Category Archives: Sports


It’s the end of the year and time for lists.  Toss out the last 12 months, turn yourself over on your deaf ear, and make room for new nonsense intentions.  You know … all that.

But before I get on with the new year, I figured I could use a reality check.  Back in September, I made a list of things I wanted to start doing.  Here’s how that went:


1. Work on some part of my manuscript everyday.  Well shit.  I’m already off the rails at number one.  The good news is my butt is glued to the chair 3 or 4 afternoons a week, no weekends.  I’m making progress, and I like how it’s going (love it, in fact), but I still need to work more.  Period.

2. Jog.  I did very little with this until Halloween, when I committed to run in the Thanksgiving Day 10K with my friend Julee.  Julee hadn’t been jogging much either, but she’s 7 years younger than me and works out with a fitness trainer.  Thanks to her, the competitive wench in me kicked in and I got on with it.  Now if I could just stop eating like a stoned teenager ….

3. Stop and stare.  I get a big fat F.  Why am I always in such a hurry?

4. Do the things on my To Do list.  At this moment, I do not have a To Do List.

5. Curse less.  Yeah, well, fuck that.  Especially if I keep watching college and professional sports: the corruption, the money, the steroids, the cheating, the abuse!  I can turn out a hell of a fucking rant just by reading the sports page.  Not to mention what might happen once the 2012 presidential election kicks into full gear.

6. Watch less TV.  I can’t really give myself credit for this one since there’s never anything on TV worth watching.  So while the TV is often on, I’m usually doing something else, like reading the sports page or chasing my puppy around the kitchen, playing hide-and-seek.

7. Clean it out.  After 6 years, I finally cleaned out the garage and can park my car in there.  This was such a relief.  On the flip side, it’s almost January and summer clothes remain in my closet, so I’m not completely cured.

8. Read while sitting up.  I’m doing most of my reading on the couch and very little when I go to bed.  In the past couple of weeks, I’ve polished off four books and am powering through a fifth.  (more about this next week)

9. Cook fewer dinners.  I’m cooking less, but eating more.  Hmmmmmm….

10. Turn off the computer by 7 p.m.  HA!  This has actually gotten worse.  I’m checking e-mail, reading the blogs, and playing Words With Friends on my iPad until the minute I go to bed.   The actual minute.  This makes me ridiculous, and as that movie producer in THE GODFATHER says, I will not be made to look ridiculous!  


11. Look forward to the holidays. For the first time in a few years, we put up the tree.  We used ALL of my decorations.  I went to Target and bought a few lights to string on the front stoop, which I plan to keep lit up through January.  Both of my kids were here!!  I made my grandmother’s Chicken and Dumplings, played Christmas music in the house, ate an entire box of Libb’s chocolate turtles, and didn’t bake a single cookie.  In honor of my mother, I donated my Christmas money to support this little guy at Animal Friends Rescue Project, the shelter where we adopted Lucy 3 years ago.  This morning, I see he’s already been adopted.

Happy New Year, Bandit.

Hair Flammable, Light Fire

This is me at 10 years old. Before I knew bad things could happen to 10 year olds.

11/11/11.  Or, all those 1’s equal 6.  Here’s my 6.

1.  PENN STATE.  The Wall Street Journal published the grand jury presentment in its entirety.  If you haven’t, you need to read it.  By the end, you will have zero empathy for any adult involved.  So many people knew this was going on.  For years.  And we continue to wonder why kids don’t tell.  Every adult who knew Sandusky was abusing kids and didn’t go directly to the police should be treated as (alleged) criminals.

2.  THE GRAD STUDENT.  Let’s take the graduate assistant witness. As Maureen Dowd said in her column, “It would appear to be the rare case of a pedophile caught in the act, and you’d think a graduate student would know enough to stop the rape and call the police.”  This grad student was no kid; he was 28 years old, a grown man.  Did he stop the crime?  No.  Did he contact police?  No.  He called his dad for advice, then went home.

3.  TWEET TWEET.  That any of us give a rat’s ass what Ashton Kutcher is tweeting — and that it’s news — is just one more nail in my coffin of hating the very idea of Twitter.  I know, I know, some of you will tell me there are benefits, and I’m sure there are, but anytime you give us humans a tool to communicate this quickly and publicly (i.e., before thinking) not enough good can come of it to justify it’s existence.

4.  WORD PLAY.  Do you ever hear the word “twitter” and think “fritter”?

5.  THE THINKERS.  Somebody sent me, via e-mail, this thing called “The Lawyers Party.”  At first I thought it was a mistake; then, one of those too-circulated internet jokes.  But no.  You can find it here at the American Thinker.  Apparently all that’s wrong with America is that there are too many lawyers.  That George W. Bush was not a lawyer, and that Barack Obama is a lawyer explains everything.  I don’t know about you, but I’m so glad that’s cleared up!  Now, about the economy, jobs, healthcare, …..

6.  THOSE 53 SECONDS.  When I watch the Rick Perry debate video, the one where he’s stuck for those 53 seconds, I get no joy.  None.  The rising elation, the almost-snickering, on the faces of all the other candidates as Perry stands there blanked-out, makes me cringe.  These people want to help us?  They want to be the leaders of our country.

Is your hair on fire this week?

Christmas Comes on April 25

2010 Australian Open: The first time I saw Roger Federer in person.

Talk about your stories and your books — it’s an old fashioned Merry Christmas here in Carter Library.  This morning, Lyra pointed me towards a David Foster Wallace essay on Roger Federer.  I believe her instructions were, “you must stop what you’re doing and read it right now.”  I did.  She was right.  Check out this little blurb:

“Beauty is not the goal of competitive sports, but high-level sports are a prime venue for the expression of human beauty. The relation is roughly that of courage to war.  The human beauty we’re talking about here is beauty of a particular type; it might be called kinetic beauty. Its power and appeal are universal. It has nothing to do with sex or cultural norms. What it seems to have to do with, really, is human beings’ reconciliation with the fact of having a body.”

Reading it also made me miss DFW.  What a loss.  I could never get going with his fiction, but his essays were (are) a treat.  His collection, CONSIDER THE LOBSTER, remains my favorite book of essays (anybody’s essays).

Then the mail came with its usual bills and junk, but also –finally — with Alexandra Styron’s READING MY FATHER.  I’ve been watching the mailbox like a school kid for 5 days wondering where is it.  I have a friend coming into town this afternoon and she’s staying with us through Thursday, so I doubt I’ll get much reading done, but I’ll be looking forward to the few pages I can sneak in each night before sleep zaps me.

And if that wasn’t enough, the special mail delivery flung a big brown box onto the steps with some first editions we’d ordered, including gifts for a few of my favorite professors.  I can’t wait to drop those off next week at the university, the best thank you’s I could think of for those few who made my grad school experience fun.  The fact remains:  there’s nothing quite like having teachers who love to teach.  Thank you Sam, Bob, and John — I already miss you and your classes.

Merry Christmas everybody …

Fair and Square

Yesterday afternoon I got my ass kicked on the tennis court.  Competition junkie that I am, I’d been looking forward to playing my first official match of the season — until I stepped through the chain-link fence and got a look at my opponent.  She was a big and tall, Hercules of a woman; intimidating as all hell, with textbook serves and forehands and backhands, the kind you learn when you grow up on a tennis court.  Looking across the net at Hercules, before we played even one point, I wanted just 2 things:  not to embarrass myself and good line calls.  Good tennis and no cheating.  I hoped for a fair and square, fun game.

The whole lying/cheating-thing is getting to me lately.  This week it was Greg Mortenson pinching pennies out of school children to fund his book tours and private jet travel, and having his charity buy his books (for giveaways) so he could make his royalties.  Earlier this month it was the Barry Bonds steroids trial here in California, where Barry basically got off the hook (being pinned with only one of the many charges against him).  I watch professional tennis matches where the players are coached from the stands (aka cheating) without penalty.  During this year’s NCAA March Madness, I was appalled to learn that college players often receive “backpacks full of cash.”

I guess it’s everywhere.  Or I’m naive.  Or both.

Rudyard Kipling

There’s a Rudyard Kipling poem I learned back in college.  My Father’s Chair starts like this:

There are four good legs to my Father’s Chair –

Priests and People and Lords and Crown.

I sits on all of ’em fair and square,

And that is the reason it don’t break down.

So yes, yesterday I lost my match because Hercules was scary tough and she brought her A-game.  But I hung in there with her to the end.  I just kept battling.  She squeaked past me in the first set, 6-4.  I fought hard and scrambled and scrapped my way to win the second set, 7-5.  After more than 2 hours on the court, we were dead even, and it all came down to a 10 point tiebreaker to decide our match.  Outside the chain-link, I could see and hear my teammates cheering me on.  “Come on!” they yelled.  “You can do it!”  I wanted to win for them and for me.

Of course it didn’t go my way.  Hercules beat me in the tiebreak, fair and square, 10-8.  The cheering stopped.  Game, set, match.  It pained me to shake hands at the net, to look that woman in the eye and say, “Good game.  Thanks for playing.”  I’d worked so hard, and I’d lost by 2 lousy points.

In today’s light, it occurs to me that there were a number of times over that 2+ hours where I could have called Hercules’s balls out when I wasn’t quite sure.  Some people play that way:  it’s close, it’s out.  Heck, I might have stolen a game or two.  The balls landed so close to that line.  So, so close.  If I had cheated, even a little, I might have won.  And who would ever know?

There’s that Kipling poem again:  I sits on all of ’em fair and square, and that is the reason it don’t break down.

And there’s the rub.  I love games because there are rules.  I’m a competition junkie, sure, and I love to win as much as anybody.  But I’m also a rules junkie.  I hate to see someone cheated.  You play by the rules, you win or you lose, and that’s that.  I don’t get how the rules breakers, the cheaters, don’t break down.  How do you lie in your memoir, take that bag of cash, say the in-ball was out, without falling off the chair.

Who would ever know?  I would.

A Green Jacket for Ernie

This week kicks off The Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia.  Last year this time, ALL talk was about Tiger Woods — how would he play after the scandal, would the media be aggressive or back off, how would he handle the media, what would all those old rich Southerner men who run Augusta National say in public, how would the fans treat him on the course, would he be welcomed or booed?  The list of B.S. went on and on and on.

A year later, who cares.

There’s some minor chatter about Tiger — when will he win another major? — but my favorite story of this week is the support and good wishes for Ernie Els, who has never won the famous Green Jacket but certainly deserves it for his work on and off the course.  Ernie’s son, Ben, was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  But instead of using his money and fame to hide (like Tiger) Ernie and his wife, Liezl, opened their lives to the public and have raised, to date, $9M for autism research.  “He’s such a pure kid,” Els said. “He doesn’t have the normal problems as other kids. He doesn’t know anything else. He just knows his own little world … I almost feel like we’re blessed to have Ben because he’s such a pure, honest, no-B.S. kid.”

Check out this great story at ESPN.

So let’s all cheer for Ernie this week.  I hope the media spends some time with him and on this story.  It beats the heck out of all the Tiger nonsense and distraction from last year.

And besides, these 2 guys aren’t even in the same league.

Wait Until Next Year

Now that I”m finished with Andy Murray and tennis — until the French Open comes along, anyway — I’m reminded of my favorite sports memoir:  WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR, by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

It’s about baseball.  And it’s not about baseball.  The way a good memoir should be.  I stopped following baseball during the strike of 1994-95 when the parks went dark for 900+ games, including the 1994 post-season.  By the time players and management came together and got on with it, we got steroids and Canseco and Bonds and Sosa and McGwuire, et al.  I was at AT&T Park when Bonds hit a huge homer and I refused to stand.  All it did was make me mad.  F-ing steroids.

But I still read this book.  This incredible book.  Whether you’re a baseball fan or not doesn’t matter in the least — if you read this memoir, you will fall in love with her story, her loves, her family, her town, and the lost era it represents.