American perspective on sports boosts appreciation
Summers in Eudora are marked with baseball and fall with football. Growing up, I never experienced fall and summer nor football and baseball. These sports were as alien to me as cricket would be to most people here. I never heard much about baseball, and the football I played is played with the foot. I had seen movies about American football, and the only thing I remembered was that a touchdown was scored when someone dove into the end zone with the ball.
When I first came to the United States, it was at the start of the second semester in January. I got a glimpse of a football game called the Super Bowl. I tried my hardest to watch it with some friends but found no entertainment value. The following year, I was exposed to baseball, thanks to the I-70 World Series. Because I lived in Columbia, Mo., the rivalry of fans from both cites was intense. I got caught up in the hype, but by the time the World Series was over, I vowed never to watch baseball again. I had concluded that baseball was the most boring sport ever.
Like most kids, my son started in sports with soccer and then basketball. Until we moved to Eudora, I never had to deal with that "dreadful" sport of baseball. I still don't know why, but we signed him up for baseball. The first year, despite not having a clue as to how the game is played, he found ways to enjoy himself.
This year, he decided to play the sport again. He started out without much fanfare but finished the season with some stellar performance as a pitcher and was hooked on baseball. Ron Shanks and Fred Trefz coached my son for the past two years. They spent countless hours with the kids instilling in them the passion and desire to play the game with discipline.
It's men like these that kids should model themselves after in the sports field. My son really took to the sport and now claims it is his favorite. I'm hoping that it would be my favorite too, by providing him with a scholarship to college. Ironically, the sport that I declared to be the worst is now my son's favorite.
When football season came around I couldn't help but remember my first experience playing football. During my first year in college, the dorm I lived in had an annual football game with a rival dorm. The game was played on a field where the end zones were the entry and exit gravel driveways for the park. I was asked to play because my team was short on "athletic" guys.
In the huddle, the quarterback would call plays and instructions that I was completely clueless to but I nodded my head in acknowledgement anyway. My name was never called and seldom was I guarded, but I usually ran out wide yelling for the ball that never came.
Then the "play" happened. I ran my usual "run as fast and as far as you can" pattern, and for some reason the ball headed my way. I was shocked, but I managed to catch the ball. I was about 60 yards from the end zone with only one person to beat. Because no one went over the rules before that game, all I remembered in order to score in American football was that I had to dive into the end zone, just like I saw in the movies.
But that end zone I was facing was full of gravel. It was decision time on the fly. Do I dive and score or just continue and run to the end zone and let my team down? The cheers got louder and in my peripheral vision, I saw the "fans"-- mostly girls -- running along the sideline, cheering me on and screaming my name. I had to score. I couldn't possible let all those girls down. There was no other choice. With the end zone upon me and the crowd going wild, I closed my eyes and leaped into legendary status in my dorm.
Did I tell you that it was flag football without pads or helmets? Ouch.
It was the game-winning touchdown. I became known as the Marvelous Malaysian or just simply Marvelous.
I am glad my son knows more about football than I did when he started to play. But, by then, I did too. Now I can be one of the parents that can question the coach's decision and play armchair quarterback with other parents. I played sports as a kid but never had the joy of my parents in attendance at any of my games.
Most other countries, including Malaysia, don't provide such an extensive avenue for youth sports like they do in the United States. Kids grow up competing in sports without any family members, as all the sporting events are confined to an after-school event that parents don't attend.
There are no parks and rec departments providing youth sports activities outside of the school. Most parents don't get to share in the "thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" with their children like we do here. My joy of winning a game or making a great play had to be shared hours after it was over when I got home.
Here, the parents get to see all the unfolding action and emotion of a game firsthand. Here, it's instant gratification, and I realized that instant gratification in kid's sports is not a bad thing.
Through my son I am learning how to truly enjoy the game of baseball and football. But then again, with so many of the parents' emotions put on display from the sideline and stands, it's not always just about the game, is it?