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The Zak Zone

June 20, 2012

LeBron James has proclaimed him-self “King James,” and of late, he has often lived up to the nickname, despite drawing the criticism of — well, of everyone — for his inability to “come through in the clutch.”

Rumor has it, LeBron even has “King James” written on his bicycle — proof positive that sometimes, these celebrities do remember how to be kids.

But the long and the short of it all is that, whether you're King James making millions of dollars each year to play the game you've been blessed with the talent to dominate or you're Joe Plumber playing in your church softball league, everybody wants to be king.

A favorite show of mine has long been First Take — a sports-themed talk show on ESPN2 that covers the hottest topics of the day's sports news – and one of the segments I always enjoyed, though I haven't seen it recently, is one they called, “King of the Weekend.”

Power switches hands quickly in the sports world, and long-term dominance is rare, but just to be crowned King of the Weekend showed that an athlete had achieved his/her 15 minutes of fame.

It gave these athletes their “back in my glory days” story to tell their grandchildren.

If they still did that segment, and I knew how to submit a nomination, I would have nominated myself for last weekend's King of the Weekend.

After a peaceful morning of taking pictures at the Little League fields — 14 team pictures to be exact — and enjoying a day of baseball without having to keep score or write a story immediately afterward, I was scheduled to make an appearance at my aunt and uncle's house for a party in honor of their British guests — my aunt's cousin Teresa and husband Chris.

In what has become a bit of a family tradition, any party hosted at my aunt and uncle's house always features a kickball game, where the cousins are captains and select teams.

This party was no different, and with the teams divvied up — and myself going in the second round — my team took the field for the top of the first inning.

If there were any other sports writers present, they surely would have spoken of my dazzling curveball and my sneaky change-up as I baffled the other team's kickers and kept them in check to throw three shutout innings.

And while I was demoted to the last kicking spot, as is customary of the starting pitcher, I still managed to reach base my fair share of times and turn over the top of the lineup.

That stat line in and of itself should have been enough to at least put me in consideration for King of the Diamond that evening, but I definitely had some solid competition that day, too.

From “King Edward” and his taunting ways (despite a strikeout in the first inning) to the Vandervort family's four-strong performance with Bill, Debi, Zach and Anna tearing up the field; From Uncle John's still-deceptive speed to Aunt Tania's supportive nature for the kids playing; from Prince Jacob's slugging performance at the plate to his mother's solid fielding at shortstop, there were plenty of nominees for the game's top player.

And who could forget Chris's Brittish foot slamming ball after ball into the weeds, cousin Ricky's go-or-go- home intensity, team captains Jacob and Andy's solid defense and leadership and the Carpin family's solid team efforts, despite joining the game in the middle of the first inning.

I sure hope I'm not forgetting anyone, but the stands were also filled with players of the olden days, as Papa John watched from the sidelines after being banned from competition for playing too hard last year and injuring himself.

All-in-all, there were many possibilities for the King of the Diamond, but in the also-traditional game of bocce ball that followed, I convinced them that I had cemented my place as King of the Weekend by throwing the game-winning point.

The trouble is, it was probably one of my worse throws on the evening, and it barely rolled within the distance required to give our team three points and just draw nearer than our closest opponent's ball, but by the nature of it, it was still a game-winner!

Although I'll never be crowned king as King James may finally pull off in tonight's Game 5 of the NBA playoffs — even though that crowning will still put him several shy of his goal of being among the greats like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant — for one day, we were all kings, or queens.

Throwing off inhibitions that tell us, “Kickball is a kid's game,” and tying our shoes to take the kickball field in and of itself freed us to be royalty for a day.

Just as when we were kids ourselves, we often fantasized about being royalty, bringing out the kid in us allowed us to experience the feelings we had when we were kids.

Talking with some others about our semi-regular kickball games, they often say something along the lines of, “I haven't played that game since I was a kid! That sounds so much fun.”

So often, we forget that the joys that keep us going as children, the playtime that got us through the long hours of school or doing our chores, are so easy to reach back and grab.

All it took at the party was a kickball, a few other folks to play, a couple hockey sticks and a lawn chair for bases and a willing spirit to relive a taste of those glory days.

Maybe it means pulling out that dusty old glove and throwing the ball around the yard with your kids or grandkids, or maybe it's time to go to the local store and buy yourself a Frisbee to toss around the yard.

Maybe it's as simple as heading back that old dirt path at your parents' farmhouse where you used to imagine fighting off dragons and dinosaurs, or perhaps it's a matter of tying up the sneakers and shooting a few hoops on the now-rusty, old basketball hoop fastened to the side of your garage.

Whatever it is, I say, “Free yourself to do it.” By the time you're done, you just may be ready to call up ESPN2 and let them know you have a nomination for the next King of the Weekend.

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