Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday, November 27

The day after Thanksgiving, with its belt-loosening turkey (dark meat and white meat), stuffing (bread-crumb infused), mashed potatoes and clear gravy, a random antipasto plate of three different cheeses, crackers, and salami, and pumpkin pie is enough to make a man stick to his couch's butt groove for a few days.
After reacquainting myself with my couch, my remote control, my laptop, and refreshing my e-mail 276 times, I decided to do a late-night workout. I successfully crouched into 25 squats, using only my body weight as resistance, stood on my toes boxer-style for 30 calf raises, rocked into the raised-fetal position for five knee-to-chest jumps, and pogo-sticked for 20 below-the-rim rim touches.
The workout was fairly brisk and quite successful, if only for the fact that I actually followed the stretching regimen outlined for me by my physical therapist. Why do I, why do we, often ignore advice that we know is good for us? Why have I not taken as much time to stretch as I have to flip through the channels aimlessly and heedlessly, or click on thirteen random links on Wikipedia?
The answer is simple and embarrassing--because it's boring. Stretching is boring, and though I know it is beneficial for my back and me, maybe even more beneficial than any of my jumping exercises, I have to force myself to do it because it's "boring." Anything worth doing has to be exciting.
Great advice for a high school teacher to pass on to his students, eh?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November 11, 2009 Workout

I'm actually writing this prior to my workout, partly to avoid having to grade papers. There's only so much a man can take when it comes to essays explaining the importance of the spice trade in the shaping of the early modern world. (You might be able to determine, correctly, that I teach world history.)
I am hoping that this writing will make the future, as presented on paper (or a blank Internet template, in my 2009 Hemingway impression), a reality.
My workout today was a robust one. In addition to a hearty twenty minute jog, I got in a solid back and shoulder workout. The wide-open, dimly-lit workout room, usually reserved for yoga and stretching and aerobics, was my refuge as I ascended into thirty calf raises, descended into twenty-five slooow squats without resistance, transferred potential energy into kinectic through six standing jumps--bringing my knees to my chest, connected my feet and concentrated on calf flexion as I performed thirty-five jump rope jumps with each leg and thirty-five with both legs, and tiptoejumped to twenty-five "rim touches"--in this case with the "rim" being the face of a solid metal beam.
So, now I'm in the situation where I've RSVP'ed early to the party, and as the date gets closer, I don't wanna go. I've got three "Sopranos" episodes on DVR calling my name, and ten different errands to run, but I have to make the self-perpetuating truth written above come true.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Power of the Dunk (Interlude)

Whoever first said that a dunk is "only worth two points" was "unduly suspicious or fearful of being replaced by a rival"--this is to say: he was a hater. Anyone who has ever been left in the wake of a powerful dunk, watched from a front-row seat underneath the dunker, or heard the crowd erupt upon a thunderous dunk (or any dunk, for that manner) knows that this truism is not so true.
Now, being that my basketball experience has run the gamut from statkeeper to player to referee to coach to fan, one would think that I am above all of this jealousy, right? Wrong. I, too, am a hater. Believe that.
I am a senior in high school, playing some of the best basketball of my life. I have missed the whole of my junior year after successive bouts of pneumonia and mononucleosis took a serious toll on my basketball conditioning. I am playing myself into shape with daily grudge matches at the local health club after school each day, as well as participating in a Nike spring league.
I have reinvented myself in a way, adding a solid jump shot from 15-20 feet to my formerly one-dimensional game. The formerly skinny, undersized post player with a keen ability to keep alive offensive rebounds and score on putbacks and tip-ins has become a skinny, undersized post player with a keen ability to keep alive offensive rebounds and score on putbacks and tip-ins (and an occasional jump shot).
True to the fraternity/mafia that is hoops, young Turks need to be initiated and make their bones before getting immunity allowing them to play on the main court of the gym. There is a certain sophomore who is doing his darndest to speed up his button ceremony--so much so that I'm pretty sure he's already got the the knife to prick his thumb and the saint's card in his backpack...
My team has the ball with the score is tied at 14, with me scoring five or six of the points with a couple of garbage buckets off loose balls or putbacks, and two or three jumpers from midrange. Guarded by a fellow senior, a star player on the varsity team and the Lex Luthor to my foiled Superman, I relish the opportunity to finally wrest a win from his greedy hands. Though every game played with us on opposing sides seems to end with a fight to the end and a two point margin, my record against him is not something I care to know.
As we pass the ball around, each of us looks for an opportunity to end the game with a three-pointer, which is worth two in the halfcourt game, a game in which a team must win by two points. My opportunity opens up, a reward for my constant movement without the ball. I catch a pass slightly outside the three-point line, my feet poised and pointed towards the front rim, hips low and body folded, ready to explode up for a jump shot in perfect rhythm.
The shot is soft, true, and in. I know it--any player who has had enough reps has a feeling (99% accurate) when a shot will go in after hitting the rim first. The shot hits softly off the front rim, lightly settles, and falls to its destined position inside the net...only to be interrupted in its fall by a thunderous shaking of the rim by the hands of the upstart sophomore. His dunk, more power than grace, leads to the incredibly rare (and appropriate in this case) "offensive interference" call. The basket did not count, the ball was turned over to the opposing team, and (need I even say it?) we went on to lose the game.
After the game, I played my role, sufficiently contemptous of this youngster putting his personal glory in front of the team's. I'm in loud agreement with those who insist that my shot would have gone in and won the game. What I lack in certainty, I make up for in volume, and anyone listening to our postgame conversations will be swayed by the passion with which I make my case for the continued barring of this pledge from the upper echelons of the frat. I make it quite clear that he will always be the nerd, he will always be Jeremy Piven as "Cheeeeeese," he will always be on the outside looking in, and he better gain a better understanding of the team concept that will make him a better player.
That's what I say. That's what I insist.
How do I really feel? What do I really think about the dunk?

"Dang, why can't I do that?"

In the immortal words of Ice T at "The Player Hater's Ball"--"Hate, hate, hate, hate..."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November 4, 2009--Not quite Willis Reed, but....

I am checking back in with my monthly post. I am back at it today, hoping to ride this momentum to "And One" helicopter-dunk status. As I worked with my basketball players today (I coach high school ball at a small Catholic school), I found myself talking about the basketball of my youth--the competition, the training regimen, the year-round rigor. As I talked about plyometrics with an interested and knowledgable player, I found myself using the dreaded phrases like "When I Used to Play" and "In Those Days.."
As the dreaded 29th birthday comes near, I feel that I will somehow wake up some five or seven or fifty years older tomorrow, simply for having uttered those words so near and dear to those who fought in American wars that were justified and know what life was like when the world (or was it just tv?) was in black and white.