowling in HS, it was probably a church event - She slung the ball back in a wind up and it went THUD right behind her.  You could say Brenda Joy and I were made for each other.

Then there is (2) ping pong and (3) tennis.  These are similar games where your opponent tries to knock you down with a small ball aimed at your head.  If you are lucky, you can hit the ball back with your forehead and get it over the net.  I remember a kid telling me, "You should learn tennis; it is so easy to learn."  Levelland had a couple of courts.   My most fun was trying to serve.  You throw the ball way up in the air and try to slam it in a forward direction.  I'll leave you with your own vision of my mis-shot ball flinging through the air.

For now let's just briefly mention (4) volleyball.  We guys rarely played it.  My wife rambles on about volleyball in P.E. class and how she hated it.   I can relate.  While the girls played volleyball, our coaches lined us up on one end of the gym and gave basketballs to the meanest and biggest kids in the class.  Yes, we played (5) dodgeball.  dodgeball is one word and should not have a capital letter at the first.  Why coaches felt this was a fitting prelude to us visiting the gym showers is beyond me.  Of course the showers with that horrible smelling pink soap should remain for another stone.

I close as I mention (6) marbles - see above somewhere - playing for keeps and (7) mubbly??peg where you stand with your feet apart as some other kid throws a pocket knife between same.  There were other knife games which involved jumping, dodging, bleeding - but I try to forget those when possible.

So may all your days be filled with dodged balls and missed hurling tennis balls.   I will play my trumpet.

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