I have a conflicting message to my eight readers: kinfolk and two
friends equal eight. And it’s only seven readers when cousin Sidney
is busy or out of town. Have you noticed that nobody names their kid
Sidney anymore? (I wonder why?)
But to cut to the chase, something is drastically wrong with our kids,
i.e. they indulge in too much sports and they indulge in too little
sports. I notice as I play tennis at Willow Park that kids are absent
from the soccer field, the two baseball diamonds, and the tennis
courts. Not one kid is there. The swings and slides do a little
business with future athletes, but that’s it. The rest are all
playing hooky with their most popular electronic game – in air-
conditioned homes equipped with giant, life-sized TVs. A few of them
– maybe 5% - are involved in organized sports and in balmy weather
occasionally hit a baseball, kick a soccer ball. The other 95% eat,
drink, and breathe spectator sports – usually inspired by the male
parent. My point? The good parent introduces his child to
participatory verbal sports – the dogma and huge field of knowledge re
professional athletics that the media dumps into our homes. It’s
poisonous to the young mind. Better he should know the multiplication
table than Brady's passing average. Today’s kids talk about it – they
don’t do it.
We’ve put the NFL and MLB in the pantheon of wisdom while our kids’
little legs and lungs atrophy from disuse. A bad bargain. And what’s
shockingly ironic is somewhere, sometime in his adult life cycle
little Jimmy – now 50 or 60 - rediscovers the value of exercise and
flirts with a hernia by lifting weights or ruins his knee joints with
a three-mile run everyday. The kids of yesterday are the athletic
crazies of today.
As the Bard of Avon (who never lifted more than an 8-ounce manuscript)
put it, “the times are out of joint”. We’ve got it all wrong. The
21st Century father emphasizes sports talk to his malleable kid at the
expense of richer topics, but doesn’t shove him out of the house to
the playground. Kids, have you noticed, don’t gather up their
neighborhood buddies for what we used to call pick-up games. Sure,
there’s a school baseball, football, basketball team, but that’s for
the highly talented child – what about the other 95% of kids who
sprawl on the floor at home for hours watching the NFL?
This wasn’t the case several decades ago. Sports was an activity for
all and precious little of it invaded the child’s home. Consequently,
parents often talked to kids about topics other than Manning’s chances
of staying on the field until he’s 60. They might even read them a
story or a Sunday School lesson. They might even explain that an
activity that encouraged or paid for knocking somebody unconscious was
called the mafia, not the NFL. Professional sports today are a
corrupt feeding ground for juvenile minds. The NFL today teaches
brutality, not sportsmanship.
But I’ve drifted away from that empty playground. Where did all the
children go? What happened to the neighborhood – “Let’s go down to
the ballpark guys”? In fact, often it wasn’t the playground, but an
empty lot on the block where somebody’s handkerchief was second base.
Ironically, with this deprivation is more interest (I said
“interest”, not participation) in sports than ever, which springs from
the overdose we get from the media. Everybody talks about it, watches
it, drowns in it, but the kids – who need it – shun Willow Park.
The humor of Ted, the Scribbler on the Roof, appears in newspapers around the U.S., on National Public Radio in Huntsville, Alabama and numerous web sites.