Karl Lindholm: Celebrating my reverse bucket list

I was able to check off one of the items on my Sports Bucket List this summer:
I played golf on the Poland Spring Golf Course in Maine with my close childhood friend Johnny Mauro, whom I hadn’t seen in years — and with Gary and Bill who I last saw in high school long ago.
“That’s it?” I can hear you saying to yourself. “Golf in Maine with old buddies? What’s so special about that?”
I worked on that golf course at the grand Poland Spring Hotel for eight years growing up, from age 13 to 20. As a caddy, a counselor at the Caddy Camp, and as a golfer, I walked the course hundreds of times. I know every inch.
The hotel burned down in 1975, but the golf course remains — and the memories of that time and place and people linger. It’s hallowed ground.
I didn’t realize it was on my Bucket List until the round was over and I was contentedly home. A beautiful July day, time with friends, lovely setting, exercise, those memories — that’s pretty good, Bucket List-worthy, after the fact.
As a young man in my twenties, I fantasized that I was an international sportsman, fabulously wealthy, jetting about the world from one major sporting event to another, learning languages, meeting fascinating people, and experiencing cultures: the Olympics, World Cup matches, British Open, World Series. I would be “the world’s most interesting man,” like the guy in the beer commercials.
Reality of course intrudes.
Bucket List is the cliché du jour. Everyone of a certain age, mine, is supposed to have one. Mine is a very modest one. We Yankees don’t overreach.
I’m not entirely sure I need a Bucket List. I’ve already had way more than my share of wonderful, extraordinary sports experiences. So I’m developing something I’m calling my “Reverse” Bucket List. Instead of looking forward in time, I’m going back.
Here are some of the experiences on it:
•  Playing catch with my dad, night after night in the yard in Maine as a boy. Some nights friends came by and my dad played “pepper” with us, hitting grounders and flies.
Baseball was everything in those days and I developed an obsessive interest in the game, as did many of my friends, an interest that would endure and deepen over time with me.
•  Hitting a home run in a high school baseball game, the ball clearing the fence in left field at the Lewiston Athletic Park, bouncing off the back wall of the Armory, the building behind the fence, about halfway up.
Old Mr. Whittingham who came to all our games told me that he hadn’t seen anyone hit a ball that high off the Armory since Bobby Flynn routinely hit them there. This put me on Cloud Nine as Bobby was our coach, a Lewiston boy like me, and had played five years of pro baseball in the Pirate system.
•  Playing basketball in college at Middlebury with Gerry Alaimo as our coach. I wasn’t a good player, nor were many of us — we won very few games, but Gerry never conceded to our inabilities. He worked us hard, taught us the game, took us seriously, and got from us the best we had.
This basketball education served me well for decades after I finished at Middlebury as I held my own in pick-up games and adult men’s leagues into my 40s. I found little in life that gave me more joy on an ongoing basis.
•  Riding in the launch of my daughter’s rowing coach at Harvard, just me and the coach, on the Charles River on a crisp spring afternoon’s practice, listening to her instructions to her charges on the fine techniques of their sport.
I was able to see my daughter Jane’s strength and concentrated effort, and come to understand the essence of teamwork that is crew, eight individuals in a narrow boat hoping to achieve the synchronicity that will propel them past their competitors.   ONE OF THE columnist’s sporting highlights was watching his daughter Jane pull with the Harvard crew team while travelling alongside in a boat on the Charles River.
•  Watching a Middlebury College NESCAC soccer tournament game on the South Street pitch, a game in which my son David was inserted in the goal at the half with the Panthers down 2-0 to Tufts. Almost immediately, Tufts struck again and took an apparently insurmountable lead.
Middlebury persisted and miraculously scored three goals in the final 16 minutes, and then another at the beginning of overtime. David played brilliantly. Jubilation.
•  Driving to Salem, Va., with Gary, my roommate and teammate in college and lifelong friend, in March of 2011 to attend the NCAA Division III Basketball Championship. We watched the 28-1 Middlebury Men’s team play in the Final Four, alas losing to eventual national champion St. Thomas (Minn.) by a single basket:
A great road trip!
•  Watching on TV, in Cornwall with my wife Brett, Game Four of the Red Sox- Yankees American League Championship Series in 2004, when the Sox reversed “the Curse of Jackie Robinson” (Dave Roberts’ steal, Bill Mueller’s single, David Ortiz’s homer).
It was a sports experience in marked contrast to my late night viewing in 1986 of the ball skittering through Bill Buckner’s legs, by myself in East Middlebury. Redemption.
These are only a few of the experiences on my Sports Bucket List. I have many more, and my List will continue to expand, as sports remain a joyful part of my life.
My Bucket runneth over.    KARL LINDHOLM’S OLDER son, David, was inserted in the goal during Middlebury College NESCAC soccer tournament game and played brilliantly.

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