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Sport and Recreation Out In The Open

( Originally Published 1906 )

MY other ab-recreation, side-recreation, is lawn tennis. For this, also, as well as the bicycle, perfection has been claimed, in that it exercises equally and moderately all portions of the body-. But, as I have said, there is no perfect game. Conversation, which is a possible joy of walking, is banished from lawn tennis, as from the bicycle ; for you can hardly call conversation such beggarly elements as " Serve," " Ready," " You receive," " Out," and "Thirty all." Nor does tennis unroll before you a fair panorama of ever-varying scenes ; it is a stationary game. Nor is tennis, either, a recreation independent of circumstances. You must have a friend, or, better, three of them. Lines must be maintained against the rain, court be rolled or cut, nets repaired, a racket kept well strung; and lawn tennis, like cycling, is at the mercy of the clouds.

Yet, season and circumstances favoring, the game deserves its origin ; it is a royal sport.

It maintains one's interest unflagging, it calls for ever-increasing skill, it has possibilities of infinite variety and surprises, it finds place for the greatest strength and agility, and can be played with equal zest by the weak and clumsy. It is a social and jovial game. It develops gracefulness and pleasing courtesy, and is a valuable accession to the equipment of any man or woman.

Those are my own favorite outdoor sports : walking, running, cycling, and tennis. But in naming these as samples of what I mean by a rational physical amusement, I exhaust the list precisely as little as I would exhaust the list of eatables by naming my favorite dishes. There are scores of valuable recreations I have not even tasted, and those I have suggested, though probably the most useful and adaptable of all, might for many persons be far from the best.

There is our national game, which, though the nation need not be exceedingly proud of it, is a good and healthy sport, if you play it and do not merely look on, and if you play it and do not change it into a profession. There is football, manly and vigorous, a matchless school for the temper, and an incomparable drill in disciplined activity. There is the little known lacrosse, less rude and violent, but requiring more skill and dexterous strength than either. There are cricket and boating ; there are archery, and fishing, and skating, and bowling, and riding on horseback ; and there are innumerable lesser sports, like throwing of quoits, old-time croquet, the mild-mannered bean-bag, and the countless school games, hare and hounds, wolf, and so on, ad 'infinitum. I have a catholic mind for all of these. I enjoy watching them zealously played, and so will any lover of hearty humanity. Choose out from the host of them two or three, and devote yourself to these, that your skill may become a pleasure and an assurance of zest and pride. Having chosen these two or three, suited to your age, employment, tastes, and fancied dignity, put yourself on the best of terms with them, and use them through all your busy life as ministers of health and vigor and good cheer.

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