Berwyn: Finding value in sports
September 27, 2009
Before going to bed a couple of nights ago, my 11-year-old son spent an hour making a cardboard sign, “TULO” written in big capital letters, purple and black, and “Go Rockies” in smaller lettering below, to show support for our Colorado baseball team. It’s sometimes a battle to get Dylan to write even a short thank-you note, so I was mildly surprised, and somewhat gratified, at the effort he put into the poster, even if it was partly in hopes of getting spotted by a TV camera.
Both of us have definitely caught a bit of playoff fever, and after Dylan went to bed, I flashed back to my own initiation into sports fandom. Since I grew up on army bases in Germany, I listened to many major league baseball games on the radio before I ever saw one in person. My favorite team was the Dodgers, partly because that was the name of the Little League team I played for, and partly because I’ve always had a slightly mystical fascination – don’t ask me why -with all things related to Los Angeles.
The games were broadcast live on the Armed Forces Network, AFN, and with a time difference of about nine hours, I remember some late nights spend under my blankets with a crackly portable radio. Sandy Koufax, the lefty, was still in the rotation, Willie Davis was the speedy center fielder and Maury Wills was the shortstop, and even though I hadn’t even seen them play on TV, I was enthralled by the names and steeped myself in the legend of Dodger Blue.
Along similar lines, I remember my Dad waking me late at night to watch the 100 meter finals at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. It was an experience that helped spark an interest in the Olympics and sports in general that lasted a few decades.
Like many other people, I later went through a disillusionment phase, as I saw sports change from something that was done out of passion or for fun into a commercial venture and, in the case of the Olympics, an ideological propaganda tool. For me, all that took some of the meaning away from the athletic on-field accomplishments.
For many years, I hardly paid attention to pro sports, and if I watched the Olympics, it was for the spectacle as much as anything else. But when he was about 6, Dylan started showing a healthy interest in sports that rekindled my own enthusiasm, albeit on a completely different level. I started coaching Dylan and his cohorts in the local youth soccer league, and he decided of his own accord to play Little League baseball and basketball. He too became hooked by the Olympic scene, maybe because I let him stay up late at night to watch some of the big events.
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So over the past few years, I’ve once again revised my view on the world of top-level sports. I realize Dylan’s interest and enthusiasm for participating in sports is linked with this bigger picture, so I’ve put my cynicism aside, at least for now, and focused on the positive, trying to explain how it requires dedication, patience, perseverance to succeed in sports at any level. I try to tell him how some of our favorite athletes in various sports exemplify those qualities.
It’s not always easy. He’s well aware of the doping scandals that have rocked baseball. We don’t root for Barry Bonds and Manny Ramirez anymore. And he’s asked me several times why the Rockies traded his favorite player, Matt Holliday last season. There aren’t any easy answers to these questions, but I think our kids deserve an honest discussion.
There’s huge value to striving for athletic excellence, as long as it’s balanced with other important parts of life. That’s why I’m so thankful for all the local parents and coaches who give so much of their time to making it happen for Dylan and his friends and teammates. Watching and participating in these programs has been one of the most gratifying aspects of parenting, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Oh … and Go Rockies!
Bob Berwyn has been reporting from Summit County since 1996 and enjoys kicking a soccer ball every now and then.