The Joys of Camp

This is the first entry in our Training Camp Contest. It’s not exactly what I had in mind, but I loved it and thank Thomas H for passing it along. It reminds me of my own experiences with the Colts at that age

I was a boy of 12, maybe 13.  I sat there, on the seat of my bicycle.  I had no kickstand, so I leaned on the chain-link fence.  It felt hot and gritty on my fingers.  There I was.  Sitting on my bike in the grass.  It was afternoon.  I looked west.  The sun was in my eyes, but I didn’t care.  Adults and kids were sitting on bleachers and chairs.  Leather balls were flying through the air.  I was in heaven.

Or so I thought…

In reality I was just a kid that didn’t know any better.  I didn’t have any extra money, so I never walked over to the gate to try and get in.  Little did I know admission was free.  All those years of watching by the fence…  I just didn’t know…

My buddy wanted to go now.  I wanted to stay.  Oh, is that Gary Hogeboom?  There’s Jack Trudeau!  Oh, it’s Deano and Stark.  There they are!  Why aren’t I inside this fence?  I wish I had a few bucks to get in there.  I wonder how much it costs…

Years passed.  Names changed.  My bike changed, but the seat was still uncomfortable.  Regardless, I was still sitting there.  Several times a week…  right there at that fence…  Well, I’ll ride back by later and see what’s happening…  See you guys later.

Later turned out to be 16 years later.  I’m older now.  I drive a car.  I’m married and have three kids.  I now live in Cleveland, Ohio.  My parents still live in Anderson, Indiana, so coming to visit is really convenient for me.  Visit with the folks and see the Colts.  That’s great!

Last summer, my youngest child was 4 years old.  At that time, he was going through a phase. He loved sports more than anything else, and he wouldn’t wear clothes unless they had a team name, number, or some kind of ball on the front.  He wore a blue 63 shirt.  He kept asking, “Where am I?”  “Which one is me?”  I showed him Jeff Saturday.  He loved it.  My daughter wore a Peyton Manning shirt.  I showed her her player.  The oldest child was hot and wanted food and water.  We got some food and drinks near the end of the scrimmage.

The commish was there.  Mike Newton was a demon.  He was a ball hawk.  Oh, there he is, signing autographs…  As we walked away from the stands, I slowed down to see how big he was.  He’ll make the team.  Three interceptions…  Man, he’s good…  The Defense won.  They look good!  Another Super Bowl run is in order…

All of this was free.  I paid to park, but what is $10?  Not much!  It was when I was a kid.  Yet, I didn’t have to park a car back then.  I had a bike.  It was free.  All free…  all that time!  Why didn’t I ever just go in and sit down?  I don’t know.  I didn’t have the self-confidence to approach the gate I guess.  I didn’t want to ask and be turned away.  Sitting on the bike seat wasn’t comfortable.  But, at least I was there.

Someone just left.  A roster sheet is in the trash!  Is it wet yet?  Is it nasty?  Get it!  Who’s number 80?  Ah, yeah!  I know that name.

Memories.  They could have been better had I gone in.  But then, they wouldn’t be the same, would they?  It was free you know.  But, how could I know?  I was just a kid.  The fence was hot.  I remember that.  But I remember being there.  My blood ran blue, even back then…  Every victory was grand.  Every loss was deeply emotional.  The only thing that has changed is my age… and the fact that I drive to camp now.  The emotion and passion is still there.  My blood still runs blue.

In one week, I’ll be back in Anderson.  I’ll take my kids to Colts training camp.  Unlike me – 17 years ago – they’ll actually go in and sit down.  We’ll see the players up close.  We’ll get something to eat and drink and pump a few dollars into the local economy.  We’ll squint into the sun and see number 63 and number 18 and “can I get a pop?  I’m thirsty.”

“Oh… people will come Ray.  People will most definitely come.”

I’ll be one of them.  This time, I’ll go in!

Make your own memories in the next few weeks. Tell us all about them, please.