I don’t want to play anymore

Except for publications like the beloved Anchor, readers can no longer find much good news on the pages or e-screens. And that includes the sports pages — a place where, as a lad, I would escape into a fantasy world filled with heroes and feats of incredible athleticism.

I would be a regular at my pépère’s house, where after he and my uncle finished the Boston Record-American sports pages, I would get my fix of scores, stats, and features of my favorite and not-so-favorite players.

There were no stories of contract disputes, no reports of spousal abuse, and no murder accusations. It was just sports, plain and simple.

Back then I was naive and innocent, and also, the press didn’t regularly dig up the dirt on a player’s life while not on the field, outside the arena, away from the court, and removed from the ice.

The only cheating I heard about was the occasional “spit-ball” or corked bat in baseball; and the over-curved ice hockey stick or the holes cut into the palms of hockey gloves so players could hold an opponent without being detected. I can’t recall anything really egregious happening in basketball or football.

During my innocent days, my friends and I would play every sport we could. And while I didn’t hang around with a bunch of angels, nor was I one myself, cheating wasn’t on our list of things to do to each other.

The biggest controversies that arose in our all-day stick ball games were whether the Pensy Pinky had chalk on it from the last pitch thrown, meaning it was a strike, or did the pitcher inadvertently “forget” to rub the ball before firing it to the chalk-ladened strike zone on the school wall; or did the ball fly into the neighbor’s yard to the left or right of the clothes-line pole indicating fair or foul.

In hoops it was whether a ticky-tacky “foul” was indeed a foul or not.

In street hockey we didn’t care how exaggerated a stick was curved. The only offense was a whack on the fingers leaving one with purple digits for days, but not enough to prevent us from hitting the pavement the next day.

In our tackle football games at South (Kennedy) Park in Fall River, there wasn’t much of anything to argue about, except maybe whether someone was out of bounds or not, but that was tough to enforce since the playing field dimensions were pretty much the size of the park.

And in ice hockey, the major dispute was who was going to retrieve the puck after it was shot wide of the net and skidded a mile down-pond.

We had no instant replay; no suspensions; no appeals; no fines. Just fun, and an occasional brief physical difference of opinion, which was quickly dispelled after a well-placed sock in the eye. After that, it was friends as usual.

Any sports fan knows what came down this week. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was suspended for four games, the team was fined $1 million and lost a draft pick in each of the next two drafts — for the crime of allegedly or “probably” deflating footballs to gain an unfair advantage against their opponents.

I would love to believe that TB12 didn’t do it. I would love to believe that the team knew nothing about it. I would love to believe that the Patriots never illegally filmed other teams’ practices. I would love to believe that athletes didn’t take steroids. I would love to believe that players don’t beat their wives or girlfriends. I would love to believe that players don’t get involved in murderous deeds.

I would love to go back to my pépère’s house, pick up the Boston Record-American and read nothing but sports.

That just ain’t going to happen anymore.

I would love to relive those innocent days of stick ball, backyard hoops, park football, and street and pond hockey. But my body tells me “that ain’t going to happen either!”

I’m tired of all the sports garbage. It was once a place where people could escape the lunacy of real life, but no longer. And that’s pretty deflating. I’m tired of it all. I don’t want play anymore.


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