Schuck's Clipboard

Joy of sports reveals itself in simple forms

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jun. 22, 2020 12:01 am

The pitter-patter of rain against the windows followed the booming sound of thunder and served as a precursor for the type of violent storm that makes people scatter.

Clouds rolled. Winds blew. Hail fell.

Eventually, it passed, relatively quickly in fact. And when it did, the sun re-emerged, hardtop surfaces dried up and the simple joys of sports we've missed or we've forgotten throughout the coronavirus pandemic were made possible again.

A father in his mid-30s and his 10-year-old son seized the moment by playing catch in their backyard. The pop of the ball hitting the glove is all either wanted to hear, and the 10-year-old threw with enough gusto and accuracy to make the all-too-familiar sound over and over again.

Could there be anything more perfect on Father's Day than playing catch? At a time when Major League Baseball owners and players squabble over money and fans yearn for the game, watching baseball stripped down to its roots with two generations, both wearing Chicago Cubs caps, served as the reminder of what we miss most.

It's the magic of the game.

It's giving your father the ball you collected after your first big league hit or the car ride home after a loss and talking about what went wrong and what you could have done better.

It's listening to a game on the radio while your dad tends to steaks on the grill and he somehow works the grill with one hand and tosses you pop-ups with the other.

It's the memories we miss above all. Each walk-off home run reminds us of the one we hit as a little leaguer or the one hit against us. Each time major leaguers play a game of pepper during warm-ups, you're taken back to the home-run derbies or the whiffle ball games or the crazy rules you invented because there were only three of you allowed out of the house and you were determined to play baseball that day no matter what.

And if there wasn't a baseball in your hand, there had to be someone dribbling a basketball on a neighborhood court or a nearby park.

That's why it was refreshing to see three boys, probably 12 or 13 years old, using their feet to push water off the court at Johnson Park so they could dribble without a splash. Once the standing water was removed, they started a game of H-O-R-S-E and threw up every trick shot they could conjure.

Eventually, another boy arrived so they could play 2-on-2. A short while later, two more boys on bikes showed up and it turned into 3-on-3. They all wore t-shirts and shorts and didn't care if the ball or their hands got dirty. If the ball bounced away and got wet, someone wiped it off with their t-shirt and they went right back to playing.

Their game was pure. It was simple. It was right.

We've missed that. We've missed so much since those mid-March days when games were canceled and stay-at-home orders went into effect. But it isn't the games we miss the most.

It's the joy sports provides that's been lacking. There's a need for uplifting moments, feel-good stories and memories that last a lifetime. Thankfully, in the wake of a storm, a few of those were made.