Sunday, May 9, 2010

Slap Hitter: Moms and Sports

By Kibby Kleiman
Sun, May 9, 2010 at 7:29 AM

Not all of us grew up to celebrate Mother's Day on the field. Big league ballplayers get to fete their mothers on the diamond today, and if you show up at the Coliseum with your mom, no doubt there will be a chance to cheer some Moms faces projected on the scoreboard. But for those of us separated by a distance longer than a Kurt Suzuki home run, this is the moment to say, Thanks Mom for encouraging not just the sports star but the sports fan.

Surrounded by old programs, ticket stubs and ephemera from childhood, I know that I am not the only child whose mother bankrolled card collections, magazine purchases and drove to wait for autographed memorabilia. The items have faded in resolution, and the merit of many of the items are dubious at best (pocket calendar for the 1975 season anyone (not on E-Bay))?

Scholastic Books and the like could count on a regular check from the Slap Hitter household, as Best Rookies of the NFL started a school year that could only end with Top Hurlers in the Major Leagues. Trips to the grocery store could not have been completed without a College Basketball "yearbook" thrown into the cart, while allowances that weren't actually earned, were often augmented to buy the new season's worth of cards to make a Strat-O-Matic season add to a child's already messy room until the novelty of playing with them wore off.

Board games and card games, pennants and periodicals, all of them overfilled boxes cleared out of a childhood home. And all of them spoke to a mother who loved her child enough to know that though he would never earn a cent playing the games, and in fact would then spend his own time and money in the same silly pursuit (flying to stadiums across the country to watch a game!), that it brought joy and remains a lifetime gift.

Today is the day that those boxes of childhood memories tell a story greater than a long-forgotten pennant race or of summers daydreaming about partaking in the same. It's the day to say thanks to mom and all the moms who were probably rooting for homework to get completed, or bedrooms to be cleaned up, or even a hobby that might translate into something more substantial than being to calculate slugging percentage. But those talismans of the past speak of other scraps of paper long since lost. I still have the ticket that got me into a league championship game, but not the excuse slip that Mom wrote to the school lying about why I wasn't there. I'm not sure that in any useful way that support has paid off in making me a better or more productive member of society. I do know that it made me and all the sports fans like me, happier ones.

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