Growing Up is Overrated

In 1959, John Scurlock discovered his employees engaging in a surprising activity. A successful engineer, Scurlock had lent his inventive expertise to both the oil and gas industry and to projects at NASA, and then decided to turn his attention to tennis, a sport he loved. What he came up with was a rapidly inflating cover that could be spread out to protect a clay tennis court at the first inkling of rain.

His invention may have been great for that, had his employees not discovered that it was also quite bouncy. What Scurlock quickly realized was that his adult employees might actually have been incapable of resisting the urge to bounce and that what he’d invented was not a tennis court cover at all. Instead it was a play structure that he called the Space Walk.

Sport_Arena_Bounce_house_15x19_2014-02-03_14-15
It was really only a matter of time before Bounce Houses and elite sporting events got together. By User:Azbounce4kids (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Over the next decade, Scurlock’s invention got a little safer (with the addition of walls) and he entered the rental business, providing hours of bounce house fun for birthday parties, school fairs, and company picnics. But even though it has obvious adult appeal, bounce castles have generally been considered the realm of children.

Until now.

For the past couple of years, a new themed run has swept across the US and Canada, called the Insane Inflatable 5K. The event is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s a 5K with about a dozen inflatable obstacles set up along the route. Participants climb, jump, slide, fall, and yes, bounce. Often on purpose. Sometimes on their backsides. Because it’s super fun.

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These were some (sort of) serious obstacles. It was kind of like a short Tough Mudder, except for people who don’t like to get muddy and really aren’t that tough.

While there’s no age restriction for the event, the participants are pretty overwhelmingly adults. At least that was true at the one in which I recently participated.

 

If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you may have stumbled across the fact that I believe in my heart of hearts that running is stupid. But (and I realize that this is a bit hypocritical of me) I also really enjoy participating in race events. I love the camaraderie that comes from accomplishing something challenging in the midst of so many other people who are also accomplishing something challenging. I love the cheering and encouragement that comes from fellow race participants and from those who are watching from the sidelines. And, I admit it, I can’t resist a silly theme.

So when I got the opportunity to participate in the Insane Inflatable (or as we more often referred to it, the Bouncy House 5K), I couldn’t pass it up. In fact, when the group I was originally planning to register with began to waver in their enthusiasm, I found another group willing to go on an earlier date.

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The event wasn’t timed, but I did get a medal. So I’m basically an Olympian now.

 

Running may be stupid, but bouncy houses are super fun and as it says on the back of my new silly themed race shirt, “Growing up is overrated.”

John Scurlock’s employees realized that in 1959 and an amazing industry was born.

Ancient Gatorade Tastes Like Ash

Around the year 78 AD, Roman naturalist Gaius Plinius Secundas, or Pliny the Elder, published his only surviving work, Naturalis Historia (Natural History). It was kind of like an encyclopedia, meant by its author to address pretty much everything a first-century Roman might need to know about “the natural world, or life.”

If you ask me, that’s a pretty bold claim, but the work is divided into ten volumes, consisting in total of thirty-seven books, and it does cover an impressive array of topics, including, among others: astronomy, mathematics, zoology, horticulture, sculpture, and Gatorade.

Pliny the Elder   [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Pliny the Elder
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
That last one, as my youngest son would tell you, is the most important. He’s seven and a pretty coordinated kid who I know would enjoy athletics if he weren’t so reluctant to try new things. When I occasionally push him, as I did with basketball this winter, I use an incentive. If he works hard in practice, or a game, he gets a celebratory red Gatorade, because the original yellow tastes like watered-down sweat.

It’s worked really well this basketball season. He’s made friends, had fun, and on the court he’s gone from completely clueless to a little less awkward, even scoring two baskets in his most recent game. All it took was some determination and the right recovery drink.

And if we can take Pliny the Elder at his word, that’s what it took for Rome’s gladiators as well. In Book 36 of Natural History he writes: “Your hearth should be your medicine chest. Drink lye made from its ashes, and you will be cured. One can see how gladiators are helped by drinking this.”

He was quoting the recommendations of another contemporary writer, implying that this magical curative given to the gladiators was fairly common knowledge, but still it’s kind of a quick reference inside a work that covers the entire scope of “the natural world” and so serves as nothing more than anecdotal evidence.

Original Gatorade: Looks like urine; tastes like sweat. For some reason, that add campaign never took off. By Jeff Taylor (Flickr: GatoradeOriginalGlassBottle) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Original Gatorade: Looks like urine; tastes like sweat. For some reason, that ad campaign never took off.
By Jeff Taylor (Flickr: GatoradeOriginalGlassBottle) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Fortunately, we don’t just have to take the author’s word for it. In 1993, a team of archaeologists working near the ancient city of Ephesus in modern day Turkey, found the remains of sixty-eight people who died between the second and third centuries, all young men, between the ages of twenty and thirty, and all showing evidence of having been pretty beaten up. With the remains were several grave markers depicting scenes of battle.

The discovery turned out to be the only known gladiator graveyard ever found, and the bones told researchers an interesting story. First, they confirmed that gladiators ate a mostly grain diet, similar to that of the general public at the time. Second, the gladiator bones contained significantly more strontium than did non-gladiator bone samples.

That doesn’t mean much to me, but what it means to people who know a thing or two about bones, is that gladiators must have ingested some sort of supplement designed to aid in recovery and healing. And thanks to Pliny the Elder, we know it was probably a drink made from water, vinegar, and plant ash.

Scientists claim that if made with a “good vinegar,” the gladiator recovery drink might not have tasted all that bad. I’m not so convinced. If I want my son to keep up on the basketball court, I’ll probably stick with the more modern version. With a whole lot of sugar (which is why this is only an occasional incentive at our house) and plenty of red dye 40, at least Gatorade doesn’t taste like ash.

Young Love, Teenage Angst, and One Very Angry Goat

On October 6, 1945, a Chicago tavern owner named William Sianis went to Wrigley Field to watch his beloved Cubs play in game 4 of the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. Sianis opened his tavern in 1934, naming it The Billy Goat Tavern after a goat that had presumably fallen off the back of a passing truck and wandered into the place. “Murphy” the goat became the tavern’s mascot and “Billy Goat” Sianis’s good luck charm.

This is also where fans of Saturday Night Live can order a "Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger, NO PEPSI, and a Coke." photo credit: jpellgen via photopin cc
This is also where fans of Saturday Night Live can order a “Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger, NO PEPSI, and a Coke.” photo credit: jpellgen via photopin cc

So like all good baseball fans (who are known for their quirky superstitions), Sianis wanted to share some of his good luck with the team. He bought two tickets, one for himself, and one for Murphy the Goat. Trouble was, Wrigley Field had a strict “no goats” policy. Sianis went so far as to appeal to Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley who also denied Murphy’s entrance, saying simply, “The goat stinks.”

Murphy was offended. Right then and there Sianis raised his hands and declared: “The Cubs ain’t gonna win no more.” The Cubs lost Game 4 to Detroit and went on to lose the series, after which Sianis sent a telegram to P.K. Wrigley that read, “Who stinks now?”

As a St. Louisan and devoted Cardinals fan, I find this kind of hilarious, but I don’t know that I buy into the whole idea of curses. Still, there’s no denying that the Chicago Cubs started out as a solid ball club that more often than not was a force to be reckoned with. And that since that 1945 loss, have had the most rotten luck in baseball, having gone to the postseason only a few times since and with their mathematical elimination from contention this past weekend, have now experienced a 107 year stretch without a world series title.

Isn't this a great cover?
Isn’t this a great cover?

But even though this season panned out, well, kind of like most of them, I recently found some hope for the Cubbies in the form of a charming little book called Caught Between Two Curses by Margo L. Dill.

In this YA romance with a touch of magic, Chicago girl Julie is a typical teenager facing the beginning of senior year, torn between a sex-obsessed jerk of a boyfriend and a hot best guy friend who it turns out is a lot less of a jerk. But Julie’s situation is even more complicated than that. She’s been raised by her aunt and uncle since the tragic death of her parents. And now her uncle has become mysteriously ill as well, leading her aunt to reveal the secret of the curse upon the men involved in Julie’s family, a curse that is intricately intertwined with the famous curse of the billy goat inflicted on the Cubs by William Sianis and Murphy.

Much like the people (who I think can honestly lay claim to the title “most dedicated fans in baseball”) who have made several attempts to break the curse, from bringing Murphy’s descendants into Wrigley Field, to organizing an international “Reverse the Curse” aid program that provides goats to impoverished families in underdeveloped nations, and even to hanging a severed goat’s head from a statue in front of the ballpark, Julie sets out on a mission to break the curse.

Rumor has it the curse will only lift when Cubs fans come to truly appreciate goats and welcome them in their midst. photo credit: Tc Morgan via photopin cc
Rumor has it the curse will only lift when Cubs fans come to truly appreciate goats and welcome them in their midst. photo credit: Tc Morgan via photopin cc

The stakes are high, with her uncle’s life hanging in the balance and the future health of either her jerky boyfriend or the not-so-jerky love of her life endangered, but Julie is determined. She sets aside her own teenage angst (which rings embarrassingly true to life) and her indifference to baseball to cheer the Cubs to victory, the likes of which they haven’t seen in 107 years.

So, fear not, Cubs fans. 2014 wasn’t your year, but if Dill  can convince us that a teenage girl has within her the power to reverse the curse, then I believe there’s still hope. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, you should read the book. I think you’ll enjoy it. If you happen to be a Cubs fan then maybe you should read it to a goat. In Wrigley Field. Because there’s always next year.

Why Sometimes Football is Worth Watching

Today marks the beginning of a special season in my household. It’s the day that the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers battle it out in the opener of the NFL season. As such, it’s the start of the five months of the year when my husband and I suddenly seem to have less in common.

Century Link Field, where the very long football season will get its start. By Visitor7 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Century Link Field, where the very long football season will get its start.
By Visitor7 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Actually, it really started this past Saturday with the beginning of college football. I don’t begrudge him this interest of his. With the exception of feeling some understandable loyalty toward our various alma maters, he’s not a big fan of any particular team on either the college or pro level. But he loves the sport. He loves the strategy of the game and he enjoys learning the strengths of individual players and coaches, watching their successes and failures throughout the long season.

And I wish I could catch his enthusiasm, because I genuinely would like to be able to share in it with him. But as much as I try to watch the games and pay attention to his tutelage, I usually just wind up getting lost in the details.

Still, I decided to give it another shot, and so I sat down last Saturday to watch the Croke Park Classic broadcast from Dublin, Ireland, partly because I was intrigued. As far as I know, American football isn’t really one of the things Ireland is most known for. And it wasn’t even the first time Dublin had hosted American college football. In 1996, The Midshipman of the US Naval Academy were defeated in Croke Park by, of course, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

Now eighteen years later, indicating that the threshold of the Irish people for the sport is similar to my own, Croke Park once again hosted an American football game. This time it was a match-up between Penn State and the University of Central Florida. Because neither team has an Irish mascot, it was a close game, with Penn State winding up on top of a 26-24 score.

Croke Park in Dublin, Ireland, host to Gaelic football, hurling, rugby, and occasionally American football.
Croke Park in Dublin, Ireland, host to Gaelic football, hurling, rugby, and occasionally American football.

I enjoyed watching it, too, because in addition to the football, which I found as bewildering as ever, ESPN-2, which aired the game, also featured informative clips about fascinating Irish sports that are lesser known in the United States.

My favorite of those featured is called Irish Road Bowling. It dates back to at least 1728 when it gets a mention in the poetry of Jonathan Swift, but likely to many years before that. The sport is played most often in the Irish Counties of Cork and Armagh. Similar sports are played in the Netherlands and parts of Germany. Even some areas of the United States are starting to get into the action, just sadly, not here in Missouri. Yet.

canon ballWhat intrigues me about this sport is its simplicity. Basically, you get a bunch of players together, find yourself a 28 ounce cannon ball (because I’m sure you have one in your garage somewhere) and see who can launch it down the road to an agreed upon finish line in the fewest throws.

Of course, like American football, road bowling is a sport of some rules, records, and heroes. And since 1954, the Bol-Chummann na hEirman (roughly translated as the Irish Association in Charge of Throwing Stuff Down the Road), has been in the business of making the sport complicated enough to support championship play, both locally and internationally, successfully taking the sport of Road Bowling all the way from terrible road nuisance despised by local authorities to ESPN-2 featured international sport of awesomeness.

Frankly, if the broadcasters of American football made more of an effort to introduce me to fun sports I’d never heard of from around the world, I’d probably watch more football. As it is, I can promise to watch at least once every eighteen years.

 

Ending with a Bang: The Long Weary Road to the Last Out

One hundred years ago, on July 17, 1914, a weary baseball crowd at Pittsburg’s Forbes Field awaited the end of a very long game. For 21 innings the Pirates and the New York Giants battled it out. At last, Larry Doyle of the Giants sent a two-run shot over the wall bringing the game to a score of 3-1, devastating the remaining Pittsburg faithful. It had been a dreadfully long game. Pittsburg’s manager had long since been ejected for arguing a call. The mood was surely solemn. And to top it off, a storm was brewing above the city.

There would be no celebratory fireworks for the Pirates, but there would be an impressive light show when in what has to be the most spectacular baseball play of all time in the bottom of the 21st inning, New York outfielder John Joseph “Red” Murray caught a long fly ball for the third out and was simultaneously knocked unconscious by a lightning strike.

Evidently even God grows weary of baseball after a while.  photo credit: Michael Fienen via photopin cc
Evidently even God grows weary of baseball after a while. photo credit: Michael Fienen via photopin cc

I love baseball, though I’m not a great sports fanatic in general. I only know who won the world cup because my Facebook feed briefly became the hooligan section (Germany, right?). As much as I have tried for my husband’s sake, American football is just beyond me. And all I know about hockey and professional basketball is that they have ridiculously drawn-out playoff schedules that seem to stretch into the next regular season of play.

But baseball captures my attention. So I was thrilled when both of my sons, ages 6 and 9 decided they wanted to play this summer. My 9-year-old had some previous experience. Last summer he played in a non-competitive coach-pitch league where he made some friends, developed some skills, and had a pretty good time. And as a little kiddo he played on a tee ball team where the two biggest highlights of his season were losing a tooth in the infield and handing it to the nearest parent volunteer (who took it quite graciously I thought), and dumping a glove-full of grass on the head of a little girl who had just run to third.

Consider carefully before volunteering to help out with tee ball.  photo credit: courosa via photopin cc
Consider carefully before volunteering to help out with tee ball. photo credit: courosa via photopin cc

Unfortunately this summer hasn’t gone as well. This season we tried a different, competitive league. I’m certainly not opposed to competition. It’s important to learn how to both win and lose well. And the kids have done well will that. But what has broken my heart has been seeing the way that my son and his teammates have been crushed by frustrated and inconsistent coaching and by bad sportsmanship from both parents and coaches (on all the teams).

With only one game to go, we’re nearing the end of the season, and my son doesn’t want to go to practice and doesn’t want to go to the game. I’m going to make him, because it’s a good lesson in honoring commitments, even when it’s tough, but I get it. I don’t really want to go to the game either.

It hasn’t been all bad, of course. He has made some friends, gotten much better at spitting sunflower seeds, and has learned that even in the midst of endless innings stuck in the outfield and pointless arguments between hothead coaches and umpires who aren’t bold enough to toss said coaches from the field, there are bright moments.

His team isn’t going to win first place, but they are well over .500 and my son’s still thrilled when he manages to field the ball well or when he has a good at bat. But I’m also afraid that this kid, who loves to watch this sport as much as I do, may never want to try to play baseball again. Frankly, he’s weary. It’s been a dreadfully long season and going into the last game, against the best team in the league, the mood is solemn and a storm is brewing.

I sincerely hope the game doesn't get called for bad weather because then we'd have to play a make-up.
I also sincerely hope the game doesn’t get called for bad weather because then we’d have to play a make-up.

So although I sincerely hope that none of the players get struck by lightning (and I suppose no coaches or parents either because I am trying to model good sportsmanship), I do hope that there’s something in this last game that sparks his excitement for the sport again and provides him with a good memory to carry into next time.

Nothing will stop this man from catching a fly ball. By Bain News Service, publisher. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
NOTHING will stop Red Murray from ending a 21 inning game. By Bain News Service, publisher. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I’m not sure that Red Murray remembered the game winning catch he made that day in Pittsburg, but his legend certainly lived on. And so did he. Rumor has it he even played in the very next Giants game. In my book that either makes him the most dedicated baseball player ever, or perhaps this the biggest tall tale in the sport. Either way it’s a good story with a great ending.

Orange Balls and Red Gatorade

Like many American households, ours will be dedicated this weekend to the sport of basketball. My nine-year-old has his final game of the season on Saturday and unlike with other sports seasons he’s had, I’m a little sad to see this one end.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy being the mom who makes it on time to all the practices with a water bottle for my kid and an extra for yours in case he forgot (because I’m the super mom), brings after-game snacks complete with little bottles of red Gatorade (because I’m the cool mom), never argues with the bonehead coach or the most likely blind ref (because I’m the respectful mom), or chants elaborate rhyming cheers (because I’m the most embarrassing mom in the world).

Pardon me, sir, for daring to suggest that my grandma would be a better ref than you. I mean no offense, of course. She's really quite spry for 95 and only completely blind in one eye. photo credit: HPUPhotogStudent via photopin cc
Pardon me, sir, for daring to suggest that my grandma would be a better ref than you. I mean no offense, of course. She’s really quite spry for 95 and only completely blind in one eye.
photo credit: HPUPhotogStudent via photopin cc

It’s just that this basketball season was the first time my kiddo, who is brilliant, but also big for his age and a little awkwardly coordinated, has seemed to really enjoy playing a sport (now if only he could ditch his embarrassing mom). He’s always liked the social aspect of being on a team, but this is the first time that tiny details like rules, skills, strategy, and competition have entered the equation for him.

I’m grateful for a couple of reasons. First, I actually like and understand basketball. Second, it’s one of those great indoor cold-weather sports that keeps him active during even the most brutal winter (this one).

And it turns out, that’s exactly why the sport exists to begin with. Because in 1891, a teacher at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts by the name of James Naismith, needed a way to keep his class of 18 young athletes in good physical condition, as well as a way to keep them from driving him completely insane during the indoor months of a brutal New England winter.

What he came up with was a game with 13 rules in which two teams of nine players each had to pass a soccer ball up and down the gym floor and score goals by tossing the ball into peach baskets nailed onto the edge of the gymnasium balcony. After having to stop play and get out a ladder to retrieve the ball a few hundred too many times, someone was finally smart enough to cut the bottoms out of the baskets and the game started to gain some traction.

And you thought the jump ball slowed down the game too much. photo credit: monkeywing via photopin cc
And you thought the jump ball slowed down the game too much.
photo credit: monkeywing via photopin cc

Actually, it spread incredibly quickly through the YMCA system and soon enough to college campuses where the rules were tweaked until on March 20, 1897, the first 5-on-5 intercollegiate basketball game was held between Yale and the University of Pennsylvania. In case you care (I don’t), Yale won 32-10.

Obviously basketball has grown and changed a lot since those earliest games. Players now dribble the ball (except in the NBA) and the sport can now claim its very own ball that though roughly the size of a soccer ball is much more orange. The peach baskets too have been replaced with metal rims on backboards and nets that make a pleasant swooshing sound.

Because nothing says "This is a real sport" like an orange ball. photo credit: arbyreed via photopin cc
Because nothing says “This is a real sport” like an orange ball.
photo credit: arbyreed via photopin cc

And as the players get more skilled and taller (the average NBA player is now well over ten feet tall), and the game becomes too easy and therefore boring to watch, the rules will continue to change. I’m sure my son will keep track of them all because he likes basketball. And he even kind of gets it, which is a great source of joy for my husband, because I hear that in addition to my son’s game, there may be a few other ones to watch this weekend as well.

Frankly, I probably won’t pay a lot of attention to those other games. I didn’t fill out a billion dollar bracket because I really only cheer for two, or possibly three college teams, when I happen to catch them on television. None of them are in the tournament this year. But I bet all the players who are participating will manage just fine without me because I have no doubt their moms will be there with extra water bottles, elaborate rhyming cheers, and a snack with a little bottle of celebratory red Gatorade for after the game.

The celebratory sports beverage of choice for kids with cool moms.   photo credit: Lorianne DiSabato via photopin cc
The celebratory sports beverage of choice for kids with cool moms.
photo credit: Lorianne DiSabato via photopin cc

Peanuts, Cracker Jack, and the Most Important Political Movement of Our Time

On Tuesday of this week, a movement of monumental proportions began in the United States. Sure we could be focused on political instability in the Ukraine, nuclear missile testing in North Korea, the ongoing saga of US healthcare reform, or even the hot mess that is Arizona politics, but wouldn’t we rather turn our attention to what really matters: baseball.

The opening of the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals world championship season is only about a month away and rumor has it there may even be some other teams playing, too. Obviously it’s time we start turning our national attention to how we plan to celebrate this wondrous event.

It's hard to disagreee with someone who nods all the time.
It’s hard to disagree with someone who nods all the time.

Thirteen gold glove winning Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith has an idea. He has teamed up with Budweiser (an originally American company now owned by the Belgian company InBev that is committed to demonstrating its all-American-ness) to start a petition that would require the Federal government to consider declaring baseball’s opening day a national holiday. The petition started circulating on Tuesday and the goal is to get the necessary 100,000 signatures within thirty days, giving Smith just enough time to deliver it to the White House before opening day.

And why not? I mean, obviously the federal government doesn’t have much else going on and I can’t think of any reason such a move wouldn’t garner bipartisan support. Because baseball is, after all, America’s Pastime.

But is it really all that American? The history of the sport is a little muddy. There’s evidence that there were bat and ball games played even in Ancient Egypt and the most likely direct ancestors of baseball come largely from England where games like Cricket and Rounders have developed and evolved over centuries.

But when in 1903 British sports writer Henry Chadwick penned an article claiming baseball was a derivative of rounders (which to be fair, is an incredibly similar game), Americans cried foul (or threw their  helmets on the ground, kicked up some dirt, and ejected Chadwick from the game). A commission was formed to ascertain the truth.

What they found was a likely made-up story by a thoroughly unreliable witness who insisted that the first game of baseball played on a well-defined diamond was invented by Abner Doubleday in 1839 in Cooperstown, New York. So it was settled. Baseball was as American as apple pie and it still is.

I'm thinking of petitioning the US government to form a commission to ascertain the truth behind the American-ness of apple pie. photo credit: Barbara.K via photopin cc
I’m thinking of petitioning the US government to form a commission to ascertain the truth behind the American-ness of apple pie. photo credit: Barbara.K via photopin cc

Of course the “witness” was five at the time this game would have taken place and the only “evidence” he could provide was a sketch of Doubleday’s field that he himself reproduced more than sixty years later. It’s also proven unlikely that Doubleday was ever in Cooperstown in 1839, but now I’m probably just being picky.

Even the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown has admitted that the opening of its doors in 1939 honored “the mythical ‘first game’ that allegedly was played in Cooperstown on June 12, 1839.” Commissioner of baseball Bud Selig on the other hand “really believe[s] that Abner Doubleday is the ‘Father of Baseball,’” which just goes to show you that at least one noteworthy baseball expert (my husband) is right when he says that Bud Selig should probably be considered unreliable on most things baseball.

The first truly concrete evidence of American baseball is from a 1791 ordinance in Pittsfield, Massachusetts banning play of the sport near a community building, the fine for which was to garnish allowance until any broken windows had been paid for by the players. So it’s safe to conclude that at least a similar sport to that which we now know as baseball, was being played (carelessly) in America.

And that would be really something if there wasn’t just as reliably recorded evidence that baseball (referred to separately from both rounders and cricket) was being played in England by British royalty as early as 1749.

Okay, so in rounders you swing a bat at a ball and score by successfully running around four bases. But she's clearly holding the bat in one hand. It's completely different. See?  photo credit: theirhistory via photopin cc
Okay, so in rounders you swing a bat at a ball and score by successfully running around four bases. But she’s clearly holding the bat in one hand. It’s completely different. See? photo credit: theirhistory via photopin cc

So, is baseball a quintessentially American sport deserving of its own national holiday? I’m not sure. It’s true that no one loves baseball quite like the US (except for maybe Cuba, South Korea, the Netherlands, the Dominican Republic, and Japan, just to name a few). And there can be no doubt that the rules of the sport as it is played today developed primarily in the United States (where it was decided in 1845 that winging a baseball at someone’s head for an out might not constitute fair play).

According to Ozzie Smith 22 million Americans claim to have at least at one time played hooky to enjoy opening day so he reckons we ought to make it official. And though I don’t think I’ll sign the petition, I’m sure he’ll get his signatures. At the time of this posting, it stands at  36, 612 with 27 days remaining. And regardless of what happens, my family will celebrate the way we always do, with hot dogs and nachos, with ice cream in those little plastic batting helmets, and with unbridled enthusiasm.

National holiday or not, I'll be getting my celebration on.
National holiday or not, I’ll be getting my celebration on.