By Gil Gonzalez
Random Writers: What is one thing you miss from your childhood?
The sweat-filled shirt clings to my chest, the coolness helping offset the heat emanating from my skin. My wet hair flops on my head and partially impedes my ability to see. I look around for others who are dressed not like me. Just minutes ago they were my enemies. My foes. But now, they’re simply boys from the other team. We shake hands and compliment each other on good game had. One a victor, the other defeated. Until next time, at least.
It seems light years ago. The days of playing soccer in high school. The days of gathering with my teammates following a game, our minds already thinking about the next match. I loved playing sports as a kid. Football, soccer, track, cross-country. I even did some crewing in college. Since I was ten years old and up until I was a sophomore in college, organized sports were a port of my life. It’s what made me fall in love with the NFL. It’s what made me popular in high school. It’s what provided me discipline in college. And it’s one of the things I miss most about my childhood.
I miss the camaraderie that comes with being part of an athletic team. I miss the workouts, the sweating, and, believe it or not, the shared misery of soreness, aches, and pains. I miss the banter with my teammates. I miss piling into a bus or a van for treks across the county and across the state for competition. I miss earning the confidence of my coaches, and the leadership moments that helped mold me into who I am today.
Those days are long gone, a flicker in the recesses of my memory. Those days were fifteen, twenty, twenty five years ago …. and about seventy-five, ninety-five, one hundred and ten pounds ago as well.
Still, I get to relive some of those magic moments now through the experiences of my children. They’ve both been active in team sports since about the ages of five or six, and their respective sports schedules seem to run year-round. Soccer, basketball, flag football, and more soccer. My daughter is the goalie for a competitive league team, and she has practice four days a week with games on the weekends. Often times her game schedule conflicts with that of her brother’s, and that means I’m at one game while my kids’ mom is at the other.
Still, it’s all worth it. The scheduling, the practices, the driving; it’s all an investment in the future of my kids. I look back at all my parents did to allow me to take part in organized sports, and I am so very thankful they did so. Sports are a microcosm of life, and there are so many lessons to be learned in being an athlete and being a part of a team. From learning how to lose to learning how to win. From knowing how to push yourself to realizing there are times when others are just that much better and talented than you are. It’s lesson after lesson after lesson, but they’re rewarded with memory after memory after memory.
I look back at those days and I remember ever so fondly the feeling of walking off a field after a well played game. Win or lose, there was something special about knowing you proverbially left it all on the pitch. I think about that stud-muffin athlete whose been transformed into a muffin eating dud, and I chuckle at how cruel the passage of time can sometimes be. Bruce Springsteen plays as the soundtrack to my mental trip to the past. The memories are still there. They always will be. Except now they need to make room for the new ones coming in. The ones recorded through the eyes of my children.
Glory Days indeed!