Life

Sideline soliloquy

Fourth of July is one holiday without a sport

Holidays mean a lot of things to a lot of people.

For me, they usually have a sport attached to them.

Father’s Day has golf with the U.S. Open.

The Indianapolis 500 is run on Memorial Day.

Christmas has five NBA games on.

New Year’s Day is synonymous with college football.

Of course the Super Bowl is a holiday in itself even though it is not on a recognized holiday.

Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday because of football. My favorite professional team is the Dallas Cowboys, who always play on the fourth Thanksgiving in November.

When I was a kid, Thanksgiving meant I got to play football. Every Thanksgiving of my childhood we drove from West Burlington to Kalona to visit my grandparents on my dad‘s side of the family. It didn’t matter the weather, after eating, my cousins Ken and Mike Bender, Kent and Jane Helgens, Julia and Merlin Miller would play football in my grandparents’ side yard regardless of how much snow was on the ground.

Holidays often mean getting together with family.

As we stare into the hot abyss of the middle of summer, sports are in a dead period.

To me, the Fourth of July doesn’t have a tradition of a sporting event.

Independence Day itself is the king of ESPN’s alternative programming — The Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.

I have never understood this annual exercise in gluttony.

ESPN had a 30 for 30 special about Nathan’s, trying to promote it as a sport. I love the 30 for 30 series. I couldn’t watch all of this one.

Watching people stuff themselves with hot dogs is not my thing, especially since every day I struggle to lose weight, hoping to shed a few pounds here and there.

The Fourth was more of a camping experience with my immediate family when I was younger, usually fishing at Lake Geode State Park, which currently doesn’t even have a lake.

Granted, Wimbledon is currently going on but it doesn’t have the same pull until the semifinals and final.

The Fourth was more of a time about spending with friends. Community events are always happening in the summer.

As a kid, I spent a lot of time strategizing on how to obtain fireworks, which were illegal at the time in Iowa, like sneaking over to the special tent at a gas station when the parents stopped for fuel on a trip to Missouri. Once I had the driver’s license, it was fun to gather money for the trip to Missouri to purchase some spleen splitters, whisker biscuits, honkey lighters, hoosker doos, hoosker don’ts, cherry bombs, nipsey daisers with or without the scooter stick or a whistling kitty chaser. (Some of you may recognize those from a scene in the movie Joe Dirt.)

I remember having bottle rocket wars with two or three of us on each side of a creek shooting them at each other. I remember how fun it was to shoot a bottle rocket into the river and hearing them pop underwater.

Now I’m thankful for the fact that I made it through those years without getting hurt, burnt or losing a body part. Even though fireworks are now legal for me in Iowa, I’m leaving it to the professionals. I had my fun,

Independence Day screams small town with a watering hole and meeting at the town square.

The great thing about towns like these is that everyone knows everyone and there is always a more intimate and personal atmosphere to proceedings.

In my opinion, the Fourth of July is one of the legitimately great holidays we have because it is about more than family, it is one that includes friends in how we have come to celebrate it.

This holiday is about being with those who make up our small town, those with whom we can share stories, play our own sports instead of watching them, eat way fewer hot dogs and more barbecue and celebrate our nation’s independence.