This is the time of year at school when we transition to the winter-sports season. In my role of overseeing the athletic department, much of my attention these days is drawn to the issue of playing time, particularly on our basketball teams.
Don’t get me wrong, I love basketball. But the small teams and short games, especially at the middle-school level, cause quite a bit of heartache for the kids who simply don’t understand why they aren’t playing more. And don’t even get me started with the parents! The playing-time issue always brings to mind my beloved sport of running, where we have no such issues. As one of my former coaches liked to say, “Running may be the only sport in which the less talented and accomplished athletes actually get more playing time.”
Basketball tends to reward the specialists. Those talented few blessed with skill, coordination, and technique are often the stars. Running, on the other hand, while always welcoming to the naturally gifted, also rewards the grinders. The hard-working lunch-pail-carrying plodders who put in the work in spite of and because of their natural limitations.
In our world of distance running, we do not discriminate. Do the training, show up, suffer with the rest of us, and you are part of the tribe. Sure, some in the tribe are speedy and genetically blessed, but even those studs value and honor the less-fortunate masses who get out there after day to just run, even at half the speed of the thoroughbreds. The pain and joy of long-distance running are universal.
So, the next time I field the inevitable complaints about playing time in basketball, I think I’ll remind those complainers about running. I’ll remind them of my cherished pastime that has become an inseparable part of who I am. A sport that is at once egalitarian, elegant, simple, and brutal. A sport that brings out the best in us and a sport that, if we’re lucky, provides as much playing time as we can ever handle.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Schlafly Beer in Saint Louis, Missouri. They make a simple and elegant Pumpkin Ale that is simply delicious. Balanced and sweet, Schlafly’s offering to this popular variety is one of the best I’ve had. Weighing in at 8%, it is not for the faint of heart but it is also one of those rare pumpkin ales that goes well with food.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
Have you ever been at a loss for enough ‘playing time’ in running?