Cole’s Mom (that would be Katybeth) asked me to write about sports, and while I tend to lean toward the funny side of things, this post turned out quite different. Maybe another time I will try to wax hilarious about the tools of ignorance or point out the shortcomings of offensive line play when it comes to “getting chicks.” This post was more philosophical though, and I hope you enjoy it.
Craig Louis Campanozzi’s Odd Sports Viewpoint
As a younger person, I used to think, “I don’t get it. What’s the deal with sports?” I didn’t understand why people thought it was so important that one group of people score or don’t score. It all seemed just so immature and mindless that I decided that my happiness would not be determined by what a bunch of kids did on a field somewhere. But then, after graduating college, a funny thing happened—I landed a job as a videographer (video guy) with a professional football team and later in the Athletic Department of a university, where I currently work. My job is to video record the practices and games of many different sports. All the athletes are aged 18 to 24 or so, and most of them will never play pro ball or make a million dollars playing their sports. While I can still honestly tell you that winning or losing doesn’t mean the end of the world, I can also tell you that winning makes everyone a lot happier and thus makes for a far better working environment. To quote sports legend Nuke LaLush, “I love winning, you know what I’m saying? I fucking love winning! It’s like, better than losing.” (Sorry, Cousin, the profanity was a direct quote.)
The thing is, after 26 years of doing this professionally and another decade or so as an amateur, I get much more enjoyment from the games than just the joy of seeing the final score. Watching kids grow up to be men and women of character (or not, and making sure I give them a good verbal kick or two if I see them going in the wrong direction), as well as watching them learn valuable life lessons and react to their successes and failures, teaches me a lot as well. As I have gotten older, I now have fewer close relationships with the students/athletes, but there are always a few who get to you. The thing is, the student/athletes at my school, while they are special to me, aren’t special—they’re on every team, at every university, and in every country in the world.
I’ve come to appreciate the skill it takes to hit a ball with a bat. Ted Williams, maybe the greatest hitter ever, once said, “I can’t think of anything harder than hitting a baseball. A round ball, a round bat moving 90 mph, a split second to decide to swing, and a half an inch margin of error.” I heard that and was defeated by the physics of it all. Those who say that softball is far easier to hit for “those girls” need to consider that the distance travelled by the ball is four feet six inches without a mound and that the ball, while bigger, has bigger seams, so it moves more. So, a fastball in baseball at 90 mph from 60 feet 6 inches and elevated about 12 to 18 inches is comparable to a softball pitcher throwing at about 64 mph, which most of them can. I can tell you that those girls work as hard, train as hard, and travel as much as the boys do. These days, at least, they get similar benefits due to Title IX. Regardless, the skill it takes to hit the ball well, even four times out of ten, is considerable and worthy of admiration—not just because someone is hitting a ball, but also because I admire the dedication it takes to train in order to excel. There are many funny stories about things that happen “behind the scenes,” and that’s where they will stay for now. This isn’t that post. Sorry!
We have a women’s soccer team at my university, and a very good one too. I knew nothing about soccer when I began video recording them, but I have learned enough to be dangerous. Several of our players will be performing in the Olympics representing their countries. The skill it takes to play the game is unbelievable. What impresses me even more is the dedication that these young ladies show. They literally run miles in a game—every game—and then run more in training. They strain every day, and then they can smile about it. It’s something to see. It’s really a privilege to get to see them.
Our football team is pretty good. This sport gets the most attention, but it is understood the least. It’s the sport that I feel I know the best, but I’m still just knowledgeable enough to be dead wrong and dead sure that I’m right. People think it’s about touchdowns, and crowds, and cheerleaders, but it’s not. It’s about people training their bodies to do unnatural things. It’s about taking pride in a block, or a route, or a hit that isn’t going to make a highlight reel. For every quarterback throwing a pass, there are blockers blocking and receivers running good routes and adjusting to coverages, and even then, the defenders get a chance to make their plays as well. It’s a chess match with full contact. I have met men who I didn’t think were very smart, but they knew football. They had football intelligence that was unbelievable but spelled like a 15 year old. But, there is less and less of that these days, especially among university players as opposed to professional athletes. These guys are under a microscope now with social media, and people tend to forget that they are still only young men and that young people make mistakes. Most of them don’t have those mistakes splashed all over sports center, but when you play college football, you might find yourself there. Consider your own teenagers, and if they do not happen to be gifted athletes, thank God that they have the gift of anonymity.
We also have tennis, volleyball (beach and indoor), track, golf, etc. Every year at this time of year, the season starts. For our office, it won’t end for 11 months because we cover all the sports. When football ends, baseball and softball will be there waiting. It never really ends, but the variation, the changing sports and players, make the years survivable and fun. This week, I have soccer high school camp for three days, and then I have softball for three days. Then the soccer season starts, and after this, it’s the football season. Last year, I participated in my own small football ball game, a soccer final four, a baseball super-regional, a softball world series, and a beach volleyball national final. I work 329 days of the year.
I have the same feelings each year—excitement, terror, hope, wonder, and most of all, the feeling that I, just like every person on every team, will be asked to test myself in this venture. I will see what kind of person I am when the rubber meets the road. How will I respond when I am down? Will I find the will to overcome the fatigue, the energy to overcome the heat, and the stubbornness to outlast the cold? As always, we’ll see. And that is what I love about sports.
I love this post, don’t you? Especially this line “The thing is, the student/athletes at my school, while they are special to me, aren’t special—they’re on every team, at every university, and in every country in the world.” And now Cousin Craig will have to return and share funny sports stories…unless like me, he is saving those for his after retirement book.
Odd Loves Company,
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