This past weekend was brutal for the sports fan in me. With the exception of The University of Utah basketball team defeating a lower tier UC Riverside, every squad I root for, college or professional, lost. This is not the first time this sort of thing has happened, and it certainly won’t be the last. Caring about sports teams is risky stuff. Your heart gets tied up in the players and the program. Every win is great and every loss is devastating. If you are lucky, teams you like win more than they lose, but during those down times, when a favorite team is losing more than they win, things feel heavy and every sporting event carries an extra bit of drama.
When my teams lose I tell myself the same thing, You hate (insert sport). You always hated (insert sport). Be smart and never watch (insert sport) again. Which is an outright lie. If I hated it, I wouldn’t watch or care. I care a bit too much. In the hours after my team loses, I am not the most fun to be around. I pout and mope about, pondering all the what ifs. If it is a particularly ugly loss, I might not be right for a day or two.
That is unacceptable.
This past Saturday, I attended a football game at the U along with my siblings and some good friends. The Utes are having a good season, beating teams that have often owned our program, and competing in the games we have lost. Sadly, this particular outing did not go well for the Crimson. Arizona handily defeated us. The game was essentially over two minutes into the 4th quarter. The weather was awful, cold, rainy, windy. Add to that a severe beat down, and many fans left very early. Maybe it was the fact my team was never really in the game, or maybe I’d had enough of the negative things I was experiencing in the stadium around me, but I no longer wanted to feel angry or depressed for hours and hours about sporting events. I didn’t want to go home and be no fun to be around, annoying my kids and spouse. I didn’t want the rest of my weekend ruined by one event. I chose then to not let the sting of the loss linger. It worked. I instantly felt less bothered (by the loss at least, the fans on the other hand…), less grumpy and actually had some fun with my friends and family.
Maybe it was a cosmic test, as once I decided this, team after team on my list of favorites went down in bitter defeats. It was still frustrating, still annoying and still painful, but at least for one weekend, I did not give in. I was angry for a moment, let myself be angry, then let it slip away. You will have to ask my wife if I was any more fun to be around.
Here is a photo from the Utah game. Most everyone had left by this point, but the faithful remained. I can’t get behind a great deal of the behavior I saw at the stadium. People were screaming at fans of the other team, screaming at the players, screaming at each other. It was everything that is ugly and awful about sports. I was going to bring a friend of mine who doesn’t really like football, but does enjoy my company. I am grateful she was unable to attend as I would have been embarrassed by my fellow Utes.
These cruel and petty fans are of course the first ones out of the stadium when things don’t go their way. If nothing else, it confirmed what I already felt about most football fans. They need to grow up. Do better. I’m taking my own advice.
I don’t have a favorite song, but I have a favorite band. I don’t have a favorite author, but I do have a favorite book. There are favorite teams in various sports, favorite cities, people, but not movies or words. There is even a favorite spelling of the word favorite. Yep, you guessed it…
What allows one thing to be preferred over another depends a great deal on my age. As a kid, I loved pepperoni pizza more than any other food. In my 40’s, pizza is way down the list, and pepperoni is not even in my top three types. My favorite television show used to be Miami Vice (I was 14, forgive me), while now I prefer things a bit less…dated. My favorite drink used to be Coke while now I prefer good spring water or coffee.
Here are some things I used to like, still like and now like.
Music-My first favorite band was most likely the Beatles. At the age of 8, I fell in love with KISS (thanks to the Destroyer album purchased from the DI). When I was 13, I flirted with three different bands: The Police, U2 and Big Country. By the time I was 14, Big Country had won out. Maybe I liked the idea that they were a bit obscure to most people I knew. I know it was one of the first records I bought with my own money, which gave them some significance. They remain in my top five today. At the age of 17, thanks to a late afternoon listen to the B-side of a greatest hits collection, I was introduced to The Cure. My affection for them also continues, but they were supplanted in 1996 by TOOL, who made my (still) absolute favorite album of all time that same year. Frustrated by the lack of catalog, I found myself searching for other bands and in 2004 shifted part of my loyalty to ISIS (my favorite memory of ISIS is the lady in her 50’s reading my octopus t-shirt as “ahh, I get it. Is, is.”), and that loyalty was rewarded by three full albums, 5 live records and a split release with the Melvins, while in that same time period, TOOL has provided me one record. Even after disbanding, ISIS continues to release live records, unreleased tracks and other material. I would have never listened to a band like ISIS when I was 17 or 26. They are not for everyone, but they are for me.
Books- The Call of the Wild topped my list when I was around 10. At 11 I read Watership down for the first time and was hooked. This book has impacted my reaction to every other book I have read. While certainly not the best written, or even the most poignant, something about the story spoke to me, making me want to read more books, more stories. I attribute my love of reading, and my eventual study of literature to this book. In my twenties, I fell in love with Vonnegut’s Cats Cradle and put it right next to Watership. Not until 2004, when I read Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell, did I have a new favorite book. I think it is near perfect. You should certainly read it.
Sports- My first favorite baseball team was the St. Louis Cardinals. I played on a little league team for two years that shared the same name, so the allegiance seemed to make sense. Ozzie Smith was my favorite player. When I changed teams and played for the Cubs, they became my favorite and since as a young teen, I wanted to cheer for teams that struggled, I stuck with the Cubs until I was 21. A mission served in New England brought me a connection with the Red Sox, one that continues to this day.
There have only ever been two NBA teams for me-The Boston Celtics (as they one of three teams always on TV and I hated the Lakers and Sixers) and the Utah Jazz. I had affection for the Bulls the year they beat the Lakers, but the Jazz, being local, have my complete loyalty.
I have loved so many NFL teams, starting with the Denver Broncos, then moving from year to year to the Miami Dolphins, the Dallas Cowboys (hard to admit, but they were Super Bowl Champions), the San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins (one season), back to the Dolphins, then back to the Broncos. After watching the Cardinals and Giants play to a 3-3 tie on Monday Night Football, I was attracted to the lovable losing (and drawing) ways of the Giants. Little did I know they would not be losers for long. Five Super Bowl appearances and 4 wins later, I still love The Giants. I have a connection with the Arizona Cardinals as I travel every year to watch them play, so they get to slide into my second favorite slot, but my heart bleeds Giants blue. That said, if any team were to move to Salt Lake, they would instantly become my favorite team. Because I have watched and loved so many teams, Football is my favorite sport. Unlike other major sports, I like a player or three on each team and can watch almost any team play and enjoy myself.
I have just started enjoying NHL hockey and MLS soccer, so the team lists are shorter. I am currently attracted to the Bruins and the Coyotes in the NHL and have a bursting loyalty for Real Salt Lake in the MLS. Friends keep wanting me to watch the English Premier League, and while I enjoy almost every match I catch, I really have no connection to any teams. It doesn’t help that I don’t like watching games on delay, and refuse to get up at 5 in the morning to watch matches live.
What a boring list! I almost want to delete this, but I did spend an hour thinking it through, reading and typing, remembering. The whole process is making me very hungry. I need a sandwich, or maybe some taquitos. I have some in the freezer. I think there might even be some ice cream in there as well.
And so you know, my favorite city is New York.
When I was a young boy, I loved baseball. Anywhere, anytime, if there were six of us friends together, we could find a way to have a game. In the neighborhood, we played with old dented bats and tennis balls (so not to break a window or house) but if there were enough of us to make it worth while, we would wander to the field a the east end of the street and use the real thing.
I played little league from the time I was 7 until turning 12 and though I was never a great hitter, I loved everything about playing-The dirt in your shoes, on your face, in your mouth. The friendships, the feeling of stretching a single into a double, scoring a winning run, losing a close game, or making the catch that seals victory for your team. I even loved the cold weather games, when the rain or wind made things miserable. As soon as winter ended, when practice began, I looked forward to that first swing, when the pain would run from your fingers into your wrists. Ah, memories.
Somewhere along the way, time and my life took my passion for baseball. Soon, I lost track of favorite teams, players, everything. I would play softball with friends or co-workers and remember that I loved the game, but it was never enough to make me work to watch it or play it.
Today, my brother invited me to attend a day game for the local triple A club. I gladly agreed (suite tickets make that part easy) and as we settled in, I felt a rush of memory and affection for the game. I thought of these guys, playing a game they love for almost no money, and no real hope of making it big anytime soon. I watched them warm up, throwing the ball around the diamond and I envied them a bit. Following your passion is rarely an easy option for most of us and few are ever able to get paid for that passion.
When the first player made good contact with the ball, the sound of the impact struck deep in me. I LOVE the sound of the ball on a wooden bat. It is hard to describe the impact, but there is a deepness to the sound, a violence, a transfer of energy that resonates through the stadium.
Baseball is a game of sounds and smells for me. I vividly recall burying my face in a new glove, inhaling the oils and leather, chewing on a tie strap. The smell of the grass, the sound of chatter from teammates, the whooshing of the ball as it flies towards you after being hit. The impact in your glove.
The first time I sat near a bullpen, hearing the ball as it left the pitchers hand, rifling, curving, sliding towards the catcher at high speed, I remembered the fear I always experienced coming to bat. Standing in the box, waiting for the pitch, is one of the most nerve wracking things a human can experience. Even as a young boy, I would start to sweat, feeling my pulse quicken as the boy across from me threw a fastball towards the plate. I admire those who can stand in front of a ball coming at them in excess of 90 mph and not flinch, let alone see the ball, read the pitch, make solid contact.
I have that feeling in my blood again. Baseball is back for me, at least for now. And after all, now is all I really have anyway.
I have said it before.
I used to love basketball more than almost anything.
When I was in my early 20’s, the University of Utah basketball team was just coming onto the national scene, mostly thanks to Coach Rick Majerus. He recruited the best talent the school ever had, coaching with a passion and determination that demanded the best out of them, not only as players but as human beings. His NCAA runs to the Elite 8 and the Championship game are some of my favorite sports memories.
Coach Majerus died last week after years of poor health, and while his passing was sad, it was not unexpected.
During one of these video presentations, a man waking down the isle towards his seat looked up at the screen and blurted out everyone’s favorite obscenity along with its accompanying hand gesture. My first reaction was shock. Not at the obscenity, but the audacity of his actions. My next thought-he is a disgruntled Boise State fan, pissy that his team is getting beat down, but that thought was proven false as he continually cheered for the Utes during the second half.
All I could figure, and I think this is very likely the case, is he disliked Majerus. Really, really disliked him.
And I can understand that. Coach was hardly a saint. Stories abound of players he verbally abused to the point of tears. Some left the team. He drove assistant coaches away, including Ute basketball royalty (Jeff Judkins). Early in his Utah coaching career, Majerus brought in talented players in bunches but as his health deteriorated and his motivation to coach waned, so did his recruiting. When he left the University, most local kids were attending other Utah schools, rather than Utah. The program suffered (continues to suffer) from it.
Coach was the reason Utah basketball mattered in the 90’s and partially why it doesn’t matter now. This fan knew that and it bothered him (a guess I know, but a good one).
I question whether last night was the proper time or place to share such sentiment. In addition to the thousands of fans who came to pay tribute to Coach Majerus, there were children all around. There are times to let things go, let things slide. This was one of those times.
This boorish behavior is too commonplace at sporting events. I understand passion for a team and living and dying at every win and loss. I don’t understand meanness directed at college kids(or in this case, a deceased coach) by grown adults. My anger during a sporting event is a very controlled anger, a fake anger of sorts (not that it justifies any anger at something as trivial as a sporting event) and I have learned to vent my frustrations in a way that allows me to still like myself afterward. I was embarrassed for this man, his seemingly useless anger and overblown reaction to something or someone he did not like.
If nothing else, it made me determined to be better. I guess that is something.
I love the Olympics, both summer and winter. Something about so many interesting and amazing athletes gathering in one place, makes my heart glad. I enjoy every aspect of the games, from the opening ceremonies (even the eternal parade of athletes), each event (even the ones I don’t quite understand), to the final moments. When the winter games were in Salt Lake during 2002, I was unable to attend any events, but I did spend a great deal of time out and about town. The city was bustling with so many people, so many languages. A happy, energetic feeling permeated everything. For two and a half weeks, my city was alive in a way it had never been before. What a sensational experience.
So many sports. It’s the drama of competition that gets me going. The battle for those top three spots is entrancing. Few things in sport are as compelling as a favorite finishing second, or an underdog coming from out of no where and claiming third. The contrast in reaction, the frustration of a perceived failure for one and an unexpected victory for the other, the gambit of emotion, I always enjoy it.
Not to say I don’t get a comparable thrill from watching a top tier athlete performing at the highest level, rising above the field and winning an event. Watching Usain Bolt once again dominate the speed events was a marvelous thing to behold. Power-grace-determination.
Talking about the greatest competing at a high level, one commentator (during the women’s beach volleyball final) said, “The greatest play best under the bright lights.”
Perhaps, but not always.
I like this thought better-The bright lights bring out greatness. Sometimes in those we least expect. This is the beauty of sport, of life.
Competition is not always the most important thing, however. My favorite moment of almost every Olympic games comes during the closing ceremony when the athletes enter, not by country but in one large mass. Sure, many still enter with friends or coaches, but the sight of every competitor walking in together, highlights what makes the Olympics great. Certainly they are about winning, about representing your country, but they are also about building human relationships, unity, mutual understanding. These thing transcend ridiculously arbitrary things like where we are from, what ideology we may believe. The photo of Hope Solo, posing with members of the Japanese soccer team she had just helped to defeat, is my favorite image of these games. The respect, the admiration, it does not carry over into every sport, every event, but when it does, the world of sport and the world itself become better places.
Extraneous information here-I thought about not blogging about the Cycle Salt Lake Century ride that I participated in on Saturday. I even discussed it with a friend. She said I should challenge myself. I agree with her, and I will. Just not today. Today, I really want to write about the bike ride.
This century was full of surprises for me. First, I was very nervous in the morning. I was able to sleep the night before with relative ease, but I popped awake a full hour before I needed to get up. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t ready for this ride. I knew the course, having ridden it last year, but that almost made it worse. I envisioned myself wearing out somewhere on the causeway, the lake stench overpowering me, and having to wait for my riding mates to pick me up on the way back. I have had some knee discomfort on longer rides as of late, which only added to the fear I wasn’t physically ready for the distance I had to ride.
At the same time, I was excited to get out, get going, test myself again. I met up with my brother Dylan, our mutual friend Keith and two others who were to join us. The temperature was in the high 40’s when we started, just cold enough to require long sleeves, warm enough to ride in shorts. Once we hit the road I knew I was in for a good ride. I have a rule, if my legs don’t burn, pedal a bit faster. Three of us were riding at a pace of about 20 mph through Rose Park. The other two just a bit slower. I knew the course was flat, but it was more flat than I remembered. We didn’t hit our first hill for 7 miles, and that was just an overpass. Before I even had time to think if I was tired, we were at the first rest area.
We had all agreed to spend as little time as possible at the rest stops, as we felt that was part of the reason we felt so tired at the end of last years ride. Our bodies took the rest as a cue the riding was over. Very hard to get back on the bike when your legs begin to shut down. Keeping to our plan, we stopped long enough to use a restroom, grab a snack, fill up water bottles, then get going again.
Another error we made last year was eating lunch too early. This time, we reached the lunch station and once again stopped long enough to refuel, fill up and go. It was at this point, roughly 40 miles in, that I realized I had once again broken a spoke on my front wheel. This has become too common an occurrence, and I worry that my wheel might need to be replaced. Anyway, broken spoke and all, we started out across the causeway towards Antelope Island. If you have not experienced the lovely smell of the Great Salt Lake, you are lucky. This causeway is notoriously windy, long and tedious. The five of us formed a decent enough draft line, taking 1:30 second turns and keeping a pace of around 18 mph. The only real climbing on this ride is a short uphill on Antelope Island. I recalled this being a challenge and was preparing myself for a difficult climb. Wow, not really. We were up and over it with little effort and found ourselves with under 50 miles remaining, feeling great and ready for more. The lake was particularly foul on the way back. So much so that I actually gagged once or twice. Lucky enough there were very few bugs and the temperature was tolerable.
Back at the lunch station, we took an extended break, having a sandwich and I had my spoke repaired at the aid station. Unfortunately, a little over twenty miles later, I ran over some lovely thorns and had to stop and change the tube in my front tire. As I was getting ready to inflate the tube, I noticed that I had broken yet another spoke on that damn front wheel. Two on one ride, now that just isn’t right!
What surprised me the most was my fitness level as we came into the last rest area. I recall the year before, being totally spent, no energy, headache and muscle pain. This year, I rode on zero caffeine, though I did take ibuprofen, and zero energy supplements. I felt really good. I was tired, but more than ready to finish the ride very strong. The last 17 miles flew by and at just over 6 hours of actual ride time (seven total hours) we finished mile 106. Our average speed was 17.8 mph and I am more than thrilled with that pace.
I have been trying to think of how to compare riding a century to running. Having never finished more than a 5K, it is hard for me to make an accurate comparison. I am guessing it is much easier to ride 100 miles than to run 26.2. I am also guessing it is harder to ride 100 then run a 10K. Perhaps the equivalent is something near a half marathon, though I think cycling is something that can be done at a much more leisurely pace than running. You can rest more, not pedal at all for stretches (though I do my best to make that as little as possible). Plus, the wear and tear on your body is not as extreme. I am not trying to diminish the accomplishment of riding 106 miles, rather I am trying to put it in some perspective.
I plan to ride the ULCER Century in early August, then if the Heber happens again, ride that. Next September, the goal is to ride the LOTAJA . For that ride, I would love to get a group of ten or so. It might make the winds and distance easier to manage.
If anyone wants to ride with us on these century rides, or just on a Saturday, you are always welcome. We are by no means hardcore riders, so don’t let that intimidate you. If you have a bike and want to ride, come along.
Last spring and summer, I spent a great deal of time on my bike. Just about this same time, I was getting ready to ride my first century and I was very nervous that I was in no way prepared to ride that distance. I was pleasantly surprised when I was not only able to finish the ride, but finish fairly strong. I was more impressed when I thought about how far my fitness had come in less than a year. The summer before I had ridden my bike less than 2o times, the longest distance being 30 miles and had only reached the summit of Little Mountain twice.
2010-11 winter and spring were wet ones with there being five days during March and April that were dry and warm enough for my inexperienced self to ride. I recall vividly my first attempt at climbing. I kept shifting and shifting into easier and easier gears, my heart pounding and my breathing extremely labored. I was so disappointed with myself for allowing my fitness level to fall so far. I knew I would suffer some affect of the long period of inactivity, but I honestly expected to do much better. Through a great deal of effort, and competing with my brother (who always pushes me to be better), I was able to get back to a good level fairly quickly. Riding the canyon, riding out by the Great Salt Lake, getting my rear end used to being in the saddle, every ride was taken seriously, with better fitness being the only goal. Dylan rode up Big Mountain three times, I made it twice. Together we put in the work and were rewarded for it by a successful summer of century rides, 50 mile rides and dozens of Little Mountain excursions.
I determined that I would never again suffer the agony of that first March ride ever again. With some ingenuity and spending, I put together a decent array of winter riding apparel. My initial goal was to purchase decent clothing specifically made for cycling, but after three stores where the price for riding pants ranged from 150-300$, I decided a nice pair of running pants with an ankle strap would more than fit the bill. I found a fantastic Columbia jacket that cost me a third of any cycling jacket I could find. What a scam apparel is! No way is any of that stuff worth the cost. The only thing I can say is not overrated, lobster riding gloves. They are fantastic!
With my clothing needs met, I was ready for the cold and nothing was going to keep me out of the saddle. Luckily, the winter was very mild and the snow build up on the roads was minimal. After several rides around my neighborhood, I attempted Immigration canyon. What a thrill to ride up the mountain in the dead of winter, warm and secure, sweating even. I was able to summit the canyon on 20 days in January, another ten in February and at least that many or more in March and April. I rode in the cold, snow, rain, wind, whatever. I have (for good and bad) eliminated most bad weather as a ride deterrent. I still refuse to ride if it is below 20 degrees or if snow is piling up, but that seems like good sense.
Funny enough, I still feel unprepared for the century ride coming up this weekend. Maybe I have over prepared. When I go for 40 mile rides, I come back tired and worn. Maybe I ride differently, knowing the distance. I know I ride harder, faster, when the distance seems short. I was supposed to ride another century on May 5th, but that ride ended up being cancelled. I admit I was almost relieved. The thought of riding 100+ miles, taking one week off, then 100 more seemed like a really bad idea.
Though this spring is one where I pushed myself to remain fit, that thought it the back of my mind persists. “You’re not ready,” it says. “You won’t finish.” Part of me wants to believe that voice. I am older. I feel more tired this year. I don’t have the same fire. Then I get on my bike, test the tires, gears and breaks, I focus on the way it feels underneath me and I realize I am more connected to that machine than I ever was last year. When I ride, it becomes an extension of me and when I push, the bike pushes with me, not against me. We work together to accomplish our goals, to complete our rides. We are never fully ready for what is in front of us, but we ride anyway, we succeed regardless of the obstacle. It is a wonderful feeling, a fantastic realization.
I have always been able to entertain myself. Inventing games or adventures was what brought me the most pleasure and while I enjoyed the company of my friends or siblings, I was just as content alone in my room. Before the invasion of video games and cable television, I found numerous ways to play baseball games in my head or direct my own action movies.
I had a large, white bucket full of plastic army men and would take them into epic battles that would range all over the basement or have them fight hand to hand in jungles or city environments I would make out of clothing, books and bottles. I even gave some particular pieces names and back stories. If I decided to make the wars more “realistic”, I would add an element of chance the soldiers fate by rolling dice to see if they were hit by the bullet or grenade, then again to see if they were only slightly wounded, maimed or killed.
The rolling of dice became a recurring theme in my inventing. Following the idea for a baseball game my father played as a boy, I created a game using trading cards as players, setting up a ball park on a table or floor. Paper bases formed the diamond and pitchers rubber. If I was craving more realism, books would create stadium seating, foul lines and walls. I separated the cards into actual teams and leagues, usually limiting myself to 6 or 8 teams to make playing multiple games more reasonable. I kept stats for hitters-strike outs, home runs, singles, doubles and triples. Since no one outside of baseball statisticians understand ERA, I would just keep track of innings pitched, strike outs, walks and runs given up for the pitchers.
The dice controlled everything, though in my head I easily ascribed every success and failure to the player card. I would pull players, pinch hit for those I felt were weaker hitters, and change pitchers if they were tired or a left handed pitcher had better chances of getting a right handed batter out.
Pages and pages of game box scores and statistics covered the floor during games and I had a drawer where I kept records of completed seasons and career stats. As multiple seasons (and actual summers) passed, I would trade players from team to team. I released some players and made stricter limits on how many players could be on each team. This allowed me to institute a mock draft, taking newly acquired cards to replace older (and usually no longer on the team) players.
The game was simple. The pitcher would roll first, followed by the hitter. If the pitcher rolled a higher number, it was a strike, lower equaled a ball (rolling a 6 always equaled a strike, a 1 was always a ball). If the numbers were the same, the ball was in play and the hitter would then roll both dice. The sum of the dice would determine where the ball was hit (2 for a bunt, 3 to the first baseman, etc). If a 10, 11, or 12 was rolled, the first version of the game called that a home run. I had to alter that after some teams were hitting double digit home runs in single games. Later versions of the game gave those numbers doubles, triples and finally, only a 12 was a home run. If the ball was hit to a fielder, dice were rolled again with the higher number determining if the batter was safe or out, ties always going to the runner.
I loved to play this game alone, but I taught it to friends and family. Dylan and I would play often and we have one favorite story of me running a pencil through poor Dick Ruthven after he failed to get a single out and gave up three straight home runs to Dylan’s NY Mets.
It was a clever and fun game. Of course, current video games have taken away the need for this sort of imagining. I am not condemning video games. I play sports games all the time and they are fantastic. NCAA Football is a game I play at least three times a week. It gives me that same rush, keeping track of stats and records. I get to recruit players, make my team better, suffer crushing defeats and deal with injuries and unhappy players. I get to win national championships and take on rival teams. It brings out that same feeling I had in my basement bedroom when I would imagine my teams playing in crowded stadiums.
I do worry though, that much of the creativity of children is reduced. I know my kids don’t invent the same way I did. Maybe they are just different than I was.
I still have those baseball cards. They are in a box downstairs in the storage area. I bet if I dig, I can even find the card with a pencil hole through it. Perhaps I can find a few dice around the house and clear off the kitchen table for a game or two. You are welcome to come along if you want.
I don’t remember when I first started loving sports. I do remember my father watching a great deal of them on Television and since from my earliest memories, I wanted to be just like him, that is most likely the origin. Like many small children, I found it much more entertaining to play imaginary games in my head rather than watch the actual, way too long, too hard to understand, ultimately boring games on television. I could stomach a few plays here or there, especially near the end of games when, even at a very young age, I could feel the intensity of the crowds as close battles resolved themselves.
Strange enough (to those that know me), the first “team” I connected with was the BYU football team. My Aunt attended school there and she gave me a few shirts which I wore with pride. I also remember spending a night on campus with her (and most likely some roommates). I watched a few quarters of BYU football and I remember catching the very end of a BYU vs Utah game where the Cougars destroyed the Utes by 30 points. I gleefully pointed this out to my father, who was an avid Ute supporter. He handled it better than I would have, with a smile and some silence.
This love of all things BYU faded as I reached my pre-teen years and identified with almost everything my father liked and did. It was at this time I started reading avidly, fell in love with music and wanted to become a History Teacher (which is what my father studied to become, though he ended up working for social services). It didn’t take me long to find a passion for all University of Utah sports as well as most of the professional sports teams my father exposed me to (though I never did find any affection for his beloved White Sox).
This passion for sports continued through my teen years when I submerged myself in basketball, playing one year on the high school team and taking every opportunity to play with friends or family and even complete strangers. I found a love for tennis and football as well, though I was never big enough or dedicated enough to play football with any real ability.
As I have aged, my skills have done what everybody’s do. I feel older and it shows when I try to do things that used to be easy. My love of watching sports however, has increased. Weekends during football season are wonderful. When I can, I watch as many college games on Saturday and NFL games on Sunday as I am able. I have my favorite teams (which are not the ones my father likes anymore) and I live and die by their performances. I can’t count the number of times I have watched the Utes football team play and thought after a loss, “That’s it, I am never watching sports again. It takes too much energy out of me, makes unimportant things important”, then turned the TV on the next Saturday.
What is it about sports that is so appealing? When I try to distance myself from attachments to certain organizations (which is really hard for me), I understand that I thrive on the possibility of success or failure, victory or defeat, the competition of the event. Much more often than not, my particular choice of team is not going to win championships. If you follow a team that wins more than half the time, you are doing well.
Putting that organizational connection back in the equation, I love the feeling of being in a group of strangers feeling and wanting the same outcome. That sense of camaraderie that comes out of attending a live sporting event is addicting. Even in the losses, looking around the arena or stadium, you feel connected to these people as you endure a similar event, one that really has no bearing on the rest of your life, but still feels important.
I do wish I cared less for sports though. I get way too broken by the defeats and the wins seem more like relief than joyous. But that’s how most things are in life. The failures always set us back more than our successes. It is how I feel when I come up short on anything: a piece of writing, a bike ride, almost any goal. I would love to hear any thoughts on this idea in particular.
Who is this Johnny person of which you speak?
Made it back safe and mostly sound from the excursion to the desert. While game day for the Cardinals/Browns was once again quite cold and rainy, the decision to stay in Glendale over Scottsdale was a good one. It allowed for us to have an epic night of singing at the Shout House Piano Bar where there was only one near brawl. Everyone seemed to have a good time and even the brawl just served as comic gold for the rest of the weekend.
Staying near the stadium allowed me to sleep in after a long night and really, just shower, put on my stuff and head over to the stadium. No need to tailgate when you could just eat and watch football in the hotel. The walk over was less than a quarter mile and it took just fifteen minutes to get into the stadium. I decided I had too many photos of our group watching the game, so I left the camera home and just decided to enjoy the game.
Also, adding the NHL game to the trip was a fantastic idea. I had never seen an NHL game in person and the speed and athleticism of these men was a joy to watch. Hard to believe men can move in a way that seems so effortless in skates and all that padding. It was an insane contest with the winning margin coming with .1 seconds on the clock. More impressive when you remember that in hockey, the puck has to cross the red line before time expires. Just an amazing experience. We were above the boards in the upper deck, allowing us to hear every grunt, collision and shot with amazing clarity.
As always, it was fantastic to hang out with friends and family, relax and just enjoy (at least two days) the fine weather and company. I am a little tired and spent, but I will recover.
Next year cannot come soon enough.
Outside the arena before the hockey game.
Third period face-off.