A fine, sporting day on the National Mall

Sep 25, 2012 By Craig Blumenshine, Staff Writer

Sunday was a wonderful day and a pretty good sports day too, albeit in a slightly less than conventional way.

On a train, heading to and from our National Mall in Washington, D.C., the day began and ended with two sports fans, one a ninth-grader, the other a 9-year old. And a spectacular day was sandwiched in between.

The ninth-grader was on his way to meet his dad at a Washington Redskins football game, full of anticipation of seeing Robert Griffin III, the rookie quarterback. My young friend was a huge sports fan and a football player himself -- a cornerback on his freshman football team.

He described his summer football camps in Virginia and was wearing his Redskins hat, covered with autographs. He hoped, by the time he was a junior or senior, that he could make his varsity football team.

What was striking is that there was no guarantee that there would be a slot for him. He knew that he was going to have to earn it.

That's very different from our local high school teams, where just about anyone can participate in varsity sports, and playing seems more like an entitlement, rather than something to be earned.

But this kid was sharp. He knew the game and was a fantasy football expert. After figuring out that I was a Denver fan, he asked me what I thought of Peyton Manning, whether I thought the 6-foot 7 Brock Osweiler was an adequate backup, and if the Broncos would have really put him in to throw the Hail Mary at the end of their game against the Falcons.

This kid knew his stuff. He sees himself studying math or science in college. It was refreshing to visit with such a confident young person.

During the middle of my day, coming onto the National Mall at the Smithsonian Metro stop smack in the middle of the National Book Festival, I began my four-mile, round-trip walk to the Lincoln Memorial to then to the Capitol under the bluest, sunniest, non-smokiest skies I had seen in quite a while.

Filled with national pride, there were runners, cyclists and walkers from all over the world enjoying our powerfully symbolic American memorials.

And there were groups of primarily young adults, although not all that young in many instances, playing sports games on the National Mall.

In order, the games that seemed to be most popular this day were Ultimate Frisbee, kickball and football, in that order. Serious games of Ultimate were played near the Korean War Veterans Memorial. It's a football-like game played with a Frisbee disc.

Games of a more recreational nature were also ongoing. Most surprising to me were the games of kickball. We called it kickball baseball, and those games had organized near the Washington Monument.

Also near the Washington Monument were games of co-ed touch football. One of the quarterbacks, a college-aged girl, had an arm that was surprisingly strong and accurate.

All of these events seemed to be loosely organized and normal. No refs, just recreation. People were outside enjoying their friends and the day. Nothing fancy, just a ball or a disc was needed.

On the way back on the Blue Line, my other young friend and his dad described their day at the Washington Nationals game. The family lives in Richmond, Va., according to Dad, and tries to get to a couple of games each year. Earlier this year, they had seen Washington play before rookie phenom Bryce Harper had made his Major League debut, and the young fan in the Nationals hat wanted to see his new idol play.

Mission accomplished.

It is good to be a sports fan. And it is great to be an American.

Have a great sports week. Go Big Red!

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