When I was a boy many, many years ago…How long ago, you ask? Before Twitter. Before Facebook. Before the internet. Before Blu Ray. Before DVDs. Before CDs. Before VHS. Before cable TV. Before Fox . Before video games. Before…well…just about everything.
We had a black and white TV and 3 channels. And if you missed the big game or your show, well, you missed it. If you were lucky you could wait for the re-runs in 6 months.
Where was I? Oh, yes. When I was a boy many, many years ago we did active things for fun. Every weekend and summer we would play softball or touch football. For hours on end. After taking care of a few chores the rest of the day was unsupervised fun.
I learned many lessons from those days. At the time I did not know it. I thought we were just playing ball. But in retrospect the unsupervised hours and days with my friends were filled with life lessons that , unknown to me, stuck. I wonder if Donald ever learned those lessons? I think not.
There was Jack and the Sullivan boys and Joe and an assortment of others. Sometimes Erich. Sometimes Pawlawski. And a few others.
In the summer we would spend all day playing softball at the church parking lot. We knew it was time to go home when the bells rang, I think it was 5 o’clock. Usually 8 of us, sometimes only 6. With that small number of players we devised rules for a pretty decent softball game.
Playing with 3 on a team meant you had a slow pitch pitcher, a shortstop and a left fielder. With only 3 batters you always had to have someone score to take the next slot at the plate. Pitcher’s hands are out. Any ball hit to the right side of 2nd base was an automatic out. No ghost runners. The bases were sometimes pieces of wood, sometimes shirts, sometimes big stones. Never those canvas things used by real teams.
Playing touch football was the same. No first downs. Four downs to score a touchdown. One center, one end and one quarterback. One touch and you are down. No tackling.
No adults to be seen. We played by the rules and had fun. Was Dan safe at the plate or not? Well, Dan knows. If he says he was safe, he was safe. Did the ball get to the pitcher before Joe reached first? Some said yes, some said no. OK. Well, I guess he was out. No arguing. No fights. No instant replays. Someone would just say, OK, I guess you are right.
Did Jack cross the goal line or was he touched at the “one”? Jack said he scored. OK. He must have scored. He’s not a cheater. When Doug was touched he always stuck the ball 6 inches ahead, just like the pro running backs on TV. I always waited until he turned around and pushed the ball 12 inches back. It worked for both of us.
I can’t recall any serious arguments and certainly no fights. we just figured it all out.
So, what lessons was I learning that I never knew I learned by this unsupervised play?
Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Doesn’t really matter because we are playing again tomorrow.
If you don’t own a ball, someone else will. If you don’t own a bat, someone else will. That’s why we let everybody play.
If you have a fielder’s glove, toss it to your opponent as he goes to left field. He doesn’t own one and your not using yours when you are batting.
The guys on the other team today will be on my team tomorrow. It is all fluid.
Uniforms are not needed. You are still a team even if you aren’t dressed alike.
Some people are better than others. Some are better at some things than I am. I am better at some things than they are. That’s the way it is.
Don’t complain about wrong calls. You know if you were safe or out. That’s enough.
Win “fair and square” or lose. Don’t cheat your friends. There is no future in it.
We need all the players we can get. Everyone is important.
It doesn’t matter what you look like as long as you can catch the ball.
Donald is only 4 years older than me. I don’t know if he was allowed to play unsupervised with other kids. . To figure out how to negotiate human relationships. To learn to respect others and their abilities. To share his baseball glove. It does not appear to be the case.
It’s too late now, but I wonder if he would have been different had he lived on the East Side with the working class mopes like us. I wonder what would have happened had we been able to ride our bikes to his house, knock on the door and ask:
“Can Donnie come out and play?”