McHenry County Opinion

Oliver: Attempting to play game of catch leads to not-so-startling discovery

“And you know that you’re over the hill / When your mind makes a promise that your body can’t fill.” – “Old Folks Boogie” by Little Feat

Childhood for me was a series of outdoor adventures, mostly because my family lived outside of town and my playmate was my younger brother, Joe.

Our home had farm fields behind it and farm fields across the street. This was before the area became built up, replacing the rows and rows of corn or soybeans with rows and rows of rooftops.

Joe and I would create games that usually required throwing a ball, kicking a ball or just running around. We’d also bike for miles along our country road.

I was a tomboy. I had no problem getting dirty or climbing trees or keeping up with my brother and his friend who lived down the street. We’d tool around in his friend Eric’s golf cart or ride minibikes or play any number of sports.

In junior high, I went out for just about every sport I could. Granted, as a tiny thing and hampered by nearsightedness, I discovered that softball, track and volleyball probably weren’t the sports for me.

Basketball, however, was something I did well enough to be a starter. I still chuckle about that. I couldn’t shoot the ball to save myself, but I could run up and down the court and was a pesky defender.

My strong competitive nature probably helped. My brother and I competed in everything. Who could run the fastest? Who could pitch the best? Who could throw the farthest?

Perhaps that’s also why, despite my being more nerd than an athlete, I wasn’t picked last in gym class. Well, only when the one doing the choosing was a boy. The boys knew I always played to win and never ducked when a ball came near me.

By high school, academic pursuits took over. Still, I was always up for a game. That also came in handy in college when there were pickup games or beach volleyball matches.

Becoming an aunt when I was 10 years old also guaranteed that I’d be trying to play catch and run around with my nieces and nephews for years to come.

Recently, my 5-year-old friend, Linus, wanted to play catch. Tony and I were over at his family’s house for dinner, and it seemed only natural that I would throw a ball around with my young friend.

It never occurred to me that I’m old enough to be his grandmother. What I also failed to remember is that I haven’t exactly been the picture of athleticism in recent years. Active, yes. Athletic, no.

Still, how hard could it be to play catch with a 5-year-old?

Everything started out well. The ball we were using was about the size of a soccer ball but softer. Linus hasn’t quite nailed down his hand-eye coordination, so his throws were a bit wild at times.

He decided to change the rules of our game. Now we were supposed to use our arms to form a basketball-type hoop to throw the ball through.

So far, so good. I could do that. In my later years, I became pretty good at making free throws.

Then Linus let one sail just over my head and to the right. All I could think to do was go up for it, wide receiver-style.

I felt my hand hit the ball and catch it. Now I just had to land on my feet.

Sadly, the next thing I knew I was down in the grass. Rats.

Those of us of a certain age know that getting up can be the hardest part. Popping back up like we did in our youth just isn’t possible. I did some strategizing to figure out how to get back onto my feet.

Happily, nothing was broken, and the only thing injured was my pride for about a millisecond. Mostly, I just had to laugh. Davante Adams of the Las Vegas Raiders I am not.

And it was a good reminder that my mind, at least where sports are concerned, is going to be writing checks that my body can’t cash.

Lesson learned.

Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

Joan Oliver

Joan Oliver

A 30-year newspaper veteran who has been a copy editor, front-page editor, presentation editor, assistant news editor and publication editor, as well as a columnist and host of an online newspaper newscast.