Admittedly, as a rugby player, I have come to be somewhat pessimistic about just how difficult it can be to play any other sport. Some of my favorite targets are football, baseball, and—particularly—softball, because so many guys in the city play for one of the many, many teams that make up the Twin Cities Goodtime Softball League (TCGSL). So many, in fact, that through the years, some of my own teammates have done double duty, playing both rugby and softball in the spring and summer.
I suppose I just couldn’t bring myself to believe that a sport was valid if it did not involve strategically driving someone’s face into the ground, or if you didn’t risk a broken bone or concussion every time you stepped onto the field.
The idea of a recreational sport, or even a recreational league, is difficult for a competitive person like me to understand, because I live and breathe the sport I play. I forget that sometimes the social component of sport comes into play even during the game, and that it is during one’s time on the field when you can be both competitive and simply have a good time.
Nothing can remind a guy of the fun that sport can bring, regardless of his athletic determination or skill, like TCGSL’s North Star Classic Tournament, which was held this past Memorial Day Weekend in Eagan. The tournament is a huge draw every year for softball players from all over the country. I showed up Sunday morning, and at first, I could not get over how some players were totally decked out in their full softball uniform, while others wore simply a jersey and athletic shorts.
Why were there stoppages while some of the guys made campy pouts about their strikes, or missed catch, or dropped ball? Who has time for such silliness? Aren’t they supposed to be playing a game here?
But, after a few innings, I was astounded at how the camp could be turned on and off so effortlessly, and how the players really focused on their game. The skill on the field was actually pretty thrilling, and kept even this competitor barely in his seat. Even at 10 AM, the guys were diving to make impossible catches, execute swift double-plays, and hit hard-line drives to bring their runners home.
Competition and fun at the same time! The beer and brats weren’t bad, either. And, the fans enjoyed it all, too.
It was during those games—and the moment in which one of the Biohazard players broke her finger without throwing a fuss—that I conceded even softball players have a high competitive spirit and athletic drive. So much commitment, in fact, that they risk breaking bones to execute the play. Now, that’s my kind of game!
I was reminded it was exactly these moments of fun and sheer personal sacrifice for the team that turned me on to my sport. Every game has rules that define it. But, no rules can explain what it is about sport that brings teammates and fans together, both on and off the field. Some people say they never could be good at any sport. But “being good” is not really what sport is about.
I hope some of you out there take another look at what you can bring to the plate, and take a step out on that field—whatever kind it might be—and have some fun this summer bringing sport into your lives.