Wednesday, April 25, 2007

How Does It Work?!

When I'm driving I usually zone out and begin hopping from thought to thought like a connect-the-dot puzzle. Every so often though, I'll pause my hopping around and wonder how much thought is happening within a one-mile radius, maybe a 10 mile radius. I did this a lot on my drives to and from working at Zeek's pizza on Denny Way in Seattle the summer of my sophomore year at UPS. There were just SO many people driving within a mile of me, I could barely fathom the amount of conscious thought going on so close to me.

So, today I was stopped at a light on my home from work, my thoughts hopping around. I saw a raindrop on my windshield, and it hit me again. I wonder how many people in Tahoe just saw a drop of rain, and completely changed their mood, or even changed their plan for the evening. I was thinking about tossing the frisbee after work with a few people from the pickup ultimate group, but the weather forecast called for "isolated T-storms," and I was in my work shoes. I was leaning towards not playing anyways, but that raindrop sealed it for me.

I smiled. There seems to be an amazing majority of people in California who simply cannot handle rain. I freaking love it. I love Seattle because it fits me so well. It rains a lot--so I can play my games, watch my TV, and lounge my ass without feeling too guilty, "it's raining, I obviously can't go running today." But when it isn't raining in Seattle (which, contrary to popular belief, is quite often), I am extremely motivated to be outside--because I know the rain will eventually come, and I'll get to rest then.

When it rains for days and days, some people get tired of it, not me. I get restless laying in my bed staring out at the rain, wondering how Ichi can possibly be happy lounging around all-day, every day. That's when I say, "Hey, it's only rain," then go running anyways. I think my most memorable runs have been in the rain. The run I remember most vividly was on a rainy night in Tacoma. I had been writing a paper (I forget the subject) for about two hours, and I was bored. My writing was terrible, and I was getting sleepy watching the rain fall outside of my 4th floor window. After realizing I had only written two lines in the last fifteen minutes, I decided to go for a run.

I remember a fairly brisk, rainy October night. I ran past the rotunda and down Alder to the top of the 30th street hill. Instead of going down towards Old Town, I just kept going on Alder--which turned into a very nice, very hilly residential neighborhood. I walked down the hill, just one block of it, and turned around. The hill looked pretty menacing from here. Not long--just one street block, but it probably gained 75-100ft of elevation. I ended up sprinting up that hill six times, walking down in-between sprints with my hands on my head, letting my thoughts go crazy. By the fourth sprint I knew I only had a few more left in me. After the fifth sprint, I knew I only had one more run in me, and I should probably start thinking about my writing assignment. By the end of the sixth sprint, I knew the perfect way to finish the paper.

*getting even more rambly*

What makes people do what they do? VT guy? George Bush? You? Your best friend? Your S/O?

I overheard one of my roommates talking about her "stupid" math professor, and how all of the answers were so obvious. A mirror image of me in the same class years ago, she didn't see why she had to prove how she got the answer--she got the right answer, why did it matter how?

I'm finally understanding that the Why? has EVERYTHING to do with it. I grew up thinking that the "effort" grade was only there to keep more kids from failing. I played all the sports growing up, and only the bad kids got praised for their effort. It's the cold, hard truth. I got praised for my effort almost every at bat in little league, and (outside of T-ball, I was a T-ball ALL-STAR!) I was either the absolute or second worst hitter on the team.

This is one reason why I want to coach youth sports so much. I want to say "nice effort" to every kid that gives a nice effort. The overweight kid might have thrown the bat into the stands on his swing, but he gave a healthy effort--"Nice effort! What a swing! Look at the outfield backing up after they saw how far you threw that bat!" The little MVP of the team just made a spectacular diving catch--"Nice effort out there! Way to grab that ball!"

I took a shower last night and was thinking about how my dad absolutely could not stand sports growing up. He had prejudices against the people who liked to play sports. Some of his prejudices were valid, others were not. It wasn't until I started growing up, that he finally got into sports. I've loved sports my whole life, because I've played them my whole life--and I've had such amazing parents to point out the goods and the bads along the way. Some of my dad's prejudices were valid, there are some "terrible sports" out there, who are taught from an early age that winning is everything. Their dad's are the coach, and they get to play the most, score the most points, and have the biggest egos in the gym. They don't pass the ball to you if you can't make a shot. Basically, they make the game no fun to play.

On the other hand, there are so many more "great sports" that I have met and learned from.

Bad Sport: "Hey, didn't she just drop the last 5 passes we threw to her?"
Good Sport: "She's never going to catch one if we don't throw the disc to her."
BS: "She won't drop one if we don't throw it to her, and we'll win!"
GS: "Who cares if we win? She might as well pull up a chair and start sun-bathing if we don't ever throw it her way."

My mom grew up playing lots of sports, and is a pretty competitive person, but is also a very good sport. Competitiveness and being a good sport are two things that often clash. I love soccer, but watching players fake injuries is just about the worst thing in sports for me. There is only one referee on the field, and he's got to watch all of the 22 players at all times? Impossible. Making his job harder by faking an injury? Ugh. I am glad that my mom never sacrificed being a good sport to win. What also helped is that my dad was learning the games with me. He always had a lot of questions to ask or things to point out. My parents were also always great listeners when it came to my youthful tantrums.

I'd be mad because I didn't get to play in the final inning, when the game was tied:

M&D: "You played great today, you made a couple of great catches at first base--that one you snagged out of the dirt saved your team at least one run, probably two."
Me: "So why didn't I get to play the last inning?"
M&D: "Your coach has got to be fair to everyone on the team, you got to play 4 innings, just like everyone else on the team."

Of course I'd then get mad and start slamming doors. It must have been hell raising me, but it's good to know that at least some of their wisdom got through to me.

It was fun to see my dad's eyes light up at the positive things he never realized about sports. He loved watching me play basketball. The first three years I played basketball at Rav-Eck community center we didn't win a single game. Not one. And we still had a blast. We didn't have a single good player on our team, nor did we have a coach that allowed kids or parents to put down others. It didn't matter to us that we weren't winning, because nobody made it matter. Winning was so foreign to us, our enjoyment of the game wasn't winning, but rather the possibility of making just one single, solitary 2-point basket. When that magic moment came, the five of us on the floor would high-five, our parents would leap out of their seats and cheer wildly while fireworks blasted and parades roared--then other team would of course race down the floor and hit a layup. We didn't care--we had just scored! Party Time!

Watching my face when the bad side of sports happened was also very helpful for me. He'd watch something that he always thought happened in sports while he was growing up--like a father yelling at his son for missing a shot, or not passing the ball at the right time--and my dad would just look down and shake his head. Those were the reasons I'm sure he never really wanted to play sports, or probably didn't want his kids to play sports.

I remember him telling me a story when I was probably in high school. He said he got his growth spurt in high school, and was nearly 6'5" by his senior year. Because he was tall, he was recruited to play various sports, including basketball. He didn't think this was very fair to the kids who had been playing basketball all their lives. I was 13 at the time, and he said, "Never in my life have I been able to shoot the ball the way you can. But because of my height, they wanted me on the team. I told them I hadn't played, and I was no good, but they didn't care."

Of course, once they found out that my dad was telling the truth, and that the ball hit him in the face more than it hit him in the hands--they cared. And cut him.

When I was growing up, I don't think there was a single more-exciting time for me than 30 minutes before a basketball practice or game. I would get super jittery and I'd be bouncing off the walls. We'd head up to Andrew's house to start the carpool, or over to Tyler or Trevor's house to pick them up for the games in North, South or West Seattle. We'd have on our little matching uniforms with a big winter coat over the jersey.

As we got older, the excitement didn't fade. I'd drive my big Dodge Ram van around and pick up Tyler, Andrew, Trevor, Ray, Chris, Noah and whoever else could fit. We blasted Dr. Dre and Eminem. We'd show up to practice and just have a ball for an hour. Winning obviously didn't matter in practice. We didn't play high school basketball and nobody was getting cut or benched for missing a basketball or throwing the ball away. Andrew and I constantly tried to perfect our pick and roll. I'd always try to pass the ball through a seem too tight, and Tyler would invariably pick it off for the steal. Ray would practice taking the charge and flopping onto his back with an "Ahh!" and a thud. Noah would practice trying to put the orange ball through the hoop.

Even now, with no real friends in Tahoe, the Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday pickup basketball sessions at Kahle Community Center are highlights of my week. I look forward to each day I play. Sometimes I'll play great and catch fire, other days I can't hit the broad side of a barn. But I always have fun, because I can always run (minus sprained-ankle days) and play defense. I can always pass the ball to someone who actually is having a hot shooting day.

I just realized why I like basketball so much. Each and every time down the floor is unlike any other. It is like a new Spring every play. Nobody cares or remembers who won the 4th game of the day last Thursday. It doesn't matter that Dave just made a 3-pointer over your out-stretched arm. Now it is your team's turn. And in basketball, the score is so high that one mistake isn't going to ruin your team's chance for victory. Even at the highest level of basketball there are probably hundred's of mistakes for each team every game, for the simple fact that you have 5 people trying to play together cohesively, and that isn't easy. But, the fact that so many errors occur, makes it a game that has the possibility to create a friendly, understanding community. Everyone makes mistakes.

There are asshats out there, and they can quickly ruin a friendly game, but I've also had some pretty amazing moments of humanity on a basketball court. Including an entire team kicking their best player off their team because he wouldn't pass the ball; Ballers sticking up for little(weak) guys, then the little guys making the winning shot; and even douche-bags realizing how their actions are making them become someone they don't want to be.

Enough writing for one sitting, time to go to the gym and shoot some hoops (and not re-sprain my ankle)!

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Blogger HighOnPoker said...

I always sucked at sports. It was that pressure to win that really made me hate it more than anything. When I played basketball with my friends, it was a great time, but any organized sports via school or leagues was torture for me. It's very interesting reading the other viewpoint though, especially as my father loves sports and I don't, as opposed to your situation.

12:28 PM  

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