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Monday, April 19, 2021

Summer Spectating: A Sport of Its Own

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Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan has covered and commented on the Delaware sports scene for more than 30 years, everything from amateur recreation leagues and high schools to local colleges and the Philadelphia professional teams. He’s been voted Delaware Sportswriter of the Year multiple times and currently covers the Philadelphia Eagles for CBSSports.com and teaches creative writing courses at Wilmington University.

A heat wave hit the Delaware Valley the last couple of days, but that didn’t keep thousands of Delawareans from running around like mad, often times chasing a ball that is faster than they are.

Summer sporting events rarely get called off because of excessive heat, and we’re not just talking about the Phillies or anybody else who gets paid millions of dollars to sweat profusely. We’re also talking about the little boys and girls who play Little League and the not-so-little adults who play softball or soccer or run track or play tennis or take part in any summertime sport under a hot, hot sun.

Eventually, that will spread to fall sports like football and there’s not a football player alive, with the exception of a few maniacs, who doesn’t dread summer camp. And it doesn’t matter the level at which you play. Eagles coach Andy Reid likes to think he runs a tough training camp up at Lehigh University, but any high school or even CYM or Pop Warner team works 10 times harder than the Eagles do when the weather is at its most brutal.

By the way, this isn’t a column about the dangers of dehydration and sunstroke and all of that. We assume you’re smart enough to drink plenty of fluids and put on plenty of sunscreen and make sure you leave the air conditioner in the car running so you don’t have to hop into a hot car when you’re finally done sweating your tail off. Sure, you burn a lot of gas that way, but it’s worth it.

No, this is about the experience of sitting in a softball dugout in the middle of a Sunday Only League double-header in July and it’s 99.9 degrees out and there’s not a breath of air for relief as the sun hammers on your head and the games are boring as heck and you wonder why you’re sitting in this stupid, stifling dugout instead of sitting in your air-conditioned living room sipping a cold beverage while watching the Phillies or Orioles on television. For that matter, you don’t even have to turn the television on – just sit back and feel the chill.

Most of us have braved an oppressive summer sun at one time or another while playing a sport. We’ve endured the hot sun and humid temperatures and added to the Noel Coward credo that only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun – now it’s mad dogs, Englishmen and Sunday-Only softball players.

But there is one thing worse than playing a boring double-header when it’s blazing hot outside – watching a boring double-header involving one of your kids when it’s blazing hot outside. That can be a draining experience, so much so that you barely have enough energy to pretend you care how the other parents’ kids are doing.

But watching a baseball or soccer game is nothing compared to enduring a long track or swim meet. Those things last all day and there’s a good chance your kid is involved in four events that last a total of four minutes and you have to sit there for eight hours waiting for their brief shot at glory while, once again, pretending to care how other kids do (“Way to go, Johnny!”).

Confession: When my kids were on our community swim team – at a pool just a half-block from our house – I used to fill a squeeze bottle with ice, orange juice and vodka and sip on that all night. Hey, when you go to a dentist you get novacaine and that’s no more painful that having to sit through a four-hour swim meet on a hot and humid night.

But those are the sacrifices we make. And the ironic thing is that we do it – and sometimes simply endure it – because it’s fun. Mad dogs, indeed.

Contact Kevin Noonan at knoonan32@aol.com.

 

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