This blog is where I can pour out my heart with my longing for God.

Posts tagged ‘sports’

The Old Paths: Olympic Musings

 This was originally a newspaper column—published in The Stokes News on Thu., Feb. 15, 2018, while the 2018 Winter Olympics were going on. Since the newspaper website has been notorious in the past for destroying links to published articles, I archive the columns I write on my blog, so as to ensure they are preserved for posterity.

Winter Games 2018When ole Ben Franklin said, “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” he clearly lived in a pre-Olympics era. How could I possibly have gone to bed early when Shaun White’s snowboarding didn’t even come on TV until after 11 p.m.? I had waited for this moment since White’s disappointing fourth-place finish in Sochi, and I’m supposed to go to bed with the chickens?

I think not, Mr. Franklin.

So there I sat typing this column at 1 a.m. on Tue., Feb. 13, having just watched Shaun do an eye-popping 98.50 halfpipe snowboarding run in the mere qualifying rounds. I marveled, “What on earth will the former Flying Tomato (he’s not so into that moniker anymore) bring us in the actual medal rounds?” I knew I would be watching, regardless of Mr. Franklin’s admonitions to avoid late nights.

775096147MB00313_Snowboard_Hey, it’s only once every four years. Shaun White will be 35 when the Winter Games go to Beijing in 2022—positively ancient in this new snowboarding world of 17-year-olds. I’m thinking carpe diem applies right now.

Yes, I seize the day during every Olympics, both winter and summer. Those stellar athletes go for the gusto by competing at the Games, and I go for the gusto by staying up late to watch them. It’s the least I can do.

Before you know it, the calendar will read 2020, and God willing, I’ll be burning the midnight oil again to watch the Summer Games from Tokyo. (What an archaic phrase! As a child of the electric-lighting age, I have never once burned lamp oil to give me late-night light.)

figure skating 2018I trust you dear readers also enjoyed the Winter Games. Do any of you get as nervous as I do during figure skating? As my daughter Chelsea says, figure skating is the winter equivalent of the gymnastics balance beam competition in the Summer Games. We hold our breath with every triple axel, clench our teeth with the couple’s competition lifts, experience rapid heartbeat during a quad lutz.

Yet we continue to put ourselves through this exquisite torture with every Winter Games. Our stomach muscles tighten when adorable little Red Gerard comes up on his last run down the snowboard slope after having blown his first two chances. They only unclench when he has a clean run, wowing us with his explosion from last place to first.

We suddenly are fluent in slopestyle snowboarding terms. “Hey, he just did a switch backside 1260!” “Do you think he’ll do a double cork off the quarterpipe takeoff?” “Surely not! But he might throw in a backside triple cork 1440 on that last jump.”

We probably haven’t used those terms since 2014, and we won’t use them again until 2022, but right now we feel very accomplished when we toss them around. By 2020, the terms will change, adapting to the Summer Games. we won’t remember what Shaun White’s signature halfpipe move is called (the Double McTwist 1260), but we’ll be comfortable talking about a double layout half during the gymnastics floor exercise or a Khorkina on the vault.vault olympics

You can tell I focus on the more popular events such as snowboarding and figure skating. But I live with a hubster and a son who both are fascinated with the Olympic event of curling. The only curling I care about is what my stylist Molly does to my hair when I have a big event coming up.

The curling my fellows watch looks to me like people using a broom to sweep some rocks over the ice to some circles. I’d rather watch the second hand go around my clock, but hey, different strokes for different folks.

Those sweeping strokes of curling were actually part of the first-ever Winter Games in 1924, although that sport didn’t become official Olympics fare until 1998. My Scottish ancestors very probably played this game of curling on the old paths. I read that a good Scottish wife of yore might even display her husband’s brass curling stone handle on the family’s mantel.

curlingI reckon I would be a better wife if I would just sit down with my husband to watch this curling he is so enamored of. But can I help it if I’d rather watch speed skaters zooming around the track? I loved speed skating long before Apolo Ohno came along, although he did indeed heighten my interest.

Do you feel the tension (I sure do!) as a speed skating race nears the final lap and you wonder if one tiny brush of one skate against another will send an aspiring gold medallist flying across the ice as the others race to the finish line? Do you ever wonder why we subject ourselves to such pressure night after night as the games unfold and the medals are claimed?

Then I shake myself and realize that the pressure I feel on my comfy couch as I munch Cajun-flavored trail mix in front my big Roku TV in my cozy home is minuscule compared to what the athletes themselves must be feeling. My mind reels with the wonder of how these Olympians have packed up their normal lives in packages to be opened later in exchange for years of enduring rigorous training for the hope of one shining moment.

And only one will get the gold. The silver and bronze—prestigious though they are—fade into the background on that podium as the national anthem of the gold medallist begins to play. And for that one shining moment indeed, he/she who stands highest knows that he/she is at the pinnacle of the planet—the acknowledged best in the world…..if only until the next competition.

So we watch and we cheer and we groan and we gasp as we live vicariously through she who lands the triple lutz on the ice…..through he who remains upright after a quadruple cork on the halfpipe……and yes, even through those who sweep that rock into that middle circle in that sport which has no association with what my hot-rollers do to my hair.

And if we have to stay up past midnight to watch it all? Well, so be it! We’ll sleep when the Games are done. Take that, Ben Franklin!

early-to-bed-and-early-to-rise-makes-a-man-healthy-wealthy-and-wise-benjamin-franklin-283012Staying-Up-too-Late-Olympics

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The Old Paths: The Right Thing to Do

**This was originally published on Thursday, August 8, 2013, in my newspaper column, “The Old Paths,” in The Stokes News. Due to a website change a few years ago, the publishing company broke all links to our old articles which were archived online. This was a tragic mistake and resulted in the loss of thousands of newspaper articles. Little by little, I am putting my old columns on this blog so that they can be preserved. Each column may be updated to reflect present times when transferred to this blog.**

do the right thing
“It may not be the RIGHT thing to do, but it’s the THING to do,” said my hubster after a particularly tense baseball game.

“But if it isn’t the right thing to do, then isn’t it the wrong thing to do?” I asked, trying to understand the logic of situational ethics.

The situation in question had occurred when an opposing pitcher in our men’s baseball league had purposely hit one of our players. Since the hit batsman happened to be our ace pitcher, our team’s strategy was that HE would hit THEIR pitcher next time he was up to bat.

I disagreed with the strategy, arguing that it was antiChristian. The hubster informed me that baseball was different—that such “eye for an eye” behavior was expected in a fiercely competitive atmosphere.

So good ethics for daily living are discarded on the field of play? Really?

This ethics morass in baseball troubles me. Yes, this game which I so love is indeed a competition where the best man/team wins, but must we incorporate dirty play? Must we bean them with a pitch after they bean us? Must we take performance-enhancing drugs to make us more successful? Have we lost some of the beauty and joy of America’s grand old game?

no right way to do wrong thing

Then I was reminded of something that happened in that tension-filled ballgame when even I—mild-mannered Leslie—stood up from the bleachers and cried, “Let’s just all go home. We don’t have to play under these conditions!” (The ump had just unfairly removed one of our players after accusing him of doing something he truly didn’t do.)

Shortly after the explosive situation on the field, a Hispanic boy—maybe 14—wandered up to the bleachers with his mother in tow. She did not speak English. They sat right beside me although the bleachers were fairly empty. At first, that irritated me.

Then he began talking to me, which normally irritates me as well in the middle of an action-packed game. But his face was so cherubic and innocent and his voice so polite and kind that I was quickly won over.

“Is your team the blue team?” he asked with a sweet smile. As I nodded yes, he declared, “Then I’m pulling for them, too!”

Then in a tone of awed wonder, “Are they a professional team?” I laughingly assured him they were not.

DSCN9339.JPG

My hubster batting at that field in High Point.

My heart melted even more as the boy kept explaining the game to his clueless mother with a respectful, loving tone. I understand Spanish fairly well and tried not to chuckle at his somewhat muddled explanations.

I asked him if he watched baseball on TV. He said sometimes. I told him I liked the Yankees. He got excited and said that was the team that played football in New Jersey, wasn’t it? I hid a smile as I explained to him that the Yankees were a baseball team in New York.

He obviously did not understand the rules of baseball very well, so I explained some fundamental ones to him so that he could, in turn, teach his mother. His mistakes were cute ones a much younger child might make, yet this teenager was so humble that no embarrassment entered into his realization that he had a lot to learn.

Suddenly I was seeing this tired old game with new eyes—like someone watching it for the first time and finding great joy in it. I was a little girl again, watching MLB with my dad as he explained the game to me.

innocence of a child

Then a fan nearby yelled something in a mean tone to the umpire. The fan’s cohort loudly echoed the ugly sentiment. Puzzled, the boy turned to look at the angry fans. His face was truly troubled—pained, even.

I felt horribly embarrassed. It was as if we had besmeared something innocent, as if we had poured black grease onto a solid white robe.

I apologized to the boy and explained to him that we had had some unfair officiating earlier. He smiled kindly and tried to understand. But I was ashamed—ashamed of my previous fit of temper and ashamed of the continued loudmouthed heckling by others.

Before long, the boy turned to me with his humble demeanor and thanked me for talking with him. His dark eyes were alight as he wished our team the best. “Maybe I’ll come back some time, and you guys will be playing again!” he said, as if it were the deepest desire of his heart.

As they stood to go, his mother nodded to me and tried to convey her appreciation in broken and heavily-accented English. She finally just stopped and haltingly said “Thank you” with an appreciative smile.

As he walked away, the boy turned back with a smile of pure joy and waved to me. Although I have returned many times to that field in High Point, I have never seen him again. I don’t even know his name. But I will never forget him. His behavior was so “unearthly” that I have even questioned if he was a real person or if I was entertaining an angel unawares, as the Good Book says we will sometimes do.

Later, as my hubster insisted that intentionally hitting a batter “may not be the right thing to do, but it’s the thing to do,” I felt led to tell him the story of the innocent boy and his joy in watching that game. In the telling of the story, my voice unexpectedly broke, and my eyes filled with tears. My hubster’s eyes also got suspiciously moist as he shook his head and said, “I was wrong. The right thing to do is ALWAYS the right thing to do.”

Sometimes it takes an innocent child to turn us back to the old paths of what is good and pure.

right time--right thing--mlk

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