Tag Archives: Sports

Pandemic Positives

Written during Summer 2020, hopefully, this piece will remind us of what we’ve learned.

Can you believe COVID-19 has stolen headlines for four months?

Many would answer, “No. I thought it was four decades.”

March through July 2020 will not highlight anyone’s yearbook. Still, some good has emerged.

You don’t believe it?

I don’t, either.

Just kidding. In a grouchy, 2020 sort of way. Despite endless complications, this bizarre experience has presented us with positives. Even if you’re grumpy, too, check out a few below:

We no longer must dream up excuses to avoid boring events. First, events — boring and otherwise — have been cancelled. Or delayed until this virus learns some manners. Second, a reluctant attendee need only cough, and both crowd and event vanish.

For some, credit card bills have dropped. Ours have diminished to 1990 amounts. Because I’ve overdosed on screens, online shopping holds zero appeal. Besides, why buy new clothes to check the mail? They don’t impress the mailbox at all.

Our cars may last another decade. Though my ten-year-old Ford has doddered so long around the garage, it may forget how to start.

As TV time has shrunk, reading time has expanded. Because of aforementioned aversion to screens, I avoid TV like an irritating relative. Instead, I read more books the past four months than during the past four years.

Canceled sporting events = big savings. Hubby and I have not blown a single dollar on Cubs games, only to sit in the rain for hours. Or watch them lose. (Usually both.)

Masks cover a multitude of greens. For chronic spinach-between-the-teeth people like myself, masks are a godsend.

Toilet paper never looked so good. The shortage has eased. Stacks lining Walmart’s back wall assure me that when a crisis arises, America will triumph.

Entertainment costs have dropped. Not once have I spent big bucks on a lousy movie with a soul-sucking ending, as theaters are closed. Nor have I squandered ten bucks — or 200 million calories — on popcorn.

Cleanliness is off the charts. Personal and business cleanliness standards have set new records. The U.S. population has never boasted such clean hands. My mom would be proud.

Finally, we’ve become a country hungry for conversation. When people do gather, fewer stare at phones and more talk to humans. When a driver stopped in the street to chat with us — a small-town practice that usually annoys Hubby’s safety sense — he welcomed the chance to talk. The young driver (gasp!) seemed to enjoy it, too.

Living through a pandemic isn’t easy. But unlike many during the 1918 flu and Europe’s bubonic plagues, most of us are living through COVID-19.

If we pilfer small positives, our days will brighten. We may even become easier to live with.

You don’t believe it?

Hubby doesn’t, either.

But if our credit card bills continue to drop, he can live with that.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What positives have you gleaned from the pandemic?

Classic Post: March Magic

This post first appeared on March 9, 2016.

Every year, winter-weary people wonder why God didn’t ban March long 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.”

Six 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 bleachers like outraged crows. Teachers popped up and down, much more fun at games than in the classroom! At halftime, I exchanged my nickel for Beech-Nut Fruit Stripe gum. I chewed all five flavors at once.

None of these, however, compared with the games’ true marvel: referees. A bleat of their whistles, and players and fans alike stopped in their tracks. Even our school principal, 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 didn’t 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, our center, a six-foot reincarnation of James Dean, kept my eye all season. With the rest of the lovestruck cheer block, I shrieked, “2-4-6-8, who do we appreciate? David!” The pretty cheerleaders definitely appreciated David more than the coach.

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

In the early afternoon, Taylorsville defeated Wayne. Our evil archrivals, 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, accompanied 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.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you give in to March Madness? Or, like this little soccer fan, do you invest your sports craziness elsewhere?

Top 10 Things about Fall

Nobody feels neutral about autumn’s advent. Mention fall, and you trigger one of two reactions:

“No-o-o-o-o (weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth)!”

Or, “Ye-e-s-s-s (double fist pump)!”

The first response typifies skinny beach bums and bunnies who evolved without sweat glands. They play tennis on boiling blacktop and Frisbee on 500-degree sand. My scientific theory: summer people originally lived on the sun, but inexplicably migrated to the Midwest a million years ago. They’ve complained about fall ever since.

Perhaps you’ve deduced that I support the second view? Below, I’ve listed my Top 10 reasons for loving the harvest season:

  1. Steve – At a Labor Day picnic 67 years ago, my husband’s 20-year-old mother wondered if the holiday would prove prophetic — she thought she was going into labor. However, the excitement was traced to a mole digging holes under her blanket. Hubby, who still takes his good old sweet time, appeared two weeks later. I’m glad he did.
  2. Layers – No more bathing suits! Hurrah!
  3. Cozy reading – Sure, beach books introduce us to new imaginary friends and take us to faraway places. But during fall, I can roll up in a throw like a giant burrito and read with equal enjoyment — with no sand in my pants.
  4. Apple everything – Orchard apples taste as if they grew in fruit heaven. They bless us with bubbling apple pie, chunky homemade applesauce and hot, cinnamon-y cider. Mmm.
  5. Comfort food – During summer, Congress should declare cooking illegal. But fall brings urges to fill the house with delicious fragrances: chili and cornbread on cold Saturday nights. Chicken and noodles for Sunday dinner. Golden loaves of bread that smell like love as they bake. Even hot coffee tastes better during fall. (I never could embrace iced coffee. Some things are just wrong.)
  6. Squirrels – I like to watch them work. I like to watch anybody work but me.
  7. Sports – I like to watch football and playoff baseball. I like to watch anybody exercise but me.
  8. Weather – A fall day’s air smells fresh as if God just invented it. Often, autumn brings the only true-blue blue skies we see in Indiana. Even the most addicted summer junkie can’t deny that fall offers great snuggle weather.
  1. Nature – Trees, clad in their best fall-rainbow finery, leave me breathless. Other scene-stealers: morning glories swathe fences with royal blue and ruby blossoms. Chrysanthemums bloom in jewel colors. Cornstalks rustle with gentle gossip about weather changes. Orange pumpkins like harvest moons nestle among brown vines. Ugly brown milkweed pods erupt with white, airy adventures.
  2. Besides all this, we don’t have to weed or mow the grass this weekend.

What’s not to love?

Welcome, fall!

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What is one of your Top 10 reasons for loving the harvest season?

Little League Love

Fierce soprano voices yell, “Batter! Batter!” Super-sized helmets top skinny little necks. Pint-sized players wield mitts big as sofa pillows (and about as effective).

A hometown crowd cheers and munches hot dogs and popcorn.

It’s the season for Little League Love.

Unlike most onlookers, my husband and I are comfortable spectators. Our children are too old for Little League, and our grandchildren have taken different directions.

During our son’s baseball career, I spent years at ball parks with my eyes tightly shut — often double-covered with hands — only venturing out of hiding to visit the concession stand.

Now, I actually watch. These players’ ages range from nine to 12. Some kids probably do Gillette shaving commercials to supplement their allowances. Others might be mistaken for bats — except for hats, mitts and spit. For not only do they imitate favorite major league players with elaborate windups and batting rituals, they have mastered expectoration at near professional levels.

Moms don’t applaud this aspect of their game. But they cheer every catch, throw and at bat. Family members try to behave so their kids will. But when offspring are involved, the gentlest mom — and grandma — grows fangs when the umpire dares call their boy out.

I never acted like that. Though … I do admit going a little overboard in motivating my child, egged on by another mom.

Still, we helped our sluggish team morph into a slugging team. My friend jumped up and informed her 12-year-old that if he fanned again, she would dance for the crowd’s entertainment. I informed my son that I would sing. Very loud.

Not only did our boys smack the ball, we inspired the entire team. Yet nobody put our names on their trophy. Where’s the Mom Love in that?

A roar from the present crowd brings me back to the end of a last-inning 0-0 tie. On a wild pitch, a youngster steals home! After the good-sport slapping of hands, they adjourn to the concession stand, where winners celebrate and losers drown their sorrows in sno-cones — and all look forward to the next game.

It’s easy for me to laud the joys of Little League from my maybe-I’ll-go-to-the-game-maybe-not stance. For parents who spend enough time watching, waiting and transporting to earn a degree, Little League Love wears a little thin.

But one dad near us sees his sons’ games as win-win situations. If their teams win, he’ll return for championship competition. If they lose, he’ll stay home and run a combine over his neglected lawn.

This dad cares about his kids, but not too much about their games’ outcome. That’s the very best kind of Little League Love.

In Grandma’s eyes, no professional MLB player can compare with this little batter!

Your Extraordinary Ordinary:  What do you like best/least about Little League?

March Insanity or Therapy?

I am writing a dangerous blog because it’s a dangerous time of year.

March Madness, rendered Hoosier Hysteria in Indiana, attacks even the most level-headed citizens of our sensible state.

Take my husband, for example. He wears navy/gray one day and brown/khaki the next. Hubby functions as the voice of sanity on boards and committees. While airport officers seem to regard me as a permanent threat to national security, they never search him.

But when Hubby watches Indiana University play basketball, I don a helmet. With earplugs.

When they lose, I steel myself for the usual statistical post-mortem and week of mourning.

Yet despite our team’s early tourney exit this year, we continue to watch the games. While Hubby perpetuates his (loud) role as High Judge of Referees, I occasionally can remove my protective gear.

Still recovering from a recent cold, I retired last night at halftime. When he came to bed, Hubby turned on the brightest light possible and whispered tenderly in my ear: “Just so you’ll sleep better, Fairfield beat Quinnipiac.”

That’s the gentle side of his fanaticism.

Hubby’s grandma cheered against Grandpa’s team, but later married him.

I can’t blame him, as Hubby’s very DNA impacts his tourney-time behavior. While reserved during off-season, his grandmother displayed no gentle side during March. A lovely old lady, she resembled Mrs. Santa Claus, with bright blue eyes, wavy white hair and pink cheeks. No doubt, she was Etna Green High’s prettiest cheerleader when she met Grandpa, a player on the opposing Atwood High School team. Their marriage marked the last time she fraternized with the enemy, however. When I.U. played, she yelled for their foes’ blood. And for that of the referees, who were crooks! Liars! Democrats!

Some critics, appalled by March Madness’ bizarre symptoms, insist this disease should be eliminated.

Contrariwise, I believe it serves as an important coping measure for those living in the rural Midwest. During long, dreary winters, we cannot linger on sunny beaches. We cannot ski down scenic mountains to deal with stress.

Nevertheless, with the exception of school bus rocking and mascot theft, we enjoy lower crime rates than other sections of the country.

Why? Because basketball games function as group therapy. We shriek, clap and stomp, taking out frustrations and hostilities on the refs. My family’s good health testifies to the positive effects of March Madness. Grandma lived to be 95. Hubby possesses enviable blood pressure numbers.

Do the referees?

Um … not so much. Perhaps they, like the rest of the world, believe we all were dropped on our heads.

We do abdicate our signature sanity during Hoosier Hysteria.

And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What sports madness seizes your community or state every year? Do you join in?

 

Olympic Oddities

Along with with millions of other global spectators, I’ve been fixating on the Winter Olympics, averaging one blink per day.

No wonder. Guy skaters wear Vegas outfits and Norwegian curlers sport pajama pants stolen from Grandma.

Curlers actually win gold medals for wielding brooms. (Shouldn’t I receive one for vacuuming?)*

Competitors also careen on sleds at 90 miles per hour. How did insane sports like the bobsled, the skeleton and the luge ever come to be?

I discovered they all originated in the nineteenth-century spa town of St. Moritz, Switzerland, where, ironically, visitors hoped to improve their health. Caspar Badrutt, a hotel owner, pushed the new concept of winter resorts. However, complaints that young tourists were running down local fraus with sleds threatened the town’s reputation. A track built to keep them off the streets continues to serve Olympic hopefuls today.

That’s the official version. More likely, these sports were invented by snowed-in women whose men had been lying around the house. “Go sled to the store at 90 mph and pick up bread,” the wives ordered. “Better yet, do it face first.”

The husbands must have wanted to escape their women, too, because the idea caught on.

Perhaps cabin fever drove others to aerial skiing and snowboarding, when besieged parents told antsy offspring, “You need exercise. Go jump off a mountain.”

Even odder sports have been showcased during past Olympics. In the Paris Games of 1900, for example, champions took medals in firefighting, kite flying, delivery van racing, hot air ballooning and fencing with walking canes.

Club swinging, despite Neanderthal images that come to mind, often involved intricate choreography — and more trust of fellow club swingers than that required by ribbon-wielding rhythmic gymnasts today. Perhaps by 1932, when club swinging was eliminated, everyone had discovered new ways to get concussions.

Spectators need not fear that the Olympics will suffer from future lack of weirdness. The Summer Olympics include the equestrian sport of dressage. I assumed the horses wore clothes, a modesty trend not reflected throughout the Olympics. Authorities didn’t confirm this, but said the animals do perform moves “Dancing with the Stars” competitors would envy.

It’s not enough that perfect-bodied athletes flood my TV screen? No, a horse with two left feet outdoes me on the dance floor.

Worse yet, pole dancing, or “pole fitness” is now considered an Olympic sport — and no, I’m not making this up. Children will be told to turn off the TV and go jump off a mountain. Spouses will be sent on sleds at 90 mph to pick up bread.

Me? I cast my vote for more dressage.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What Olympic sport keeps you glued to the TV?

*My friend, Ruth, awarded me this gold in the Vacuuming Olympics!