Tag Archives: Sports

Forty Bikes on the Cardinal Greenway

Once upon a time, Hubby and I joined other cyclists for a 22-mile ride on the Cardinal Greenway. This former railroad track, now cycling/walking path, stretches 62 miles from Marion, Indiana, to Richmond.

Families, college students, daring adolescents, middle-aged couples, and riders even older than we gathered. They brought varieties of bikes.

“That recumbent tandem looks relaxing,” Hubby commented.

I shook my head. “We’d probably fall asleep pedaling and wake up under a bus.”

One disadvantage in a multigenerational ride: some riders looked good in biking shorts.

But we forgave them. They couldn’t help it.

Also, courtesy times 40 complicated our start: “After you.”

“No, after you.”

Eventually, we rode through shady woods. Our pace encouraged conversation with friends, new and old. Birds and babbling brooks sang melodies far superior to any vibrating through earbuds.

Besides, with bud-free, textless cycling, we could detect a combine crossing our path before becoming permanently one with it.

We also could hear dogs, though on the Greenway, they were kept on leashes — a bonus for cyclists. Many of us had viewed entirely too many canine teeth and tonsils up close and personal.

Hubby disagrees that dogs target a tandem’s back rider. But guess who always rides up front?

Other Greenway features made it a great ride. Picturesque bridges spanned busier roads. A tunnel echoed with our yells. This nosy writer studied backyards and saw how people really live — research.

Several drivers paused to let cyclists cross streets. Their consideration was especially appreciated because our little guys occasionally forgot to stop.

Except dead in the middle of the trail.

Halting a tandem behind them is equivalent to stopping a semi on a highway. Sudden stops might embed the back rider’s teeth in her knees.

Thankfully, most children moved to the right for pauses.

Their strong little legs pumping, pumping, pumping were a beautiful sight. One boy had never ridden 11 miles before. High five!

One trail section runs through soybean and cornfields, wide-open spaces city riders never enjoy. Some cyclists boast of climbing the Rockies. I offer them an unequivocal Thbbft.

A native Hoosier, I like flat. Especially when cycling.

At a picturesque “train stop,” the group enjoyed a yummy picnic, then loaded kids and bikes into the support truck and headed home. Hubby and I, among others, hopped on and zoomed back to the trailhead, thankful for a fun day and weather forecast that fooled meteorologists’ predictions.

Also super-grateful for a soft, soft sofa and [yawn] a major Saturday afternoon nap.

What’s your favorite bike ride memory?

Learning to Win (We Hope)

“Cubs win!”

Only two words. But they set off fireworks in Chicago Cub baseball fans. We hug and kiss perfect strangers, whether at the ballpark or the grocery store. When police arrive at the latter, we embrace the officers — and our subsequent cellmates.

Why does a win excite Cub fans so much?

For decades, they have been professional baseball’s “lovable losers.”

billy-goat-1569283_640The Cubs last won a World Series in 1908. Has any other losing team been immortalized by Norman Rockwell on The Saturday Evening Post’s cover? No other team is cursed by a billy goat named Murphy.

Still, Cub fans often outnumber their competitors in their own ballparks.

Typical American sympathy for the underdog? Mass psychosis?

Hubby and I support the Cubs for a better reason. Our friend, Joleen.

For 40 years, Joleen never missed a single, freezing Opening Day at Wrigley. No matter how lousy the Cubs played, Joleen believed.

Diagnosed with cancer, she finally missed Opening Day. But she cheered the Cubs until the day she died, happy because they won a double header. Joleen was buried wearing Cubs earrings.

In her honor, I will always be a Cubs fan.

Yet by now, even Joleen might have wearied of their losses.

Viewing/listening gratis was bad enough. But of the six games Hubby and I attended, the Cubs won … zero.

With their improvement last year, we took our son, his wife, and Baby Jonathan — oh, so cute in his little Cubs shirt and cap — to Wrigley.

They lost again.

steverachaelwrigley-iiThis year, Hubby wanted to buy tickets. I found myself at Wrigley once more.

Unbelievably, Hubby told a nearby couple we’d never seen the Cubs win. They stared as if we’d grown goat horns. “Your name’s not Murphy, is it?”

The Cubs fell behind.

I avoided eye contact with our neighbors.

Amazingly, the Cubs pulled ahed.

Hubby cheered, “They’re going to win!”

 “Right.” I rolled my eyes. “And I’m going to win Miss America.”

“You’d better practice your walkway wave, because they will do it!”

The last strikeout!

“Cubs win!” The cry echoed from Chicago to Lake Michigan. “Cubs win!”

Our neighbors hugged us. W flags bloomed. The happy PA system launched “Go, Cubs, Go,” and thousands joined in, dancing in the seats.

I see what you mean, Joleen.

 Unfortunately, the Cubs lost six out of their next eight games. But after subsisting on the baseball equivalent of bread and water, I have tasted my first whipped cream.

I want more!

I imagine the Cubs do, too.

Do you think they’ll win the Series this year?

 

 

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer

Three generations of Cub fans

Three generations of Cub fans

O my God, how do You handle ballgame prayers? — the crazy mishmash of petitions by opposing players, managers, and fans? Plus umpires’ prayers this game would finish soon! Far greater theological mysteries should occupy me. Nevertheless — OMG, thank You that the Cubs are in the World Series!

A Ballgame-aholic Confesses All

My name is Rachael, and I’m a ballgame-aholic.

Football, baseball and basketball rivet me to the small screen.

But Mom raised me with a Midwestern work ethic, scoffing at grown men wearing silly clothes who played with balls and sticks. When she hid the newspaper’s sport section and dispatched Dad’s recliner to the roof, we kids got the message.

My husband’s family, though equally industrious, considered viewing ballgames valid — and Indiana University basketball sacred.

Consequently, Steve requires fewer rationalizations than I, but he sometimes borrows from my vast collection.

Our favorite: we accuse each other of working too hard, then prescribe couch-potato bliss as a mutual health measure. “A little R & R will keep our blood pressures down.”

If this fails to stem coulda-shouldas, we add respectability with semi-productive activities that don’t detract from the loafing so essential to sports viewing.

We count our money.

Okay, that sufficed for three seconds. What next?

  • I clip coupons, which borders on constructive. However, I’ll lose the coupons in my black-hole handbag, only to have them magically reappear in an underwear drawer — one day  after they expire.sockscrazy
  • We fold Hubby’s brown and black socks. He does this on autopilot, and I rarely bother to separate the two, so we can focus on the game.
  • My husband polishes shoes. If the score is tied in final quarter, the difference between black and brown also escapes him. But my flip-flops look really shiny.
  • Dead-heading plants qualifies as a mildly useful ballgame pastime unless I translate the teams’ picking off passes to picking off flowers. I enjoy getting carried away, but my bald plants do not.
  • Manicures, pedicures and ear-hair-trimming sessions also work — with a similar warning.
  • Steve and I sort through cassette tapes and vinyl albums. We cannot part with any, resulting in pleasant diligence without actually accomplishing anything.
  • We made jelly — once. With all the washing, sieving, and stirring, this pastime lurks perilously close to true fruit-fulness. But if we, mesmerized by attempts to steal home plate, do not add enough pectin or sugar, we risk producing 47 jars of thin, pucker-y grape ice cream sauce.

steverachaelsportsOur best rationalization? Steve and I snuggle, cheering our teams on, snarling at referees, consoling and/or celebrating with hugs, smooches and buttery popcorn.

After 41-plus years of viewing ballgames together, we know how to do quality time. And it’s the best ballgame-watching rationalization ever.

Okay, what’s your favorite excuse?

 

 

 

 

 

March Magic

BasketballGoalSnowWinter-weary people wonder why God did not ban March a long time ago. March lasts for years in the Midwest.

Still, we survive, even thrive. Why?

Two words: tourney time.

Outsiders term our annual basketball obsession “March Madness.” We call it “March Magic.”

More than five decades ago, I experienced my first taste of it in a rural elementary gymnasium packed to the rafters. The fans amazed me more than the skinny eighth-grade team. Upstanding grown-ups shrieked from wooden bleachers like gangs of outraged crows. Teachers popped up and down, much more fun at games than in the classroom! At half-time, I exchanged my nickel for wondrous Beech-Nut Fruit Stripe gum. I chewed all five flavors at once.

Nothing, however, compared with the games’ true marvel: the referees. A bleat of their whistles, and players and fans stopped in their tracks. Even our school principal, whom I believed was a first cousin of God, stood at attention.

One referee power outshone them all: with upraised fingers, these omnipotent beings could change the scoreboard.

Though I tried to “score” points for my team, the Taylorsville Bears, holding up two fingers, I did not possess the magic.

Gradually, my awe of the game outgrew my wonder at the referees. Their movements paled compared to the raw poetry of farm kids running, guarding, shooting a ball into a basket with awkward grace.

One year, when county tourney time arrived, the Taylorsville Bears were the team to beat.

In the early afternoon, Taylorsville defeated Wayne. Our evil arch-rivals, Rock Creek, pounded on Petersville. Anyone who has experienced small-town basketball can write the script that evening: the hats-off, hands-over-hearts moment of thin civility during the national anthem. The Coliseum roar of a crowd segregated by school colors. The wild choreography of young bodies driving, diving, shooting the basketball. The blast of songs by a Bobble-headed band. The final screams of winners smothered by popcorn confetti as fans stormed the court.

Of course, we won. Do you think I’d write this if Rock Creek had beat us?

March Magic persists, yet consolidation and categorization have changed sports scenery.  The sacred barn-like 1920s gymnasium where I watched my first tourney game disappeared years ago. Fruit Stripe gum can be ordered on the Internet — for more than a nickel.

While I still love basketball, I don’t get carried away. When March Magic tugs at me, I wouldn’t think of trying to up my team’s score by raising two fingers.

Now I raise three.

Have you ever lived a “Hoosiers” movie moment?

 

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: March Madness

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Oh, my God, during March Madness, I don a helmet. With ear plugs. You made my husband, whose signature is sanity, who keeps brown socks in one drawer and black in another. Yet he succumbs to basketball psychosis. OMG, bring healing. But please, not until April 6. (Go, Hoosiers!)

This Was for My Health?

DCF 1.0

We’ve all heard word trios that drop on our heads like clusters of miniature anvils. You are overdrawn. The IRS called. What’s our deductible?

But the three words on my adult college registration eclipsed them all.

Dress for exercise. Dress for exercise?

“Lifetime Physical Awareness is required for everybody,” my college adviser insisted.

“But I’m already aware,” I whined. “My knees crack and I injured my back reading the newspaper. Why should I throw away perfectly good money to find out what I already know?—my abs of steel are flabs I conceal.

“I refuse to play soccer with 18-year-olds.” I crossed my arms. “Those people think varicose veins are a new rock band.”

I couldn’t change her mind.

At first, I felt encouraged. Our instructor, a Nice Young Man (over-50 translation for Hunk), prayed for our health and well-being. A Christian college has its advantages; I could use divine help, especially since one glance told me I was at least ten years older than any of my co-sufferers.

He prayed, his voice full of understanding and compassion.

Then he proceeded to kill me.

“Okay, let’s hit the weight room!”

I stared at one of the machines.

It smirked back at me. Deep in its shiny metal innards, it knew the truth: to me, heaven presents no mystery, compared to the incomprehensible operation of any and all machines. But I refused to be defeated by a lower species. I grasped the machine’s cold, skeletal limbs and yanked them toward my chest. The machine fought back, but with grim determination, I conquered my opponent.

I had nearly completed a whole set when the instructor interrupted me. Would I please stop wrestling with the equipment rack?

He stuck close to me after that, introducing me one by one to various torture devices:  machines that bent my biceps, pulled my pectorals, decreased my height, reversed my elbow direction. I lay on the floor panting, my tongue hanging out.

“Can you believe it?” I asked my adviser later, after describing my brush with death by machinery. “To top it all off, we spent the last class session talking about managing stress. I’ll tell you about stress. Taking ‘Slow Execution 101.’”

My adviser looked up from her schedule of classes. “You’re mistaken,” she said. “That course is required next semester.”