Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010
1:01 PM

By Joe Collins

Garage sales are hotbeds for unintentional comedy. You never know what to expect when you start digging in boxes from yesteryear. I mean, just seeing any Andy Gibb vinyl LP, or a spider web-dominated Tinkertoy collection or any Ron Karkovice baseball card wrapped in torn-out pages from an old Sears catalog is enough to produce bizarre, incredulous laughter that can only be seen by watching, say, Ernest Goes To Camp. Youre not only laughing with, youre laughing at.

"Ha! A box of VHS home videos! I should be working but I want to see that birthday party from 1986!"

"People are seriously going to by this for 50 cents?"

" I really want all of these strangers in my garage anyway? Why am I doing all this work?"

And of course, the garage sale itself looks like the set of Hoarders and the clientele usually resembles something out of a Revenge Of The Nerds casting call. And thats on a good day. I helped my Mom out with a garage sale this past weekend and came across all of the above in a span of 48 hours. Good way to spend part of a vacation, eh?

I also came across an old wallet with a 1954 calendar in itand the picture seen here. Its my Dad shooting hoops on his driveway. Im not sure why (or how) the old wallet ended up in my Moms garage in Tinley Park--next to some old cans of Pennzoil--but it was fun to reminisce a bit, sitting on a frayed lawn chair near my Dad's old garage workbench.


His life revolved around the game of basketball. Ate it. Slept it. Breathed it. He played in grade school, high school and college and then passed the eagerness and zeal of the game to me. I grew up in the 80s, just as the Chicago Bulls were growing up around Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. My bedtime was usually around 9pm-- you know, just as those Bulls-Pistons games were about to break out into bedlam. He would always tape the final score, along with Jordan's point total, on my mirror so that it was the first thing I saw when I woke up the next morning. Talk about a great way to start the day, you know? Especially if Jordan racked up 50 points and the Bulls won at the buzzer.

We all have reasons why we do the things we do-- why we work at certain jobs, why we marry this person instead of that person, why we eat burritos instead of rice cakes, why we watch Die Hard instead of Steel Magnolias (or vice versa), and so on and so forth. But when I looked at that "Hoosiers-era" picture of my Dad playing basketball, I was reminded why I love sports. It's the safe harbor when life gets a little uneasy. It's about the love of the game, the passion of competition. It's about the agony of not bunting the runner over to second and the joy of a Hail Mary touchdown in the closing seconds. Sports is about taking your mind off the guy that cut you off during rush hour or the boss that yelled at you during a conference call-- even if the joy is temporary and a momentary diversion.

I lost my Dad a year ago this October. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) took him way too soon and I never really got the chance to say a final farewell. But one thing I will always remember about him is that, even in his final days, his joy for the game of basketball --and for sports in general-- never waned. Not one bit. Even towards the end, it was fun to watch him cheer a Bears touchdown or whine about why the Bulls couldn't hit their free throws down the stretch:

"When I was playing, our coach would always end the practice with a half hour of free throws!"

You get the idea.

Even though athletes have become folk heroes and cult objects, thanks to multiple spotlights and ridiculous salaries, the passion for sports never dies out for some people. It's wonderful to think that, at its core, the simplicities of sports can still matter. And the spirit of it all never grows old.

And best of all, it can make a garage sale go a lot faster.


Or something like that.