‘Hey Dad, what’s the world’s greatest sport?’
There’s this neighbor from hell, lives up our street, as committed to sports as any guy on the planet. Thanks to pirated cable and satellite, on Saturday, Nov. 22, he’ll be watching Ohio State-Michigan at noon EST (ABC), Extreme Skiing at 4 p.m. (OLN), then Alabama-Auburn at 7:30 (ESPN).Sunday has President’s Cup Golf at noon (NBC), Indianapolis-Buffalo followed by Oakland-KC (CBS), and Major League Soccer at 3:30 p.m. (ABC).The guy’s name is Turk, we subbed in a "d," and every weekend he’s out in the yard, playing the sport du jour with his three sons. These kids they’re terrors are known to us old folks as Creature, Monster and Little Fiend. They run this street, and we’re not just saying that because we don’t like paying the protection.Turd straps PBRs across his chest on a bandoleer, has a TV in the window to keep up on scores, but never fails to drag them into the fading memories of a marginal high school athlete.Last week at grounder practice, his youngest boy asks, “Hey Dad, what’s the best sport in the world?” They’re so cute at that age, before they learn to hot-wire.Turd paused, then threw another nut-hop fastball, barking “Stay in front! It only hurts for a week.”He was ducking that question a tough one because his garage is full of gear. Baseball, hockey, football, tennis, hoops. Bicycles, boats, ropes, snowboards. Soccer, volleyball, surfing, golf. And the truth is, we’ve all got a little Turd in us. We pass on a LOT of sports to our kids.All winter, he uses cars as hockey boards and shows his kids the difference between checking and slashing. (See? It’s only illegal when a ref sees you.) In spring he throws elbows in the driveway, training for the day they post up against Shaq. Come summer, they run patterns so he can drill them in the ribs with a football.Turd takes them skiing to experience frostbite, swimming so they learn fear of sharks up close, and climbing to learn how to fall. But what is best?Walking is the most popular U.S. activity: 40 million strollers out there, just ahead of swimming and cycling (Stages for the Tour De France now have a half-million people watching; spread that out over three weeks and you get a number that isn’t worth calculating.)This weekend, Australia and England are meeting in the Rugby World Cup finals, an event that dwarfs the Super Bowl, though not on our soil. Soccer is still the most played sport worldwide, Cricket is third, but none have appeal in our market.Knowing Fiend, he might have been looking for the cash angle. The NFL rules the U.S., plays the fewest amount of games for the money earned, but only fills stadiums that couldn’t hold half a rugby or soccer crowd.The Summer Olympics still dominate TV ratings every four years, but most of the audience is now brittle. Kids flock to X-Game-mania, particularly skateboarding, which has grown from five million skaters in the early ’90s to more than 20 million today.But still, it doesn’t answer the question. And nobody on the street that day had any clue what Turd was going to say.So Fiend asked again, “Dad, what’s the world’s greatest sport?”Turd threw a hard grounder that caught his boy in the lip. Fiend winced, didn’t cry, wiped it off and tossed the ball back.We saw the man smirk. We saw pride. Then he said, “It’s whatever you and I are playing in the yard each week.”Well, that was the best damn answer any of us ever heard, but we still don’t like paying protection.Gardner Skinner was cold for 37 mountain years and recently moved to the barrier islands off North Carolina. E-mail him at email@example.com.
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