After doing the interview with Phil Clabaugh and listening to him talk about the game of baseball, I began to think about what he said. And I must agree with him whole heartedly. All sports have changed tremendously since I was a kid and, like Clabaugh pointed out, the games did not change, but the way people and the participants see them have.

I can remember as a child playing some sort of sport just about all the time. I played every sport that my home town recreation department offered, then we had our own league, you know the neighborhood league, where the kids from one block take on the kids from another block in every sport under the sun. What a great time that was.

I believe it was in those games that a true love of sports set in. That was where a healthy level of competition developed because we were not about to lose to the gang from Truman Street.

It was a lot like the scene in the movie Sandlot where one group of boys pull into the sandlot and challenges the sandlot crew to a game. That is almost how our games came about. The only difference being there was about 10 different groups of kids that would have a team of some sort and thought they were the best.

The game was played by our rules – street rules – and the field of competition varied from black top church parking lots to a side street that did not have too much traffic. The officials were the team who could state its case the loudest - but most of the time it would end in a sub-competition within the game. For example: If it was basketball, then a shootout would decide the argument, in baseball a hitting contest would end the restlessness and so on.

The game did not have a time limit or score limit. We played until the neighborhood moms began to call us home, and if the score was tied we just picked up the next day where we left off.

I truly believe it was those games that taught me the meaning of playing with pride and heart. I definitely became a better athlete because of those games and in the long run I feel that is why I had success in high school and was able to move on t the collegiate level and continue to play.

You do not see those neighborhood leagues any more. Heck, you rarely see kids outside being active. This inactivity has shown its ugly head in the youth sports. This is the part where Clabaugh said that kids give up before they are even out (in baseball).

I have coached youth sports for the past 15 years and Clabaugh is right. If a kid does not do something right and you try to correct it, I would have to say about 99.9 percent of the time that kid will give you some sort of excuse as to why he or she can not do it that particular way. Another thing I have seen is if a child does not get it right away, he or she just gives up and quits trying.

I remember when I was young, I thought that I should be the quarterback of the city youth football team I was playing for. Mind you I was one of the biggest kids on the team and the coach thought I should play on the line. I did what the coach asked and played the line, but every day I worked on being the quarterback. I threw the football at everything in my parents’ back yard. I made my brother snap me the ball, take hand offs from me and run some pretty crazy routes, because I wanted to be the best quarterback.

I did not play quarterback that first year, but the following season I did and I led the team to the Super Bowl as linemen playing quarterback.

A discussion came up on Friday during the local radio sports talk show - Sports Nutz. That discussion was about kids plying ball in the streets and the lack thereof. I have to agree with some of the things that were said by those guys.

They mentioned the video games, Internet, television and cell phones. Then I got to thinking abut that. As a kid I do not remember watching that much television. Really, Bewitched and I Love Lucy were not really my thing. I would say if I was watching T.V. it was probably sports or cartoons, but even that got boring and my brother and I would soon be in a full fledged wrestling match that mom would chase outside, then we would start a new game.

Today, I feel the kids get away with being lazy. Parents do not tell their kids to go outside and play – and I am guilty of that myself. But I remedied that as soon as it dawned on me. I quickly sent my kids outside to play. Three minutes later they were back in the house saying they did not know what to play. So I guess I have some teaching of games and fun backyard stuff to keep a young mind busy.

Maybe we the parents forgot to hand that down to our kids. Maybe the video games, Internet, television and cell phone is the better answer then healthy exercise and good clean fun with a ball.

Well, not in my house. As for me and my kids we will play ball - together!



Scott Ford is the sports editor at the Woodward News.

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