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Carroll County Times
Carroll County Sports

Bird Brown: Find ways to create, enjoy alternative sports

A little more than a week ago, when we were finishing our second week of high school spring sport practices, most of the teams had been able to squeeze in a scrimmage or a playdate, and we were getting the news that we would be taking a two-week hiatus from not only the sports, but school in general.

Well, a week later and with reality smacking us all in the face, I don’t think anyone believes we’ll be back on the field at all this spring.

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The first part of this week has been somewhat depressing for me. Anyone that thrives off of contact with other people, especially young kids in a classroom or on a field, knows limiting that contact can have some serious consequences. But I really didn’t think I would have felt this depressed so early on.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family. My boys are all starting to get to that age that at any point we could be empty-nesters. It’s just that when you’re used to interacting with 150-200 people on a daily basis and then you’re limited to four, it just takes some getting used to. Especially when three of the four are working from home, self-isolating in their rooms. And the fourth is still a teenager who doesn’t arise until after lunch some time, I thank God my two canine companions help me make it through until the work day is complete and people in my house begin to appear.

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This weekend, for some strange reason and probably out of sheer boredom, my boys dug through our basement and pulled out the instruments for Rock Band on Xbox. For the next two or so hours, maybe more, the entire family was entertained by something we hadn’t touched in close to a decade.

Sure, we were missing the foot pedal on the drum set, and a few of the colored keys on the guitar didn’t always work, but watching them take their turns as Axl Rose made it all worthwhile.

When I first met and married my wife more than 30 years ago, little did either of us know what a transition we would go through when we became parents. There’s an old saying that the biggest mistakes in a marriage are that a woman thinks she can change her man and the man thinks his woman will never change. 

Well, that’s not always a bad thing.

Watching this basement scene unfold reminded me when our kids were much younger, I was the bread-winner, and my wife stayed at home to raise our kids (man, how times have changed). I called her on my way home from work one time to find out that she was at Walmart buying ping-pong balls and paddles. I didn’t realize that we had a ping pong table, but I thought maybe she had purchased a table as well.

I was shocked when I walked into our home and found her at the opposite end of the kitchen table from my oldest son, a 2x4 stretched across the table as a makeshift net, paddle in her hand awaiting his serve.

We’ve played penalty kick shootout in the family room, rundown or “pickle” between pillows in the living room, and golf in our backyard where you throw a Frisbee as far as you can to use as the next hole, but some of the ones they’ve come up with on their own are some of the best.

The foyer was the perfect location for “combination” games, those that they’ve invented by combining a couple of games into one. There’s “ricochet dodgeball,” when you slam a Superball to the floor and everyone scrambles not to get hit as the ball ricochets around the walls and floor. And every home should play “laxminton,” a combination of badminton with lacrosse sticks and a shuttlecock, trying to bat or shoot the “birdie” into the opposite doorway.

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Hockey was one of our family’s favorites. After countless showings of the movie “Miracle,” our kids liked to re-create the scenes by playing sock hockey on the kitchen floor or using the fireplace as the goal while taking slap shots at the 6-year-old Russian goaltender (now turning 19). 

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Add to that the mom making hockey masks out of paper plates, and you’ve got everything you need. 

When my brothers and I would get out of hand, our grandfather would yell “Down the basement.” When we would send our boys to the basement, it was almost like sending Brer Rabbit into the briar patch.

Awaiting them at the bottom of those stairs was a few of their personal favorites. There was the slam-dunk contest for them to show their stuff on a Little Tykes basketball net that was my oldest’s first birthday present. When they would tire of that, they would invite neighborhood kids in the basement door for an all-out battle of dodgeball, using every soft-covered ball that we’ve collected over the years and using every piece of furniture as protection.

Being shut down this way from all organized spring sports — high school, recreation, and club — was something none of us saw coming, but it doesn’t mean that we have to completely eliminate sports from our life. You just have to become more creative.

I always thought that someday our lives would calm down and the quiet would be deafening. Just didn’t know it would be like this.

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While we’re all forced to live this way in the near future, try to create ways to have some fun.

Albert Einstein once wrote, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”


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