We are all fanatics about something: from our families, to our friends, to our sports teams, to the movies we love, to pretty much anything. That’s the glory of being fanatical, that it can encompass just about anything. Sometimes our fanaticism is pure and unadulterated, while other times it’s all tied up and twisted in … Continue reading Fanatical
Remember that Seinfeld episode when Kramer wanted to be a ball man for the U.S. Open? He spent an awful lot of time racing from place to place, stopping on a dime, and then racing back. I’m almost certain he never really made it to the big time, but it was Kramer so it was … Continue reading We Need a Really Good Ball Man
I went to a college where everything was draped in orange, from the buildings themselves, to the attire in the school store, down to the lanyards and the cushions for fans to sit on at the football games. I’m surprised the beer at the bars near campus wasn’t all orange as well. That’s how much … Continue reading Seeing Orange
There is indignation in Chicago tonight, and they believe it’s justifiable to feel that way. But they’re wrong. Let me lay the scene for you… The officials in the Bulls/Cavaliers playoff game had controlled the action, and the score, throughout the final five minutes of the fourth quarter, calling offensive fouls on the Cavs to … Continue reading Redemption in Chicago
I went ice skating once, a long time ago, and I did it because of peer pressure. I mean, everyone else was doing it, so I tried it too. When we got to the rink it reminded me of bowling because I had to rent skates, and the pressure was intense when they didn’t know if they would be able to find them in my size. Luckily for me there was one pair that wasn’t going to totally crush my feet, so I put them on and went out on the ice. And promptly fell flat on my butt.
But in my mind I was a world-class skater who never fell, who skated figure eights with the utmost of ease, and who didn’t need the wall just to hold me up. It was at times like those when reality somehow put a dent in my self-image, reminding me that while there might be some thing I’m good at, there are countless others that I should probably just leave alone. Unless I was absolutely committed to getting better at them and becoming something special. Otherwise, it would be best to live vicariously through others who were gifted or who put in the years of training to be as good as they were in a sport I wished I had in my back pocket.
So, in that summer of 1996 I made up my mind to learn as much as I could about international sports, to soak in the feel of victory and the agony of defeat, and to feel as alive as I could, as energetic as those people I watched on the screen who could do so much. And as luck would have it, the Olympics were occurring that very summer in Atlanta. I didn’t miss one second of them. I scrambled to watch every event, to cheer on each athlete, and to revel in the cultural aspects that make the Olympics second to none when it comes to sporting events.
I loved watching the parade of nations on that first night, seeing the gaudy costumes, the big hair, and the stunning surroundings. For two weeks I was mesmerized. I even tried once again to do some of those physical activities — I hurt my back trying to do a flip like Shannon Miller. And by the time the fortnight was over, my absolute love of Olympic competition had been forged, despite the bomb, despite the poor showing of some of my favorite Olympians, and even with the lack of ice skating (I would have to wait another two years to see that in Nagano). I was hooked. Continue reading “The Magic of the Games”
**Summary: I coached varsity tennis for both girls and boys for six seasons, and this series is meant to highlight those moments that I felt were real connections between player and sport, between player and coach, or between opposing players in a competitive setting. The real nature of a competitor is shown through how she/he deals with pressure, adversity, surprises, and expectations.
It was my first year coaching the boys team, and I had some real doubts about our ability to win actual matches. The crew was undisciplined and small. If there were just two players who didn’t show up for a match we would have to forfeit one of the positions. That’s how small the team was. But they were fearless, which was their best quality. Well, that and their sense of humor. Even though we had a horrible year in the win-loss column, we never gave up and we always played hard until the very end.
One of our early matches that season was with a school we matched up well against. In fact, my first and second singles players won their matches rather easily, as did their second and third doubles teams. That meant the match came down to third and fourth singles, and to first doubles. We sweated out the first doubles match, winning in the third set 6-4. The fourth singles match came down to the wire as well, but we lost it in the third set 7-5. And, as often happened in those high school tennis matches, when players finished their matches they gathered around to watch whatever matches were still in progress. That meant everyone on both teams, including both head coaches, was gathered around to watch the drama that was the third singles match. Continue reading “The Nature of a Competitor: Part 5”