Mostly Cloudy


An evening conversation: Still life

By Ned Seaton

Government shutdown got you down?

Debt limit politics raising your blood pressure?

I’ve got a suggestion: Head to Bishop Stadium at CiCo Park and catch a ballgame.

It’s like walking into a Norman Rockwell painting. You’ll feel better.

I’ve been to Bishop several times this fall because one of our kids is playing varsity soccer for Manhattan High.

The team started playing its games there this season, after many years at Anneberg Park, because they installed new artificial turf at Bishop.

I’ve been to Bishop dozens of times over the years, mostly for MHS football games. Things have changed a little — there’s the turf, and there’s now soccer in addition to football.

For purposes of this column, it doesn’t make any difference which sport it is or the surface it’s played on:It’s small-town America.

The more you know about it, the harder you look at it, the better it gets.

The kids are out there playing the game for the love of it. They’re not getting paid, they’re not on scholarship, and they’re not showboating. They’re playing for their school, and they’re playing for each other, and they’re playing their guts out.

The coaches on the sidelines aren’t getting paid millions. They get a little stipend — more than, say, the high school golf coach, though not by a lot — but basically we’re talking about people paid to be school teachers.

The kids in the stands are pretty much the same kids that were there 30 years ago. Probably 50 years ago.

Sure, they all have cell phones now, and they wear slightly different clothes. But they’re there for basically the same reasons, acting the same.

Several of them are quite literally the kids of the people who were doing the same things in, say, 1983.

There’s the banker’s son, there’s the insurance agent’s daughter, there’s the kid of the fireman. There, for that matter, is the grandson of a longtime former assistant football coach.

Generations pass, and yet…

There’s the high school principal, just overseeing things. He used to play defensive end for the football team.

There’s the athletic director. He played quarterback.

There’s the publisher of the daily newspaper in town, all gray-haired and adult-like, sitting only a few rows above where he used to sit as a high school student, cheering on those guys.

(Too skinny, slow, weak and timid to play football. Other than that he would’ve been great.)

There are the kids actually playing the game.

When it’s over and they come walking slowly off the field in the crisp night air, backlit by the stadium, ice packs strapped to their ankles or knees or shoulders, they look like the conquering heroes I remember.

I blink, and it’s 1985. I blink again, and it’s 2013.

And then there are the younger brothers and sisters, running amok around the stadium with each other, playing tag or kicking a ball or just burning off pre-teen energy.

Someday soon, they’ll be out on the field or in the student section.For that matter, someday soon, they’ll be the gray-haired people higher up in the stadium.

One of them, probably a mushy-headed sort, will realize the same thing I’m writing about now.

Maybe he’ll write a column in the paper.

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