Pick your favorite sport

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 17, 2000

Everyone has a favorite sport. And everyone has that one favorite sport they remember participating in, more than any other.

This can vary, however, according to the region of the country one grows up in.

In the south, most would agree that the most popular sport would have to be football. But if you were raised in a different part of the country, than your sporting experiences also were different.

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For instance, those growing up in major metropolitan areas would probably not spend as much time on a field playing football, mainly due to the decreased amount of parks available.

In the big cities, many gravitate toward inside sports, such as weight lifting, boxing, gymnastics and basketball.

But yet another aspect of sports has to deal with climate. For instance, when I was growing up, in the summer I made extra money as an umpire for the &uot;Teaneck Southern Little League.&uot;

I was more inclined to work in sports if there was an option of spending money or making money. I also worked as a teenager in the Paramus Roller Rink, as a floor guard. I loved to roller-skate, and could get paid for it that way.

When I was in parochial school, I participated in CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) sports, such as basketball.

Occasionally, I would play golf at the County’s public course. Not that I was a &uot;duffer&uot;, far from it–I can probably count on one hand how many times I ever broke 100!

Bowling leagues also were popular then, and I enjoyed that as well.

In the wintertime, living &uot;up nawth&uot;, we had a luxury that most kids in this neck of the woods can only imagine. From mid December until well into February, and sometimes March, we had snow, which brought with it sledding, skiing, and snowball fights.

We also had a wonderful thing that came with early winter, and lasted until spring: ICE.

The creeks, brooks, gullies, streams and puddles alike all froze, sometimes solid. That meant figure skating, speed skating (like in Hans Christian Andersen) and of course, ice hockey were the sports of choice.

Almost coincidentally with learning to walk, I had learned to ice skate. My parents have old &uot;home movies&uot; that show my siblings and myself ice skating with all the neighborhood kids.

It didn’t matter if we were on a brook, drainage culvert, pond, lake or flooded basketball court. In the winter, the fire department would open up hydrants and flood the courts, and that was the featured attraction until the sun got so warm in March that your skate blades went through the ice to the pavement beneath it. But, inevitably, we would find somewhere to ice skate.

I guess my first hockey stick was a broom. Sure, you could have a store-bought &uot;real&uot; hockey stick, but you couldn’t sweep the snow off the ice with it, and a broom didn’t hurt as much if you happened to &uot;accidentally&uot; high-stick and strike your opponent with it.

Imagination, innovation and improvisation were the key ingredients, in having fun some 30 years ago, and somehow, we have let our children get away from that.

Again, take for example, the broom. Everyone’s mom had one, and one thing was certain, eventually it would get worn out and require replacement.

The most popular kid on the block was the one whose mom had just gotten a new broom, because that meant her kid got the old one.

Just a couple of strokes with Dad’s saw, and the broom part was history, and, boy, that handle sure made a swell bat for stickball.

The broom-handle, a rock (to mark a square &uot;backstop&uot; on a brick wall with) and a tennis ball made you the most sought after friend in the neighborhood, because you had all the ingredients needed to get a game of stickball going.

If you didn’t have the broom handle to go with the tennis ball, then you could play handball (like racquetball, but without the racquet). All you needed that couldn’t be carried for handball was a wall to play against.

But I guess the point to all my rambling is this. Somewhere along the way, we have lost those valuable tools we grew up with–more importantly, we have failed to pass them on to our children.

In all of this &uot;high-tech&uot; fast-paced technology that we have become accustomed to, we have deprived our children of the seeds needed to grow imagination.

Long gone are the days of looking forward to when the lawnmower quit working, because that meant Dad would have to replace it, and we could have the wheels from the old one.

Take four lawnmower wheels and three two-by-fours (one long piece for the body and two short ones for the axles). Add a square piece of plywood for a seat and about ten feet of rope to use for a steering mechanism (when connected at both ends to either side of the front axle) and you had a dandy go-cart.

Everyone took his or her turn at being the &uot;motor man&uot; (the one who did the pushing).

Parents knew what was happening when all of the kids in the neighborhood stood watching patiently as a neighbor built an addition on to their house. It meant that when the job was through, the kids could have the leftover scraps of lumber.

(If there was a considerable amount left, then it would be used to nail into a tree, building a tree-fort).

The point is, we should all slow down long enough to ask ourselves one question: what is there for the kids in our community to do?

Long gone are the days when kids could ride their bikes on the streets–the traffic is too frequent, and driver are too careless, because someone is busy rushing here or there.

At the same time, when we complain about kids gathering in parking lots to socialize, we should ask ourselves instead, or else do they have to go?

There are no bowling alleys, movie theaters, arcades (heavens no, that encourages &uot;riffraff&uot; and loitering).

So, I guess the key here is, what are WE going to do about it…are we just content in saying &uot;It’s someone else’s fault, or are we just trying to kid ourselves.

You decide…and when you do, give your kids a hug, and teach them about something that you used to do, back when you were their age.

I just came to a realization (something along the line of being struck in the head with a brick). Its time to stop rushing here and there, simply complaining because the kids are &uot;not doing right.&uot; Take a more active role in entertaining them. Show them how that telephone worked (you know, the one with two soup cans and string).

They may laugh at first, but it probably will show them that you, too can be a kid at heart, and also appreciate where they are in life.