Friday, April 10, 2009

Steve Sylwester Remembers -- Sports

I [Steve] remember:

Playing tackle football on the campus lawn between Link Library and the single tennis court across the street from the Becks and the Schwichs. I remember this because I broke my collarbone while playing. I had to wear a vest cast for a long time, but I still continued to play sports until the doctor finally very sternly warned me that he would have to repair my broken collarbone surgically if I did not allow it to heal.

CTC football and baseball practices on East Field. I spent endless afternoons watching CTC [Concordia Teachers College] sports practices. The football coaches finally let me shag punts for the punter to help, and I became quite good at catching punts as a result. The benefit of watching baseball practices was that occasionally you were rewarded with a broken bat. Of course, this was in the era of wooden bats at all levels of play. A CTC broken bat that was merely badly cracked could be nailed and screwed and glued and taped back into use as a prized sandlot bat.

Those CTC baseball bats that we taped were bats that you had to grow into. When we moved from Seward after my 8th grade year, I still had not grown into most of the bats I had squirreled away in the corner of our garage. I had a pretty good arsenal. Even choking up on some of those bats with skinny handles and big barrels was not enough.

After Plainview and Fairlane filled up with houses, the kids on those blocks created a baseball field and football field as needed in the open field that separated the backyards between those two streets at that time. Sometimes our neighborhood played their neighborhood, and sometimes we just picked teams from those who showed up to play — and everyone got to play.

If I carry any want-to-cry sad laments into today from those days, it is that I NEVER see sandlot games of any sort played by kids anywhere in Eugene, Oregon, where I live. Everything is organized with coaches, and all of the games have a multitude of parents watching and rooting for their children. No parents ever watched our sandlot games. Sometimes I see adults playing sandlot ball, but I NEVER see kids playing anything but organized play — even all of the practices are organized under the supervision of adult coaches. The kids today have no concept of even the simple skill of negotiating ground rules for a game based on how many people have showed up to play, and they have no experience self-officiating. It is easy to imagine that some kids would not know what to do if there was no adult present to umpire or referee a game.

Of course, there were the Concordia Raiders cheers:

(The Tarzan Cheer)

Uh! Ungawa! The Raiders got the Powah!
Uh! Ungawa! The Raiders got the Powah!

Uh! Ungawa! The Raiders got the Powah!

Give me a C and a Raiders and a cha-cha-cha
Give me an O and a Raiders and a cha-cha-cha
Give me an N and a Raiders and a cha-cha-cha
Give me a C and a Raiders and a cha-cha-cha
Give me an O and a Raiders and a cha-cha-cha
Give me an R and a Raiders and a cha-cha-cha
Give me a D and a Raiders and a cha-cha-cha
Give me an I and a Raiders and a cha-cha-cha
Give me an A and a Raiders and a cha-cha-cha
What's that spell? CONCORDIA!
What's that spell? CONCORDIA!
What's that spell? CONCORDIA!

Go! Fight! Win!
Romp! Mangle! Disembowel!
Romp! Mangle! Disembowel!

(I cannot imagine that that was an approved cheer, but we yelled it)

(The Song Cheer)

On Concordia, On Concordia
Pep that team of yours
Fight Concordia, Fight Concordia
Til we win the game
Rah! Rah! Rah!

Even today, after an excellent athletic play has just occurred in a sports game I am watching, I will sometimes blurt out:

Way to go, Russy baby!

With enthusiasm! That response was first yelled in the playing field between Plainview and Fairlane in response to an excellent play done by Russ Meinke, who is three years younger than me (Joel Klammer's age) and four years younger than his older brother Lance.

The great thing about the Faculty Lane sports ethic that infiltrated into all of the playing fields in the nearby neighborhoods was that the older kids actually worked hard to include the younger kids in the games, and endured with both patience and honest enthusiasm the learning of sports skills by the younger kids. There was always a moment of sincere, enthusiastic praise when a younger player made a good play.

For some unconscious reason that I cannot pinpoint any specific event to, I credit Jody for that constant inclusion of younger players. If someone else either deserves or shares credit for that Faculty Lane sports ethic, please identify that wonderful person so he/she can be rightly praised. Jody (and whomever) deserve(s) a standing ovation!

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