Monday, April 14, 2014

The Problem With Sports

There is a certain challenge inherent in discussing sports with little kids; at least, that has been my experience with Sooby and Pooh. The problem is neither the sports nor the kids; it is the ambiguous nature of the terminology.

Take, for instance, our discussion of bowling, spawned by a great little book titled Mitchell Goes Bowling by Hallie Durand. In that story, Mitchell's dad takes him to a bowling alley, a magical place where it is acceptable to "knock things down."

However, Mitch experiences some understandable angst when he is unable to knock all the pins down at once like his dad does. This leads our little reading circle to contemplate the word strike.

"A strike means you knock all the bowling pins down," I explain. "A strike is good. You try to get all the strikes you can in ten turns."

"But what about baseball?" someone asks. "Are strikes good in baseball?"

"No, strikes are bad there," I say. "If you miss the ball three times, that's three strikes, and you're out."

"Out of the game?"

"No. You just don't get to bat anymore right then. It's like losing your turn. Strikes are good in bowling, but not in baseball." I leave it at that before one of them asks me if strikes are good for the team that is not batting. That would be just too complicated.

Fast forward a month or so. Our local community college basketball team is playing in the national tournament, and the kids and I are listening to the radio as the game's final minutes are broadcast. Our team is three points ahead with only seconds to go.

A commercial airs. "It's a time-out," I explain.

"Someone had to go to time-out? What did he do?"

"Nobody did anything wrong," I say. "A coach says 'Time Out' when he wants to call his team over for a little talk."

The next few quite harrowing minutes require explanations of foul (called on our team--controversial, though), free throw (three of them awarded to the opponent--all good!), and overtime (which, thankfully, we were able to dominate for the win).

Later that night, I switched off the televised tennis match. I was afraid someone would ask me why a score of zero is called love.

Hence, my earlier assertion that sports terminology is arbitrary, confusing, and makes absolutely no sense. How is a kid supposed to understand when a strike can be good or bad, a time-out does not carry a stigma, and love means who knows what?

Keep the sports, and give me the clear, sensible world of the arts where the actors I see on my left are stage-right and the alphabet stops at G.

1 comment:

  1. LOL. Great post. I was going to leave a comment that I avoid all of this difficulty by being totally indifferent to sports. But, as you so deftly point out at the end, other areas of endeavor are equally nonsensical.