How the Sports Experience Has Changed

My wife and I went to see the Billy Crystal show “700 Sundays” last week. It goes without saying it was terrific, but it had special meaning for me because although I am a number of years younger (and I often get away with fibbing about my age), we actually grew up 2 blocks apart from each other in Long Beach, NY. We went to the same high school, played ball in the same schoolyards, and most importantly, loved the same boardwalk and beaches that are Long Beach’s trademark.

He’s gone on to worldwide fame and success, I live a town over and still run on that boardwalk weekly and visit those beaches on summer weekends. He posts pictures on a screen throughout the show, showing some of the places like the local theater that have been torn down, replaced by the usual suspects, Starbucks, CVS, etc., etc. Still, some of the old “standards” remain, “Gino’s”, the best pizza place around, still packs them in, especially as people stop for a quick slice before their summer Sunday commute back to the boroughs.

Now to the point of this story. I drive past the playgrounds of my youth and they are empty. Back in my day, in the fall, the bball courts were always busy, in the winter, no matter how cold, we were out there playing touch fooball and the spring brought out our mitts and enjoyable softball games. Now it’s all about travel teams, with the good players moving on and the average kids left behind. Most kids concentrate on one sport, batting lessons, pitching lessons, skating lessons, the list is endless. We sell football gear in April, baseball equipment in September as kids play the same darn sport all year. It was so much better back in the day when we enjoyed all the sports and didn’t play to gain a college scholarship or for the one shot in a million, playing pro. We’ve adjusted our business accordingly, in stock with football gear year round, ball gloves available all year, in some ways we’ve benefitted, but in others it’s become increasingly difficult.

Regardless, I long for the old days when you could mark the season by the sport being played. Sports were for local fun and friendships and relaxation, not for parents to be towing their kids up and down the surrounding areas to compete against a faceless team they know nothing nor care anything about. I think Billy Crystal would agree with me.

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