Friday, June 22, 2007

For the love of the game?

On September 14, 1963 Floyd Rood set out on a sporting adventure that would land him in the Guinness Book of World Records. But more on that later...

I'm not a fan of the expression, "in this day in age..."; it smacks of, "what I'm about to say is right because I know it now...", as though it was completely unknown in previous ages. That said, in this day in age, with the increasing interconnection between countries around the world and the challenges of bridging cultural gaps the role of sports cannot be overlooked. The modern Olympic movement has become a Juggernaut, cruising into town somewhere in the world every two years to measure the best of nations against one another. The PGA Tour is increasingly international (hey, an Argentinian won the US Open! Who knew?) and Professional Tennis circles the globe 12 months a year.

Of course there's Soccer - self proclaimed (and current belt holder) as the "World Game". And a sack full of "Alternate World Games": Cricket (World Cup in early 2007); Rugby (World Cup in September-October 2007); Basketball (Olympics are the big international show); Hockey (World Cup every year, or whenever Canada decides one should be held and the Olympics); and Baseball. Sports provide a way for people from different cultural backgrounds and life experiences to measure one another against a common set of rules.

So, how does Baseball fit into the world of sports? Baseball is fundamentally international - being loosely derived from Cricket, developing in small towns across both the United Stats and Canada and growing well beyond its original bounds to hot beds like Japan, Korea, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and others. Of the players that currently appear in the MLB.com gamedayritual player database, 72% were born in the United States and 28% born outside.

But pick up a newspaper in Sydney Australia (5 active major leaguers, 2004 Olympic Baseball silver medalists), London England (1 active major leaguer) or Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam (1 active major leaguer) and you'll be lucky to get any more then the Major League standings in small print on page 15 of the sports section. Not to mention the wrath you will incur when trying to rationalize with your typical Rugby fan why the World Series includes the word World. After all its often said that all politics is local - and I'd mirror that by saying that all sports are also local too.

Sport it seems all comes down to what you know. You grew up watching Lawn Bowling, so you love Lawn Bowling. (After all, Lawn Bowling has major Championships too.) You open the back page of the Sunday paper and what you read about is what you love and what you love is what you read about. In 1968 while he was the Chief Justice of the United States, Sports Illustrated quoted Earl Warren as saying, "I always turn to the sports section first. The sports section records people's accomplishments; the front page nothing but man's failures." Sport is about accomplishment, sport is local news, sport provides us with clear victories to celebrate and a release from the day-to-day; and Baseball is no exception.

So, when Floyd Rood finished his journey on October 3, 1964 - more then a year after he started it - he had played 114,737 strokes, lost 3,511 balls and covered 3,397.7 miles. He became the first (and only?!?) person to play the United Stats - from Pacific to Atlantic - as a golf course. And he must have done it for the love of the game!


Northfield Mount Hermon School - Silliman Fire 1965


(Photo Credit: http://www.nmhschool.org/about/history/archives.php)

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