The View from the Bench

Paul Salomon

(Brent Schwert)

Finally, it has come. The cold has lifted. Spring is here. Baseball has started once again, skirts have resurfaced, and we only have another month or two of basketball and hockey playoffs. And yet something is missing – other than Barry’s swing.
Take a look around you. Take a walk through City Park. Where are the kids playing catch? More to the point, why aren’t you playing catch?
Let me explain where I’m coming from with this. My first Lawrentian article was about 19th-century baseball, which I was able to witness and play. I have since put together a team, the Fox River Coonhounds, which plays every Sunday at Tellulah Park.
Obviously, in order to do this I had to invite my friends and acquaintances to join me. All too often they refuse, citing how “bad” they are.
This is what I mean when I say “professional killed the sandlot star.” We grow up seeing guys like Tadahito Iguchi making Web Gem throws while levitating sideways, or guys like King James dropping triple-doubles in his first playoff game. We see this stuff every day.
It’s this kind of wizardry between the lines that make normal people work out, practice and lift in order to become stronger and better at whatever stupid intramural or club sport they are doing.
Then when I ask someone to play kickball or baseball or whatever, they won’t do it, because they aren’t as “good” as these other guys. They don’t want to be embarrassed when they drop a ball or strike out or something.
This whole thing is ridiculous. Sports exist because they are fun. To the meathead who lifts so he can brutalize in an IM basketball game: You’re an idiot; it’s just a game. To the guy who won’t play because he’ll suck: You’re an idiot; it’s just a game. I love professional sports and intense competition, but sometimes it’s just a game.
I guess it’s not really the fault of professional sports, but what’s America if kids aren’t playing catch? It should be fun even if you suck. (I certainly do, but even that doesn’t stop me from getting checked on the basketball court by the aforementioned bruisers.)
If you’re reading this article, then one of two things is true. Either you’re just my friend – which is nice of you – or you actually like sports. If you like sports, then why are you reading this? It’s probably Friday. It’s probably a beautiful spring afternoon. Get a ball, get a friend, and go play. Just play!