We played a lot of different sports and games back then and the way it goes with kids is that sometimes there are disagreements. When a compromise of an impasse could not be reached logically, well, sometimes we had to throw down. We weren’t tough kids or anything like that and the fisticuffs weren’t a regular occurrence. But when it was time to go, everyone knew how to handle themselves.
The games were stopped, the disagreements were handled, and a conclusion to the problem was reached. Grudges rarely lingered away from the field or court – in fact, as soon as the business was taken care of, we went right back to the game continued from the spot where we left it.
This wasn’t for the backyard games, either. We handled things similarly in little league games, too. One example was in a baseball game in fifth grade when I was drilled square in the back by a pitch from a kid in my neighborhood. This one didn’t get away from him either – the pitcher definitely hit his target, which was the area on my back between my shoulder blades.
I imagine a few words were exchanged on the way to first base, especially since the pitcher “borrowed” my bike earlier in the week and didn’t return it. Needless to say there was some bad blood simmering between the two of us, but who knew it was going to rear its head on the ball diamond?
Everything was cool for a few minutes until I took a short lead off first, looked over toward the mound and sure enough, here came another one high and tight…
Yeah, that’s right, a beanball at the runner on first… in a fifth-grade little league game.
This one got my right arm and dropped straight to my feet. Now it was my turn. I picked up the ball and fired it right back toward the pitcher, but missed wildly. The ball sailed way past third base and past the cinder track that ringed the diamond. But by the time anyone saw where the ball had landed the pitcher threw his glove at me (which I caught) as I ran toward the mound and with the rest of the players from both teams quickly following.
Oh yes, it was on.
Now could anyone imagine anything like that happening now without an arrest or stupid parents getting involved? When all was settled the pitcher and I apologized, shook hands and everything was settled. Yeah, we were kicked out of the game, but that was that. As quickly as it started, it had ended.
Another sport we played throughout my youth was boxing. We had gloves (or pillows) and everything. Tournaments were set up, weight-classes defined, alliances formed and bouts promoted and hyped during school.
Who knows what we would have done if we had video games instead of boxing gloves.
Now what’s the point of these stories? What does it have to do with anything?
Well, nothing. Not really. We were well versed in conflict resolution and had acquired the street smarts to realize when a fight was going to break out. We also knew about boxing, too. It was a sport we understood as well as baseball, basketball or football. We talked about the fights, the fighters and watched matches on television when we could.
Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, John Mugabi, Barry McGuigan, etc., etc. … We watched them all.
These days… not so much.
Boxing is certainly a niche sport these days and it seems as if it is out-of-date in the technological world. Worse, there are probably two or three fights every year that capture the public’s interest. This is despite the nice relationship the sport has with HBO.
One of those fights was last Saturday night when “pound-for-pound” star Manny Pacquiao fought overhyped Brit Ricky Hatton. There were tons of interesting storylines before this fight which HBO explored in its 24/7 series, but if you blinked, you missed the fight.
But what’s the deal with the fight game these days and can part of boxing’s problems be related to those kids today? Apparently it’s a lot easier to block someone from a Facebook profile than it is for kids to duke it out on the schoolyard.
And who’s to say which way is better?