I love everything about sports. I love the relationships it creates and strengthens. I love the competition. I love the exercise when I play. I love the feeling my butt gets when it is sitting on the couch watching sports. Even more, I love the feeling my butt gets when it is sitting in a stadium watching sports. I love the instant connection I can make with a stranger because of sports. I love the memories of my dad, most of which revolve around baseball. I love that I was able to introduce Nancy to Wrigley Field and professional tennis, and I love that she enjoys those experiences. And I love that I am going to be able to share sports with Sophie.
As a kid the ONLY thing I wanted to do was play baseball. If that was not an option, then plans B-Z were play with my baseball cards, watch This Week in Baseball, watch a Baseball Bunch with Johnny Bench and the Kool-Aid Man (oh yeah!) video, watch a Cubs game, or color in my Chicago Cubs coloring book. I hated winter, because I couldn’t play baseball (this was before sports became year round activities, even for kids [which I can’t criticize since that concept pays the bills around here]). I played baseball so much that my Dad wouldn’t let us play it in the yard anymore because it would tear up the lawn. Instead, we had to play in the street. My daily schedule in the summer often looked like this:
GO WAKE UP MY LAZY FRIENDS SO WE CAN PLAY BASEBALL
MOM CALLS ME IN FOR LUNCH
TRY TO GO BACK OUT AND PLAY BASEBALL BUT MOM MAKES ME DO FLASHCARDS
ESCAPE MOM, TRY TO ROUND UP FRIENDS AGAIN
THROW BASEBALL AGAINST PITCHBACK UNTIL FRIENDS ARE READY TO PLAY
MOM CALLS ME IN FOR DINNER
PRETEND I DIDN’T HEAR HER, PLAY BASEBALL
MOM DRAGS ME IN FOR DINNER
MOM MAKES ME LET MIKEY PLAY BASEBALL WITH US. I PROTEST.
SUNDOWN. BASEBALL POSTPONED UNTIL TOMORROW.
GO TO BED
The only thing in all of collegiate or professional sports that I truly and passionately care about is the Chicago Cubs. Yes, I root for Notre Dame football, Kentucky basketball, various tennis players over the years, the Colts and for every game to be a good game, but I LOVE the Cubs. The Cubs are the source of some of my greatest joy and most profound disappointment. Most often, they give me a dull ache in my heart and an unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach that make me want to throw up, but hey, that’s love, right? For those of you who know anything about the Cubs or baseball in general, you know that my life can be summed up largely by the list of my favorite players through the years: Bill Buckner, Greg Maddox, Jody Davis, Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Nosewad, Shawan Dunston, Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace, and Rick Sutcliffe. It’s been a long and strange life as a Cub fan, and I don’t anticipate that changing any time soon.
I played a little bit of tennis in the park in my neighborhood as a kid. I was a total hack. I had the ill-conceived notion that I could make the high school tennis team, so I tried out as a freshman. My Mom was making me do marching band, which I did not want to do, so I was hoping that if I made the tennis team I wouldn’t have to do the band. In retrospect, I’m glad I got cut. I didn’t touch a tennis racquet again until the spring of my senior year of high school. I had become friends with Dan Baker, who was heading off to Manchester College and was going to play tennis there. We began hitting with one another that spring and through the summer. By the end of the summer, we were about even as players (which was not at all good, I might add). As the summer wound down and I began to get ready to start my freshman year at Bethel, I thought it might be fun to try out for the tennis team there. I honestly didn’t think that I would make the team, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet some people and make some friends. So, I called the tennis coach and asked if I could try out, and he said yes. At the first day of camp, there were 4 of us. It takes 6 players to field a full roster. It turns out that 2 players had transferred schools and not told the coach, one was academically ineligible, and one left school to take a tennis pro job. Four of the previous year’s top six players were not returning, and this was all new information to the coach that day. My chances of making the team suddenly looked much brighter. We ended up holding an open tryout for any student on campus who might want to play tennis. Two guys showed up, so they automatically made the team, rounding out our top six. Sufficed to say, I did not win a singles or doubles match that year OR the next, nor did the team win a team match that year OR the next year. We were B-A-D at tennis. Nonetheless, I played as much as I could, usually with the extremely patient and MUCH better player, Jason Gingerich, and slowly improved. By my junior year I was respectable, as was the team. I finished the year with a winning record in singles and doubles, and the team finished with a winning record as well. My senior year, we were actually a good team with a legitimate chance to win every match. We finished with a then school record for wins and I had my best season as well.
I probably wouldn’t be a Christian if it weren’t for sports, at least indirectly. When I first started attending the youth group with Mike, there was a heavy emphasis on physical games. The idea, I think, was to wear us all out at the beginning so that we would be too tired to cause trouble during the message. I’m not sure how well that worked… In any event, playing those games, colliding at full speed and bashing a much smaller student with a rolled up newspaper, was really attractive to me. It kept me interested and coming back. Eventually, I was tired enough, I listened to the message, and I gave my heart to Christ.