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Make a Splash

THE GRILL RUNS out of propane. The paperback page-turner runs out of pages. Summer runs out the way a centerfielder runs out of real estate—slowly at first, then all at once. Suddenly you've set foot in August, summer's warning track, the last 10 feet before the padded wall of fall.

So the Tigers are running out of time, the Mets are running out of offense, parents are running out of patience. The beer cooler at the liquor store is already making its cruel transition from Summer Ale to Harvest Pumpkin, in the same way that NFL training camps arrive to steal baseball's thunder.

But just because big league teams throw in the towel with the arrival of the trade deadline, you don't have to. There's still time to complete your summer bucket list, or rather your plastic-bucket-and-shovel list. If summer were a soccer game—and for much of this summer it was—we're only in the 61st minute.

Much has already been scratched off my seasonal to-do list. Witness Something I've Never Seen Before? At Target Field, Twins centerfielder Aaron Hicks turned his back to the plate and raced a deep fly ball by the Orioles' Chris Parmelee to the wall. Those of us in the crowd looked at Hicks, then up at the ball, then back to the sprinting Hicks with growing alarm. When the ball fell over his shoulder and into his glove, 23,000 people gasped, then applauded. Horror had pivoted to wonder, as if a passing pedestrian had just caught a baby fallen from a window.

Shoot Hoops in a High School Gym? Did that, with all the doors open on a tropically hot afternoon, the gym cooled by a single oscillating fan that barely stirred the ancient summer-gym miasma of pebble-grained leather, industrial floor polish and the concentrated B.O. of a dozen unlaundered pinnies. Someone ought to bottle this scent—Gymnasium, by Calvin Klein—and sell it as a potent means of time travel.

The best sports moment of the summer was not on my list, but spontaneous. At a bar in northern Minnesota, the bartender reluctantly agreed to put the Women's World Cup final on a single TV—the most decrepit of his dozen flat screens. "This one," he said of the best monitor, "is reserved for NASCAR." But another patron came in and asked for the match, and then several others, until one by one the various TVs were tuned to women's soccer, like a series of slot-machine windows slowly lighting up with the same icon, until it felt like a kind of jackpot was being won above and beyond the U.S. victory.

Attend a Concert in a Ballpark? Foo Fighters rattled the china at Fenway, Dave Grohl performing in centerfield with a bearded, goofball intensity I hadn't seen there since the days of Johnny Damon. The band's cover of Alice Cooper's "School's Out" was a reminder that soon school will be back in, and we should seize the shortening days with Phineas and Ferb--like fervor.

So I've managed to Buy a Hammock but not yet Eat Nachos From a Batting Helmet. I finally did Oblige a Crowd of Children Chanting Can-non-ball! (Making a large splash in a pool is the rare athletic skill that actually improves in middle age, and is undiminished even by death.) But I have not yet fulfilled my promise to Buy Ice Cream From an Ice Cream Truck. (If not, I can't look my children in the eye again, or meet the cold, black, gumball gaze of SpongeBob Square Pants on a stick.)

I did Take My Very Tall Daughters to the WNBA All-Star Game, where they were duly inspired, and to which they now aspire—both words from the Latin root inspirare, "to breathe into," something I did all summer long, breathing life into beach balls, pool toys and bubble wands.

The last item on the list, and annually the last to be completed, is Watch a Drive-in Movie from the Hood of a Minivan, a feat usually accomplished just under the wire, at the end of August, at the end of America, near the tip of Cape Cod. Weeks later, when the leaves are turning, I'll deploy the windshield wipers and watch them toss up from their hiding place a few yellow pieces of drive-in popcorn. And somewhere, stuck in traffic, it will be summer again, a few minutes of stoppage time tacked on in September.

Just because big league teams throw in the towel with the trade deadline, you don't have to. If summer were a soccer game, we're still only in the 61st minute.

What's on your plastic-bucket-and-shovel list?

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