Conversations From The Living Room, Part 23: Bad Taste Theater Presents….

[watching “Red Eye”’s story on Michael Vick shirts]
“I don’t want a Michael Vick jersey.”
“Oh, wait, they have them for kids!”
“They have them for dogs!!!!”
“We should totally get Michael Vick shirts for the dogs.”
“We should totally get Michael Vick shirts for the cats.”

If You Let Me Play Sports

Back in the heady days of the ‘90s, Nike used to run an ad with a bunch of girls saying “If you let me play sports….” Followed by all these marvelous things that would happen. You know, “If you let me play sports, I’m 40% less likely to be depressed.” Or “If you let me play sports, I won’t leave you unconscious in a hotel bathtub full of ice missing your kidneys.”

Of course, I sat there weeping saying, “OK! I’ll let you play sports!!”

On the other hand, I thought Tatum O’Neal had resolved all that.

Anyway, in the murky mists of genetic pasts, insofar as they’re known, The Flower’s great-grandparents were athletic. Semi-pro ball players, a great-great grandparent who bicycled across the country and wrestled into his 60s, that sort of thing. But somehow, none of the grandparents were athletic. To say nothing of the parents.

The Flower is not particularly athletic. As much as I puff up about her skills, I realize that she isn’t one of these kids that is just a natural. They pick a ball and can dribble, kick it soccer-style, run with it, throw it—whatever. And that’s not The Flower.

Kind of interesting, since she started out fairly athletic. We did the IAHP program for her and she excelled, but more pressing matters took precedent and a lot of physical excellence diminished.

But—and I guess this isn’t surprising from an IAHP point-of-view—since she started playing sports, she’s gotten more physically excellent. Until now, she’s managed to do well by listening to her coaches and following their advice. But she’s gotten more confident, surer of foot, and I can generally see this change into “a naturally athletic person”. That is, I can see someone ten years from now thinking she is “naturally gifted,” with its implication that something was given rather than earned.

In her current season of basketball, she can’t do the Wall of Flowers, because they’re playing on a smaller court and the rules prohibit her from playing defense mid-court. I thought this might be a setback for her, but no: She’s come up with an equally effective defensive strategy.

To wit: She’s noticed that most teams have one really strong player/scorer that the rest of the team relies on. The strategy at this level is Pass to Johnny (well, Juan) and he shoots. She figures out who that player is and shuts them down. While she’s on, the other team has a hard time scoring. If she’s not (she actually missed one game so she could visit her cousins), her team takes a beating.

What’s particularly nice, though is that she’s seeing her hard work pay off, and it’s paying off fast enough that I’m less worried she might be boxed out of sports as they get more competitive.

She continues to pursue her other interests opportunistically. The other day she put together a Banker’s box and the hard part was getting Grandpa to not direct her…

Two Can Play At That Game, Darcysport

Darcy has shamelessly posted a cheesecake shot on her blog, in the guise of, you know, being about tennis.

Ha, ha, we all have a few laughs, Darcy gets a few hits, and no harm done, right?

Except that in doing so, she completely misses the most important tennis story of the season. Possibly, the most important tennis story of our time. Seems that young Simona Halep, as well as being endowed with impressive tennis skills has also been over-endowed in some departments.
OK, seriously, normally I’m against any sort of surgical breast changes. I don’t like implants, generally. I mean, if you’re a pro, they might be a prudent investment. (I’m told they can be worth $5K a week for strippers.) But aesthetically, they seem to lose their appeal the closer you get.

I also don’t like reductions. I could be wrong, but I think the complaints that women have (back pain) could usually be resolved by losing a little weight or exercising the torso a little more. Also it seems like a kind of horrible thing, arbitrarily removing parts of the body. (I feel that way about appendix operations, too, so, you know: Just crazy ol’ Blake again.)

But in this case, neither of those would seem to be plausible: She’s obviously in top notch shape, and those things actually cause drag when she’s running across the court. So, good luck and God bless.

And the ball is in your court now, Ms. Sport.

(h/t Protein Wisdom)

Flower Power

It’s spring and The Flower has begun her cyclical “sign me up for everything” phase. She starts out by signing up for everything at the local rec center that sounds interesting–which is just about everything–and then she gets overwhelmed and when classes are over, she just wants to sit and watch TV.

On Saturdays she has a baseball game–where she hits better than the boys–followed by tennis lessons and winding up with her dance troupe rehearsals.

She’s also preparing for her birthday party. Traditionally we’ve spent a lot of money on it. It started as a joint party for her and The Boy, but The Boy’s sort of outgrown the big party, or at least one that he’s comfortable sharing with a bunch of 8-year-old girls. This leaves The Flower to pick a theme.

But for various reasons we’re trying to cut down on the discretionary spending this year, so The Flower has opted for a “science party”. (Two years ago was pirates, then it was princesses, and last year it was fairies.) In this party, everyone will wear a lab coat and goggles and get to perform experiments. Baking soda and vinegar, Mentos and diet coke, and so on. She’s been testing all the experiments beforehand to make sure they work.

This is cute beyond belief.

She also beat The Boy at chess.

Moral of the story: Never underestimate the seven-year-old girl.

The lesson here?

The Joys of being Seven

“Can I pour the water?”
“Sure…Can you…okay, I’ll get it, you hold the bottle.”
[Water comes out. Laughter. Bottle fills.“
"That was awesome!

We have the 2.5 gallons of water with the spigot at the bottom. Gravity–always a reliable source of entertainment–does the rest.

The Flower had another basketball game today and was her usual presence on the court, though I did notice that the other team was particularly huge today. She’s at the bottom edge of the age for the league and there are guys who must weigh half-again or more what she weighs.

Doesn’t stop her from snatching the ball, mind you. This may have something to do with playing with The Boy who is a foot or two bigger and more than twice as heavy. He does not treat her gently, either. (Oh, he holds back, but he’s at that stage where he doesn’t know his own strength.)

On The Flower’s team is a kid who is playing up a league. He’s younger than The Flower–and shorter and lighter, and not a super-gifted natural athlete, but he plays up a league by his own choice. He’s also completely unintimidated by the much bigger players and relentlessly enthusiastic.

Sometimes you can see at an early age who is most likely to succeed and why.

Good Sports

Confession time: I have amblyopia (the funny brain defect with a goofy name). You know, that condition Linus Van Pelt had where he had to wear an eye-patch. It’s not an eye thing, though; structurally, the eye is fine.

It’s the brain that’s wonky.

You’d never know to look at me that my vision was not perfect. (And, in fact, my vision is excellent, except for lacking certain data about distances.) So my father could be forgiven for considering me clumsy, since I used to walk into walls all the time. And certainly, when childhood games moved out of the wrestling/grappling territory and into things with fast-moving small objects, it’s understandable that I wouldn’t be favored for teams, nor would I for the most part tend to enjoy it much.

And it’s understandable that I might have an idea that, maybe, I’m not that athletic, though I did fairly well in archery and the sport seemed to improve my vision somewhat.

Once I had vehicular freedom–critical for here in the “Southland”, since nothing is near anything else–I followed a girl into a martial arts studio. And with a great deal of work (martial arts is not something I was a natural at) and applying my strengths (the ability and willingness to apply tactics even if not comfortable or natural for me, since nothing was comfortable or natural at first), I managed to become a fair competitor and ultimately get my blackbelt. Somewhat ironically, I also picked up my sense of team dynamic (something “team sports” in school was supposed to achieve, somehow, and never did).

So, was I (am I) athletic? The martial arts worked for me because they aren’t, in the final analysis, visual. They’re tactile. With a fair assessment of distance, you’re only concerned with angle and level of attack. Once you close in, your eyes are useless; you have to go by feel.

But if I wanted to go play basketball, I’d have a hard time. Even with a lot of practice, I’d be a drag even in a relatively casual situation. (I mention this because there are local “mom’s leagues” which are relatively low-entry, but not really “dad’s leagues”.) Baseball would be even worse. Tackle football would be okay–I could be a lineman once I trained myself not to kick people who were charging at me–but that’s not very common.

I mention this because The Boy is in a similar situation. His vision is just fine, but during the years when most kids were learning to play ball, he had no energy. Now that he feels much better, the fact that he’s strong and fast and agile doesn’t change the fact that he’s not very adept at team sports. (I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t even try now.) At his age, the die is cast: The boys who play those sorts of sports are very good at them, and dreaming of scholarships and lucrative contracts.

So he swims and lifts weights and shoots which only require him to improve himself and he’ll have plenty of outlets for his athleticism (oh, he fences, too), but the window for those big-time sports is fairly closed. (And he won’t be interested in them for some time, if ever.)

Of course, the importance of this is questionable. It’s not like I was expecting him to be a baseball/football/basketball star and to support me in a lavish lifestyle. (No, I expect him to be a financial/business genius and support me in a lavish lifestyle from that.) I found a niche, and he will, too, probably in the martial arts (he likes boxing).

As a parent, though, I hate to see a door closed for what seems to be an arbitrary reason: He could certainly play any of those sports, except for the intense demands that require those sports to be performed at a particular level beyond a certain age.

It’s one reason I’m happy to see the the Flower engaging in those sports (well, not football, which I think they discourage boys from playing, these days) and encouraging her to work outside of her comfort zone. It’s a light touch: She’s suspicious of parental praise and resistant to practicing.

But with luck, she’ll be able to comfortably play these games for the rest of her life.

Overheard at the Basketball Game

“Don’t let that little girl stop you!”
–Opposing Coach confronted with The Wall of Flowers

Eventually, they’re gonna learn to pass. Until then, nothing gets by The Wall!

Not to gush or anything, but she’s a head shorter and thin as a rail, but when the other team sees her waiting for them to get to the other side of the court (they don’t do full court presses in her league), they run the ball out of bounds or fumble. It’s really cute.

Wall of Flowers

The Flower is in her third season of basketball. She’s one of the coaches favorite players because she listens, which is sort of a characteristic of all my children: That is, they listen very well to people who are not their parents.

It’s interesting to watch the kids grow, both individually and as representatives of their age group. As five-year-olds, they tended to not be very aware, and passes were so dubious that they all learned it was safer to hold on to the ball than to throw it.

As seven-year-olds, they’re much more aware, so they’ve segregated out the better shooters and will tend to throw just to them. (There’s a little of boys-not-throwing-to-girls, too, even if the girls are very good shots.) They’ll also tend to revert to just running and shooting as the game wears on.

By the way, extensive observation of pre-schoolers reveals that they start segregating socially almost immediately. It’s actually sort of tragic.

Anyway, the Flower herself is not a very aggressive player. You may recall earlier seasons where she just refused to do anything she felt was rude. I’m not sure how much that still plays in her thinking, but she’s at a bit of a loss when the ball is under the net.

Her niche, curiously, is as a defensive player. One part of the game that has definitely registered with her is taking the ball from the opposing team. They play a softer version of the rules, where on a turnover, the newly possessing team is allowed to move the ball a little over halfway down the court before the defensive team can try to get it from them.

What happens, then, is that the Flower stands there on the line waiting for the ball carrier to come down. She becomes intention incarnate. She dogs the ball carrier relentlessly, and just destroys their momentum.

Pretty soon, the other team gets rattled just seeing her there. And, of course, her success in taking the ball away means she gets better and more confident at it.

Of course, I’m hoping she broadens her game a bit: A good passing team could basically work around her, and we’re only a year or two from that, I suspect.

Olympic Irony

The gold medal basketball game between Spain and USA was pretty damn good. It was hard not to root for Spain, just because they were such underdogs. They couldn’t really lose, though. Anybody who scores against the American team is a winner–and Spain mounted more than a merely credible effort. They actually led at one point and kept the pressure on the whole time.

Of course, the Portuguese 18-year old is going to play in the NBA, just as some other NBA players were fighting for the Argentines. The Russian lady (she’s 29! Update, no: 33!) who should have won the gold in the vault (but got the silver due to some bizarre judging) was playing for Germany (because Russia couldn’t find it in their bureaucracy to treat her cancer-ridden son). Foreign-born Americans played for their home countries, and immigrants to America (and their children, like Nastia) played for us. Chinese dominated ping pong, playing for all different sorts of countries. A lot of foreign medalists train in the U.S.A.

The joke of the “medal count” was that the Olympics were supposed to transcend nationalism. (Medal counts were “illegal” for decades.)

It was hard to watch these games without believing, on a very real level, that they have.