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Sports has its freedom as well

July 02, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI

It didn't seem like much.

With the slightest flick of the wrist, everything is different. There is more of an intense feeling in the air now.

It came from nothing more than turning the page on my calendar.

The message is simple.

"Yo, Toto. We aren't in June anymore."

The whole world changes on July 1.

It is the first day of the second half of the year. Yes, believe it or not, 2002 is half over. Where did all the time go? It just seems like yesterday we were watching Scott Rice and Matt Tanner play basketball.

It comes from more than just tearing off that page.

This time of year changes perspective. And remember, perspective is everything.

We are in the midst of one of the most important weeks of the year.

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In sports, this first week of July has a habit of determining the outcome of so many different pursuits.

In the old days, Major League Baseball teams in first place on July 4 were considered shoo-ins for their division titles.

Nowadays, the meaning has changed. Now it signifies on whether there will be a season at all since the players are preparing to set a strike date.

In auto racing, NASCAR and the Indy-styled cars usually run important races that become pivotal in the championship points races.

Locally, Little Leagues are gearing up for all-star tournament season. A small band of 11- and 12-year-old players begin that once-in-a-lifetime, one-in-a-million chase for a possible trip to Williamsport, Pa., and the World Series.

Football teams start pulling shoulder pads out of mothballs to get ready for training camps to begin.

Meanwhile, farmers used July 4 as a barometer for how crops are growing. I seem to remember corn being as high as an elephant's eye by the Fourth of July as an adage when I was a youngster.

And much of the country looks at this week as one of those huge vacation, government day-off getaway weekends.

But now, there are more pressing things. Thanks to the events of nine months ago, this week has an even deeper meaning for everyone who considers themselves a red-blooded American.

In two days, we will be celebrating the day that signifies the reason we are able to worry about pennant races, Winston Cup points, tournaments, corn and vacations.

Needless to say, this July 4 will have deeper meanings to many people across the country. It sort of hit home at the fireworks display at Harpers Ferry (W.Va.) National Park just last Saturday.

It was all supplemented by last week's court decision and subsequent outcry against the wording of the Pledge of Allegiance. Two words - under God - have sparked another moralistic debate about something many of us have taken for granted for oh-so-many years.

It may sound preachy but, with hand over heart, maybe it's time for each one of us to pledge to the small shreds of personal events that give us the opportunity to enjoy our way of life.

So, I pledge to not take my job for granted. The chance to work in a field and profession I trained for and enjoy following since I was a kid is a blessing and privilege.

I pledge to be more tolerant of today's world of youth sports. It's time to realize for every one bad example of coaching and handling young athletes, there are 100 examples of people who are actually teaching children the importance of playing fair, playing hard and playing within the rules while teaching valuable life lessons.

That's not easy to do.

I pledge to really try and understand why Major League Baseball players are even thinking about striking. It's tough to collect a $20 million contract when you put the business that cuts the check out of business.

I pledge to remember that winning isn't everything. Sometimes there is more growth and satisfaction in missing the mark from time to time. That's the beauty of competition ... if you fail the first time, you can come back and try again.

I pledge to figure out the whole local stadium issue. Through all the pros and cons swirling about keeping the Hagerstown Suns in town, one fact hasn't changed. This has stayed on the table for the last 10-12 years. Don't you think its time for someone - anyone - in local government to finally make a decision one way or another to end it? No matter what you decide, people will be upset.

I pledge to do a better job of using all the new experiences in my life to my advantage. Starting with my wife Joann and stepdaughter Brianna, all the way through the guys I work with - like Dan Spears, who will be leaving us shortly - there are many new items that can round me and make me better.

I pledge to be less cynical when it comes to local sports. Even though it seems the Board of Education is trying to put extracurricular activities out of business, I'm sure real reasoning will prevail.

And most of all, I pledge to be open to other sports fans' opinions. Everyone has their own ideas of how the world works. I should take time to listen because I could learn something.

They should be able to express them.

And I should be able to express mine.

That's one of those rights my father and the fathers before him fought for.

And it's part of the freedom that others hate and we should cherish more often than four days after June ends.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131 ext. 2310 or bobp@herald-mail.com

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