Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sports Talk: Perfection Under the Lights

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Oct. 24. , 2012. 
The term “Friday night lights” has been used for many purposes, but there truly is something mesmerizing about being the one under the lights.
I’ve had minor experience in being on a stage—a literal stage, not the athletic, figurative stage—and have always felt that the lights that blind you from the audience are what makes performing easier than someone foreign to this type of performance might anticipate.
The bright spotlights turn the crowd into a sea of darkness. It’s almost as if not a single body exists beyond the stage on which you stand. Suddenly, the world on which you need to focus your attention and the role you need to play become that much easier. The pressure of the spectators disappears.
The sports stage under the lights is no different.
As fans, we yell and scream and sit on the edge of our seats (or bounce up and down in the air) scrutinizing players’ every move. You often forget (or some just do not realize) that you are insignificant to the athlete on the field.
Not to belittle fans—every athlete loves their fan support. I know I did—just like any performer thrives off the love of their fans. But the focus and thoughts of the player on the field when in action are never about the fans. In the moment, it’s not even about the coaches.
The lights blind you to the world that exists beyond your stage: the field. Beyond the field is merely darkness.
Being under the lights allows you to focus on the role you need to play. In that role, under the lights, it becomes only you and the forces around you. The moment-to-moment actions come into fruition in a way that almost seems beyond your control. Your body is one with the field, the players and the ball, reacting even before your mind has time to catch up.
Some athletes make it to a larger than life stage in the professional arena but some are experiencing the peak of their moment right now at the high school level. I truly believe the ability to capture one of those moments under the lights as a high school athlete is as comparable to a perfect moment any pro can capture for himself.
Once you’ve experienced a moment that can only be created under the lights—within your stage—the feeling never leaves you. Even seeing the stadium lights from a distance can bring back a reminiscent feeling that doesn’t quite compare to that experienced in the original moment, but brings back the memory of its existence.
Take in your moment under the lights as an athlete. Let it sweep you away and mesmerize you. Let it wipe away the exterior world where scrutiny, fear and limits exist. Be that moment before your opportunity passes you by.
“The perfect throw, making the perfect catch, the perfect stepping block... Perfection is what it's about. It's about those moments when you can feel the perfection of creation; the beauty of physics, the wonder of mathematics. The elation of action and reaction. And that is the kind of perfection I want to be connected to.” 
– Sam Anders from Battlestar Galactica (Ronald D. Moore).

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sports Talk: Fantasy Fun

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Oct. 24, 2012.

Whether you participate in any or not, fantasy sports leagues are not unheard of by any sports fan today. Following sports and fantasy leagues go hand in hand anymore.—literally, in the case of smart phone users. But even if you do not participate, sports commentary and major sports networks have their hand in these leagues, making all fans aware of their existence.
With technology driving these leagues today, I was surprised when I learned that the concept actually originated in the 50s shortly after World War II. To further my surprise, it was golf that started the phenomenon; however, when looking at the concept pre-technological assistance, golf would be an easier sport to follow under the fantasy platform; a sport based on individuals rather than teams of players.
Our modern idea of the fantasy league developed in the 1980s when magazine writer/editor, Daniel Okrent, began the “Rotisserie League Baseball.” Okrent’s journalistic profession brought the concept to other journalists and with the 1981 baseball strike supplying little baseball coverage, more publishing about these leagues and their rules began to be printed for general public. Soon other media sources picked up on the concept and furthered the spread of the fantasy phenomenon.
By 1988 USA Today estimated 500,000 people were playing and Fantasy Sports Magazine debuted in 1989. The internet only enriched and expanded the reach and abilities of fantasy leagues, just as smart phones have extended their existence into our moment-to-moment lives.
Fantasy sports are a serious yet comical extension part of our society now. The TV show, The League, is completely centered around fantasy football exploring how online sports obsessions affect relationships and everyday life in a comical light.  Groups plan major events around fantasy drafts and money is involved in numerous leagues.
Today, fantasy leagues serve as more than just a fun involvement for extreme fans who know and study the players and teams from season to season. They give us another extension of the games, teams and players we love. For many, it’s a way to connect with friends and family who may not be in close enough proximity to enjoy your favorite sports together.  
My brother, knowing his wife’s deeply competitive spirit, suckered her into creating a team in his football league about five years ago. She was not even a football fan until dating my brother forced her to follow Ohio State football if she wanted to spend Saturdays with him in the fall; however, upon their marriage, she had yet to find a reason to gain any interest in the NFL.
Knowing her well, though, my brother’s scheme to develop her interest in professional football worked like a charm. By having a team of players coming from numerous NFL teams, her competitive drive generated genuine interest in how these teams and players were performing from week to week. Before I knew it, she was throwing around names and stats like any other NFL fan.
Today, she continues to be one of the most competitive in the league. The fantasy league is something she and my brother enjoy keeping up with together, while also having reason to talk smack to one another, as they each have their own team. At the same time, they are able to enjoy actual games together, as they are both knowledgeable on the players and teams and have someone to root for or against.
I have yet to make time to dive deep into the fantasy world. My husband and I are also in my brother’s league—but as a joint team. We were negligent owners last season but the addition of an iPhone during the off-season has made administering the team and making last minute adjustments a much easier task.
For a long time, the fantasy league concept sounded intimidating to me. I thought it was something requiring great knowledge on teams and players prior to engaging in; now I see it’s a great educational tool for someone who wants to learn more about a sport or league.
I don’t know that I will ever be as highly competitive as many are about their fantasy teams, but I will vouch for fantasy sports’ ability to genuinely engage individuals in a sports league. This form of entertainment is not just for the fanatics who know decades of statistical history on teams and players, it’s for every sports fan or wannabe sports fan out there.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sports Talk: A little loyalty in the pros makes his exit

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Oct. 17, 2012. 
I have probably admitted before that I am more of a college athletics fan than a pro-sports fan. There are a few reasons for this, one, of course, being that our great state has no NBA, NFL or MLB teams.
Additionally, though, it is very rare for a college athlete to ever play for more than one school. This may occur more often on the lower division levels, but usually the school the athlete chooses post-high school is the one they stick with until they graduate or go pro.
Because of this, as a fan you are not only loyal to a specific team but players as well. On the professional level, trades occur and contracts expire. Perhaps this is not a big deal to many fans because players win fan love at the college level and who they play for doesn’t matter to their biggest fans. Maybe it is just something we have gotten used to in general.
But no one can deny that it’s hard to see “your” player turn around and sport the colors of a rival and feel OK about it. In Kentucky, the best comparison might be to look at what happened when Rick Pitino returned to NCAA basketball as Louisville’s head coach after the seasons of success he brought to U.K.
Just as it is rare to hear of a college player to switch schools, it is rare to have stand-out professional athletes spend the entirety of their career under one name. However, a little less than two weeks ago Chipper Jones finished his 19-year Major League Baseball career as an Atlanta Brave, the same team he first suited up with in 1993 for his MLB game debut.
Jones announced his retirement last March and ended his career with a statistical record that will, without a doubt, send him to the Hall of Fame in no time. 468 home runs .303 batting average; 1,619 runs.
For me, this all-star third baseman’s feat is his tenure in Atlanta. He is a star that only Braves’ fans can lay claim to and there will never be question as to what uniform he should be remembered wearing.
Other famous one-uniform MLB stars include Tony Gynn of the San Diego Padres, Cal Ripken of the Baltimore Orioles, Robin Yount of the Milwaukee Brewers and Mike Schmidt of the Philadelphia Phillies. I’m sure Yankees fans are crossing their fingers that Derek Jeter lands on the list of rarities when his retirement comes.
While my husband’s love for the Cardinals made me happy to see St. Louis defeat the Braves on Oct. 5, I wish the win had not been at the expense of a sour conclusion to Chipper’s career.  I would think and hope that no fan would wish that on a stand-up athlete.
The Braves not only lost 3-6, but an error in the fourth inning by Jones led to three runs in the inning. Additionally, a highly disputed infield fly rule calling, fizzled the Braves shot for a rally in the eighth. The one thing Jones had going for him was his final at-bat: a bat-shattering single.
It is very probably Chipper Jones had several good seasons left in him but he’ll end a long career on a season with numbers that show he’s still ‘got it’. For his sake, I hope he sees it that way and does not look to that single last game, where he openly took the blame for his team’s loss due to his fourth inning error. I have no doubt that Braves fan remain proud of their loyal third baseman of 19 years.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

1 down, Oh-So-Many To Go!

Incredible how quickly a year passes these days. I can only imagine how quickly they will move in another 50 years.

And just like that I've been married to my wonderful Mingus for a year.

This was a snippet of the year-end video I made for my family last Christmas about the wedding (thus being primarily photos of my immediate family, but I still wanted to share). I'm unsure of whether or not YouTube let's the music play, so please tell me if is silent!

It fell on a Monday, since it was a leap year, which is less than ideal for any anniversary, let alone your very first one! But it was magnificent nonetheless.

After spending the entire week prior reminiscing of the flurry of last minute prep the week leading up to the wedding, we began our anniversary weekend with a trip to Indiana for another family member's wedding. They picked the BEST weekend...if I do say so myself!
Andrew & Jessica
We took our time driving home Sunday, taking in all of the beautiful fall colors on our drive. We stopped by Huber's Winery--always a festive, fun place this time of year--as well as a trip to Target to... wait for it.... Use wedding gift cards! Yes, we have some still unused! Being that we live so far out, we don't make regular trips to a lot of places--such as Target. While I could have used them on one of my work trips to Louisville, I didn't want to spend them without his input (or I may have come home with hots and onesies...). Lucky for us, their gift cards don't expire! We're now fully prepared to still eat hot cooked meals during winter power outages with our Coleman stove!
Last day as "newly weds" in our first year of marriage.
Monday began less than perfect with both of us feeling rather under the weather. (I'll spare you details...) He rested most of the day and I worked from home... then I had to cover volleyball district games (working from 9-9 on your anniversary isn't what anyone wants), but Mingus came with me just to have the extra time together.

We ended the night breaking into our wedding cake topper. We let it sit out all day to thaw from its year in the freezer and I have to say, after a year, it was still quite delicious! We ate it on plates of our fancy pants china we have yet to really use and also opened a bottle of Greystone Cellars wine from the wedding. We looked through our wedding album and laughed a lot.
I discovered the face-detect feature on my camera for the first time
which resulted in a mini-photo shoot during our cake part!

I love my Wonderful with all of my heart and have loved the simplicity we have shared in this past year. He always puts me first and I am continuously amazed at how life-giving he is to me yet still acts like he does so little. Life far and away in the middle of Kentucky's knobs with just the two of us playing outside, getting dirty and taking on life's daily adventures is my kind of heaven.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sports Talk: Gloomy about the state of the world?

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Oct. 10, 2012. 
There is no doubt that setting out a goal--especially a lofty one--and accomplishing it, is fulfilling; however, there is a completely different sense of satisfaction when you work toward that goal with a group of others.

Some may remember an article I wrote last March about a group of ladies who spent one brisk early spring morning completing a 13.1-mile course on Thomas Ridge. 

In addition to their running, these ladies also take part in Back and Body's morning boot camp sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays. To celebrate one year of the boot camp ten ladies participated in the The Southern Tennessee Plunge Marathon/Mini-Marathon.

The group, led by Erica Montgomery-Turner, began training for the event four months ago. Five of the ladies ran the full marathon and five ran the half marathon.

My mother has kept me in the loop on the rigorous training and injury struggles of this group, as she attends the boot camp but was not one of the 10 training for the run.

Having done my fair share of running and taking part in the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon event twice (NEVER for the full marathon though!), I know the work to get where they are had to be rough—not to mention the course and conditions on race day itself.

“The course was grueling...hills, hills and more hills,” Erica described it to me. “We trained up water tower hill and Woodrum Ridge hills. There were three hills that were matching Woodrum Ridge during the full marathon and one on the half marathon course. It was raining all day and cold!” 

Sound like fun?

Surprisingly, I’m not shocked to hear all positive things about this experience.

For those who have never been to a race and especially if you have never been to a marathon event, you truly do not understand the intoxicating atmosphere of support and positive vibes that consume you, no matter the conditions.

To see so many people with so many supporters, all running for their own motivations and reasons, is inspiring. Bitterness, anger, jealousy and rivalry just do not exist. Everyone is in support of each other no matter if you even know the person next to you or not.

The beginning of one of my favorite movies, Love Actually, begins with the quote:  

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere.”

For me, I would say going to a marathon event is all one needs to see that the world is not a gloomy place full of hatred and greed but one full of love for each other—friends, family and even strangers.
With ages in the Casey County group ranging from 35 to 60, I hope to find myself in their shoes one day down the road. Whether it be a marathon or another major goal let this group teach us each so much about how we should be living our own lives:
  • Never believe a goal is too big to achieve.
  • Always surround yourself with positive people encouraging you to your goals.
  • Never settle to believe your health of your body is a lost cause and that it's not worth maintaining.
  • Always welcome new adventures into your life.
Casey County Boot Camp Marathoners