Thursday, May 8, 2014

The coldest days of all

I've always kind of liked winter sports. In my younger days, I was a dedicated ice skater, hockey player, snowball-maker and cross-country skier, while faithful readers of this column might remember a story I wrote a couple of seasons ago when I fulfilled a long-time dream and attended the U.P. 200, a long-distance dog sled race held in and around the cold, snowy forests of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Others might recall a bit of nonsense I penned back in 2010 regarding my alleged desire to take up the sport of curling after watching it during the Vancouver Olympics, though folks who really know me would surely attest that large sheets of ice and brooms are both things I tend to avoid with great alacrity.
But the fact is, parents and grandparents in the know will quickly agree that the coldest sports of all take place during yet another season.
You know, the one called "spring."
It's a phenomenon I first experienced back in the day when my own kids were young and I had a hand in running the Galva Youth Soccer League. While some dads and moms volunteered to help line the fields, drag the goals into position, or help with the concession stand, I had the worst job of all. Because I was the poor schmo who had to take an early look at the weather on Saturday mornings and decide whether we were going to brave the elements and play that day or not. It was the ultimate lose-lose situation, as half of the parents in town thought I was an absolute idiot when I chose to go ahead and play on those drizzly, extra-chilly spring mornings that seemed to occur almost every Saturday, while the other half questioned my manhood on the days I decided to call things off.
I kind of forgot about those cold April and May days until years later, when I undertook a second career of sorts as a sportswriter for the Star-Courier. Football season saw me wisely waddling up and down the sidelines wearing countless layers of sweatshirts, heavy sweaters and hooded parkas, while the long winter months dedicated to basketball helped me re-discover the fact that a late-night walk across a frozen parking lot after a few hours in an over-heated high school gym is a long walk, indeed.
But it got worse.
Though he was too kind to do it openly, I'm sure editor and sports guru Mike Landis chuckled the first time I showed up to cover a track meet or ball game dressed like I was headed for a day on Waikiki Beach.  But the fact is, nothing changes faster than the weather on a springtime afternoon. A quick shift in the wind is all it takes to change a sunny spring day into a gusty, mid-40s goosebump-fest.
I always wondered why those spring days seemed so darn wintry. Maybe it was because the truly nice weather that occurred now and then was just enough to soften me up from my wintertime toughness. Maybe it was because there's a lot of standing around involved in covering and photographing both track meets and ball games, which made it easier to catch a chill when the breeze suddenly blew out of the north and the sun dipped behind a cloud.
Or maybe I was just too stupid or stubborn to put on a sweater.
Or a stocking cap. Or that parka I wore at football games.
In any case, it's been a few years since I last worked the sports beat, and I guess I just forgot.
Until now.
I'm not the only one who struggles with the need to dress for the conditions. The other night, while watching the extra-innings contest between the Cubs and Sox, my spouse and I both remarked on the mode of dress as seen in the stands.
She: Those people look like they're dressed for the arctic.
Me: They should be. It's Wrigley Field in May.
Now that my young grandsons are on the premises, I find myself, once again, out in the elements as a freezing fan. Soccer season is in full bloom, while baseball practice is just beginning. While the current pickle I'm in with crazy-cancer and its accompanying slow-down side effects has prevented me from attending every single event, I'm doing my best to be a good, supportive grandpa and haul my chilled, rickety bones to the sidelines whenever possible.  Ergo, I found myself at a morning soccer game a couple of weeks ago, shivering in the cold, sunless wind.
Out on the field, the shorts-clad players seemed oblivious to the weather as they darted up and down after the ball.
But I was cold. Darn cold.
"Who," I wondered, "was the idiot who decided to play on such a freezing day, anyway?"
Then I remembered.
Because once upon a time, that idiot was me.


  1. Another great one, John. Written with style, warmth and of course, alacrity. Miss Peard would be proud of you! I know we are, alacrity or not...

    1. You caught me. I like to learn how to use and spell a new word every once in awhile, then share it.