Day Tripping

For those of you old enough to remember, I am not referring to The Beatles’ song by this name or the one the Rolling Stones called “Mother’s Little Helper.” So, narcotics or amphetamines will not be part of this story. I am referencing my wife and I like to do short one day excursions around the region.

Today, we are off to the mountains to see my daughter and her boyfriend. She has an afternoon planned of BBQ, mountain views and hiking on a cool autumn day. It will be just over a two hour journey, so it is not a bad trip for even our old bodies. Of course, we have to add time for the inevitable rest breaks on the way to and fro.

It will be a fun day. She lives in a cabin-like home halfway up a large hill (or small mountain) in a very eclectic area. She has a coop of eight chickens, so when we visit we bring empty egg cartons for their use. I have shared before the town close by is very artsy, so there is a lot of wall art on buildings, galleries and craft shops. There is even a place where they show how cheese is made.

My daughter is an environmentalist, hiker and rock climber, so she is in heaven up there. She met her boyfriend’s sister first, as they were on the climbing team at college up there. And, the sister is the one who made the introductions to her brother. He is a very nice and grounded young man.

So, I will keep this one brief and report later on our journey. Have a great rest of you day.

Celebrating success with too much gusto concerns me

Watching the Ryder Cup, which every two years pits twelve US golfers against twelve European golfers in team competition, it continues to concern me over the lack of sportsmanship the match has devolved into. Dating back to the late-1990s, the televised competition has created a fervor of fans cheering the mistakes of their opponents. There was a time when Jack Nicklaus picked up the coin of Brit Tony Jacklin marking a ten foot putt to halve a match resulting in a tie, but those days are long gone.

But, I must confess, when I played sports, trash talking was something I just did not do. I was taught taunting an opponent is just poor form. As my basketball coach used to preach to us, the way to get back at an opponent is to win. The way to get back is not let them score. I mention the last point as it takes more effort to play defense, so to shut down an opponent from scoring brings satisfaction.

I know the crowds in team sports and some competition want to see demonstrative theatrics. They want to cheer success, even if it is for only one play. Yet, one coach used to say, if you are going to draw attention to your successful play, should you not draw attention when you mess up? Look what I did, I missed a tackle.

With that said, I do love offensive linemen in a football game. Usually, they only get attention when they mess up. It could be a penalty for holding or missing a block that leads to a tackle for a loss. On the flip side, these linemen are the reason games are won and lost. Yet, they don’t get the same upside notoriety when they are doing their job well. Their running backs and quarterback get the glory when they are blocking their opponents.

Mind you, it is OK to be happy with a successful play. But, the baseball term used is “you do not want to show up your opponent.” It is better not to rub it in a pitcher’s face that you just hit a home run, as you may have to face him or her again. One famous football running back used to say when he scored a touchdown, act like you have been there before. Of course, the fans want to see more. Maybe this is why drunk fans should steer clear from the other team’s fans.

I recognize I am old school. What I wrote runs counter to what is being done today. To me, it promotes this we/ they mindset on too many things. It has bled over into tribal politics. Fans are too invested in winning, that they don’t realize what is truly at stake. When politicians are too invested in winning than governing, we all lose.

You never know, so please hug your family

If the 9/11 memorial ceremony did not heighten our focus to hug our loved ones when we leave them in the morning and return to them in the evening, let me share an abrupt reminder from yesterday. My wife and I learned a 56 year old neighbor passed away from a heart attack.

The night before, a fire truck and EMV was outside of his home. The next morning we learned he died while his wife and kids were away. He had been working on a stationary rowing machine and was found by a friend his wife called to check on him when she could not reach him.

The tragedy is puzzling as he appeared to be in good shape and was routinely out doing yard work or washing his cars. He was also the most congenial of people stopping to chat as folks walked by. In fact, he seemed to be younger than his actual age given his temperament and work ethic.

We don’t know when it is our time. We don’t expect that today will be the day. So, the best we can do is take care of ourselves and hug our families goodbye and hello. Tell the people we love that we love them.

May our neighbor and friend rest in peace and his family remember more his smile than his passing over time.

That boy sure is a runnin’ fool

Those familiar with the movie “Forrest Gump” know the title is one of the many one-liners from the movie. We learn early on that Forrest could “run like the wind blows” after his legs got better from wearing braces. And, that was his primary means of transportation.

I used to be a runner, but after a lot of up and down running efforts, my joints told me I needed to walk more. It is much easier to start walking again after stopping a walking regimen, than it is is to start running.

Yet, I see many who run both along the streets and on trails that fail to heed a few lessons that might help. I learned from others, but still had challenges with the yo-yo running efforts. Here are few tidbits that I hope are more redundant than not.

  • Do not run on sidewalks made of concrete. The concrete does not flex, so your knees, feet and ankles (and other parts) take the brunt of the impact of each step.
  • Do not run with headphones on if you are next to car traffic or by yourself on a trail. Not being able to hear puts you in danger of turning cars or nefarious folks on trails. If you must have music, heighten your other senses to avoid getting run over.
  • Stretch before and after running. Sometimes the after part gets left off, but warming down is as important as warming up.
  • Start out slow (or even walking) and build up speed to the pace you want. Starting out to fast can cause pulled muscles and charley horses.
  • Wear shoes that have a good tread and are designed for running. A worn out tread can add impact shock to knees, feet and ankles.
  • Courtesy of the legendary basketball coach John Wooden, wear two pairs of socks, one reversed inside of one normal. The combined friction in the socks will cause less friction on your feet. Wooden would actually teach this the first day of practice.
  • Stay hydrated. This is a no-brainer, but never pass a water stop in a race and have a water bottle with you or in the car waiting for you.
  • If you do run on trails, have someone with you or run on popular trails designed for running. Some trails have way too many tree roots that are painful when stepped on or could trip you (I have done both).

I know much of the above may be well-known. But, as an old fart, let me just add I have read in my local newspapers of more than a few women being sexually assaulted on trails, I have read wear joggers were run over and killed not realizing a car was turning (one woman did not comprehend that a truck was pulling a trailer because of her headphones and stepped into traffic after she thought the truck had passed) and I am aware of many falls, bumps and bruises and arthritic or worn out knees.

Be safe. Be healthy. And, run like the wind blows.

Needed sports funnies in golf and football

It may have been legendary and funny golfer Lee Trevino who answered the question why he played a fade in golf. Trevino said, “You can talk to a fade, but a hook just won’t listen.” There you have it. Trevino was crazy good. 

Football Coach Lou Holtz was also an amateur magician. Appearing on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, he did a trick and then answered Carson’s question as to how he did that. “Perfectly,” answered Holtz.

Golfers have a term for a terrible score of an eight on a golf hole – they call it a “snowman” due to the written score resembling a snowman. When a pro made one on a par 5, the reporter asked how he could have made a snowman on such an easy hole. The golfer said, “Easy. I made a ten footer to avoid a nine.”

One of the greatest defensive lineman in NFL history was named Jim Marshall and his Minnesota Vikings team was so good at preventing scoring they were called the “Purple People Eaters.” In a moment of confusion, Marshall must have felt guilty of denying the other team points, as he recovered a fumble and ran it in for a touchdown – the wrong way.. When he crossed the goal line, he celebrated his play by throwing the ball into the stands. The referees gathered together and scored it a safety awarding the opposing team two points. Had he kept the ball, it might have been ruled a touchback with no points. Oops.

Golf is funnier when you get to the every day players who are not nearly as good as the pros. Their one-liners are immeasurable. For those of you who do not remember the TV evangelist Ernest Angley (that is a real name), he was a faith healer known for his elongated healing words. When a friend would hit a golf ball into the woods, he would pull out an Angleyism and say “Out, Satan!” If he hit another one poorly, he would say “Be Healed!” On occasion, a tree would answer his prayer and the ball would carom back onto the course.

One of the funniest endings to a football game was in the big rivalry of University of California and Stanford University. Per History.com, “On November 20, 1982, the UC Berkeley football team, referred to as Cal, wins an improbable last-second victory over Stanford when they complete five lateral passes around members of the Cardinals’ marching band, who had wandered onto the field a bit early to celebrate the upset they were sure their team had won, and score a touchdown.” One of the Cal players ran over a band member to get to the end zone. It is unreported if future Stanford bands were taught how to tackle.(see video below).

Next time, I may hit some other sports funnies besides football and golf.

Here is a link to the Cal/ Stanford final play. The band still missed the tackle.

Heartbreaking moments

For some reason, we seem to be watching more of the Olympics in Japan than we have in previous ones. The exhilarating competition and human stories are wonderful to watch. But, it also exposes us to heartbreaking moments where you just want to hug the athlete and say it will be OK. Let me set aside the Simone Biles story, as I have written about that as have others.

There are two stories I want to focus on, but I will leave off their names, as I do not want to highlight who they are, just what happened. Plus, these two people qualified for the Olympics, which is not a small feat.

First, in one of the many “heats” for the women’s 400 meter hurdles, the Great Britain champion racer was looking to qualify for the semi-finals. This was her first race of the Olympics. Sadly, on her way to the very first hurdle, she got her feet tangled and fell into the hurdle. Her Olympic competition was ended. Seeing in live action was one thing, but when they showed it in slow motion, you truly agonize with her.

Second, the next day, in the women springboard diving competition, the top twelve divers were looking to qualify for the semi-finals, I think. After several dives, a Canadian diver was in ninth place and just needed a couple of more decent dives. Apparently, the young woman must have felt she did not get enough elevation for the twists and turns as she hopped once (per the routine) and propelled herself upward. She just meekly fell knees first into the pool. The announcers could not hide their feelings for her as they called it a “failed dive.”

Seeing both of these women, who trained so hard, walk away from what just happened made you want to hug them. Fortunately, coaches and teammates were there to do so.

It reminds me that I have failed on more than a few occasions. We all fail at some time. It hurts. Plus, you replay that hurt over and over in your mind. Hopefully, we have learned from that failure, as it can be a better teacher than success.

One of the things that I admire about the gymnasts (or skaters) is they keep going. If they mess up or have a small misstep, they keep going. It should be noted the women’s gymnastic team winners from Russia overcame two of their better gymnasts falling off the balance beam (I still don’t know how they perform on a four inch wide beam). Guess what they did? The two got back up on the beam and continued on. And, the team won.

So, it may not be a four inch balance beam, but we need to get off the floor and climb back on and keep going. And, for those two women I highlighted above. They were there. They made it to Japan. There is a lot to be said for that.

*Note: People remember failures like this, which is why I did not use their names. If you ask people in Boston who Bill Buckner is, some will tell you about a terrible error he made playing first base for the Boston Red Sox that cost them the 1986 World Series. But, there is far more to this story. His error was in Game Six and there was another game the next day. Plus, the winning New York Mets knew Boston’s weakness was their late game pitchers – they knew if Boston pulled their starting pitcher, they had a chance. Yet, Red Sox fans also forget that Buckner had a heckuva season and helped Boston make the World Series. Yes, he made a key error, but the team lost, not Bill Buckner.

Sports Illustrated Cover and GOAT Jinxes

When the weekly magazine Sports Illustrated was published only in print, whoever made the cover was subject to a jinx. Based on analysis of the data, the player or team who made the cover fared less well in the next few weeks. It may be related to over-confidence after the notoriety or that opponents tried harder to knock off the more publicized.

Lately, sports pundits have been throwing around the term GOAT, which is short for Greatest of All Time. This level of immortality is a hard accolade (or cross) to bear. To me, to call someone this before he, she or they finish playing puts unbelievable pressure on the athletes. Simone Biles has been called the GOAT for women’s gymnastics.

I am not saying this is what happened to Biles, but I have to believe she put enormous pressure on herself. I do know, after several moves have been named after Biles, she is still trying to push the envelope with bigger and better moves. Rather than focus on moves she has done well, she is trying harder ones. Did this lead her to lose confidence in herself when she fell short? – maybe.

It is tough to be king or queen of the hill. I have always felt Tiger Woods handled the pressure so well, but even he had his personal issues that hurt his ability to compete at the same high level. And, just like in Biles’ case, the competition got better. She deserves the accolades she has received, but like Woods, she is only human playing a sport that requires equal parts athleticism, art and precision.

So, we should be mindful no one is immortal. Let me switch to another golfer who even Woods is chasing – Jack Nicklaus. While Nicklaus has won twenty major golf championships, he has also finished second I believe twenty-one times. So, we should not forget that the person who has won the most major trophies, just missed twenty-one times. That shows how hard it is to win, but reveals how talented he was.

Speaking of pressure, many may not know who Bill Russell is. He is arguably the greatest basketball team player of all time. Why? His teams won eleven NBA basketball championships, two NCAA championships and one Olympic Gold medal. One thing about Russell is before every big game, he could be heard throwing up in the locker room bathroom. His teammates knew if they heard this, they were going to win, as if Russell was nervous, he would play better. But, Russell was a rarity. Dealing with pressure is tough.

The baseball pitcher John Smoltz was known for being a better pitcher under pressure. When asked about this, he said he actually performed at the same level, it is every one else whose performance fell off under pressure situations. So, the lesson to all athletes, but especially the better ones, take care of what is under your control. When the best player on a basketball team was asked why he tended to take the last shot to win, he responded that he was the only one who could handle the failure of missing it.

But, when folks slap the label GOAT on you while you are still performing, it adds an extra dose of pressure. I feel for those folks, as it takes an extra dose of courage and humility to carry that burden. It seems the best athletes tend to function at the highest level when they have good competition – think Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, Steffi Graf and Monica Seles in tennis.

Who are the greatest of all time? Let’s wait until they finish and then judge. And, let’s enjoy their talent while we can.

Mid-week musings (about fun in the sun)

We are back from a few days away at the beach. Wonderful weather, wonderful food, and wonderful settings. It is so nice to get away now that both of us are vaccinated. I think others share the same joy.

Rather than focus on one subject, let me muse about multiple topics.

Not that we were looking, but one thing that is obvious from our beach trip, younger bodies look much nicer than my old one. My wife and I laughed about this, but as we rode to dinner one night, we watched this couple walking who could have been in one of those picture frames you buy. My wife said “that is one good looking couple.” Her deadpan delivery was priceless.

As for me, I thankfully walk and exercise daily, as I needed my faculties after dinner one night. I wore a pair of soft leather loafers to dinner, forgetting they were more slippery than others. As we were leaving I trailed my wife out the door, as a waitress was about to come in from serving the patrons outside. As I stepped on the sloping down step, I started to fall, but theatrically and comically avoided a tragedy and caught myself. My wife said later that I said “I am going down” which I do not remember saying, but must have to forewarn the waitress.

One of the challenges for eating seafood at the beach is to avoid overeating, plus to abstain from the fried food. Where we went serves the fried seafood “Calabash style” which means very lightly breaded. It is wonderful, but wonderfully bad for my health. Of course, we had to sample a little taste

One of our favorite things to do at the beach is walk along the shoreline, especially in the morning. That helps mitigate the sample of fried food mentioned above or the splitting of Key Lime pie for dessert. This is one of my favorites, so when made well, it is pale yellow with a very tart taste. If Key Lime pie is green, that is due to food coloring and may not be the real deal.

Since I spoke of food in two of my comments, maybe age is not the only reason this old body fares poorly in the comparisons. I do know on beach trips when younger, we did some very foolish things. And, we could eat a lot more and burn it off. Yet, we survived these trips to return with our own kids to build more than a few sand castles.

When a parent, beach trips remind remind us of fun times. Kids love the beach – the surf, the washed up creatures, the shells, and sand castles. Plus, the miniature golf, rides, slides, etc. are even more fun with all of the pomp and circumstances surrounding the courses. And, the beach is the first place that informs a dad of his thinning hair and expanding waist line.

We had fun. Travel safely this summer wherever the journey leads. And, dads suck in the gut and where a ball cap.

Maybe a law preventing yoga being used in Alabama schools will be overturned

When I first saw this article I had to do a double take. As someone who practices yoga in my home for over six years, its benefits are very helpful to these old bones and muscles. So, to see it categorized in such a negative light was troubling but not shocking. But, that is changing.

In 1993, Alabama legislators banned teaching yoga in public schools*. In an article called “Alabama might overturn its 28-year ban on yoga in schools. Just don’t say ‘namaste.’” by Meryl Kornfeld of The Washington Post, it reveals most of this law may be overturned. Here are a few paragraphs from the article. The whole article can be linked to below.

“Students will no longer need to bend over backward to (legally) practice yoga in Alabama.

In a 73-to-25 vote Thursday, the state’s House of Representatives passed a bill that will lift a quarter-century ban in public schools that some believe is unique to Alabama. Yoga was forbidden by the Alabama Board of Education in 1993 after opposition by conservative groups over its Hindu roots.

Amid reports of racism and violence against Asian Americans and other minorities, the measure is a positive step, said Nikunj Trivedi, president of the Coalition of Hindus of North America. He said practicing yoga, which many non-Hindus use for health benefits, is cultural appreciation, not cultural appropriation.

‘Yes, it has roots in Hinduism, and it’s a Hindu practice, but it’s a gift Hindus have shared with the world,’ Trivedi said.

The reason I was not shocked is I have seen this kind of push back before. A minister gave license to a suggestion by a female church leader to start an exercise program mainly for women. It actually worked so well, church attendance increased, Then the minister saw that they were doing yoga and put an abrupt end to it. He saw it as practicing another religion.

Fortunately, this mindset has changed for the better. Not only are there many places to learn and practice yoga, there are at least fifty commercials that use women and men practicing yoga in groups or at home as background to the theme to sell product. Let me emphasize this – it is so normative it is used to sell product.

In my personal experience, yoga is taught as a breathing and exercise program. The breathing part is as important as the exercise part as it helps one focus on what they are doing. One of the news reports cited a proponent of the law saying yoga was bad for mental health. In my experience, this is total off base, as it actually helps people with their peace of mind as well as stretching those muscles.

The only caution with yoga is usually made during the classes. If you cannot do a stretch or if it causes you discomfort, then don’t do it or do it to a lesser stretching pose. My level of yoga is more basic than some one much younger and more agile, who does moves and poses “with which I am not familiar.” Or, I should say know, but cannot even fathom doing.

So, I encourage people in all fifty states to find a sustainable exercise and “just do it’ as the Nike ad says. It may be yoga, pilates, isometrics, calisthenics, taibo, spin class, light weightlifting, etc. It need not be an hour work out to be effective – I work out fifteen minutes every day after I shower (it loosens up my old bones), varying three sets of routines to keep it interesting. One day I focus on arms and torso more, the next day legs and torso more, and the final day light weightlifting more.

And, for those who feel they are cheating their religion by saying “Namaste,” feel free to replace it with “have a nice day” or “peace be with you” as it is said in greeting as a sign of respect more than anything else.

*Per NBC News, Alabama in a 1993 law barred yoga in public schools along with other practices such as “meditation” and “guided imagery,” under a general prohibition of the use of “hypnosis and dissociative mental states.” Gray, elected in 2018, said he only recently learned about the ban, which was favored by religious leaders at the time.

Alabama yoga ban may be lifted after House passes bill – The Washington Post

Random life lessons from sports or other interests

Whether it is playing an individual or team sport, marching in a band, or working in some group effort, life lessons abound. These lessons may not be earth-moving, but they will serve you well, if you heed them and use them elsewhere. In no particular order:

  • Sporting activities teach us how to handle failure. The best baseball hitters will fail seven times out of ten. Think about that. What you do when you fail is of vital importance.
  • Specific to golf, it is a terrific metaphor for life. Golf is a game of managing your mistakes. The worse the golfer, the wider array of outcomes to any given shot. The next shot is of importance, but also managing that six inches of area between your ears. The just completed bad shot needs to shoved out of your mind before the next one.
  • Marching band is hard work and involves a lot of team work. Think about playing an instrument while weaving in and out of patterns avoiding other marchers. And, doing that until you get it right for the day.
  • Any team member knows we each have a role on the team. Not everyone can be star or lead the effort. We just need to roll up our sleeves and do our part. In basketball, teams with too much talent are not necessarily the ones who win. There is only one basketball, so someone has to pass the ball, rebound the ball, play defense,…
  • You cannot change the past, only the present and future. The great baseball pitcher Orel Hershiser said when he starts out, he wants to throw a no-hitter. Once the opponent gets its first hit, he sets out to throw a one-hitter and so on. He said he was good at putting the past behind him, as I mention about golf in the earlier example.
  • Life is not fair. Neither is sports or music. No matter how hard you practice, there will be some who are more talented than you. So, just do your best, work hard and find a way to contribute. There is an old lesson that the best coaches are the former players who had to work harder to succeed. Think about that.
  • Practice the things you do not do as well, not what you do well. This is a common mistake. Practice is good, but practicing what you need to practice is better. Also, do not shirk on practice efforts. Work hard to improve as if you do not, then you are only cheating yourself.
  • Focus on sustainability as you practice or work out. What are your goals? Then work toward them. Whether it is better chipping, more accurate free throw shooting, or more aerobic exercising, work toward those goals.
  • Play the game the right way treating all participants and team mates the way you want to be treated. Recently, I wrote about Dean Smith teaching his basketball players to thank the person who passed the ball leading to their basket. Also, trash talking serves no constructive purpose. Win and lose with class.

There are so many more life lessons that can be mentioned. Please share your thoughts and other lessons you took away from such interests.