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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Speaking of Sports

First of November, Twenty-Seventeen. Eleven One, ah yes. The cold brings out the competitor in all of us. Just ask the white tail deer as the peak of rut coincides with the transition from archery to firearm hunting seasons. Or the mallards as they fight for the last spot of open water on an icy pond.

The start of this month also marks the perfect confluence of professional sports. The World Series is reaching it's zenith. Football is steaming along, albeit through rolling waters. Basketball has gotten it's feet wet. And, on a binary sports planet somewhere in the universe, it is hockey season.

My nephew, Charlie, would be a 9th grader this year. High school...That's hard to fathom. Even though he would be bigger, like these neighborhood kids have gotten, a freshman is truly a small fry in the world.

But my first year at venerable Loy Norrix High School (Go, Knights!), I thought I was the toughest thing standing upright. That is how the kid would feel now if he could only be among us... It's hard to reconcile, both in the Now and in the Then, the way a 9th grader feels as opposed to what a 9th grader is.

I can't see myself ever having thought about it that way under any better circumstances. But that is how it would be for him, the way it is for everyone else.

By that age, I had played Little League baseball and was in a bowling league. I couldn't ice skate, but we played full contact street hockey in the winter in my neighborhood, every bit as brutal as the tackle football games we engaged in, and way more so than Gorilla Basketball in the driveway.

So we were sporty kids, sure, a whole neighborhood full of us. A generation later, Charlie was no different. He was a participant in hometown hero Derek Jeter's baseball camp in his last two years of life. He, too, had a bowling trophy, and a golf trophy to boot. He played soccer. He was trained in judo. He scored touchdowns.

Many people will tell you that the first twelve years are the best ones, anyway. After that, you have to start dealing with your looks, your clothes, acne, the school dance. Through all of that you have to focus on grades, and exams, so you can get to college. Then it becomes about money - a job, taxes - so you can get a car - insurance, registration - and on you tumble down the road. Until you don't.

Or until one day, you look up, and you're singing Amazing Grace at your 12-year old nephew's funeral. And helping your sister survive an awful despair against which all are powerless when it finally gets to them (then on they tumble, too).

Some things, you can't outscore, or outrun, or hide from in the woods. Some things, even this time of year, you can't fight back.

pH 11.o1.17


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