______ League

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Hours after coming into this world, mom dressed me in pinstripes, rested my head in a baseball mitt, and snapped a picture. A day or so later my height and weight was broadcast over Tacoma radio, presumably during small talk as dad stepped to the plate.

Mom competed in rodeos. Still does!

My earliest years overlapped temporally and geographically with a certain Steel City dynasty remembered unto the ages.

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"You want to go where everybody knows your name." - Cheers Theme

I stride on the scene playing it cool. But who am I kidding? You had me at hello; even before that. It’s in my blood. I couldn't wait to be here today. I can't play alone. Well, at least not at my age. Without you, the physical activity turns into mundane and inconvenient exercise.

The 9 or 12 guys on the court right now are catalysts in the fuel I run on all week. That's how it works with everyday weekend warriors.

Alley-oops and deep post patterns are some of the best ways for men to connect. Helping a friend back onto the mountain bike he fell off in the pouring rain is intimacy. You want to talk about feelings? Pile-ups, blocks, and line checks during flag football are where five at a time gather over something they can feel.

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A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen:
Bart Ben Brandon Brett Bret Bruce Chris Craig Dan Dave Doug Kyle Matt Max Mike Phil Rich Ryan Tim Tim
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I love these guys.

They aren’t afraid to shut down the lane. In the fall they flatten me at the line of scrimmage and in the summer they make worn spots in the lawn that I interpret like an inkblot test. They pin me on the post, shove, and hit fade away jumpers in my eye. Their presence increases my physiological capacity and causes my bike to go places not meant for wheeled devices.

What could be better for men such as this? We plan, play, review, and share injuries together. It’s the best of high school glory days with only a fraction of the ego and false hope. The games are more fun and less edgy than official “rec” leagues. There is sweat and blood and a little cursing. There’s almost never anything malicious. In fact, I've found the court and trail and ball field to be some of the least contrived places.

Nobody owns or dominates the League. There’s not a cent on the line. Though many in the League were once pro or college-level athletes, all have paid their dues elsewhere. Now our weekly ceremony is a thing of beauty, like a tribal dance passed down from the ancients.

Mental and physical errors happen all the time. But the bursts of graceful, on-the-mark athleticism, when a man who sat at a desk all day or dealt with hours of tanbark or ill patients, shines in a moment of strength....

...That move you just pulled off?


My brother, I stand in awe of that move.

When our meetings end there is laughter and grace. Everyone wins. We sit around sweaty and with poor posture, sometimes opening up our lives, always celebrating today's victory. Softness and frailty have been held at bay in todays battle, yet nobody wins that war.

I must deal with the fact that our gatherings are numbered. I hang my head and find comfort looking down at the three who blister onto the court/field ahead of me. The seeds are sown, as everyone in this League has been so kind to lend a hand in the next.

I think the point is to find your League. Call it a ministry because you need each other. If you have a functional body, fully receive your gift. Hurry, while there's still time. Your League offers sacred things that the sports page and ESPN can't even approach.

It's definitely not just a game.

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