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Peter Pan: The Impish and Playful Athlete

PeterPan_DougLiles1We rarely think about animated characters as athletes. Despite the fact that the denizens of cellulose plates can do about anything, any good sports writer will attempt to ground us in the world where gravity and muscle are serious constraints.

Have you ever considered that Peter Pan is one heck of a sword fighter?

I’ve always been amazed at the speed of an Olympic fencing bout. Epeé vs epeé, foil vs foil, Peter Pan clearly has them licked, considering he’s whipping his tiny little dagger against Captain Hook’s mighty cutlass.

I was curious about the talents it takes to emulate our beloved cartoon character, so I put my skills to an informal test with a handy little Nerf tanto knife against my son who wielded a mighty Nerf broadsword. In my feeble attempt to match the hand-eye coordination of Peter Pan, I can only say that the belt it took across my coiffed noggin concluded the experiment!

The appeal of Peter Pan goes beyond the fantastic ability, however: it’s his sense of play. He seems to enjoy what would be a terrifying battle just as my son did as he gave me a good whack with a foam sword.

It made me ponder, why are we so SERIOUS about sports? In every sport we think about the PLAY, but often the business of sport can become more important than the fun in it.

I have a friend that’s seriously gone in deep into the Society for Creative Anachronism. For those not in the know, these individuals take on the roles of combatants from the Middle Ages and Renaissance Periods. I always thought these were jolly folk who liked to dress up, speak in Shakespearian access and imbibe in copious amounts of mead and cider. I was shocked to find out that participants consider it to be a team sport — as they battle it out with 10,000 other “friends” at events such as the Pennsic War. I’ve seen the bruises. They’re every bit as real as those you’ll seen in the Super Bowl.

What is it about we dads who take our hard earned pay and drag the family in a minivan or RV to live out our man-child fantasies in front of smirking wives and chanting children on the fields of paintball, old guy soccer, oddball motorsports and every other kind of cantankerous, indulgent competitions on any given weekend?

PeterPan(dougliles)Simply said, the child inside the man craves play. Leaping, scoring, wagering, frolicking and myriad other 7th grade English-class descriptors are conjured as we long to relive our bygone youth. What is it inside of us that yearns for that unfettered, unconstrained joy that comes from games played in idle time? Is it the creativity of the human spirit that Walt Disney himself always sought to embody in his classic movies?

When I think of Peter Pan, his athletic talent and his playful spirit, I can’t help think of players like Dennis Rodman. I’ve come to admire Rodman in an odd way. His antics at times invoke the aura of a man-child; a man without a plan, making it up as it goes, just like Peter Pan, who also happens to have an enviable skill. Point is, there’s nothing wrong with a modern day basketball court jester. Sports maybe don’t have to be quite so serious. I welcome the playful aspect of “playing” and a Peter Pan aspect on the court, or on the field. Have some fun, will you, the next time you play!

Peter Pan is available in a new Diamond Edition at the Disney Store.

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