I swore that I would never use this expression, the words only uttered by an old curmudgeon, but it must be stated: Kids today have it so much better than we did back in the old days. I am thinking specifically of youth sport programs. Boys and girls today have so many options. There are basketball leagues, baseball leagues, football, soccer, swim teams, gymnastics, hockey, lacrosse, ice-skating, skiing and tennis. There are all sorts of martial arts that children can choose, such as Judo, Tae Kwan Do, Jujitsu, Karate and maybe Sudoku. Back then, we did not have all those possibilities. Today kids improve their eye-hand coordination in front of a TV screen with a control box. We “Baby Boomers” learned eye-hand coordination on a baseball field with a fast-moving baseball likely to hit one’s head.
When I was young, there were only winter basketball teams sponsored by houses of worship and religious groups. (I believe our team’s spiritual goal was to make every opposing team feel good about themselves. We were extremely successful at that.) Every spring and summer, there was Little League, with each team sponsored by a civic club. For instance, some of the sponsors included the Moose, Kiwanis, Cosmopolitans and Lions. Pity the poor guys underwritten by that woman’s club. They had to wear uniforms crocheted for them. However, they did have the nicest flowerbed by the dugout.
By the way, there were no Nerf balls or wiffle balls or aluminum bats back then. And baseballs were hard. Despite what they say, softballs were also very hard when they hit you.
We also played sandlot games, thanks to the dads who more or less leveled the field, unless you were out in right field and tried to pick up a ball that bounced into a rabbit hole. Teams were decided by picking each guy. I was usually selected last, something that I should have brought up in therapy. (I was told to play second base; when I got bigger, I was told to play the pitcher’s mound.) Regardless of which position you had, everyone’s gloves were all the same, the only difference being whose name was on the leather. (“Ooh, you have a Dizzy Dean!”) Innings didn’t matter. We always continued to play until our parents called us home for dinner.
(Certainly, sports were developed by mothers to guarantee that each child would spend the entire day outside the house.)
Back then, there was no such game as soccer. We thought that soccer was played by people in faraway countries who were bored by another strange sport called cricket. And, worst of all, they had the audacity to call soccer “football!”
Speaking of football (real football), we played that on that same field in the fall after the World Series was finished. My position was “Left Out.” Only one guy had a helmet and he was easily convinced that he was wearing it backwards.
At school during recess we played either kickball or dodgeball. I think that was because only the schools could afford those big inflatable rubber balls.
The kid who lived next door and I had a bet of $1 million on the 1955 World Series between the Yankees and the Dodgers. I won and he had to pay up. He stole one of his parents’ checks and wrote a check to me for $1 million. Another friend burst my bubble by saying it couldn’t be cashed because he wrote it in pencil. There was that, as well as the fact that his parents probably didn’t have more than $100 in that account.
Good thing for me that we did not repeat the bet the following year.