Monday, November 9, 2009

The Ugly Side

For two and a half years Duncan and I have made the park our own, running its vast lengths in the hot summer months, appreciating its every nuance in Spring and Autumn--stopping to gaze in wonder upon the blossoms, or reflecting with terrible but sweet nostalgia on the fallen, curling leaves. Even in Winter, my least favorite season, we coast over the snow and blue ice as though gliding over a bright but forgotten moon on the far edge of the galaxy. We know its scents and flavors, the sound of the wind in the elms or the calls of the boys who play late night Frisbee on the baseball fields. We know the way the stars look in June as well as January, the Dipper held firmly in the northern sky or Orion on the hunt days after Christmas. There have been long February nights when snow covers everything and I believe our feet have been the only ones to crack the frozen crust of white.

But there is a dark side to the park which breaks my heart. More times than I could count I have written about the soccer hoards or the children athletes and "their wretched parents." Duncan and I have navigated their gatherings with great difficulty in the Fall and Spring, sometimes staying away for weeks, not returning until they have moved on, their discarded water bottles and fast food wrappers the only reminder that they were there at all.

I do not like sports. I never have. I find them brutal and arrogant and lacking the very sportsmanlike ideals they claim to foster. The public, and especially children, have been duped when it comes to turning athletes into role models, coaches into sages and paradigms of wisdom.

The soccer hoards have left, as have the baseball teams. Now the lights of the park are lit for the kiddie football league, my least favorite of all sports. Tonight we circled the baseball diamonds where they practice and I winced each time I heard a coach scream at his charges. It's not the yelling that bothers me so much; after all, it can be a great motivator, but the language they use, the things they imply. It was a warm and lovely night, but I felt myself hardening up, growing angry and more than once I stopped and listened and considered saying something.

One coach growled at his team as he strode back and forth in front of them. "What the hell was that?" he roared. "You're all prancing around out there like a bunch of pussies. C'mon, you're in the fifth grade! Act like it!"

Another accused his team of being girls and then paraded before them, his wrist falling limp, a distinct and offense sashay in his step, an intolerant lisp in his voice. I got the message.

Another made the boys run laps, calling the one who'd fallen behind a fatso.

And where were the parents? There were none on the perimeter or in the stands. None watching at all. No, they were seated in their running cars, some asleep, some talking on the phone, none involved in the training of their children. It was heart breaking.
So we climbed the hill and sat on the swings at the jungle gym. Duncan rolled in the sawdust below the slide while I tried to block out the sound of the whistles, each one a violent shove, pushing childhood further and further away.


Traci said...

I'm sorry Curt. I love you.

Charlie said...

This always completely infuriates me. How parents can allow their sons to be taught such hatred is beyond me.
- Anne, who thinks "playing like a girl" should be a compliment

David said...

You certainly stirred up a lot memories for me. Gym class frequently seemed designed to be a brutal opportunity for the big bruiser athletes to squash all the puny kids while the teachers - all coaches - stood silently and watched. Nothing builds character quite like getting your face mashed into the frosty mud by a football hero during first period gym class.

Cheryl said...

Use that fancy phone and record the abuse and then send it to your local news station. Gettin tough shouldn't involve negative or derogatory references.

Karen said...

Merlin, my golden boy, and I live for the off-season, and rainy days, and below zero weather so we have the fields and forest to ourselves.

You are spot on re: sports mentality -- many is the time I have pointed out insensitive remarks made by students, only to have them say "My coach says that to me." While I am sure there are many wonderful coach/role models, it seems there are many not held accountable for the powerful influence they wield, sometimes in evil ways.

Jyoti said...

Thanks for writing this. I so agree about sports and have a hard time understanding why the majority don't get what they're doing.

jiorji said...

ugh..gross...i hate american culture. It's all about "let's be famous and let's breathe and dream sports all day". If you take an interest to a we won't go there with the possible name calling :\