Memories of a sports writer

I’m often asked (OK, once in a great while),what kind of athlete I was when I was a kid.

When you write about sports, thus insinuating that you know a lot about sports, people can be taken aback.

When I’m asked about my past exploits in sports, it usually goes something like this: “Lutz, you think you’re an expert. What did you ever do in sports, ya bum?”

Well, I was far from being a standout. I played a lot of baseball and basketball as a kid and I made a lot of baseball All-Star teams. I was a pretty good pitcher/infielder as a kid, but eventually just a pitcher. I was a good enough hitter, though, to bat in the middle of the lineup of most of my youth teams. I hit some balls out of the park, though not many.

I pitched in high school at Derby and had a pretty good senior season. I shut out Campus, 5-0. I often tell people that’s the highlight of my high school athletic career. It’s not the best highlight in the world, but at least it’s a highlight.

I learned to shoot a basketball from a young age and because of the many, many, many hours I spent in my backyard shooting a basketball. My dad put up a makeshift goal and I would pound the basketball on the grass until there was no grass. The hard dirt provided a good surface.

Trouble is, I never bothered to play much defense. I blame my friend Doug Baber for that. We often played two-on-two games together and Baber was a relentless defender. He loved playing defense; actually got something out of it. I never understood but I was more than willing to let him do the dirty work as long as he fed me the basketball for most of the shots.

He went on to have a solid high school basketball career because of his willingness to play hard and defend. Meanwhile, I rarely played because of my unwillingness to play hard and defend. Funny how that works.

But I was always a decent pick-up basketball player after high school because I could shoot. And there are no coaches for pick-up teams, so nobody was screaming and yelling at me because of my porous defense, although I’m sure my teammates wanted to.

I didn’t play much football. I went out for the junior high team in eighth or ninth grade and they stuck me on the line to block people. I quickly decided that was no fun, so I quit. I hate it now that I quit because I don’t believe in quitting. But I quit then. I was a quitter. It’s painful to admit such a fallacy, but I think it’s important to express my somewhat weak nature during my junior high (they call it middle school now) days.

Bowling was fun. I joined a league when I was in grade school and we competed at Derby Bowl every Saturday morning for a while. I kind of got the hang of it and was pretty good.

I never played golf as a kid and only dabbled in tennis. I didn’t start golfing until several years after high school and always wished I would have started earlier.

Tennis wasn’t my thing, but ping pong was. I could beat all of my friends and actually entered an intramural tournament at Wichita State when I was in college. I advanced pretty far, as I recall. For some reason, I was always good at putting spin on the ping-pong ball. Who knew?

I was never much for the winter sports because, well, who wants to go outdoors in the winter? I didn’t hunt or fish as a kid. I played baseball, basketball and some football. But it was mainly baseball and basketball and I can’t even imagine the amount of hours I spent playing, watching and being interested in those sports.

I loathed running, so track and field wasn’t my thing. I couldn’t jump very high or run very fast. And my motto has always been: If you can’t do something well, why do it? It’s taken me far in life.

So, next time you want to ask me what I did to make me think I’m some kind of sports guru, remember this blog. Because this is what I did. Exciting stuff.