Falling in love with sports all over again

David Fong TDN Columnist

It’s become nearly impossible to avoid the images from our sullied world of sports — from the videotape of NFL running back Ray Rice assaulting his wife to “Deflategate” to the accusations of Adrian Peterson physically abusing his child to the latest salvo of allegations lobbed Pete Rose’s way — it’s hard to be cynical when watching the world of sports.

When it’s your job to report on such things, it’s darn near impossible.

While it may be easy for some to avoid the seedy underbelly of the world of sports — as simple as turning the page of the newspaper, clicking to a different website or changing the channel on the television — it’s not always so easy for those of us tasked with disseminating such information.

It’s not something we enjoy, mind you — were it up to us, every team would be a champion, every player would be a saint and all the news would be uplifting — but it’s our job.

And some days, when the news is stark and grim, it’s not a lot of fun coming to work. To be honest, sports — the very reason most of all of us into this profession — can be a real drag.

But every now and then, we also are served up reminders of just how wonderful the world of sports can be — and they can even serve as a reminder of why we fell in love with them in the first place.

I’ve spent the better part of the last four months coaching my son Max’s t-ball team alongside my best friend Randy and my father-in-law, David. Right off the bat (I’m a professional writer … try using puns like this at your own peril), I got to spend quality time in the sun (the last two weeks notwithstanding) with my son, my friend and a man I admire greatly, which was a pretty good deal (not to mention the free T-shirt I got for coaching).

But truth be told, it was much more than that.

For the past four months, I’ve had the opportunity to watch 13 little boys and girls play the game of baseball with smiles plastered across their faces (and since they don’t keep score in t-ball, I’ll assume those smiles had nothing to do with any recent phone calls they had made to their bookies).

Those little kids loved coming to the baseball diamond every time we played a game. They hit, they caught, they threw — they also made quite a few dirt mounds in the infield and picked more than their fair share of dandelions in the outfield — and they had the time of their lives.

At our most recent game, I was coaching third base when Kyndall — perhaps the cutest little thing to happen to pigtails since Laura Ingalls Wilder — looked up at me and said, “Coach, I lost my pearl earrings, so now I’m wearing my diamond ones instead. But it’s OK, because my diamond earrings make me run faster.”

Honestly, how could you not love coaching a kid whose speed depends largely on the earrings she happens to be wearing that day?

That was just of dozens examples from the season in which the kids I coached didn’t at least make me smile and brighten my day, if not laugh out loud and go home after the game feeling like I had just helped change the world for the better.

So thank you, Max, Carson, Kyndall, Sterling, Josh, Marisyn, Ryan, Gage, Kaidyn, Nora, Cody, Tommy and Ian … it’s been an incredible season. You were an amazing group of young people I had the opportunity to work with — and you probably deserved a more knowledgeable coach than the one you were stuck with. But at least we had fun, right?

Those 13 kids did something I figured was impossible — they made an old, bitter sportswriter fall in love with sports all over again. They may never play Major League Baseball (although I’m thinking one kid on our time might actually have a chance … he’s really, really good), but I have a feeling they’ve accomplished something so much more important this spring — they’ve made a lifetime of memories.

I’m sure they’ll have some of their own, too.

Troy’s very own David Fong appears on Thursdays in the Troy Daily News. Contact him at dfong@civitasmedia.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong