Saturday, December 26, 2009

December 26, 2009--The First Visual Evidence--Jaime Tries to Dunk...

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So that you, Dear Reader, know that I am a real person, I have uploaded three short videos: the first, showing my knee-to-chest jumps and a little too much of my butt; the second, my jump rope routine; the third, my first attempt to dunk. After positioning the video camera on a little tripod (I upgraded from my earlier beach chair concoction), I made a fairly-sorry attempt at a left handed dunk. Being that I'd forgotten to bring my trusty tennis ball, I improvised by using a mini-medicine ball, similar to the balls used in a swimming pool.

My second attempt was honestly a little better than I expected it to be. Trying to achieve to perfect run-up to the rim, I felt a little awkward in my jump cadence, but you'll see that I came pretty dang close to a clean and clear tennis-ball dunk.

Encouraged by brush with Candace Parker-tinged-greatness, I'm ready to hit the lab with renewed fervor, knowing that another well-performed calf raise, a lengthened stretch for my tight hamstrings, or a to-failure set of squats may be the tipping point, may raise me to heights accomplished by the members of the fraternal Phi Slamma Jamma...

Friday, December 25, 2009

December 24, 2009

Another "good workout" (are these two words redundant?) today--playing McGyver, I used a long. flexible stretching device as a jump rope, and a recently-painted wall as my "rim" for my "rim touches."
Can I use any more quotation marks?
In the spirit of the rhetorical question, may I add one more: When does one go from "Man" to "Sir?"
As I walked about the school where I teach a few days back, a recent graduate who hadn't known me as a teacher saw me in my t-shirt and jeans, gave me the nod and said, "What's up, man?"
On this same day, as I exited the airplane in my Central California hometown, a youngish man (early twenties?) smiled at me, and said, "Hey, Mr. Flaco, how are you?"
"I'd be a lot better if you called me 'man,' I said to myself, as I smiled back.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

An Athlete's Prime? (December 24 Interlude)

The sports world takes its young stars and spits them out in a frenzy, as if they're all Macauluy Culkins and Gary Colemans. A gymnast is considered old when she is in her late teens, Andre Agassi can make his comeback at age 28, a star quarterback begins to age at 33 or 35, or in Brett Favre's case, 56--apparently, athletic years are akin to dog years.

In this era of advanced technology that allows people to live much longer than ever before, it seems weird to say that an athlete, depending on his sport, might be on the downside of his career at 27, 29, or 31. Though it is of course quite subjective, I have heard people state that a pitcher's prime is around 28, and a golfer's is in the early 30s. This seems true, or else how else would you justify the fact that Jamie Moyer, while by no means dominant, is able to pitch fairly effectively in the Major freakin Leagues up to the age of 46 with a fastball that averages 80.4 mph.
Golf, pitching, these are more intellectual pursuits than sprinting the length of the floor or dunking a basketball, however. Seeing a 30 year old Kobe watching his Afro'ed self dunk on video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rP_teS6y3e8, Check #5 particularly) last spring and commenting that it was his "young legs" that allowed him to do that and that he "wouldn't try that these days" was frankly a little depressing for any weekend-and three-days-a-week warrior.
It seems now like it was so long ago, but it was only four of five years ago that Shaquille O'Neal was absolutely unguardable. There was not a man alive who could guard Shaq one-on-one, and it was pure brute force that made it this way. To see Shaq in 2009 is to see but a shell of his former shelf. It is unfortunate that this hobbled image, while not in any way diminshing Shaq's earlier accomplishments, will slightly distort the picture in one's mind of Shaq when he decides to hang up his size 28s.
LaDainan Tomlinson was at the top of the football world for a relatively short time before he had one subpar (at least "subpar" according to his souped-up scorecard) season, and dispersion was cast on his legs, his cutting ability, his speed, his future. That those critics were in some way right is not the point; the point is that many times, perception of an athlete's future becomes reality. In many ways, those sounding the early death knell were the ones printing the accusation on Page One in blaring bold type and printing the retraction of the accusations on Page 13.
It seems that it is getting earlier and earlier in one's career when he is said to be a "cagey veteran." On the plot diagram, rollercoaster-shaped, of an athlete's career, it's scary how close the "downside" of his career is to the prime of his career.
As I set forth on my quest to dunk, where do I fall on that rollercoaster?
Ah, to rid my mind of these negative thoughts, I'm going to watch some Rocky--good thing Rocky Balboa/Sly Stallone never used any performance-enhancing drugs to reverse time...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

December 23, 2009

My workout today makes it four straight days, an accomplishment that I have not duplicated in a period of at least three months. I feel more bounce, particularly in my "rim touches." My quest to finally videotape my dunk attempt was partly thwarted by a dead battery on my camcorder, tons of peering eyes at the local outdoor basketball court, and a teenybopping skater who spied me through the chain link fence and gestured to his buddies, saying, "What the hell?"
Despite the haters, I thought that I filmed my attempt to dunk--using a leftover softball of my uncle's fished from deep in my car's trunk.
Without the visual evidence and without a tape measure on my person at the time of my attempt, I am inclined to say that the rim where I slid the softball through had to have been at least three inches lower than a normal rim. I gotta say, though, and this can be echoed by anyone who's ever thrown down a monster dunk on an eight-foot hoop or a Nerf hoop--it felt good to dunk; it gave me a sense of vanquishing an opponent and a sense of accomplishment.
Sitting down to watch my 9'10" softball dunk on my camcorder, all I saw was a fleeting shot of the rim before the blue California sky took over. I guess next time I shouldn't rely on filming myself with a miniature Flip video camcorder, propped on a small groove in a folded-out chaise lounge that just happened to be sitting in (you guessed it) my car's trunk.
When I dunk for real, this out-of-focus beginning video will be sold on Ebay...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

December 22, 2009--Are high-level athletes really low on self-esteem?

"I'm focused, man."--Jay Z

It occurred to me as I ran through my drills today (my third straight workout day!) that Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali, Jerry Rice, Kobe, Lance Armstrong, and the rest of the legends of athletic history must have low self-esteem.
This occurred to me as I ran along the curves of the beach and found myself stride for stride with a middle-aged man with an orange biker's hat pulled down low over his eyes. I had been running for less than a minute when we crossed paths, with him having run for an indeterminable time. In a show of bravado, I ran to his left, as per the runner's code that allows passing on the left and put him in my rearview mirror. Feigning a look at the beautiful apartments straddling the beach, I noticed with great satisafaction for the first five minutes or so that only his shadow was even with me.
After these five minutes, however, he returned the favor and passed me quietly to my left. After another ten minutes, his orange hat had become dulled in the twilight sun, and his figure, though not the "ant" seen from high above in an airplane, wasn't highly visible either.
It is a universally-accepted tenet of athletic greatness that he or she must have a certain cockiness, arrogance, or, in 2009 parlance--"swag." MJ was known for demeaning teammates, owners, and opponents. If you don't believe me, read any book about him, or just watch his 2009 Basketball Hall of Fame acceptance speech. Ali almost made tough-guy Joe Frazier cry, and there is still an uneasiness between the two that lasts to this day, based on the fact that Ali called Joe Frazier a "gorilla" and an "Uncle Tom," among other things. Kobe is still hated by some as much as he is beloved, for his purported aloof nature and negative comments about teammates--see Bynum, Andrew.
It occurred to my amateur psychologist-mind that the great athletes must have low self-esteem, as they always see someone as better than them. Michael Jordan was known for increasing the intensity of his off-season conditioning program even while in the midst of three consecutive NBA titles; Kobe went right back to the gym this summer after winning his fourth NBA title, reinvigorating his game with the help of post play tutelage by the great Hakeem Olajuwon, worried about the Young Turks like CPIII, 'Melo, Le'Bron, etc., coming to take his throne.
So is it endemic among athletic stars, this feeling of inferiority? Even those on the top of their athletic universe feel that there might be, nay, there is, somebody who will overtake (or has overtaken) his spot at the zenith of sport.
Mr. Sigmund Freud, meet Michael Jeffrey Jordan...

I am 12 or 13 years old, fresh off an all-tournament selection at the Zephyr Trail Basketball Camp, an acclaimed camp in the area. I am smack in the middle of the euphoria of a championship in the Green Division (the Young Bucks), the all-tourney selection, and a stoked and stroked ego from the glowing comments ("Great attitude," "great feel for the game," "quick off the dribble," "willing and able passer...") provided on the "Player Evaluation" form filled out by my coach from the week.
In the folder provided for each player at the end of the camp, among the advertisements for off-season conditioning, AAU teams, and camp certificates, there lay a pale green sheet that looked like it'd been copied out of a 1930s-era college media guide. On the sheet were sobering statistics:
-Each year in the NBA, approximately 60 players are drafted. Factor in the number of graduates from Division I college basketball, and the chance of you making the NBA is minute.
Whoa. I'm stunned. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss, and the subjectivity of dreams and aspirations can progress due to a lack of facts and statistics. It's the first time that the front of my mind has come to terms with the knowledge rusting away in the back of my mind: There are many, many (many), players who are better than me, and they will get to the NBA, and I won't.
Probably.

Monday, December 21, 2009

December 21, 2009

Today was another good workout day. I clenched my butt as the physical therapist told me for my core strengthening, I stretched my calves and hamstrings, and groin to loosen up my tight lower back, and watched my posture as I kept my upper body parallel to my thighs.
I've now got a video camera, so I will be visually capturing my quest starting tomorrow.
As I ran basketball practice tonight, I felt it necessary to run the last two wind sprints as a way to motivate my players to run their hardest. I didn't win either sprint, but I wasn't last either. I'm gonna say, conservatively, that I finished about fifth in a group of fourteen. In their defense, however, they had run six or seven sprints before I joined.
But, in my defense:
-I was in sweatpants and a Nike jacket, in my best Paulie Guatieri/Guido outfit
-I was wearing street shoes, and the floor was extremely slippery for someone like me with non-basketball shoes
-I hadn't stretched
-my legs were tired from the earlier dunking workout

Ah, who am I kidding?

So, should I be happy that I got fifth, or upset that I didn't get first?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

December 20, 2009

"No excuses that I know." --Alice in Chains, "No Excuses"

"No excuses that I know (yet)." --Jaime Flaco


So, as a three-week vacation from teaching spreads out wide open in front of me, the only question is what excuse will I now invent?
Though it is true that there is some work to be done (countless essays on the Industrial Revolution and imperialism in Africa beckon to me, as well as many hours of second semester planning for my world history class), I am kidding myself if I say that I will busy for all of these three weeks.
It is ironic that the suffocating schedule that I have undertaken this year--history department chairperson, full-time teacher, basketball coach, classes at the university to get my teaching credential, being moderator of two student clubs--is a perceived deterrent to my dunking program in the same way as is my wide-open schedule for these next three weeks.
There is something about an uninhibited schedule that allows me to waste an exorbitant amount of time. Perhaps this is a harbinger of literary fame, as we all know that all the great and tortured writers (redundant?) do more non-writing than writing, hate their writing when it does ooze through their fingers, and always have very low self-esteem.
Just kidding?
So, as today wore on, I watched Kobe put on another clinic, watched my 49ers crumble down the stretch against Philly, and started and dang near finished a thoroughly enthralling book on the Mexican Mafia. All throughout the day, the specter of my workout lay on the projection screen of my mental movie theater.
At 11am, I vowed to do my workout at 1pm (cuz, you know, I have to let my big meal properly digest).
At 1pm, I vowed to do my workout at 4:15 (cuz, you know true fans watch the whole 60 minute NFL game).
At 4:15, I vowed to do my workout at 6:15 (cuz, you know, I have to let my big meal properly digest).
At 6:15, dang, I did my workout. Despite incredulous looks from the two middle-aged women doing aerobics, I did the whole of my jumping regimen in a barely-lit back exercise room at the 24 Hour Fitness.
"No one raindrop thinks that it started the flood."--Anonymous
As a true Cali boy, I hate rain, but I love raindrops.