'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
YOUTH SPORTS MEMORIES LAST FOREVER … UNFORTUNATELY
A few weeks ago I discussed youth sports, mostly from the parents’ point of view. Parents with children in organized youth sports spend more time each week behind the wheel driving their kids back and forth than they spend in bed sleeping.
At the time I said youth sports are healthy for the kids involved, because each minute spent at those 17 weekly practices is a minute not spent playing video games and inhaling jumbo-sized bags of cheese doodles. But since that column appeared, I’ve heard from many people who insist the slight physical benefits of playing youth sports are more than offset by the severe psychological trauma that is often inflicted.
Just imagine you are eight years old. You are excited about being part of a youth sports baseball team with some of your friends from school. They give you a brand new colorful uniform, including a cap, a pair of pants, and a snazzy jersey with “Manny’s Hardware” emblazoned across the chest.
Being eight, you don’t realize your parents have to sneak out of work early on weekdays and give up precious Saturday morning sleep time to chauffeur you all over the state. All you know is that it’s fun being on the team.
And then one day you find yourself standing in the batter’s box. You are, of course, wearing a batting helmet so large you could bathe in it, which keeps sliding down over your eyes. Normally this would get in the way of seeing the ball clearly, but not in your case because ever since you were hit in the arm with a pitch three weeks earlier you close your eyes tightly and murmur, “Mommy,” every time that over-sized ten-year-old pitcher strides forward and fires the baseball in your direction.
At that moment your primary thought is, “I hope I don’t get hit in the arm again.” But then you notice that many people nearby are yelling. Your ears tune in and pick up some of the words, including, “C’mon squirt, hit the ball!” “Don’t be a chicken! It’s only a baseball!” and, “Tying run’s on third! We need a hit! Concentrate!”
Being eight, you have no idea what “Tying run’s on third” means, but you do know what “squirt” and “chicken” mean, and suddenly you feel more self-conscious and alone than ever before.
Just as the pitcher begins his windup, you hear a shrill yell, “Swing the stinkin’ bat for a change, you wussy!” You recognize the voice, and look over toward your team’s bench. There, with a fierce, tortured look on her face—a lack of sleep and too many hours behind the wheel finally catching up with her—is your mom, offering what she believes at that moment is some helpful encouragement.
Being eight, you have no idea what “wussy” means, but you do know that your mom is very, very unhappy with you. Your eyes tear up and your bladder empties, and an instant later a resounding “clunk!” echoes inside your skull as the pitch, which you forgot was being thrown in your direction, ricochets off your batting helmet. You are not physically hurt—the helmet did its job. But you lay there in the batter’s box as if dead, hoping and praying the ground will split open and swallow you up.
Fast forward two decades. You are now 28-years-old, a successful up-and-coming investment banker. Everything seems to be going well, except for the fact that whenever you hear a sudden loud clunking noise, your bladder reflexively empties and you drop to the floor in the fetal position and whimper uncontrollably. When this happens in the middle of a meeting with potential customers, it doesn’t help very much in closing the deal.
You try to be positive and look on the bright side. You did wear a snazzy uniform during your youth sports days, and your current therapist now offers a 10-percent discount to anyone being treated for Post Traumatic Youth Sports Stress Disorder.
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