Reminiscing on the good ol’ days reminded me to always find time to play.
I’ve never told anyone this, but when I was a kid approaching my teenager years I was quite the sports sensation. I didn’t have any merchandise fashioned after me or a lucrative endorsement deal or anything crazy like that, I just had clout and name recognition that went as far as the corner of my block.
It wasn’t succeeding in minor league baseball that gave me street credibility in South Philly; I tried my hands at that once though and almost lost an eye. Nor was it football that had the “youngbulls” on the blocks trying to fill my shoes; I tried that too and nearly broke my nose.
The competitive activity that solidified me in the hood’s Hall of Fame was none other than curb ball, a simple game that saw either two people or teams standing on opposite sides of the pavement attempting to make a ball bounce off the curb; this only worked if you had a small enough block.
It may sound mundane, but it wasn’t; it was awesome! And the best thing about the game was that it was safe, my body was at no risk of being injured. Until the street lights would come on, we’d be outside playing ball; having tournaments; making up rules as we went along; and like Who’s Line Is It Anyway, the points didn’t matter. During halftime, we would race to the corner store for a shopping spree.
Overwhelmed with the amount of stuff you could buy at eleven with a dollar, we would browse the aisles and then eventually wind up with similar stuff—a “youngbull” quarter hug and three different bags of chips, which would eventually be all mixed into our individual plastic carrying bag—we called it a party bag.
Once snack time was over and the game was back on the smiles and giggles went away—we we’re at war. Our scorekeeping system was flawless and easy to remember: two points for a basic shot, if it bounced twice then you’d double the points. If you made the ball bounce with your back against your home that was 3 points. Standing on your top step was a whopping 6 points; if you made the shot backwards that was 10 points. The biggest achievement was a rainbow: shooting over a car when it drives through the block.
I thought my generation—actually just the guys on my block—invented the game. I’ll never forget the day I was heading into the city for an event and saw a group of kids from the neighborhood playing the game I championed for years. I was so taken aback that I went up to them and said:
“What are you guys doing?”
“Playing curb ball, you want to play?” said one of them.
I told the crew that I had created this game and not only did they not believe me, they didn’t care. Just wanting to play, one of the kids threw me the ball.
“Ok, but its got to be quick,” I said, alerting him that due to my prior commitments we could only play up to 10.
I laced up my boots, stretched for a few second and then we played. The result was I let him win—or so I like to think. I exited the block and they continued to do the exact thing I did nearly fifteen years ago.
The moral to this story is this: life gets real, but sometimes you just have to stop, play, and remember what makes you smile. It’s the little things that keep you sane.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
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Photo: Daniel Lobo/Flickr