Spring sports mean it's time for a dad to get on the stick

March 25, 1995|By ROB KASPER

It is time for seasonal rituals. Those would be the planting of the grass seed, the oiling of the baseball gloves, and the sawing of the lacrosse stick.

Let's go right to the sawing of the lacrosse stick. This is the stick with a webbed head that players use to toss and catch a lacrosse ball. Dads in most parts of the Western world do not devote their weekends to the care of lacrosse sticks. But it is a big-time activity in Baltimore.

I would bet a crab cake that Baltimore-area households lead the world in lacrosse equipment expenditures.

Our household has done its part. We have acquired at least six sticks over a five-year period. Recently, when our youngest kid, who has just turned 10, announced that he needed a stick to play lacrosse at school, I pointed him to our collection of sticks, a collection that, in my mind, rivals those of most sporting goods stores.

Unlike our family, however, most stores do not keep their lacrosse equipment strewn on the floor. I have been tripping over lacrosse sticks, balls and pads ever since our oldest, now 14, attached himself to, then detached himself from, the sport.

I bought sticks and pads and a helmet and mouthpiece for our first son. I did not mind spending money on safety. I am the kind of guy who, while watching a football game last fall, cheered when a referee penalized a kid five yards for not wearing his mouth guard.

My guiding principle in every sport the kids play is "protect the orthodontics."

But it is disconcerting when, after you have spent more money on lacrosse equipment than it would take to buy the power drill of your dreams, your newly outfitted warrior announces he has had a change of heart and is no longer interested in the sport.

Books tell me that good parents are supposed to react to such statements by looking into the child's heart. I have never been able to look past the mound of almost-new gear sitting idle on the basement floor.

I bet that soon researchers will discover that one reason couples have more than one child is the couples' subconscious hope of getting their money's worth out of their investment in sporting equipment.

That is the scenario I had in mind when the 10-year-old announced he was taking up lacrosse. I told him he could use his big brother's old lacrosse stick. Like many of my solutions to family problems, this one was greeted with hoots of disapproval. The big brother indicated that, while he might have retired from playing lacrosse, he was considering making a comeback, like Michael Jordan in basketball, and might need his old gear.

Moreover, I was told, the sticks in our collection were "too tall" for use in the fourth-grade lacrosse games.

The mention of a "too-tall stick" reminded me of the routine I had gone through a few years earlier when, as a lacrosse-dumb dad, I had purchased our first lacrosse stick for our first-born.

I went to a sporting goods store and dropped a bundle. It felt good. It felt American. This is what dads are supposed to do.

This rush of paternal good feeling was short-lived. The kid came home from his first practice and reported that his brand-new stick needed surgery. It was too long for players his age. The rules and the coach said so.

I took a hack saw and cut several inches off the end of the metal stick. The following year, the kid came back from practice and once again told me he needed a new stick. His old stick was now too short.

The coach and the rules in his new league said he now could use a bigger stick. I thought of gluing the hunk of sawed-off metal back on the short stick. But the kid frowned on this idea. And I couldn't find the piece.

So I ended up buying the older boy another, longer stick.

When the younger boy said he needed a short stick, no talle than 36 inches, I was determined to track down that old sawed-off stick. The kids told me that stick was gone. In a burst of entrepreneurial activity, one of them had sold the stick to a neighborhood buddy for 50 cents.

Eventually two sticks emerged from the basement. Both were said to be too tall for use by the younger brother. The older brother said he was willing to part with one of the sticks, one that had some undesirable netting on its head.

And, so this Saturday, after planting grass seed in the back yard, and oiling up the baseball gloves, I will saw another lacrosse stick and I will know it is spring.

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