I’ve been around sports and athletes pretty much my whole life. My love for sport began with pick-up baseball and basketball games with the neighborhood boys growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles. I enjoyed the competitiveness, the physical activity and most of all the camaraderie. We chose teams the old fashioned way. Captains were selected randomly just before each contest and the rest of the players lined up to be selected alternately by the day’s skippers. Teams often changed in the midst of a contest as players came late or left early because of other obligations. The games would continue as long as there were enough players, sunlight, or interest in continuing. Sometimes we kept score, others not. It did not really matter because in the end it was all about having fun and staying active.
These early experiences helped to fuel a lifelong love affair with sports. In high school I joined the GAA (Girl’s Athletic Association) at Hart High School which fielded competitive girls teams. But the girls didn’t play in organized leagues like the boys teams, instead we had a couple of “Playdays” each season for the three primary sports, volleyball, basketball, and softball. Several schools would get together at one of the team’s site and participate in round robin type tournaments. We didn’t have uniforms, just our regular school issued gym clothes until my senior year. Even then we wore the same uniform for all three sports. While I didn’t like the disparity in treatment between the boy and girl’s teams, it in no way dampened by love of sport.
I went on to play basketball and softball at Valley College where we were in an organized league and, in fact won the league championship in both sports. When I decided to major in Athletic Training/Sports Medicine and transferred to Fresno State, I hoped to continue my playing career. Sadly, I was told I would have to choose between athletics and my chosen field of study. It was disappointing but not really a difficult decision. Athletic training allowed me expanded access to a wide variety of sports, both men and women’s. I took sports activity classes in everything from gymnastics to football. I was required to learn to coach and officiate in many different disciplines. The more I learned, the more I learned to appreciate the complexity of sports. Later I coached some of my kids teams, played in adult recreational leagues and refereed and umpired softball and basketball.
Today, while I stay physically active working out at the fitness center and participating in recreational sports, my only involvement with competitive sports is as a spectator. I know how much effort and skill it takes to earn an athletic scholarship let alone make the starting roster. Of those who do, college will be the pinnacle of their playing careers for all but the most elite of athletes. I know this is a rather circuitous route to get to my point, that is that we need to remember how much it took these young people to where they are. They obviously love the game or they wouldn’t have committed so much to it over the years. But in the end, the nature of competitive athletics dictates that for one team to win the other has to lose. Our college hockey team, the University of Maine, although having won the National Championship twice in the past, has been on the losing end more often in the past few years. Fans who used to pack the arena and cheer loudly for “their Black Bears” are becoming conspicuous by their absence. Folks are quick to criticize although they have limed understanding of the game and even less playing skills. They are fair weather fans and they have lots of company around the country and at all levels. Their so-called support is disingenuous. I know I can’t change them, but I will continue to support these hard working young men of character because I do appreciate the nature of the game and how hard they work. So let’s cheer them on and fill the seats and remember you can’t win them all.