John F. Russell: Remembering that games are about more than the score |

John F. Russell: Remembering that games are about more than the score

— On Friday, I came across something that took me back to my childhood, something that I don’t see very often in Steamboat Springs.

As I cruised around downtown Steamboat Springs, I saw three boys playing a game of basketball in a driveway. There were no coaches around, no adults supervising the action and no official scoreboard. It was just local kids, out of school for the day, spending it playing a game.

The hoop was a touch lower than those you might find on the hardwood of a high school court in a regulation game, but that didn’t seem to matter. These athletes simply played the game, switching back and forth, depending on the player who won, or should I say, lost each round.

It was a warm spring day in Steamboat Springs, and the young athletes on the court reminded me of a time when I was a whole lot younger. A time when I played a similar game with my own friends. It has been 35 years, and I can’t remember the scores from those days, but I can still recall the feel of the ball bouncing off the driveway, and the sound of the ball swishing through the net.

Back then, my friends and I thought that winning was the only reason to play a game, any game. We would use our best moves to fake out a buddy and then sprint by him en route to putting the ball in the basket.

But now that I’m older, I can truly see the purpose of the game.

It was a chance to hang out with my friends for a few hours and make memories that have lasted a lifetime. I still stay in touch with some of my friends from the old neighborhood despite the fact they all live in other states these days and are raising their own families.

We all share the same fond memories of those days, and the relationships we formed.

A few years ago, one of my friends sent me a Facebook message reflecting on those days, and how he wished his own boys could understand what it was like to grow up in our little corner of the world. How the games we played changed with the seasons, but the lineups of the players in the game never shifted.

In our world today, children have a lot of organized sporting events that fill their summers, falls, winters and springs. There is no longer enough room in the day to simply play a game, and the number of basketball hoops hanging on the side of homes has become an endangered species in many towns — and that is sad.

My childhood experiences playing sports with neighborhood friends led to my love of sports. Those memories sparked my interest in football, baseball, basketball and hockey. It drove me to the golf course and served me well on the tennis court.

It’s where I learned to love the game, and it’s what fueled my love for all sports. But it took me years before I figured out that informal games, the kind of games where the outcome doesn’t really matter, were some of the most important games I have ever played.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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