All posts tagged Life Lessons:
Every Father’s Day, I love recalling the catalytic impact that Preston Playground had on my life so, annually on Father’s Day I like to reprise my Ode to Preston Playground (circa 2008) blogpost - a significant play, sports and man-making locale for me in my formative years. Happy Father’s Day - Preston Playground!
My father was gone by my 3rd birthday—never to return. He left no memories of a stern voice, or comforting touch, “a smell-good” scent, or that weary and pride-filled look of “I’m workin’ my behind off for this family.” I have no memories of nurturing or endearing moments, and no “go git your glove boy & let’s head out back” images to reflect on either. I don’t have one picture of my father anywhere. I don’t have a single snapshot of our family together or of him holding his sons in a bear hug. Read More…
A conversation on fatherhood was led by President Obama in DC on Friday. The headlines about the DC gathering were splashed across the web and news channels on Friday and served as a catalyst for me to recall the mosaic of “men” who served as father-figures for me in my life - winos, derelicts, laborers, “mathers,” drug dealers, war vets and businessmen. One of the most influential “men” in my life was a playground called Preston.
I won’t grow tired of sharing stories about Preston Playground so, I have decided to annually reprise my 2008 ode to Preston Playground - a significant play/growth locale for me in my formative years. Enjoy your chase + Father’s Day…
Happy Father’s Day - Preston Playground!
My father was gone by my 3rd birthday—never to return. He left no memories of a stern voice, or comforting touch, “a smell-good” scent, or that weary and pride-filled look of “I’m workin’ my behind off for this family.” I have no memories of nurturing or endearing moments, and no “go git your glove boy & let’s head out back” images to reflect on either. I don’t have one picture of my father anywhere. I don’t have a single snapshot of our family together or of him holding his sons in a bear hug. Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop(my grandparents that ended up raising us)said that my older brother looks an awful lot like my father so, that’s the best I can do for an image: based on my brother’s build that would make him a good six foot, with a thick build, and a full growth of hair on his face. I do recall that his presence was large and dark and that his voice was deep and bellowing. I remember that “cologne” he wore smelled an awful lot like winter-green-scented rubbing alcohol in the medicine cabinet.
I can’t for the life of me conjure up what our home looked like at all. I know what the homes were like after he left us—scattered, transient, unpredictable, frightening, dark and always different addresses.
Without a father in my life, I resorted to finding fatherly lessons from other men in my life who were willing to share their wisdom with me. My teachers came in the form of businessmen and laborers, winos and alcoholics, drug dealers and users, sport coaches, my peers and old-heads at the playground, merchants in the neighborhood and war vets that weren’t quite right anymore, school teachers and other kid’s dads. At an early age, I learned to be constantly on the lookout for any nugget of insight that may assist me on my rite of passage to manhood. So, many boys and many men helped me to become the man I am today.
One male figure that proved to be one the most influential in my journey was not a man in the literal sense. But he was a consistently a source of many of the fatherly lessons I learned. That source was, the Preston Playground.
Preston Playground, a.k.a. the Field was probably one of the most significant male figures in my life. Not much to look at but beautiful nonetheless, the Field was a wide expanse of green grass, a set of swings, monkey bars (which I hung from trying to get taller), a sliding board (which I fell off many times), an old deserted school, a basketball court with no lights that also served as the kickball & wiffle ball stadium (I lost an awful lot of skin on that asphalt falling, tripping, or getting knocked down), a baseball field with an infield made of what was affectionately known as Astro Dirt and the equipment shed. You could find beer, liquor, wine and drug mementos strewn about, Preston. The scent of urine behind the equipment shed was always present and no one ever wanted to retrieve a ball from that locale!
In spite of the many seedy and illicit events that occurred at Preston Playground, there was always this marvelous sense of community there too. It was the heart of the block and it was the convening place for anything that was significant in the neighborhood. Reputations were created and lost there. Myths and legends were conjured up there. Loves were realized, nurtured and lost there. Dreams were inspired and squashed there. And stories upon stories were told there.
Preston was my truly like a home for me especially when you consider how much time I spent there. That playground was probably the biggest influence in my formative years. Preston, and all the eclectic men who trekked across its landscape of asphalt and grass throughout the day, gave me permission to chase my dreams.
Preston and I spent countless hours alone having the conversations that an adolescent boy should have with his father. All of my conversations that questioned world events; trying to understand fears or managing worries and concerns; wondering how to fulfill hopes and dreams; making sense of the things deepest in my heart and soul. Preston was always available. Preston was an amazing listener. Preston was always welcoming. Preston was unconditional, trustworthy, it knew right from wrong, and was honest.
Preston knew about all of my successes, my disappointments, my failures and my moments in sports that were memorable.
Spending time at Preston Playground I received a lot of lessons from the school of hard knocks and via the teachers who hung out there on a daily basis: the importance of practice, sacrifice, determination; the lonely work;” teamwork; the Golden Rule; if you want anything in life you’re going to have to scrap and fight, be clever, crafty, resourceful, and honest to obtain it; always be a straight-up man; keep your elbow in and follow-through; hard work never goes unrewarded; can’t do nothin’ in life with a broke Want To; you better leave that stuff alone cause one day you’re gonna be something.
These were lessons that I should have learned from my Dad.
Luckily, Preston Playground was there.
Happy Father’s Day, Preston Playground!
What’s a “Power of Sport Story?!”
It’s a story that transcends the particular game at hand—be it stick & ball, on ice, on grass, turf, or simply played in an alley or on a street corner with a ball & a makeshift goal. In a power of sport story, “winners” don’t necessarily win the playoff or championship game; sometimes they are on the losing end on the scoreboard. But their game is an “Inner Game,” a higher game, a spiritual game that claims a universal victory.
The power in these stories of sport is like an alarm clock, noisily waking people from a heavy slumber. These moments grab your attention in a loud and profound way like the arena horn marking the end of a half, a referee’s whistle halting play, or a raucous crescendo of cheers from fans reveling in an unbelievable moment.
It’s the former pro football player who donates a kidney to his ex-teammate; or the one who is walking across the breadth of the United States today to remind Americans of the hardships confronting rescue personnel who sacrificed their health on September 11th.
The power of sport is witnessed when a coach chooses—on game day—to go barefoot to draw attention to the plight of those who have no footwear options.
That power of sport can be profoundly life changing when homeless men and women are invited to compete in the world’s most popular sport and others see how the game inspires the downtrodden and the hopeless! The Homeless World Cup injects hope and possibility into people who are more often than not, global afterthoughts. It’s a worldwide competition, sponsored by Changemakers.net, to find “innovative ways for sports to promote social change.” Imagine that: promoting global social change with a ball!
Sport and play are the common denominators and planetary equalizers. No matter where you look in the world regardless of political or religious system—we ALL play. Therefore, stories of triumph over illness, poverty or handicap through the use of sport or play resonate throughout our world and help inspire change, and inspire action. The Power of Sport Story can change a life. It changed mine.
Coach Hurley’s long-time effort to make a difference in the lives of student-athletes at St. Anthony HS in Jersey City, NJ are absolutely worthy of being highlighted as a Power of Sport Story - well done, Coach Hurley!