Sometimes you get lucky. Growing up in my neighborhood was a big part of why I’m such a sports nut today.
This weekend I got the honor of being involved in the wedding for one of my best friends. We met over 30 years ago when his family moved to our neighborhood from Buffalo, NY. It was a tremendous event that felt like two families merging into one. Part of that feel was “getting the crew back together”. The neighborhood I grew up in was integral to shaping my relationship with the sports I so adore today.
When you’re a kid, you don’t get to pick where you live. You live where your parents live and that’s that. For some, this can feel like a raw deal; military families that never get to settle into a town, a lonely kid living in an apartment in a big city or a family living in a rural area with miles between them and their closest neighbor. I was fortunate, I grew up in a small suburban neighborhood that somehow had a dozen or so kids within a couple of years of each other in age. We spent hours playing sports and games; from football and basketball to ultimate Frisbee and “kill the carrier”, I got an introduction to a wide range of sports and games. While I was never the fastest or most athletic of the group, we all played everything. One of the comments that kept popping up from our neighborhood group at the wedding was “man, we had so much fun growing up” and these daily sporting events were a big part of that fun.
While baseball was my first true love and the sport I played in leagues, the neighborhood games of volleyball, football, whiffleball etc. were what really taught me what it meant to be a part of a team. It didn’t matter what side you were picked on, at the end of the game we were all still one big team. We had each other’s back in school even when we’d fight over who won the last point the weekend prior. Even when we go years without being able to spend time with each other, we all look back at those years fondly and fall right back into laughing, joking and poking fun at each other any time we get together. It’s the sort of camaraderie that you hope to develop when you get on a team. The life-long bonds forged by competing together and against each other. The neighborhood also taught me how to compete, how to be tough and fight adversity, how to be happy for the success of others and probably most importantly; it gave me a group of life-long friends that I consider my family.
It makes me sad to think that my situation is likely the product of a by-gone era. The thought of letting a dozen kids roam the street unsupervised in the modern age sounds irresponsible at best or a great recipe for having your kid snatched by some creep in the worst case scenario. It strikes me as a great shame that the sorts of friendships and community that I got to experience as a kid will likely not be something my future children will get to have. Would I have the friends I have today if we weren’t out every day playing? Thankfully, that’s not a question I have to answer. I am the person I am today largely due to these summers and evenings; the games and the people that were a part of my childhood stoked the fire I have for the sports I love today.
So here’s to my old stomping grounds on Julianne Drive, that magical little cul-de-sac in Schodack, New York. To you and the life-long friends I made there – Thank you.
Just a guy who loves sports.