Ponders from an old, semi-benchwarmer

Ponders from an old, semi-benchwarmer

Now that major feasting has morphed into refrigerator raids on leftover stashes left unguarded and not frozen into future homemade TV dinners, it’s time to lay low and avoid the rough-and-tumble, no-holds-barred scramble for deals during pre-Christmas sales. Someone could get hurt.

I mean, who wants to take a wicked forearm at an electronics discount table when one can safely chill ensconced in a recliner watching the news as retail greeters get sacked by stampeding hordes trying to fit through box stores’ main entrances to ravage a 70 percent-off thumb-drive table display?

Besides, there are of all kinds of great sports on the air such as football, rugby, basketball and various contests that take real balls to play.

I’m not ignoring watching soccer. It has always been an outstanding sleep aid, especially when mixed with a double shot of turkey and fixins’. I hold it in very high regard.

Football is and will always be my favorite game. Probably because I resemble a Tongass old growth spruce and was known for moving an opponent 10 to 15 yards from where he last saw his cleats if he smacked into my carcass.

Back in the day, my position was called a blocking back or “rudimentary thug.” I’m not sure why, but I’ll admit that it was flat cool pursuing rushers charging my quarterback just so I could deliver them the experience of precipitous wingless flight.

Hey, I wasn’t that good but any farm boy in our little town that had been tossing around 100-pound potato sacks during the fall harvest months just to pay for tuition could have put a majority of any blitzing linebackers into a parallel universe. My coach was very complimentary and always said that “Nick is really valuable when it comes to getting in the way.”

Baseball was less kind. I could knock the stitches off a ball but it had to go over the wall. A triple for anyone else might mean I could get to first base if I was in an urgent plod. I got excited once and tried to take second after blasting one into the deep left field corner of a stadium. I slid and ended my baseball career when, after the dust settled, the shortstop came up missing. I’m embarrassed to this day.

Basketball was a bigger disaster.

In those days 6’3” was tall for a high school kid. Nowadays I’d be lucky to make the day care squad. Anyway, it came down to, once again, a large muscle mass with the agility of a bull moose on ice. Not pretty. I was finally benched because of my tendency to “trudge” up and down the court instead of run. According to the coach, I was an acceptable shooter but he just couldn’t afford to have me wait at one end of the court until the rest of the pack got back to pass me the ball.

As for hockey, let’s not go there. I was a battleship on skates. Hard to turn, nasty to run into, and as graceful in the rink as a malfunctioning Zamboni.

As the years passed, I really enjoyed getting fired up about sports over the holidays because they added to the festive feelings of the season. Nowadays though, I’m not quite sure what’s going on. Players are looked at more as to what they are, rather than whom.

Some elite, full scholarship, major college players are cruising around in Cadillac Escalades while taking classes that our miniature poodle could easily pass, yet these “brain trusts” couldn’t win a spelling bee with a preschool dropout.

Professional teams now have the capability to start subdivisions by just recruiting from a pool of felon ex-players who have lower IQs than the landscape shrubbery surrounding their mansions and are less articulate than the pet pit bulls guarding them.

It’s also a fact that many moneyed teams and their participating pro athletes are huge cash cows but, for the most part, it’s the salt-of-the-earth youngsters out there laboring to pay the going toll for an education and training who reflect the grit and determination it takes to make them a success.

What’s better yet is that we have coaches and assistants, on all levels of competition, stepping forward willing to teach young kids respect for each other and their opponents while building their ability to control their feelings and overcome personal weaknesses.

Honor, pride, strength of character and self-discipline along with the aptitude to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it is paramount in the game of life.

Come to think of it, if I compared the competitive politics that have just played out to what some professional sports have become lately, a few of the circumstances may well mirror each other, except for one major feature. There is still a myriad of class acts in sports, professional or otherwise. Such acts are near extinction in politics.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com.

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