Posts Tagged ‘sports’

Three Tries

1 October 2010

Dear J-

These are tough days to write: after a full day of work and another three hours of class the last thing I feel like doing is engaging my brain. There’s a lot to talk about: sports-wise, the Padres need to win four in a row to keep the playoff spot that seemed so sure a month ago; Cal continues its teasing ways on the gridiron; the NHL is about to kick off again. In popular culture, Comic-Con is staying in San Diego, the big town with a chip on its shoulder (this is front page news, and our editorial cartoonist has a smug superhero announcing “Take that, Anaheim” — like it was a personal attack). Life goes on outside the little neat lines I’ve drawn around it: schedule waits for no one.

I get very mixed messages at work: this is the highest priority until the next directive comes along. I’m not sure I’ve ever said it out loud but I don’t envy my boss the added responsibility with just a fraction more authority that goes with that particular job. Being the control freak that I am it would no doubt drive me nuts to know that my performance was being judged on the merits of others.

It’s funny that that’s exactly what’s bound to happen in real life, though. theVet has mentioned more than once that her vested interest in seeing me in presentable clothes is a reflection on her more than it is me, and every child is a mirror of the adults in their life, likewise. Right now of course it’s as easy as picking out the right clothes (and for me the dilemma of matching shirt to pants and socks is solved by figgy’s insistence on wearing dresses), but before much longer the behavior and demeanor is set by our tone. If the kid is crazy what does that say about the adults?

Mike

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Sports Figure

22 July 2010

Dear J-

There’s an article in today’s paper about the Tour de France; even though Lance Armstrong is no longer in the running, they still manage to work his name in, afraid that Americans won’t follow the sport without one of their own to cheer. The specific mention was how his competitve fires still burn, and, as evidence, the author stated that there was internet video of him bumping a fan and yelling at a photographer. Sounds instead to me like yet another celebrity with rage issues: not winning, not in the spotlight, and beginning to feel eclipsed by storm clouds of doping doubt about his performance and Tour titles.

I suppose that the legal definition is innoncence must be assumed and guilt proven, but Floyd Landis’s accusations have to carry some weight with the public. There’s nothing for Landis to gain except to bring Lance back down to earth with him, I suppose. Doping is rampant in every sport; I’m sure whole teams of lawyers are engaged in hidden competitions to set rules and find ways around them or creative interpretations thereof. It is ever thus, whether keeping one step ahead of the drug detection technology or wrestling over who may own a franchise and where.

I’m supposed to feel sympathy with Lance, an old warhorse saddling up to do battle with kids he’s old enough to have fathered; I’m supposed to write off acting like a jerk as evidence that he hasn’t lost his competitive spirit. No. From everything that I’ve read, it’s vintage Lance Armstrong, acting every bit the prima donna he’s always been, only we forgave him before because he won. What do we sacrifice in that deification? USC is facing hefty fines for turning a blind eye to Reggie Bush’s questionable deals (and Reggie Bush is like Al Capone’s taxes: symptomatic and a convenient hook to hang charges on, but not the only smoking gun in the room). I see the names Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire and barf a little in my mouth now, but I was just as happy to cheer them on without knowing better at the time. Let’s just keep perspective and hold each other to high standards of dignity; it’s hard enough to look in the mirror every day.

Mike

Floyd Sings

22 May 2010

Dear J-

Floyd Landis has confessed his guilt after insisting on his innoncence for nearly four years and my first reactions range from disbelief to anger and, finally, understanding thanks to the analysis by Mark Ziegler in today’s Union-Tribune (as much as the U-T ignores everything besides the holy trinity of American Football-Golf-Baseball, Ziegler actually does his best to bring soccer and cycling our way — sort of a European correspondent without a travel account). The big headlines, of course, are less about Floyd himself than they are about the names he’s named, including the iconic Lance Armstrong.

It’s easy enough to take Lance’s tack and declare Landis’s confession as the rantings of a delusional crackpot who’s finally snapped under the pressure of having to deny for four years, but what else does he have to lose at this point? Title, house, career, wife — all already gone. Remember when Jose Canseco levelled accusations that everyone in baseball was juiced and we all wrote him off as desperate and self-promoting? I understand that if everyone else is cheating, you need to cheat to remain competitive, but that also implies it’s tolerated or even tacitly encouraged by the governing body.

When I was a teenager, the world of bicycle racing seemed honest and upstanding: strategies, teams, and abilities all melding together into a chess game taking place over a hundred miles a day. Then again, everything short of pro wrestling sounded like pure physical prowess willing each other onward to amazing feats. They caution us to not elevate sports icons to hero status, that everyone’s just human, but that sounds like such a cop-out, you know? For the hyperinflation that’s affected (afflicted) professional sports you’d think that, for instance, Tiger Woods would be able to keep it in his pants, or that we could keep needles out of more brawny arms, but the stakes are too high: do we demand too much for all those dollars?

Mike

Winter Dream

18 February 2010

Dear J-

No one wants to know just how large everything has swollen today, so let’s just say that it’s a good thing that I have baggy clothes. Instead let’s consider the Olympics and the curious phenomenon of sports you wouldn’t normally watch becoming something you can’t turn away from. Downhill skiing, for instance — knowing the drama of LIndsay Vonn’s bruised shin (granted, our coverage is slanted desperately towards the United States) plays into it, but these are all names I won’t hear for another four years, probably.

I’m more familiar with the sports contested at the Summer Games, but the Winter Games are a bit more intimate (fewer events means you can learn more about each one) and there’s my new favorite, the biathlon, which reminds me of nothing so much as warfare — think of a combined marathon-pistol event for the Summer Games and you’d be getting close. The home coverage means that events televised are the ones where Americans are in medal contention — before Ohno you’d glimpse short track skating as an aside; therefore biathlon is relegated to daytime airing as Bjoerndalen is not precisely a household name in these parts.

We watched Shaun White soar last night over the halfpipe; as the US has dominated those events since snowboarding was itnroduced in 1998, we’re used to setting the standards and reaping the rewards. I wonder what will happen as the rest of the world catches up, as they have for other sports; will we be gracious or will we show off our typical sore losership? The person we see in the mirror isn’t necessarily the one we show to the rest of the world.

Mike

Band Geek

20 September 2008

Dear J-

This time of year — we’re now three weeks in to having football nearly ’round the clock on weekends — reminds me of how I got started watching football in the first place.  You have to remember that I come from a family of non-sports watchers; my dad would pointedly turn the channel away from virtually every event save the Olympics, and the only exposure I got to sports was when cousins would come for their infrequent visits and insist on watching their favorite teams compete — so I grew up following the St. Louis Cardinals, mostly.  Football was right out — too violent, too arcane.

All that changed in high school; suddenly, with college looming on the horizon, we had to start gearing up for those things that colleges love:  grades, interviews, and extracurricular activities.  Grades wouldn’t be too much of an issue — I had you, J-, as a spur to goad me on, and as it turned out, I started to run out of classes to take senior year.  I definitely had to practice my interview skills, as it cost me at least one scholarship (and later, another one while in college, although I would have had to Michigan and work for Ford at the conclusion of that one — maybe it was dodging a bullet, really).  But extracurriculars?  When I was in elementary school I managed to injure myself in every single PE sport we attempted; I couldn’t punt, I couldn’t throw, I hadn’t been gifted with a single athletic bone in my body, though I secretly harbored dreams of being a place kicker — I wore holes in my right shoe kicking pine cones on the way to school.  Yet ours was a school where the starting kicker had a set of goal posts in his back yard and once kicked a 63-yard field goal just to see if he could.

With the experience of junior high chorus fresh in my mind (“Look, if you’re going to sing loudly AND off-key …”), I thus signed up for band freshman year.  At last, my years of piano lessons would pay off for … uh, marching band?  Of all the instruments to pick up, or rather, not — short of a lawn tractor, there’s no way you’re getting the piano out and mobile during a halftime show.  Thus I ended up in the “pit” whaling away on the glockenspiel, along with the other folks with immobile instruments (generally, percussion folks).  But oh how I envied those out on the field — sure, we all had the same uniforms, but I wasn’t out there making patterns visible only to folks in the stands (it’s harder than it looks — I sometimes wonder how the creators of the Nazca lines achieved their precision).  And, of course, we played every home football game and that year, as our team went deep into the playoffs, reaching the state championship, we traveled to exotic Moscow (Idaho, for the Kibbie Dome) and Seattle (the Kingdome, already exhibiting signs of tattiness).

Long trips, mixed company (really, how often do cheerleaders get to travel with their teams, and aren’t there usually far more team members than cheerleaders, anyway), teenage hormones, and large numbers conspired to make more than a few private situations on the bus rides.  Let this be a lesson:  there are benefits to being mocked for being in the band.  Those American Pie movies aren’t far off the mark, ironically.

Mike

Pheidippides Trash

19 August 2008

Dear J-

I read an article today that was all agog at the trash talk going on between the eventual gold and silver medal winners in women’s pole vault.  Because, you know, people running down a paved track using a flexible pole to fling themselves skyward don’t have emotions.  The whole business of intimidation and gamesmanship is nothing new; I can almost see the conversation coming out of that Battle of Marathon:

Pheidippides:  So (puff) here’s the (puff puff) message.

General:  You didn’t run all the way here, did you, son?

Pheidippides:  (gasps) Yes (hack, cough)

General:  Well, that was pretty impressive, I guess.  But you’re still slow.

P:  (wheeze)

G:  In fact, we’ve got this messenger over here who said he’s going to run back with our response, even faster than you!  You know, because we’re Athenians.

P:  (sinks to ground and dies)

G:  Wuss.

Okay, so it probably didn’t happen that way, but you can see what I mean.  As long as we make something competitive — whether athletic, political, or social — and we assign scores and values, someone will quantifiably be the best, and everyone else won’t be.  We keep chasing moving targets, and along the way, we’ve got to show off doing it.  It just feels like, you know, human nature.

When was the last time you did something unnecessarily, but with style?  Yeah, I thought so too.

Mike

P.S.  New celebrity crush:  Елена Гаджиевна Исинбаева Woo!

Last Sunday

9 August 2008

Dear J-

It seems simple — just a few more hours, one more Sunday of work, and yet it’s been looming over my head all week like some sort of sword, delighting in telling me that there’s no way I can enjoy the weekend at this rate.  It’s already over, and all I’ve done is watch more than my fair share of Olympic coverage (handball, beach volleyball — here I confess I’ve never understood how you can separate the athlete from their looks, swimming, fencing, and all those sports that the truly devoted watch in lieu of housework).  Ah well.  All the same; the earth turns, the sun sets, I return to work.  It’s not forever, it’s not more than tomorrow, and all it really comes down to is being able to come home at the end.  I’ll live.  The frustration is not personal, yet the disappointment can’t hide, unfortunately.

Mike