I grew up not much caring for sports. I played a little soccer as a kid and was never very good. I tried baseball when I was a little older and was even worse. I ran track in high school and I wasn’t very good at that, either. And that’s just running.
If anything, I should have at least been a St. Louis Cardinals fan. My great-uncle — a guy who was like a grandfather to me — was a Cards fan. During baseball season, a Cardinals game was always on his giant built-in-speakers piece-of-furniture TV.
But pro baseball never really stuck with me. Neither did football (most of my friends rooted for the Cowboys). Neither did basketball (I don’t remember anyone rooting for anybody). Hockey might as well have been played on Jupiter.
The kids recently just finished up the fall season of sports. Emmy played soccer, Finn played T-ball.
For reasons I’m not even sure I remember, I volunteered to coach Finn’s T-ball team. But those reasons don’t matter, because I had so much fun. I think Finn, did, too.
However, he recently informed me that he wants to try basketball next. Then hockey. Then football. Then golf.
He played soccer last year.
I don’t mind him trying all kinds of different sports.
But I might have to draw a line at football. The Miami Herald had a story up that did it for me: Even one season of tackle football can damage young brains, study finds.
Like I said, I’ve never been a football fan, which certainly makes me something of an aberration in southern culture. Most people I knew growing up were Arkansas Razorback fans. The Razorbacks belong to the University of Arkansas, and you had to love them. And hate Mississippi. Or was it Alabama? Maybe Louisiana?
Anyway, I remember adults, contemporaries of my parents, asking me where I was born, and I’d have to say “North Carolina,” because that’s the truth (we moved to Arkansas when I was a baby, three months old or so). And they all but spit on me. A Tar Heel! You ain’t from here! And I’d be mortified and confused.
I get it: our sports identifies us to a place. It’s a part of our home, a part of where we come from.
I don’t really come from anywhere. I was born in North Carolina (Tar Heel!), raised in Little Rock, Arkansas. I went to college in Boston for a year. I went to Arkansas State University (Those guys used to be the Indians and their mascot was the un-PC “Runnin’ Joe”. They have since wisely changed their mascot to the Red Wolves.)
I lived in Washington, D.C. for a year, then in Virginia, where I went to George Mason University (Patriots). I lived in New York City for a very short time. Then Florida, then back to Arkansas, then back to Washington, D.C. and Virginia.
Then back to Florida.
Identifying myself with a sense of place — with a real home — has never been easy. I have lived in St. Petersburg, Florida (actually Gulfport; see?) for ten years, now. I even root for the Rays.
But sometimes I wake up and wonder: is this really where I belong?
The kids help a lot with that question. Wherever they are is where home is for me. And so I feel real comfortable these days. They are home here in St. Pete. And so am I.
So yeah, I’ll let Finn and Emmy try different sports.
But not football. I am not willing to sacrifice the brain of either my son or my daughter for a sport.
It is not worth it.
I’ll stick with baseball, and I hope Finn does, too.
I never rooted for the Cubs before this series, but I had an old girlfriend who was from Chicago and I visited her a couple of times. Saw a Cubs game. Great place, great town. Real glad they won the World Series, finally. I love their story, that it took 108 years to win the World Series.
I barely knew what I was doing with the T-ball crew. But I had a lot of fun working with my son and the other boys out on the field. Who knows, maybe we’ll get into baseball a little bit more. Maybe it’ll help both me (and him) define this sense of place as our place, as home. It was a great bunch of boys we worked with. We had a good season, worked hard, played hard — and no one got hurt.
Maybe we’ll have another good season next year. Maybe some of the same boys will come back and we’ll have a similar team.
This year, Finn’s team was called the Cubbies.