It was a rare and unusual sight, but it didn’t hold a candle to what I saw on the way home yesterday.
I know you’re probably thinking I’m going to say Elvis or a UFO or the police SWAT team trying to talk someone off the roof.
This wasn’t anything like that. As I rounded a curve I saw a bunch of kids playing soccer in a vacant field.
There must have been 12 of them — maybe 15.
It didn’t hit me initially, then I started trying to remember the last time I saw kids outside playing a pick-up ballgame of any kind. I couldn’t.
Our ever-growing reliance on technology has replaced the ball and bat, and I don’t understand how anyone could see that as a good thing.
When I was growing up, the kids in my neighborhood and I engaged in at least one pick-up game of football, basketball or baseball just about every day. We were born before the soccer generation.
We showed up, we chose up sides, and we played until our tongues hung out of our parched mouths.
We had access to organized youth sports, but I much preferred doing it this way. Our uniforms were shirts and skins. We didn’t have a schedule to stick on the refrigerator. Nobody’s dad was a volunteer coach, and nobody’s mom brought snacks. We didn’t have a team outing to the cheapest pizza buffet in town at the end of the season, because the season never ended.
Scraped knees and elbows were our participation ribbons.
The lessons we learned were invaluable.
We learned sportsmanship. In baseball, we shared our glove with someone on the other team if he didn’t have his own, or if his was being used as second base.
We had no officials, obviously. So we had to learn to compromise. This was usually punctuated by the team losing the argument saying, “Let the babies have it,” but it was compromise none the less.
We learned at least enough responsibility to know to go home when the streetlights came on.
We learned tolerance. If the most annoying kid in the neighborhood was the one who owned the football, then he was tolerated. And if he played his cards right, sometimes he even got to play quarterback.
We learned that wounds of all types eventually heal, and bruises fade from purple to green to yellow before disappearing completely and being quickly forgotten.
I don’t remember if we actually ever said, “rub some dirt on it,” but we had hundreds of opportunities.
We learned time management, which meant cutting the yard early in the morning before the game commenced.
I think the main thing we learned is sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. And sometimes you just have to agree to disagree about who won and who lost.
There was always a tomorrow. There was always another game.
We were healthy, we were skinny, we were tanned, and we were happy.
Kids today are missing that experience. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good video game. In fact, we had video games — and other indoor activities like board games and cards — back in those days, too.
That’s what we did when it rained or if it was so cold the basketball turned to stone.
Although I could, I am not going to go on some big, long rant about kids these days spending too much time locked in their bedrooms in the dark staring at a screen.
I just don’t understand why it is more fun to play a game on a computer than in real life.
I would give just about anything for one more day in that vacant lot. I miss it.
Those kids playing soccer yesterday will miss it one day, too. And they’ll be glad they had it.