Just One of the Guys

by Rich on February 26, 2018


Like many of us born before 1980, I am often dumbfounded by what I observe, behavior-wise, in many of the youth of today (GET OFF MY LAWN!). I mean, do these kids not know that their hats are on crooked? Is it not obvious that their slouching demeanors make them look shifty, or that those heels and those pants make them more closely resemble the “working girls” of Peachtree Street than the high school sophomores that they are? Do they really think it looks cool to have their pants drooping below their posteriors?

Here’s the thing, I know I’m not saying anything new. Let’s face it, I did plenty of asinine things that I’m sure forced my parents to scratch their heads (remember parachute pants? Acid wash jeans? Loverboy?). All I’m saying is that these little displays of youthful defiance, when paired with other cultural shifts, often make the already difficult task of raising a child even more tenuous then it already is. It’s nothing new. All parents deal with it in one way or another. Even Adam and Eve, at some point, shook their heads and said, “Kids today…”.

I bring this up because as I watch my son enter adulthood, I am reminded about how, sometimes, sports and games can help kids learn how to be better people.

Here’s an example.

About ten years ago, I took my then 8 yr old son to the park. Just me and him. I had one blue kick-ball and two bottles of water. That’s it. After kicking the ball around for a while, a few teenagers showed up with a baseball bat and a half-dozen tennis balls. They began knocking the ball around as they waited for some friends to show up. My son, not very proficient at hard-ball, began chasing down long flies and wayward throws. It was nice. Normal, even.

And then something wonderful happened.

As the rest of their crew arrived, these older boys didn’t cut my son out of the picture. The playground rules were agreed upon and sides chosen, and without any prompting on my son’s part (or mine) these total strangers included my son, who was, at best, five years junior to the rest of them. Without any debate, the oldest immediately chose my son for his team, let him hit, and praised him loudly for his throwing ability. I choke up thinking about it. No lie.

These kids weren’t perfect. I would have suggested better fitting shorts, and their language left something to be desired. But they were so basically… decent! For days it was all my son could talk about. It was such a positive experience, and it could have been so negative.

I never got their names. I think I caught a “Jake” and maybe a couple of “Zachs”, but I’m not sure. Those boys are now men, and while I have no idea who or where they are, I want to thank them. Including a skinny, blond-haired, eight year-old fireball in their Sunday afternoon playground pick-up game all those years ago may have seemed like a small thing, but it wasn’t.

I don’t know if my son recalls that day, or if he would say it was important in his life. But I do, on both counts. Because when I do think about it, I don’t feel so bad about the future.

After all, we did survive acid wash jeans. Maybe we will be okay.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Kirsten C. August 11, 2010 at 2:20 pm

I love this and it is so true….. just playing on the playground doesn’t seem so cool anymore… but really it is…. and it so nice to hear older boys including others and being kind! BTW.. You definitely have a way with words!!!


Cary HArdy August 11, 2010 at 4:07 pm

This “hit home” with me, sorry for the cheese. It’s so hard to see you kids try to interact with others and to see them get shot down. It’s amazing how wonderful it feels when they are accepted, especially by kids who are better at something and know it.
Your comments remind me of ones my grandfather made about Led Zepplin and Kiss…but I can relate as a mother as well by seeing kids so young with tatoos, holes in the crotches of their clothes, etc…
I’m not above judging a book by it’s cover, I guess, even though I don’t think I should. I guess it’s just more to work on with myself every day.
Great story!


Maribeth Farr August 11, 2010 at 9:09 pm

This was one of my favorite things I ever read by you. Thank you for sharing it not once, but twice!! It’s nice to be reminded that there are good kids playing outside that will include younger children in their activities. We all could learn something from this.
Thanks for taking the time to take us for a ride in your jeep! Looking forward to many more of “Rich’s great stories”…..



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