The town I grew up in is a small, rural town in southeast Minnesota. Being small and rural, the area of the town allocated for recreational use was scant. This was due in part to the small population of the town, but also, because it was a farming community, the land was more valuable to till than to turn into multiple ball fields. Each of the three grade schools (one Catholic, one Lutheran, and one Public) had a playground and there was a municipal park in the center of the town which held the high school, baseball, softball, and soccer/football fields. I always remember there being friction between the various teams. This friction wasn’t due to the cliquey nature of adolescence. It was due to the fact that there was a limited area of ground for each of them to practice on. The football team wanted the municipal field to be exclusively the football field. The soccer team wanted the municipal field to be exclusively the soccer field, and the baseball team wanted their outfield back.
One would assume that this friction between sporting entities due to scarcity of land would directly translate to a place like New York, a place where the land is more valuable to build upon than to leave to amateur recreation. I have found, however, that this is not necessarily the case. Each Thursday I play a pick-up game of soccer in East River Park. The area of the park we play on is large enough to have two baseball diamonds side-by-side. Within this area, simultaneously, there are two Little League baseball games, Little League baseball batting and fielding practice, a rugby club practice, an Ultimate Frisbee club practice, and our pick-up soccer game. Every once in a while a baseball will roll into our game, or someone will have to dodge an errant Frisbee, but generally each sport keeps to its section of the field and respects the other sports.
Much can be learned from this cooperative means of recreation. Each sport has its own rules and thus its own spatial boundaries. Lines don’t necessarily have to be drawn on the ground, and walls don’t necessarily need to be erected upon it. The quarantine of our urban recreational spaces to one sport equals one field is unnecessary as long as the rules are obeyed and mutual respect is present.
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