It’s soccer time again. And again and again. Jeez, this World Cup thing lasts a long time. A person could sail to Europe in the time it takes to get through the first few rounds.
Or read something by Charles Dickens in small print. It’s longer than the NBA championships, which seem to go on forever as it is.
I’m glad I’m not caught up with it. Give me the last four holes of a major golf tournament like the U.S. Open, something where someone can really mess up, like Phil Mickelson did last week. Or where an old geezer like Colin Montgomery can drain a 50-foot putt with more twists than a pretzel.
Give me baseball, which as an American is part of my genetic makeup.
Give me a good walk - something away from the boob tube - or the national school age weight lifting championship, which I attended last week in Detroit and which I’m just starting to learn about.
Soccer is nice to watch on mute from the gyrating steps of some aerobic machine in the gym or from a bar stool at Donnies Tavern, which is right around the corner from my house. Lots of green and up close foot action and a little blood, too.
But one-goal games? Two-goal games? Just not enough payoff for my tastes.
Now baseball. That’s another story.
The other night I went to a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game at PNC stadium, where this year’s All Star game is scheduled. Beautiful stadium. Not old and gritty but a gem just the same.
Great spanning bridges towering behind the outfield along with the city’s majestic skyscrapers. A nice nighttime crowd of nearly 38,000 people.
It wasn’t cheap. By the end of the night, a friend and I spent $91-- $20 apiece to get in, $10 to park, $7.50 for two barbecue sandwiches, another $7.50 for three hard lemonades, $3.50 for a bag of peanuts.
No dizzying blindfolded bat gyrations for these folks between innings, the way you might see at Savannah’s venerable Grayson Stadium. But plenty of diversionary giveaways just the same.
For answering one question correctly a lucky lady in blue won a cow’s tongue (on ice). Honest.
Just for walking into the place they handed you a bobble-headed Danny Mazeroski. Manny Sangien signed the box of the bobblehead if you wanted to wait in line. Mazeroski played second base in the ‘60s. Sangien was a catcher with the ‘70s Pirates team. Now he owns Manny’s, where we bought our barbecue.
So who won the game? someone me asked afterward.
Who cares? Probably not the Pirates since the team is in last place.
Then again, I couldn’t tell you who won this month’s U.S. Open either.
Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. That’s how I felt when I saw my first weightlifting competition.
Weightlfting? Where’s the ball? What? A sport with no ball? Where are the crowds, the stadiums, the betting possibilities, the minor leagues? What television station is it on?
What kind of sport is this anyway? It’s dizzying. That’s what it is.
It’s noisy too, especially when they drop the dumb bells carrying weight above and beyond their own body weight onto the mat or when the audience starts yelling or when the lifter lets out a scream.
It’s confusing when you look on the computerized board and see numbers in kilos and numbers that don’t mean anything. It’s bewildering when you try to figure out who wins and how they go about it.
It’s technical, too. At each lift, three judges sit with their finger on a buzzer ready to disqualify a participant if the proper form is not exercised.
But the kids who are participating - some 181 strong at Detroit’s national competition, from age 10 to 18 - don’t care how confusing it looks, how little the average person knows about the sport, how crazy people think they are, how often they have to say, “It’s not bench-pressing. It’s not power-lifting. It’s weightlifting.”
They just do their thing. Some got started to train for football. Others, non-athletes at the beginning, thought it would give them more endurance for something like soccer. Then they got hooked on the sport of it.
Now they don’t care if people think they’re addle-brained bodybuilders (they’re not), if most of the world thinks they’re going to get thick necks or bulging biceps (they won’t), if friends hear “clean and jerk” or “snatch” and think it’s some kind of dance (it’s not).
They know how they feel - lean, strong, focused, confident, able to tackle anything, part of a small but committed, good-natured group. They know what it’s like to work hard for something, to show up at the gym five days a week to train (not to work out), to match their mind and body with nutrition and focus.
They don’t have to turn on television to see sports. When they slip a name tag around their neck that says “athlete,” they already know.
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"And you deserve better."
Thanks, Jim, for my new campaign slogan.