Category Archives: sports

Running Up Hills

bobby posting:

I’ve been running a lot lately.  So much so, that I’m even beginning to enjoy it.  I know…it sounds crazy.  It’s actually getting to the point, though, where I have that little itch if I don’t get out each day and hit the road.  It was hard to pinpoint at first.  I thought I was just getting sleepy or irritable or restless…maybe even anemic.  Turns out my body just wanted the exercise, because once I got outside and got moving, I came fully awake and alive.

I’ve written about running here on the blog before, my love/hate relationship with the daily grind.  But I’m not sure I’ve ever told you about one of my running rules.  So here goes, get ready to get educated:

Running Rule #454 – Never stop at the top.  

– –

When I run, I open up my front door and just go.  I don’t have a path or routine that I follow.  I never really know how long or far I’m going.  I just figure it out along the way.  Wherever I go, though, I try to find a hill.  A good one.  At least once along my route, I want to encounter something difficult that will me push me to fight and grind.  And when I get there, I do my best to follow my rule every time:  never stop at the top.

When you’re incredibly tired and worn and beat, everything in your body wants to rest at the top of that hill.  Your mind begins to beg, your legs begin to give.  All of you just wants to lie down.  Fetal position.  In some stranger’s lawn.  Passed out like a frat boy on a Sunday morning.  Okay…so you also may be tempted to just walk.  Slowly.  Very, very slowly.  That’s what’s wanted.  But not what’s needed.  What’s best is another thing altogether.

After a big climb like that, your body needs to wind back down at a more continual rate.  It needs a light jog and a steady heartbeat.  Pushing on, when everything in you urges you not to, is great for the body and the soul.  It has to be.  It’s science or something.  I think.  At least, that’s what I tell myself.

Your body loosens back up and finds its stride again.  Your soul finds strength, the desire to keep going wins over.  And so you keep on, looking for another hill to climb.  Searching for the next challenge to bring the most out of you.  Always pursuing.  Never settling.  Never stopping.  At least not at the top of a hill.

– –

One of our pastors here at church told me once that he never makes any major decisions on a Monday.  The mental and emotional and physical and spiritual toll of teaching and preaching leaves him worn and weary the next day.  He allows himself that day to regroup and renew.  But as far as I can tell, he doesn’t just stay in bed, pull the sheets over his head, and call it a day.  He recognizes the importance of moving forward.  Even if this part of the process — the leveling back out on a Monday morning — is different than that earlier part — the long, hard climb to Sunday morning.  Monday gets him to Sunday…and Sunday leads him to Monday.  But all of it leads him to where he ultimately wants to be.

That’s a man who knows where he wants to be.  And he does something to get there.  But what about us?  Do we know where we want to be?  All this talk of “not stopping at the top” dismisses an important question:  are you even running in the first place?  And if you are running, are you challenging yourself in the process as well?  Are you running up hills?

If you want to be stronger, you have to fight to get there.  Faithfully.  Regularly.  Daily.  Maybe you need some more prodding.  Here’s a few more questions to get you going…

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Where are you facing hills that make you want to stop climbing? 

What’s creating in you a desire to give up and give in? 

When are you stuck at your lowest when all of you could be climbing to its highest?

– –

I have my list.  I could even write them out, right here, right now.  I’m even tempted to.  But instead, I’m going to keep running.  Not from heartache and hardship, but thru heartache and hardship.  Not fleeing or flying but pursuing and persevering.  Friends, if there’s one quality I’d love to be known for, it’s that I’ve been faithful.  Full of faith.  Faith is believing without seeing.  But it’s also a rugged commitment to keep on going.  Grinding out instead of giving in.

When you climb your hill today or tomorrow or next week or next month, and you will climb your hill, don’t stop at the top.  Keep running.  Keep your blood pumping.  Keep your heart alive and well.  Fully engaged and full of life.

Monday taking you to Sunday.  Sunday taking you to Monday.

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Jogging. Mad Men. Philippians. Hate. and Love.

bobby posting:

A couple of years ago New Balance rolled out a pretty incredible ad campaign called Love/Hate.  I’ve always had an eye for advertising and this one really stood out.  The idea was simple, profound and perfectly executed.  See for yourself:

You don’t have to have enjoyed season one of Mad Men ( like I just did (great stuff, by the way)) to know that this piece has so much good going for it.  If you’ve ever woken up in the morning (or avoided waking up in the morning!) with that beginning-of-the-day-jog staring you in the face, you get it.  But as your legs begin to wake alongside the same rhythm as the day itself…night giving to light, school buses stopping, going…your hatred towards your running shoes gives over to the love of feeling your body in motion.  Legs thumping.  Lungs pumping.  Death gives over to life.

– –

Last year, I read thru the entire Bible.  66 books in 365 days.  What I loved the most about it was what I hated most about it.  The regularity of it all.  The three chapters that hit you in the face every day.  Three more tomorrow.  Three more the next.  Falling behind meant loads of work.  Staying on top meant constant devotion.  I found it incredibly hard to really digest or invest in any of it.  I was so focused on just staying on top of it that I was never able to really dig deep roots.

At the beginning of this year, I decided to embark on a new project.  My friend, Taido, was all-in on memorizing the entire book of Philippians by Easter.  4 chapters.  16 weeks.  The idea of being firmly planted in one book of the Bible for that stretch of time was too good to pass up.  I wanted to dwell.  Abide.  Remain.  Root myself.

Every week I look up and 7 more verses stare me in the face.  The task is daunting.  Falling behind last year meant one long stretch of reading.  Falling behind here means cramming like it’s Macroeconomics all over again.  These words have to be a part of your week.  You have to live them.  Breathe them.  Place them into your head and your heart.  Otherwise they just become words. Lots and lots and lots of words.

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7 more verses. Week 8 – Philippians 2:12-18 is haunting me.  It’s Wednesday.  I’m still celebrating the victory of the week before.  I have yet to engage in the one at hand.  It’s time to get the engine going again.  It’s as if my Asics running shoes and this little blue Philippians card have teamed up to steal me this year.  Physically.  Mentally.  Spiritually.

I hate getting started.  Writing.  Reading.  Running.  Memorizing.  The knees wobbly and unsure.  The brain overwhelmed by verses strewn across the page.

But I love digging in.  Air and sun and ground establishing me in a new day.  Scripture planting a spirit of joy and hope in me every week.

I know this about me.  Yet the fight is still hard.  Every morning.  Every week.  Every time.

But I also know the fight is part of it.  In fact, the fight may be it.  The fight gives everything else its worth.  It’s in the struggle that I find what I’m looking for.


Movie of the Year

Zach Writing:

Before I begin this blatant propaganda for The Fighter to win movie of the year I must make a few concessions: I am a huge Christian Bale fan (but who isn’t), and have only had time to see 5 movies in the entire last year. That being said, The Fighter is a must see.

This movie opened up my eyes to an entire new Genre of movies. I have always hated documentary films. What is the point? I go to movies to escape the real world, not to dive into it. Plus, I generally find them quite boring. Now, The Fighter isn’t a traditional documentary. It had actors rather than real people and certainly wasn’t directed by Michael Moore. Nevertheless, it had the same feel and style. The Fighter, however, had all of the elements that I love in a movie: Incredible character development, complex relationships, amazing plot (who doesn’t love the traditional Rocky Balboa story line), and the ability to make you laugh in order to enable you to cry.

The real beauty of the movie, however, was in its status as a sports movie. I am not a boxer (minus my one round during Monday Night Manhood with a man whose nickname is Joystick James- a story for another time). I know nothing about boxing other than you want to hit the other guy more then he hits you. Maybe it is this lack of knowledge or that I wasn’t born with the innate desire to fight, but I have never really become enmeshed in a boxing movie. I like them, but it has never come to the point where I am so entrenched that I was following every move.  In The Fighter, however, I was glued to the screen.

I noticed my hands and arms moving in mock punches as if I could control the screen and would somehow single handedly control the outcome of the movie. I cared deeply about how it ended. After all, isn’t the point of a movie to create that human connection between the viewer and its characters? To make us as viewers understand the world through another’s eyes? A beautiful movie worth the eye gauging $10 a ticket that has made me an exclusively red box movie goer.


A Response to “Competition”

Love Between the Lines: Adam right at home on the court.

bobby posting:

One of my favorite treats is going to bed after an incredible sporting match and waking up the next morning to find a great article written about it.  That moment the night before gains strength and flesh the morning-after as you hear someone else retracing the same steps you took throughout that experience.  It validates something that you were hoping was larger than life.  It punctuates, putting a period on that piece of time.

Yesterday morning, this happened in the best of ways.  After watching a little stretch of the Australian Open, turning it on just in time to hear the brilliant words of Gil Reyes (as written about here), I went to bed having learned and felt something a little deeper.  As I stumbled into work, sat down at the computer, and pulled up my Google Reader, I noticed a post on our own blog here.  To my surprise, one of our writers here at the collective had already posted on that exact match I’d watched the night before.   Instead of scanning ESPN.com in search of trying to find some tennis writer that could bring life to what I’d seen the night before, I had the privilege of reading those words from a great friend of mine.  A great writer, himself.

Adam Schaechterle was my Bill Simmons.  He was my Rick Reilly.  For you sports people, you understand.  For the rest, just trust that I just made sense.

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There are those times when you’re sitting in the church pew and you swear that the pastor is speaking directly to you.  You try to avoid eye contact with everyone, especially the one preaching.  You look over your shoulder to see if everyone else knows this sermon was prepared only for your ears.  You sink back in your seat and pray that there’s not some blinking sign above you pointing directly to your sin-bearing brain.

Or there’s the other side.  You sit in wonder, with strength and awe and joy as you hear God’s word pouring directly into your heart.  There’s no filter.  There’s no work.  There’s no struggle.  There’s just an open valve receiving new life, word and truth flowing like a faucet at full tilt.

And like a coin landing on it’s edge, there’s somehow, sometimes a third side.  The whole church sits with sorrow and repentance and brokenness.  The whole church stands with hope and heart and belief.  The whole church…lives in that moment together…as a whole.  As a church.

We try to find that other places, don’t we?

Watching a great movie…talking it over with a friend that has seen it as well.

Listening to a new album…hoping to see it in some well-respected Top 10 list.

Reading a beautiful book…handing it to a friend and praying they experience what you did.

Are we wanting to see real strength and flesh put on this body of work we’ve experienced?  Are we looking for validity to what we’ve undergone ourselves?  Are we searching for that punctuation mark?  That period?

Yes.

But we’re also desiring more.

Hoping for something heartier.

Needing something richer.

Longing for something larger.

We want community.

Period.


competition

a post from Adam:

Gil Reyes spoke tonight in the commentary booth of the Australian Open, and his words reminded me about the power of competition. Gil, a barrel chested man in his late fifties, has become a fitness guru in the tennis world. He is famous for exiling his athletes in the desert outside of Las Vegas, and breaking down their bodies through sprint after sprint, uphill. He is something of a mad scientist, and builds training contraptions himself because he does not consider traditional fitness machines specific enough to the movements of tennis. His basement is filled with twisted metal creations that will target one exact muscle group. Gil is also the trainer behind the resurrection of Andre Agassi’s career. Under Gil’s watchful eye, Andre transformed his spoiled, wasted carcass of talent into a disciplined, muscular machine aimed at one specific purpose: winning.

Tonight, ESPN invited Gil into the commentary to discuss his current pupil, the talented Spaniard Fernando Verdasco. Fernando has been marooned in ranking purgatory for the past few years. Although he has been a mainstay in the ATP Top Ten, he has been unable to break into the top 5, and has never achieved a consistent relevance on the grandest stage of tennis, the four slams. And so, this winter, while most of the ATP spent the short offseason resting their tired bodies, Verdasco enlisted himself into the command of Gil Reyes. He ran the same desert hills that had molded Andre Agassi into a Grand Slam champion, into a world #1. Here in the first slam of the year, the Australian Open, all of Verdasco’s effort seemed meaningless. Fernando was in danger of falling victim to an upset at the hands of a lower ranked Serbian, Janko Tipsarevic. Down two sets to love, Fernando rallied to take the third set, but fell into a hole by losing his serve in the first game of the fourth set.

Asked to comment on the performance of his protege, Reyes paused, and then responded with a calm, confident, and almost emotionless voice. “Well, all that we can ask of an athlete is that they would compete like an animal that has been let out of a cage. All we can expect is that he would bare his teeth, that he would show his fangs. There is no question that Fernando did not do that at the beginning of a match. And now, he has put himself in danger of losing. But, you know, fighter’s fight. We are beginning to see him do that. And if he is able to control himself mentally, if he is able to change the momentum and find a positive mental state, there is no question that he will be prepared physically to go the distance.”

Through much of the fourth set, Verdasco struggled, unable to take back the definitive break of serve. Tipsarevic served for the match at 5-4, and earned two match points at 40-15. Facing elimination, Verdasco stubbornly retrieved shot after shot, until the exhausted Serbian finally conceded his serve. At 5-5, Verdasco slipped again, allowing Tipsarevic to break back. And yet, Verdasco rallied once more, because a fighter will fight. He sent the fourth set into a tiebreaker, which he won without losing a single point. In the decisive fifth set, the dejected Tipsarevic caved in to the competitive will of the young Spaniard. Verdasco finished the match 6-0.

The match left me thinking about the defining moments in my own life. The moments that shaped my confidence under pressure, the moments that challenged my integrity, the moments that shattered my childhood dreams. So many of those moments have occurred within the symmetric lines of the tennis court. Of course, the symmetry is only meaningful because there is another man across the net, and he too is hungry for success. He too, is asking himself what he is willing to risk to achieve victory. And he too is reaching within himself for the strength to bare his teeth in the face of his fear, to show his fangs like an animal that has been let out of a cage.


Here We Go Again? Hopefully Not!

bobby posting:

In March of 2008, I’d just moved back home to Arkansas from Kentucky.  I’d spent a year and a half in the confines of the crazies of the Bluegrass State and their crazy passion for all things “Big Blue”…especially during basketball season.  This was before Coach Cal came and saved the day…and got back into more Coach Cal trouble…so I experience Kentucky sport fans at their lowest.  It was a sad, sorry sporting world with sorrow-filled faces and forlorn frowns.  I was all excited to move back home to a sane sports scene.  That lasted about a week.

In light of the Arkansas Razorbacks football team getting ready to play their biggest game in recent history, here’s a post I wrote just a few days after arriving back to the Natural State in 2008.  Here’s a for-sure area where I’m really rooting against evolution:  I’m praying the path to pathetic has ended for Arkansas sports fans and that we can just have a good time rooting on our favorite team.  Go Hogs!

Everyone Must Be Out To Get Us! / March 17, 2008

I am a huge Arkansas Razorbacks fan. The rest of my state…is not. Don’t believe me?  Hear me out.

As a young Arkansas, you’re naturally taught to believe that the rest of WORLD is out to get us. That’s expected. After all, Arkansas is the smallest state in the South and the smallest state west of the Mississippi in the continental U.S. of A.   We have LMS…Little Man Syndrome.  We’re convinced that we’re hated.  Of course the Bobby Petrino hiring backlash only confirmed that. That and the fact that every where I go I only hear about the negative contributions of Bill Clinton to our country. So that’s all a given, right? But who knew that there was another large group in the fight to steal our Hog Happiness? And who knew that the biggest enemy to just enjoying Arkansas sports for what it is is sitting there in our backyard? Let’s hop in the Hog-mobile to figure all this out.

hog-car.jpg

Over the weekend, Arkansas stormed to the finals of a natural-disaster plagued SEC basketball tournament. The Hogs made the finals of the tourney in both football and basketball last year before losing to Florida. The Gators ended up winning the national title in both of those sports, so if you’re going to lose the conference championship to some team, they might as well go on to win it all. The crazy part about all of this, is that you wouldn’t know any of this from any Arkansas fans. For some reason they stumble around the state like the biggest kicked puppy in the history of sports. Granted, I’ve been living in different parts of the country for some time now, so the pain and agony that they’ve apparently collectively felt over these years may be tangible, but people here actually expect our state school to lose. In fact, in the Houston Nutt football-era, they HOPED for the team to lose! But that’s a whole different story.

I am a sports-a-holic. I love it and talk it and sleep it and would eat it if not for the fact that Wheaties really have no flavor. I even worked in the sports business as a TV reporter and anchor for a year and a half. But I draw the line with sports at the word sport:

sport- /spɔrt, spoʊrt/ Pronunciation KeyShow Spelled Pronunciation[spawrt, spohrt] Pronunciation Key – noun “diversion; recreation; pleasant pastime.”

Watching a Razorbacks game with friends and family from home can be a particularly painful experience. There’s more mumbling than Slingblade and more raw emotions than Jane Austen ever felt. There’s a whole lot of, “Watch this…they’re about to screw up again!” Even more of, “Why does he do that EVERY time?” And of course, a healthy dose of, “I can’t even watch them play.” Is it the middle child in me screaming out or can’t we all just sit back and watch some athletes try as hard as they can to win a GAME?!

NOW BACK TO THE PRESENT…

You see…I’d like to think things have changed.  But after sitting at my parent’s house last week to watch the Georgia game…in which my Step-Father turned off the TV with a couple minutes remaining because the Hogs were losing (What?  They weren’t losing?  They were tied?  Dang…should’ve told Pops that!)…I realized that some things never change.  My resolution?  I have two:

1 / Pray the Razorbacks do the impossible and take down the #1 team in the Land.

or…

2 / Watch the game with people who understand these are college kids under impossible amounts of pressure lining up against some of the best athletes in the world…and they’re doing the best they can.  Enjoy the spectacle for what it is:  Sport!

Now Woo Pig!  Enjoy the game.


Broomball: love or hate?

Unfortunately, I fall into the massive stereotype of young men that think they are invincible and incapable of injury. It is this flawless reasoning that convinced me to go play broomball to celebrate a friends birthday. For all of you that have not been introduced to this backwards sport, it is basically hockey without skates. You run around an ice rink in street shoes with a broom shaped plastic stick. At first it is pretty easy because the ice hasn’t hit that partially melted state, but right around the time you finally start to feel confident it instantly switches to a slip and slide.

In hindsight it was very unwise to play such a ridiculous sport, especially without medical insurance, especially when someone has been injured every time I’ve played the sport. I, however, clung to the history of my life that I always end up injuring someone else and rarely get injured myself. It was this reckless bravado that made me the only one willing to actually run on the ice, which I might add, resulted in a hat trick in the first 10 minutes. It was the same bravado, however, that made me the unlucky guinea pig for that precise moment when the ice finally begins to melt. My feet came out from under me creating a comic fall directly on my right shoulder causing my head to whip lash into the ice. All sound cut out except for a high pitched whistle. Finally the words came back to the tune of “Are you alright?!?”

Fifteen minutes later I realized I should have answered no, but instead of stopping the game again I went to the side to call my sister for some free medical advice, one of the many benefits of having a brainiac sister who just graduated from medical school. A couple of Aleve and some retina tests to make sure that I wouldn’t fall into a coma in the middle of the night because of a severe concussion. The next day I woke up to find that I no longer cared about my head because I could barely lift my arm and there was a strange lump on the top of my shoulder the size of an egg. Once, again the sister to the rescue. She walked me through how to do a shoulder exam to see if anything was broken, sprained, or torn. My room mate conducted the test and came up with the diagnosis of a sprained AC joint. Three to five weeks of an immobile shoulder and then some physical therapy.

I think I am going to have to vote for hate on my broomball ballot. At least until I have medical insurance again.