Americans, welcome to Memorial Day weekend, the ultimate weekend to condition for the Fourth of July.
After you're finished chowing down on your burgers and done watching your home team do work on the diamond, you might come to realize that this weekend is the best time to partake in one of America's greatest pastimes: backyard sports.
This great nation has seen thousands of different games and sports played on its soil, but none are more enjoyable than the ones played with your friends and family.
So, when you're enjoying your long weekend and want to soak up the sun, take an hour or two (or even six) and enjoy one of these five backyard games that are guaranteed to make your Memorial Day weekend a great memory.
Do you know what's more American than baseball?
Playing baseball with a piece of plastic that curves, dips, rises and makes small children cry.
If you have never played with a wiffle ball, let me be the first to tell you, it might be the greatest plastic invention since Tupperware. The ball has dozens of different pitches; it all depends how you grip it and throw it.
And while striking your friends out and making them look like Adam Dunn in 2011 is a blast, the best part of wiffle ball is the rule making.
You want to use only two bases? Fine.
You want your strike zone to be a trash can behind the batter? Perfect.
You want to use a 3-2 count instead of a 4-3 count? Done.
As long as it's your yard, you are the commissioner and rule maker of every game. Just try not to issue too many suspensions.
Don't have enough room to host a full fledged baseball game?
No problem. All you need is two bases and three people.
If you have never played pickle, odds are you have at least seen it while watching the classic movie Sandlot.
If you have never seen Sandlot, stop reading this article immediately and rent it, download it or get some kids to act it out for you, because that might as well be the greatest piece of entertainment in the history of the world.
The fact that it never won an Academy Award, let alone 10, is nothing short of a crime.
Anyway, pickle is pretty much the easiest game to teach and play. Here are the ground rules for a basic game:
You have two bases, and two "throwers." Anyone who is not a thrower is a "runner," and they try to run base to base without getting tagged by the throwers.
And, of course, you can add any other ground rule you would like. For example, throwing an extra base in the mix, having another ball in play or anything else you can think of.
Just one piece of advice: use a tennis ball or anything of the sort that won't cause a fist-sized bruise if a runner gets hit. You'll thank me later for that.
Basketball and hockey are both in the postseason and baseball is well into the year, but I know that millions of fans are just itching for football to be making its fall comeback.
And hey, who says it can't make a comeback this weekend?
Even though the leaves may still be green and the weather suggests a diving board rather than a diving catch, it is still a great weekend to round up the troops and get a game going.
You could make the games interesting by throwing in some wagers, like the losing team grills the food or forks up money for the postgame beverage run.
Or, you could make it really interesting by having the winning team get the first set of picks in your fantasy draft.
Then again, that might be putting too much on the line.
I'm fortunate enough to be in a family where we all get along, but when we decide to play this game, #$%& gets real.
Capture the flag is perfect for every type of person in the group: the runner, the strategist, the defender and especially the sneaky.
For this game, you don't need much, just a common target and enough room to run around. The list of rules can be long, but once the game starts it's fairly simple to grasp.
Each team hides a common object, known as the "flag," on their side.
The objective is to get to the other team's side, snatch their flag and run it to your side. If you are tagged in enemy territory, you are sent to a base and the feeling of being sent there resembles the feeling of being sent to prison—I'm assuming.
Once someone heads over to the enemy base and tags you, you are free to resume your hunt for the flag.
It's a fun game, but it takes smarts, speed and discipline to win, making it the ultimate team backyard sport.
The last four games I shared all have one thing in common: running.
Well, what if you want to enjoy your weekend and just throw back some cold ones?
Give your shoulder a workout by not only repeating the beer-to-mouth motion, but also catch some sun and play a toss game or two.
Now, if I had ten dollars for every "toss" game out in the world, I would maybe have enough money to pay for a Jonathan Vilma bounty. Maybe.
Odds are you've seen them at tailgates, graduation parties (25-1 record at grad parties, excuse my gloating) or any get-together in the heat that has a chill atmosphere.
Whether it's washer toss, bag toss, horseshoes or any game that uses that lazy, yet methodical underhand motion, it's a good summertime game to play.
And even if you don't have the cash to buy a bag toss set or anything of the sort, a good alternative is setting two coffee cans in the ground and have the throwers try to send washers into the cans. The more creative, the better.
Hope you have the chance and the weather to get outside and enjoy some quality time outside.
No matter what you do this Memorial Day weekend, just be sure to have a great time and remember to be thankful for the men and women who have served our nation.