Put Me In, Coach

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I am pretty sure that every kid who plays sports dreams at one time or another of becoming a professional athlete.  I know I certainly did.  As you get older and compete against better and better athletes, reality, at some point, sets in and you realize there are much better players than you.  But it takes a while to sink in.

I do remember having those aspirations when growing up.  I played three sports – football, basketball, and baseball.  As a quarterback it was apparent from the very beginning that I was just average at best.  I enjoyed being part of the team.  I particularly liked being the center of the action.  The play only started when I said so.  It also was a very good place to watch the game.  Hand the ball off, throw a pass, or keep the ball and run meant I always had a good seat to observe.  Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts was my football hero, but I was never going to have his moxie and his ability and it was apparent early on that I had absolutely no future in football.

It became even clearer in the game of basketball.  You just cannot make yourself grow!  At 5’11”, I could play in the backcourt in high school and in college, but my basketball future would be playing in summer leagues on the playgrounds for as long as I wanted.  I went to many college and pro basketball games, but never thought that I could compete against those guys. They were too big, too strong, and too good.

Baseball was a bit different.  When my father and grandfather took me to see the Phillies or the Yankees, I always came away thinking there was a chance.  All I wanted to do when we came home from those games was grab my glove and go play catch with my dad.  I even felt that way when we returned home at midnight.  If I could talk my dad into it, I would have played pitch and catch right away.

As I got older, I had my most success, athletically, as a pitcher.  I did not lose a high school game in my last two years.  I was MAC pitcher of the year in college and pitcher of the year in the Blue Mountain League.  I played against good (probably not great) competition and, for the most part, I was better.  I even got a one-day look from the Pirates.  It was one day and led to nothing, but it certainly was nice to feel like “maybe there was a chance”.  It was not to be.  I accepted my limits and continued to play any sport for fun.

Imagine, though, the feeling of David Ayres this past Saturday.  He is the Zamboni driver at the Toronto Maple Leafs’ arena.  He is, also, the practice goalie for the Leafs.  And he was, on Saturday, the stand-by goalie for both teams in case a team had both goalies injured.  It happened.  The Carolina Hurricanes lost their starter in the first period.  Ayres got the call to get dressed.  Their backup got injured in the second period.  The 42-year-old became the next man up.  The first two shots went right past him.  The next eight, however, he stopped.  The Hurricanes won 6-3 and he became the oldest to win a regular season game.

Ayres had a kidney transplant 15 years ago and thought he would never play hockey again.  He not only played; he made history.  By the way, he got paid $500, got to keep his jersey, and, within hours, his replica jersey was being sold to fans.

Knowing that, I just might go try to find my baseball glove.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Do you believe the Phillie Phanatic is 42 years old? So, it stands to reason, he needed a little “plastic surgery”.  Much like many of us, his posterior got bigger, his tail turned blue, he got scales under his arms, and his nose got a little shorter.  Oh, the pains of growing old.
  1. Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Dak Prescott, Jameis Winston and 11 other quarterbacks are all free agents. There is a feeding frenzy, I’m sure, right now in various NFL board rooms.
  1. It is hard to believe, but last year’s NCAA Basketball champion, the Virginia Cavaliers, are not a lock to get into this year’s tournament. Three ACC teams will certainly get in – Duke, Florida State, Louisville.  Virginia is playing better now, but needs to continue their success.  You cannot defend your title if you don’t get in.
  1. How can the 76ers have the best home record in the league and a 9-20 record on the road? Same players, same game – different results.  Mind-boggling!
  1. Here are the TV games for this week:
  • Tuesday, Feb. 25: 6:00pm – Bethlehem Catholic vs Tamaqua; Central Catholic vs Wilson; Girls – Freedom vs Pocono Mountain West; Nazareth vs Parkland
  • Wednesday, Feb. 26: 6:00pm – Easton vs Northampton; Allen vs Freedom on Channel 4

7:00pm – American vs Lafayette women

  • Friday, Feb. 28: TBD
    • Saturday, Feb. 22: TBD