The Press Box For October 7
Will sports ever be the same as prior Covid-19? I don’t know the answer to that, but my quess right now is, “no never will be.” I remember growing up in the local area when you could get in a game of ball anytime of day, everyday of the year.
There were empty lots in every town where kids played, some were easily recognized as neighborhood ball fields, but were often owned by individuals who allowed the kids to play without worrying about someone getting hurt and suing them. Other places were owned by the communities, either way we always had a place to play.
The seasons still come and go, however it’s not the same, back in “the day” it might be in the dead middle of winter and you could see kids shoveling snow off the basketball courts to get in a little outdoor activity. The cold weather had absolutely no affect on us. If we got to cold we’d start a nice fire and burn a few old tires to stay warm. Try that today and see how far you get!
All day out in the cold made the body feel good. It also helped work up a good appetite and get a good nights sleep. A friend of mine told me the other day that it’s hard to get a good nights sleep. I agree, I struggle with that as well. My problem is not a lack of exercise, but an over abundance of reoccurring thoughts overtaking my thought process.
What I often catch myself doing is reminiscing about the old days, I think that would affect most anyone’s sleep. However, life goes on, so we look back over the past with a smile and continue on to make this a better place for all who follow. As far as sports goes I remember traveling by greyhound bus from Martin Lemaster’s grocery store on Route 2, in Paden City to the Red Star in New Martinsville just to get in a good game of basketball or softball at Bruce Park.
I would sometimes walk the railroad tracks to Sistersville to the swimming pool or stick out my thumb and catch a ride. In the early 60’s for 10 cents you could catch the train from Paden City to either town up or down the river. However a dime back then was hard to come by, so the other two options worked better. Besides a dime would get you a nickel bag of chips and a 6 oz. coke.
In Paden City in the 60’s we had a lot of kids, many can remember that on the south side of main street was a group of athletes and on the north side was another. I lived near both sides on Main Street so I could join either team. We often played each other unofficially in the summer time with as I recall, the south always having the best teams. Remember these were only pickup games and not school related, but they did get rather intense at times.
I will take you back to one particular game that we played in the vacent field near where the library now sets. It was in 1965, a pickup game between the two ends of town. On the South team was the likes of Mike (later a WVU standout and all-state player) and Chuck Nelson, Alan Laugh, Doug Howell, I think Steve Billiter, myself and the Turner boys, Gary Slider was there also as I recall. There were several others as well.
The north team that came into our territory was equally as skilled with a couple of the Koerber boys, and the Knezovich brothers. They also had Jerry Pegg and Melvin Billiter, and slipped a couple of the older guys in on us unnoticed. Somewhere along the way we ended up with Red Powell officiating.
This was a Saturday afternoon game in the middle of the summer. And turned out to be the hottest day of the year as I recall. But, nothing was going to stop the big in town game. That section of town was loaded with businesses ranging from filling stations (full service) to bars, five and dime stores and a few restaurants. There was actually plenty to do, but sports ranked number one in every ones mind in town. It was like that all over the valley.
That was a game never to be forgotten, no pads, no helmits, just a ball and two end zones marked off with chauk. The game ended in a tie after Jerry Pegg suffered a concusion and Melvin Billiter broke a toe. Red called the game and then asked everyone to show up the next day for a combined practice at the field on the highway by the high school.
Sports was a way of life, it was something we knew we had to do even if we didn’t particuarly like it. Down where the post office now sets use to be another field where we often played softball. Right along main street, but with not much traffic it was a good field that also housed the yearly tent revivals. I will never forget a softball game there when Gordan Bowen got hit in the head with a ball bat by accident. He was a big guy who I believe needed some stitches to mend the wound.
Will sports ever get back to being fun again, will it ever return to the competitive nature we once knew, will be ever be able to high five, shake hands, have full bleachers and stands, enjoy a day at a major league park or tailgate at a WVU game? I don’t want to sound like a pessimist, but I believe we are now years away if ever from getting back to normal as far as sports is concerned. I would love to walk into the local high school gyms and see both sides filled up, to enter the stadium’s where there is standing room only. I just don’t see it happening. My hope is that as a society, especially in the rural areas like ours, we will not give up and forget what great times we’ve had and memories we’ve collected from past experiences.
If we can recover from this, we will come out a much greater place, where kids and parents will see it takes problems like we are having to get us back on track so we can really appreciate what we once had. Think back on your past experiences, think of the good times, remember those special moments. Dwell on the future as well and most of all never give up, there are better days ahead.