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Thinking back on my days in Colorado, the thing that stands out in my mind is that I was very happy growing up, and I figure I owe a lot of people a lot of things. I was lucky to have gone to a school where I had good teachers. I was lucky to be among superior people when I was in college. I was lucky in athletics to have good coaches who had some sense about sports and what they mean. I was lucky to have fellows and teammates I played with that I liked; no one ever got anywhere in football or basketball or baseball by himself. I was lucky to have professors in college and law school whom I admired very much. I was lucky later in Denver to be working with lawyers of extraordinary talent; and not only did they have talent, they were successful. I had the good fortune to be in Colorado when the Kennedys were looking for someone to work with them.
Of course I realize that my son will grow up in a much different way than I did, but I don't think that makes any great difference. I don't see that there's any particular advantage in having spent your time at physical labor as a boy when spending your time in some other useful way can contribute to your development just as much. There are as many opportunities to work hard today as there ever were. It might even be harder to grow up today than it was a generation ago. It seems to me that there is not the open society that there was then, and it's harder to bust out of the structure than it was in those days.
Digging into the ground with your hands is not essential to a useful life. I had a very good time doing it, and I look back on it with some fondness. But I'm sure it was no more rewarding or valuable than a lot of other things a boy can do. Growing up the way I did is just simpler and more uncomplicated than growing up in a city.
The fundamental reason for playing competitive sports is to get some experience. Sports constantly make demands on the participant for top performance, and they develop integrity, self-reliance and initiative. They teach you a lot about working in groups without being unduly submerged in the group.
Probably the best reason for taking part in contact sports is that you like them. Some people who are incipiently insecure have built themselves into pretty admirable people through the confidence they've gained from competing in contact sports, however. It has given them the shot in the arm they needed, and they've carried it on into other activities.
But there are many ways to get the same kind of experience. Dramatics, for instance, or music; or working on the school paper, which is certainly competitive and has that aspect of performing before the public.
The main point is getting some experience. The experienced people are better than the inexperienced. Think how it is in that tennis game or in that race or whatever it is. When the whistle blows you have only a limited amount of time to do what you have to do. You either do it then or you don't do it at all.