My favorite moment in sports

I am not an athlete. Never have been, likely never will be.
This is not to say I’m a complete sloth, just mediocre of skill. I can play what a dear friend of mine calls “picnic volleyball,” for example, and do the kind of casual hiking that crops up on camping trips. But I know my limits, and that my ice skating ability is enough to keep me going around in circles, not doing the quick changes of directions required for hockey.
Part of it might be the split-second reactions many sports need. I’m not a bad golfer. But in golf, you get plenty of time to get ready and think about exactly what you’re doing, all while people are expected to be quiet.
It also took me a long time to get to that point. My husband, seeing my lack of skill in a number of activities, would try to help and often ended up baffling me. Once when we were bowling, he told me I was stepping off on the wrong foot. I was dumbfounded nearly into paralysis. I had to think about what foot to step off with? Because apparently it wasn’t instinctual.
Golf was fraught with instruction, but only briefly. He wanted to tell me about how to hold my hands on the club, how to line up my feet, how to swing through, not to pick my head up … and that I should incorporate this all at once. Shut up, I finally had to say. I’m going to add these things one at a time, and you just suffer watching in the meantime. Silently. Now we’re great scramble partners. I can’t shoot long, but I shoot straight, while he has the distance but hooks madly.
Softball has plagued me forever. I played for two seasons as a child, and mercifully was allowed to quit. I was on an office team again as an adult, suffering humiliation in the name of camaraderie.
I cannot throw a softball properly, nor for any distance. My husband, the long-suffering pitcher, learned to take a few steps forward to retrieve the throws back from me, put at catcher as the position of least harm. Every pitch was a small torture, because if the batter didn’t connect, I was running to the backstop to retrieve the ball, run back to the plate and throw badly and short.
It’s not for lack of trying. A good number of quite good players have attempted to teach me proper ball throwing. It feels wrong, and I have yet to master it. Maybe with video instruction, but our team dissolved a couple of summers ago so I haven’t pursued that.
When we had plenty of females and I could stay in the dugout, I kept score. My manager buddy asked me to learn so he could pay better attention to the game. I don’t think he remembered my great fondness for filling out forms. I grew to love scorekeeping, which was both fun and useful.
Occasionally we needed female bodies on the field, and I batted. I am very picky, and walked sometimes. Struck out more than walked. Sometimes got on base. Once was struck on the back of the head as I ran to second and the first baseman tried to throw me out. Occasionally scored.
Much as I like golf, with its deliberate pace and beautiful surroundings, my favorite moment playing sports comes in softball, my nemesis.
The sweetest instant is when I’m on base with two out. No strategizing, no straining to hear, no desperate looking for instructions. Just listen for the crack of the bat and run, run, run. Listen and run.
So simple. So perfect.

A move by Ford … but a smart one?

Woohoo! Even the most casual Lions fan, which would be me, has to be cheered by Matt Millen’s departure. Football isn’t something I care much about but I do try to follow the Lions, and from the moment my son and I turned on the radio to hear Atlanta rolling all over them, it has been dismal. Last Sunday I walked through the ice arena waiting for the world’s slowest-undressing hockey player, and paused to look up at a TV; yep, the Lions had lost again. When do the Red Wings start?

So bumping into the news about Millen was a happy occasion. Granted, it won’t do any good this season, and it removes a whipping boy so there might be even LESS joy in watching. But there now is a glimmer of hope for future seasons, where before there was none.

It’s only a glimmer, though, because guess what? Ford Sr. hasn’t magically developed hiring skills overnight. Who’s to say the next choice will be any better?

For a more sports-eloquent expansion of that thought, check out Mitch Albom’s column as he rightly asks, “And?”

In the meantime, no one has to feel bad about pondering next year while watching the Lions go through the motions, because next year is all anyone really will care about now.

Maybe the Lions should adopt Jim Leyland’s stance of insisting everyone earn next year’s roster spot, regardless of name. Do the Lions have any actual players besides Calvin Johnson? And of course there are two glaring flaws here: It takes more than players, and why take advice from the Tigers?

Like I said, waiting for the NHL season to start.

Olympigs, summer version

New Olympics, new sports.

Not new to the athletes, of course. New to us.

In the last winter Olympics, we became acquainted with curling, which we liked enough that we stop to watch it on the rare occasions we bump into it (yay, Canadian television). I can’t say any of the summer sports we were unfamiliar with has enchanted us so, but we have learned a few things.

Saber, which the American women swept early on, was puzzling to watch because we never could tell when a point had been scored except that they yelled and backed away from each other. Water polo looks woefully unorganized, which I’m sure is just a case of us not knowing how to watch it. It reminds me of keepaway.

The biggest surprise was handball, which I expected to be two people swatting a small ball against a wall. No, it’s more like soccer, but with passing instead of kicking, or like basketball without dribbling. The net looks like a soccer net but the ball is smaller, and the players are allowed to swap it out for a different one.

A few sports we already knew and loved. Gymnastics and beach volleyball are must-sees, and we all are Misty and Kerri fans from 2004. We remembered synchronized diving, and again the whole family finds it fascinating.

Then there are the divergences. My daughter has become a Phelps Phan, and while swimming holds as much interest for me as any race, I can’t say I’m attached to anyone in particular. My son has taken a late shine to tennis and hopes to play for his school, so he has been devouring the tennis matches, pretty well regardless of what country or gender is playing.

Some of it gets old. I quickly passed on the cycling, and while I watched a bit of equestrian jumping, after the fifth or so horse I was done with that, too.

My daughter wanted to record all of it, and I told her that with a 40-hour DVR and NBC’s 1300-or-whatever hours of planned showings, some selectivity would be required. She chose to record a few shifts while we were gone for a weekend of camping and losing at softball, and still managed to wipe out everything we had been saving.

Ah well. We have reconstructed (thanks, SciFi reruns) most of the Eureka and Atlantis that our missionary family members missed, and the rest isn’t a great loss.

Besides, we’re busy for the next week and a half anyway. Time to be Olympigs again.

This post originally appeared on ourMidland.com, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.

Welcome, summer!

High time, too.

We spent much of the weekend puttering around the yard, digging and raking and transplanting and pondering. I had to work Friday through Sunday evenings, but Monday glittered at the end.

We could not have asked for nicer weather. We didn’t have any formal Memorial Day observances, no parades or cemeteries, although I did turn to the veteran I married and thank him for his service.

No, we were full bore into summer. Early in the day, my husband pulled the smoker out and piled fish into the top. Later, spare ribs would get similar treatment.

I was lucky enough that a flat of vegetables on Freecycle went unclaimed, and when I went to stake my claim I was presented with half a flat of marigolds to boot. We have a full-blown veggie garden, edged with yellow marigolds, and all it cost me was gas across town. I had a nice conversation to boot.

The camp chairs were on the lawn, and my daughter insisted on dragging the wood rocker down from the porch, too. There were cups, cooking tools, reading material, dog toys and a plastic basin of soaking wood chips scattered about. I moved back and forth with my trowel, the dogs lounged, the girl read, the boys kicked back and supervised the smoking. The ribs were done about the time I was putting the last marigolds in; perfect.

The one thing I hadn’t done yet was give everything a good watering. Lightning flashed as the boy and I settled in to watch the Red Wings, though, so we hit “pause” and gathered everything up, then hunkered back down to watch the Penguins’ surprising ineffectiveness. The rain handled what I hadn’t, another shutout played out, and all was well.

Summer stretches ahead, lazy and long. I am so ready.

This post originally appeared on ourMidland.com, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.

What storm?

Man, I KNOW I saw white bands wrapped across our part of the state on a weather map yesterday. I was checking it out because there had been mutterings of a winter storm watch, and we very much wanted to go to Saginaw to watch Midland High play in the state hockey quarterfinals.

I think I’ve said we are huge hockey fans. The boy has played for nine years, and will watch pretty much any hockey game. I was flipping through channels the other day while his back was turned, and the second he heard a puck hit a stick he whipped around and asked for the TV to be left there. The Rangers and someone; he didn’t care. He will watch any NHL, any college, any Olympic, and more than once has said there should be a WNHL, which I think was largely prompted by that killer goalie from Sweden that Minnesota recruited.

We are even more vested in the Chemics, though, because my nephew/godson is on the team. I eyed the weather with a little concern, because I have a small low car, and toyed with taking my husband’s truck instead.

As I picked up the boy from school, I saw a few snowflakes and thought, “Here it comes.” Nope that was it. IT!

So I suppose the “watch” in winter storm watch was just, “Watch our forecast.” There sure wasn’t anything to see in the sky.

The game, though, that was something else. I was worried after that muffed drop pass that set up Davison’s score in the first period. Midland seemed to be the better team, but once it became a 2-point deficit we fretted still more, because 2 points is huge in hockey. The way they hung in speaks to the character of the team, and they are so deserving of the semifinal berth they snagged in overtime.

Have I mentioned I hate sudden death?

This post originally appeared on ourMidland.com, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.

Winding down …

You sure can tell it’s the end of summer at our house, and not just because of the sweatshirts.

One camping trip is behind us, more eventful than we’d planned. The annual MESS tournament, so named because it is the single event of the Michigan Editorial Softball Society, brought an 0-3 record, dehydration from playing three games back to back between the hours of 1 and 4, an odd drinking game involving a gallon of milk, and a trip to the local urgent care center. Ah, the joys of dragging the boy in because he lopped off the tip of his thumb with a hatchet, to be greeted by a sign announcing that our insurance was not accepted there. Because it just wasn’t enough to have to buy all our wood on site because you can’t cart it around the state anymore.

The middle school supply list arrived, much to my daughter’s delight, and she is scheduled for a haircut this week. Having a strict dress code has seriously curtailed any interest in shopping for clothes, and I think as long as they have acceptable shoes they will be willing to hold off on acquiring more khakis and polos.

Basketball practice has begun, with its requisite lap running, and my daughter was exhausted after day 2. My son, on the other hand, finally finished his online course Monday and is thrilled to have two weeks without homework, so the guitars suddenly have been getting more attention again.

We will be gone on the annual Rifle River bonanza over Labor Day, so this is the last weekend the kids can stay up as late as they want pigging out on horror flicks and video-on-demand skateboard accidents. I might even stay up with them; “Pan’s Labyrinth” is on the menu now.

This post originally appeared on ourMidland.com, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.

And the record is …

In between heavy sprinkles, I prowled my yard in search of dandelions this afternoon. Many plants are allowed to live in my yard: wild violets, tiny lilies of the valley that only survive in one corner, some particularly attractive ground cover.

Not allowed are Weed X, some square-stemmed thing I have yet to identify, and the dandelions. So I stalked the yard with waste bag and trowel, digging out the yellow offenders. I came across one spent one with a stem so long I had to bring it in the house to show off and measure. It came in at 27 inches tall.

(Did I mention I’d been sick a few days? Because if I’d seen something that tall and yellow bobbing outside my kitchen window, I would have bolted right outside.)

While in the early stages of illness, I was scanning the on-demand cable TV options and came across Food Network and HGTV shows. You have no idea how cool I found this. “Ace of Cakes” whenever I want?

Later I found highlights from Stanley Cup playoff games, which allowed me to show my husband the wicked hit on Holmstrom in game 3. (Mr. Pronger did NOT come from the side, as some have claimed.)

But the best discovery yet came from my son, as he went searching for yet more new options. I know this is a shameless effort to ride on the popularity of “Pirates of the Caribbean” and that it will be short-lived, but it is so fabulous I do not care: a Johnny Depp channel. I am not making this up. I would not dare make it up. It truly exists, and I will watch every scrap of it.<P>

<em>This post originally appeared on <a title=”Midland Daily News” href=”http://www.ourmidland.com/”>ourMidland.com</a&gt;, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.</em>

Ouch

We have many, many cable TV channels, which means that flipping about we periodically have encountered extreme sports and learned new things, such as what “Doritos” are in paintball lingo. It also means we often encounter Dew tour events, such as the FMX competition this commentary came from:

“Momentum can be your friend sometimes.”

“Yeah, ’cause as you move forward, it lessens the impact of Mother Earth, doesn’t it?”

“You remember lawn darts?”

This post originally appeared on ourMidland.com, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.

Not so super

I have gotten bad numbers on Super Bowl boards before, but this year is really special. I have 9 and 9.

The people I’ve mentioned this to have said it is theoretically possible, but their smiles say otherwise.

This post originally appeared on ourMidland.com, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.

How about them …

I watched my first Tigers game of the season.

Clearly, I chose the wrong one to start with. How long do you think people will be mad at Zumaya? I had been looking forward to watching him pitch, but that didn’t last long.

This post originally appeared on ourMidland.com, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.