Even backyard sports are serious to someone

Published 8:02 am Thursday, September 21, 2017

This is the time of year to wax poetic about football and the changing of the seasons, or break down the high school football season.

We’re not going to do that. Not today. I have tetherball on the brain.

Why, I have no idea, but there’s a 450-word column due in 45 minutes so we’re going to roll with it.

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I’ve never grasped the point of tetherball. The object is to … what, exactly? Wrap the ball around the pole? Knock the other person in the head with the ball? Want to punch yourself in the face for spending $150 to buy a tetherball set that will be used for precisely 15 minutes before everyone decides to play with their phone or move on to horseshoes?

And yet, like many backyard games, there are undoubtedly hardcore aficionados of the game out there.
Take badminton, for example. Not a lot of people realize it’s an Olympic sport whose best players fly around the court like hummingbirds. They need to, since a well-struck shuttlecock can reach speeds of nearly 300 mph.

There are major pro badminton tournaments in Asia, where it is absolutely huge. Table tennis enjoys a similar following over there. Tell them we enjoy it as a lazy backyard pastime in the U.S. and they’re likely to walk away in disgust.

Back in the states, there are high-level recreational tournaments for everything from cornhole to horseshoes to Wiffle ball.

As a kid, I loved Wiffle ball. We played it almost every day in the summer. One of my friends mastered a pitch that skimmed the ground for 20 feet and then defied physics by rising into the strike zone just as it reached the batter. It was almost unhittable for a 12-year-old, but would be mashed into orbit by some of the adults who take the game far more seriously.

Oh yes, there are adults who play hardcore Wiffle ball. There are technically rules limiting it, but a lot of people modify bats into plasticized Louisville Sluggers. After seeing the balls we used as a kid split in two after a few dozen games, I can only imagine how long a ball lasts when one of those behemoths gets hold of it.

In a way, it makes sense that there are people who turn some of our childhood games into legitimate sports. If you enjoy something like that and are competitive, it’s what you do. Personally, though, I’ll stick to the occasional burst of nostalgia that a relaxing game brings. For me, it’s just more fun that way.

Ernest Bowker is a sports writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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