Sports

In Your Face

I took a racquet in the face once playing racquetball.

I’m really unclear about who was in the court with me at the time. And I’m even more unclear about who held the racquet that split the skin open above my lip.

It doesn’t matter actually.

Seems like I was going for a great shot and bam. Game over. It was like a wall popped up in front of me mid-swing. It felt way worse than a ball to the face, which I’d experienced often enough since we weren’t stellar players. I don’ remember pain as much as shock and confusion. Seems I wanted to keep playing until the other players pointed out I was bleeding and probably needed stitches.

I was mostly disappointed that we didn’t get to finish our game. And I didn’t get any stitches. The doc superglued the thing closed. It looked gross. For a week I looked like I had a perpetual little kid style runny nose.

I’d have preferred the stitches.

I don’t really notice the scar much. It’s fairly light and thin. Almost invisible, actually.

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We had a group of women that got together about three days a week. We’d play singles if only two showed up, or singles if there were two courts open and four of us. Cut-throat was my favorite for all the changing up that happens. Four of us piled in that tiny enclosed space got fairly rowdy. But we managed to get a good workout and have a bunch of fun no matter how many of us there were.

Yeah, we weren’t amazing players, but we weren’t all that shabby either. At least one of us would be “in the zone” on any given day. Occasionally we’d all hit our stride and balls would zing about for long volleys, amazing shots and incredible saves. Those rare days, when everything was working, made it tough to want to leave after only an hour of play. But if we stayed much longer, we’d be paying for it the rest of the day.

We had to know when to say enough. Sometimes the clock told us. Sometimes our sore muscles let us know we’d reached our limit. And sometimes, we just didn’t care and kept playing far too long and paid for it later. But we sure had us some great times bashing that ball around.

Racquetball lets loose a ton of pent-up aggravation, emotion, and insanity. We left the gym better women, better prepared for whatever the heck the day threw our way.

Sweat never felt or smelled so sweet as on racquetball playing days.

We welcomed any and all who wanted to join in our group. We met some great people that way. I’m afraid I scared off one friend, quite unintentionally. I must have hit her in the head about four times with some really poorly aimed shots. By the fourth hit she was done and never came back again. Not sure she’s ever forgiven me. I swear it was completely and totally just me playing badly. I couldn’t hit the same spot twice even if I was aiming for it. I’m hoping one day she’ll get a chance to ding me with a ball or maybe a few water balloons so she can feel like the score is even and we can move on. Or not.

So why do I bring all this up?

I LOVE playing racquetball!

And yet, my racquet’s acquired a few years of dust. That’s a huge loss.

Why’d I stop?

Schedules change, injuries and age take their toll, life demands new things of us, we have to give something up to make the puzzle pieces all fit.

Sometimes the best things, the most helpful, the happiest, end up being sacrificed for other good and helpful things. Good reasons don’t make it any easier though.

I look in the mirror sometimes and see that thin light scar above my lip. It feels like a participation medal, or better yet, a blue ribbon or a golden winner’s cup.

Maybe it needs to be a reminder of something I need again. No, not a racquet to the face. I need that hour of sweating. I need to hit something with everything I’ve got. I need the energy I get back from pushing myself hard.

Can I work that back into my life?

I have plenty of excuses, most of them having to do with body parts and pain. Maybe it’s time to ignore the shoulder devil and do it anyway.

After all, what could it hurt?

Well, I suppose it could hurt my face again.

But it would be worth it.

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Categories: Exercise, Fun, Sports | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Forget Sweet Sixteen, It’s All About H.O.R.S.E.

Bouncing the basketball across the driveway to my son, I imitate a teen boy swagger and say, “You didn’t think I could do that one, did you?”

basketball hoop 1Standing where he caught the ball, he bounces it once, twice, tilts his head back, then lobs the ball with finesse into a full arching trajectory into the waiting hoop.

I am doomed.

I step into the spot he just shot from, bounce once, bounce twice, tilt my head back, let the ball fly and watch as it ricochets off the rim and lands in a nearby bush.

“S!” my sons exults.

“You’re still ‘H’,” I counter, as if his one missed shot were a significant point difference.

He usually won most of our games of H.O.R.S.E.  At least I had a modicum of a chance to win, where at a regular game of one-on-one, he’d always win. He was lighter, faster, more experienced and he had the added pressure of shame if you lost to your Mom.

When it comes to shooting hoops, I have no idea how my son felt about it. Young enough to not be too embarrassed about hanging out with his Mom, we had some good times. If he had other guys to play against, I was, of course, not particularly needed or welcomed. But given a boring afternoon or early evening, I was as good an opponent as any. I enjoyed the exercise. And it brought back some fun memories.

As a girl, how many times I had looked on as a giggling gaggle of girls watched a posturing bunch of boys playing a game of shirts and skins. I didn’t care for the gaggle. I always wanted to actually play.

Back then, I spent time practicing shots on my own when a basket and a ball were available, so that when the chance came around, I could pull my weight. Or at least, I’d have decent enough skills to make the basic shots in a game of H.O.R.S.E.

A great equalizer, the game of H.O.R.S.E. pits young against old, short against tall, talented against beginner. The rules can be tweaked to accommodate more than two players, make concessions for weaker players, give everyone a chance to enjoy and feel like there’s a chance, however slim, of winning. Or consummate players with incredible shots in their repertoire can wow onlookers and hone skills.

Basketball (Ball)

The ball lends itself to contemplation, the tiny round dots on the surface of the ball mesmerize and calm. The feel of the rubber, smooth and sticky, firm and pliable, relaxes your hands. The reverberating echo of the ball as it hits the concrete, bounces back into your hands, over and over and over, in a hypnotic lull.  Then there’s the smell of dust on the ball mingled with a sheen on faces and the slight tang of sweat.

basket ball hoop 2There’s something about the kind of conversation that goes on during a game of H.O.R.S.E.. Talk simply evolves. Words slip out more easily. Chatting happens about things that would never get discussed around the dinner table.

The hoop, netted or not, calls out, taunts, whispers. Again, again, again, just one more time, and one more. One more shot, one more game, one more bounce.

If you’ve never played a game of H.O.R.S.E. you can find the rules here. If it’s been a while since you’ve picked up a basketball maybe it’s time. Maybe running your fingers across the texture of the ball, letting it bounce beside your feet, tossing it between one hand and the other, sending it flying toward ‘nothing but net,’ is just what your soul needs today.

I can feel a game coming on. Anyone up for a game of H.O.R.S.E?

Needing to ramp up your Basketball Lingo? Here’s a great spot for a refresher.

Common basketball terms

I need to sound really cool, like I know the game in my sleep!

I’m not familiar with this game you’re talking about

Categories: Exercise, Outdoors, Sports | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Guest Blog: A Half Crazy View of The Phoenix Half Marathon

My “half crazy” cousin, who ran the half marathon, has graciously agreed to be my first ever guest blogger! I’m excited about this for two reasons. First, she’s one very cool, fun lady that I’m always proud to introduce, show off and talk about. Second, she provides a real participant’s point of view of the Phoenix Half Marathon. 

(click here to get my spectator’s viewpoint as well as a nice intro to her in my companion post.)

Now, I turn you over to my cousin, Kettie Olsen. Enjoy!

My First Half Marathon

“You only get one first time. I’d been training for this a long time, starting with a five-minute run back in April of 2012. It was my first run since losing the boot I’d been wearing to heal from a stress fracture. It was hard and not fun. But as I built my endurance and strength back up, I had come to really enjoy the running and the discipline of daily training. I was almost sorry to see the race actually come because then it would never be my first one again.

I arrived in Phoenix late Friday night, more tired than excited. I was in bed at 11:30 and up at 3:30 to get ready to catch the bus to the starting line. I already had my race shirt. The thought of sleeping in, skipping the race, and just spending the day playing with my cousin had its appeal.

She's ready to go. Sunrise is still over an hour away.

She’s ready to go. Sunrise is still over an hour away.

It was cold and dark at the start line as I ate my pbj, drank some water, listened to the chatter of those around me, and waited for the time to pass. I wasn’t nervous and I wasn’t as excited as I wanted to be. It just kind of felt like another training run. With a lot of extra people.

That feeling persisted for the first few miles. Just another run, keeping it relaxed and easy, still got a long ways to go. It wasn’t until about mile six that I really started having fun. Everything had been fine up to that point – I’d been watching the other runners, creating mini lives for them in my head, waving at the spectators, thanking the volunteers, but at mile six I really started to enjoy myself and ran with a smile on my face.

What made the difference? Could have been the endorphins finally kicking in, the thought of being almost halfway done, or the sugar high from the chocolate Clif shot I ingested but I think what did it was the tunes. I don’t normally run with a soundtrack but I’d created a playlist of favorites for this race knowing there might come a point when I’d need some distraction. As Amy Grant started singing about Simple Things, I felt the grin start to spread across my face and as Basia sang about hugging olive trees in the south of France I thought, “Oh, I love this song!” Although it would appear that I had cut myself off from what was going on by inserting my ear buds, it actually intensified my desire to interact with the world around me. Because I was happier, I wanted to see others happier too. If I saw a little kid on the sidewalk close enough to receive a high five, I made sure I was there to give it. If someone cheered for me, I cheered for them and thanked them. If I passed someone who looked like they could use a kind word, I gave them one. I felt good and I was having fun.

Mile nine – downtown Mesa. The Olympic Fanfare and Theme plays in my earbuds. Man, I love this song too! Someone did a good job of putting together this playlist! Ten year old boy wearing white knee highs with a pastel heart pattern. Got to be a story behind that. “Awesome socks!” as I pass. That got a grin.

Mile eleven – my cousin is there again with my sign. She’s great! Mile eleven… Wait. That means I only have two miles left? If I kick it in I can be done in less than 20 minutes. Let’s go! I’m not a speed demon by any means but apparently I had more left in the tank than most of those around me and I started passing people more rapidly. I know I’m running close to an 11 minute mile pace for the race and that was my unofficial goal time. If I can nail this last bit, I can pull it off. Keep the pace, dodge the 10K walkers, stay out of the way of the two marathon runners who have just caught up with us. Really? So they’re running twice as fast as me? Wow. I think in the last 200 yards I passed 15 people as I sprinted for the finish line.

And just like that, it was done! Volunteers were at the line handing out medals. I almost asked for a kiss with mine. Haha. Took a cool wash cloth from another volunteer and wiped the sweat from my eyes, face, ears, and neck. Got a picture taken with my medal, found some water, some food, and my cousin/friend/personal cheering section/chauffeur and headed off to enjoy the rest of the day.

It was a fun run, a fun day, a great time. Every race won’t be like that. Some will be hard, some will hurt, some will have lousy weather. Stuff happens. Sometimes you just don’t feel good or run well for whatever reason. But my one and only first ever half marathon was a great time!”

The bumper sticker I bought for my cousin which inspired the title for this post.

The bumper sticker which inspired the title for this post. Check out their website at http://www.runnersfeat.com

Categories: phoenix, Sports | Tags: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Hey, Batter Batter Swing! Tigers, Giants, Donkeys and Elephants

English: Line art drawing of a baseball field....

A baseball game. Four bases, nine players per team, an umpire and people watching on the sidelines.

  • The game that the pitcher sees is seen from the center of the four bases, facing toward home plate.
  • The game that the catcher sees is from behind home plate facing the pitcher.
  • The batter sees the game from beside home plate, at least while at bat. If he hits the ball his perspective will change rapidly, from base to base to base to home.
  • What the left fielder sees is not the same thing that the right fielder sees.
  • Short stop sees an angle similar to, but not exactly the same as the left fielder. And each base player has an angle unique to their position on the field.

And, sometimes, it seems, that the umpire is seeing an entirely different game altogether than everyone else.

And we’d be right to think so.

Because, he’s seeing the game from behind home plate, hunched over the catcher, with a batter on one side just ahead of him.  No one else in the stadium has that exact same view.

There’s also those observers of the game.  The game experience can be vastly different each time I attend. Sitting in front of a group of people who’ve had a few extra beers before ever arriving at the game, and then have steadily added to that amount as they’ve watched, will color my experience because I’ll get their unfiltered, fairly loud comments as a sort of spice to the game.  My team may lose, but I might walk away having had a hilariously entertaining time.  Or I could leave angry and agitated by the drunken fans.

And then there’s the kind of game.  A little league game is going to have a different feel and look than a small hometown high school rivalry game.  And the major league experience I have watching the Diamondbacks play in downtown Phoenix with the Chase Field roof closed, is going to vary significantly from watching the Colorado Rockies team playing at Coors Field during a rainstorm.

It’s all just baseball.  Isn’t it?

We’re talking innings, strikes, balls, outs, fly balls, runs, errors, home runs, mitts, bats, stealing, sliding, catching, throwing.  Basic baseball.

So many points of view.

And it’s just a game.

Here’s my question.  Okay, questions.  Who’s having the real baseball experience?  Which point of view is correct?  Is there a correct point of view? Can everyone be right?  Can every experience be valid? Is the pee wee game where everyone’s a winner just as “baseballesque” as the World Series?  Or is something in-between the two extremes the “real” baseball experience?

Am I just talking baseball here?

It feels bigger than that, but I haven’t figured it out yet. I don’t follow baseball.  I had to Google “world series” to see who was playing.  I think it’s more than baseball though. It feels like a political metaphor.  But I don’t talk politics.  I steer clear of controversy of all flavors. Any insight you have about why baseball is on my mind would be helpful.

I want all the answers, but I don’t think I can have them all.  I think I’m just one player in the game with most of my time spent on the bench, spitting out sunflower husks, making a mess of things.

I feel a little antsy hoping, worrying, watching.  There’s only so much I can do from my perspective out in the field or on the bench, or in the stands, or behind the plate.

Does it matter?

Sure it does.  To me.

And to everyone else.

What’s your perspective?

Categories: Politics?, Sports | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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