Archive for the 'sports' Category


January 24, 2015

The snow is falling, my mother is on GIP care with daily hospice attention, and I was counseled yesterday not to sweat whether I can be there at all the significant moments.  I was there, at the nursing center, for hours yesterday, as my mother’s condition shifted and a cast of thousands (or so it seemed) made adjustments and provided care and support.  Seems my challenge at the moment is to sit tight.

So I figured a blog post on trying to find a balance between messiness and sterility in life might be a helpful distraction.

I wrote recently in news comments online that I am disappointed in President Obama’s current mode of combative policy proposals.  I also wrote about the deflated footballs controversy.  I questioned why teams get to provide their own balls and pointed out that all balls could be provided from a neutral source, as they are for kicking plays already.

And then I thought about what I am saying.  And I think it comes down to taking seriously — maybe too seriously — people’s complaining about unpleasant outcomes in the implementation of a system.  The systems could probably be improved and the problems reduced, but I guess I am wondering whether most of the participants in the system actually prefer a messy system in which people get harmed from time to time, to a more sterile system in which there is less harm but less excitement.  I don’t know, but I remember a tag line a Roman history professor used to use about the aspects of Roman culture we in our culture tend to airbrush away or ignore:  “That’s the way they liked it.”  Could apply here.  Could be it is people like me who don’t like it.  In which case there’s not much point in my trying to help problem-solve these situations.


March 31, 2014

I am not following college basketball closely, although I am aware of the tournament going on, but I got a kick out of discovering just what the orange object on top of the retaining wall at the back of my yard turned out to be — a basketball.

I left it where it was, because I am not sure which yard it came from.

Juvenile hawk at the res

November 7, 2013

This morning, as I began a walk around the reservoir, I saw a largish bird flying low over the water.  I figured that once it landed in the water, I would take a look to see what it was.

But it didn’t land, it continued up into a tree, and at some point I focused more closely and realized it was a hawk.  I wondered if it was the juvenile I saw not that long ago on the other side of the res.  I thought, “Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if it came closer.”

It flew into a tree right in front of me and perched on a low limb.  I could see it very clearly.  It did seem to be the juvenile.

I was enjoying all this, when a runner ran by, coming in the direction opposite to mine.  Off flew the hawk, again fairly low to the ground at first, and right across the path of the runner.


September 9, 2013

I have a friend who kayaks, drives her car with her kayak on top and stops off to put it in the water and paddle.  She asks me periodically if I want to come along kayaking with her, but I know it’s not for me and I always decline.

But I don’t try to write books about kayaking, either.  Even if I did my research and interviewed people with a feel for the sport, I would not myself acquire a feel for the sport, so what sort of a book would I be writing?  An observer’s guide to a participatory sport, perhaps.

As to a participant’s guide to a participatory sport, some such people would rather help the audience member acquire the equipment and teach them, in person and including by example, the fundamentals of using it, rather than write the book.

Performance enhancement

August 6, 2013

I don’t mean steroids, I don’t mean Viagra, I don’t even mean clear kinds of enhancing like padding a resume or plagiarism or exchanging favors in the form of money, referrals, publicity, etc.  The discussion of the A-Rod case got me thinking of people who “know what they’ve got and they know how to use it” in a more subtle way.  (That’s a variation on the lyrics from a song I think is called “My Baby Loves Lovin'”:  “She’s got what it takes and she knows how to use it.”)

I mean something partway between bullying and manipulation.  I think a version people may recognize is when you’re sharing some food with someone else, and you’re dividing the last bit and deciding who gets what and you get a sense of what piece or part the other person wants you to choose, even though they are telling you it’s up to you, that the choice is yours.

Some people pick up on those kinds of signals in other contexts, too.  There are people who are are really loud and pushy about giving them, while there are these others who are really receptive to such signals.  Clearly, if a receptive person knows what they want to do anyway, it shouldn’t matter, but if the other person can get them to see things (including political issues or policy choices) their way, it becomes confusing.  Then the best mechanism for dealing with it that I know is awareness that it is going on — and seeing the psychically loud and pushy person for who they are, that is, a person who engages in this, usually, in my experience, for their own profit.

I don’t think even if I called out the people in my life who do this (and there are a number) they would necessarily stop — I don’t think that’s who they are either.  I think some of them believe this is fair play, others are too emotionally damaged to accept how things would play out if they didn’t use such tools.

My frustration is less about their ill-gotten gain, if we even want to see the benefits they accrue in that light, it’s more that, since they don’t have the assets that would have suited them for doing what they’re now in a position to do because they engaged in this technique of psychic manipulation (or predation), they can’t really be helpful in the role they’ve taken.  It could be manager of a project, it could be some other leadership position or a position of influence, it could be the volunteer who takes responsibility for bringing the flowers to a potluck — my point is that the results will be suboptimal.

On the other hand, the universe does not require optimal results.  I don’t think that’s what life’s all about, figuring out how to optimize everything according to some human measure of efficiency and success.  I think many situations are better seen as our classrooms for learning about ourselves, others, how we relate to others, how we relate to the world and to the universe.  Here, I think what I’m critiquing is actually a classroom for the pushy person’s learning the limitations of what they can achieve this way and for me learning the limitations of what I can do about it, even if others get hurt by what’s going on.

Goals and cups

June 14, 2013

I was writing a post this morning about goals.  I saved it as a draft and then moved away from it — abandoned it — as it was getting too heavy.  (It had to do with goals as ideals for guidance and goals as things actually to accomplish.)

But I couldn’t help think about goals as ice hockey scores, too, living as I do in the Boston area.  (The Boston Bruins are playing the Chicago Blackhawks for the championship.)

While I was out taking care of business, I came across a tee shirt being sold in a local store that says, “We want the Cup.”  $9.99.  Even I, not a rabid hockey fan or Boston sports groupie, couldn’t resist.

Henri Nouwen asked us, “Can you drink the cup?”  I like this shirt as a reflection of a positive response to that:  Yes!  In fact, we affirmatively want it!  Bring it on!

It’s also got a picture of a bear on it, a Boston Bruin.  The Environmental Police shot a Black Bear above the Mass Pike in Newton Corner recently.  He was a youngster and literally up a tree.  I’ve had difficult dreams about bears.  So bear as hockey team mascot is a great way for me to see bears differently, as being part of a benign and friendly context.

I am happy to drink the cup and wear the bear (as a nightshirt, that is).

Make friends with your subconscious

November 18, 2012

I should be outside pruning rose bushes, but I just wanted to write something brief using a different type of approach to, not so much the subjects of my previous two posts, but to a comment I wrote in response to one of those NYTimes sort of philosophical pieces in “The Stone” subset of their Opinionator section.

My point is about how there are multiple strands to our “selves.”  Most of us using the internet dwell (and overly so, in my opinion) in only some of these strands and may not be aware there are others.

So that’s why I called this post “Make friends with your subconscious.”  People not adverse to theism or spiritual development tend to do this through prayer and meditation, but I think other people may do it through the arts (especially music), sports, nature, communicating with pets.  I think some people may do through higher math, but I think it’s trickier to lose the intellectualizing self enough through doing that as a way to be in the strand of the self that slides around without the constraints the intellectualizing strand has.  Of course, some people do this (whether intentionally or not) in ways that cause them and others distress, and it can become extreme enough that we label it an illness (as in, mental illness) — I certainly don’t advocate doing that.

But just as we talk about parents spending quality time with their children, I think we need to spend quality time with our subconscious.

Olympic coverage

August 1, 2012

I don’t like the skewing of Olympic coverage towards individuals and dramatic stories.  I like the aesthetics of the high-caliber performance of a sport, and I like when the commentary explains to me the details of what contributes to that — even just calling attention to techniques that separate a good performance from an excellent one.

Further complicating the actual coverage is how our media seem to have decided before the events even began which individuals to pay their most attention to.  It’s not like the evening news where bias is overtly frowned upon, but it seems, for my taste, too much like boosterism even in the context of sports nonetheless.

The other frustration I wanted to express is something I may have picked up years ago from my college roommate who introduced me to the finer points of gymnastics (she was a gymnast, her brother was a gymnast, their mother a coach, and I became women’s team manager).  I like the balletic aspect of gymnastics, the flow that some gymnasts have on balance beam, the gracefulness of their limb extension, for examples.  The coverage does mention some of this, but our cultural orientation seems not only to focus more on muscular difficult tumbling but not to even wish for a gymnast who can do both, the difficult tumbling within a graceful presentation.

And one of my smaller frustrations: the live streaming online is only available to customers who pay for their TV reception.  I’ve lived without WGBH (the local PBS station in Boston) for months while they fix their antenna in Needham, I can live without more extensive Olympics coverage, but it bothers me to feel left behind by the mainstream media because I don’t make paying for TV a priority in my household budget.

Football as reflection of our culture

July 22, 2012

I wrote a comment this morning in reaction to the report on the removal of the Paterno statue that maybe now we could work on removing football from its pedestal, too, and return it to the status of just a sport.  Later I added a reply to someone (a Woodman from Upstate, NY) else’s comment that maybe we could also remove the “‘win at all costs'” mentality from other parts of our culture (not just from football or Penn State’s football program).

I think we can actually learn something from exchanging roles within an adversarial game with winners and losers — like good sportsmanship, compassion, we’re all really the same regardless of what team jersey we wear, the significance of a win is limited, “there but for the grace of Something go I,” it’s no fun if the contest is too lopsided, it’s no fun if your opponent can’t get back up …

But I think we get stuck instead.  I wonder if that’s because we don’t use losing as an opportunity for exploration of what the whole game means, but instead just react to the disappointment and negative feedback with a plan to try better to win next time.  (We could, in theory, use winning as an opportunity for learning, too, but that seems to be even less likely a sequence in practice — at least losing sometimes invites us to put in a pause for self-reflection.)

In my own explorations in other contexts, progress comes not from obtaining a glorious or fairytale ending to the activity in question, but from finally seeing the activity for what it is — seeing through it — and becoming less attached to the whole enterprise.  (For example, instead of seeing our lives as dramas with a particular narrative purpose, I tend to see them now as expressions of things we need to work on, as independent scenes each with a lesson, as the playing out of forces that don’t originate with our particular lives.)

I think we don’t learn as much as is possible to learn from losing unless we are open to learning itself and unless we also already have some sort of robust connection to our inner selves and to the supporting forces of the universe.


Passing plays

May 25, 2012

I don’t actually have much experience playing team sports (Willy had a surprisingly negative attitude towards them, which I never quite understood; he fenced, épée, which I learned when I asked him early on in our relationship about his legs and he explained how lunging with a heavy weapon — he had no idea why his high school coach had assigned it to him, since he was very small for his age then — had developed them), but I was thinking this morning about passing plays I’ve watched in team sports like ice hockey or basketball.  I was reacting to exchanges that are not quite group discussions, such as one finds in the current commenting format on the NYTimes website.  Sometimes it feels to me like an object in play is being passed from one person to another until somebody finds the open shot — sees what would be helpful in that context to be seen.  Here, that would amount to sharing an idea or insight.  And one never knows from whom that will come — that’s one of the positive things about the internet and mass participation, I think.