Posted on

A Moment of Sporting Thanks

A Moment of Thanks

Prior to the autumnal feast that shall soon be placed before us, we’ve already been given a lot to digest from this year in sports, including not one, but two labor strikes, improbable winners, ungracious losers, horrific tragedies, and a trip from Penn State to the state pen.  Let us now take a moment to focus, not on the negatives that are overthrown passes and blown coverages (as we all know there was pass interference somewhere that should have been called), but rather on all the positives we can take away from the field; to take pause and give thanks for this culture in which we have invested our time and sanity. 

Interestingly enough, the first Thanksgiving occurred when the Pilgrims went to the Wompanoag Tribe in 1621 for lessons in surviving the brutal winters of Massachusetts and how to deal with the annual collapse of the local wood-chipping team. 

That autumn formed the basis of what we now know as Thanksgiving and for many years, the colonists lived peacefully and synergistically with the neighboring Indian tribes.  That is, before shooing them off their land, claiming it for themselves, and then giving them casinos.  It was kind of like running up the score.  Nothing said they couldn’t, but it was generally frowned upon, especially by the Indians. 

But I digress. These days, the holiday stands for overeating, creating weird hybrid meals like turducken, watching football, and spending time with the family you seek to avoid all year long; a chance to call a timeout to the hustle and/or bustle of our lives. 

So with that tradition in mind, let me take a moment to present to you that which I am thankful from the past twelve months in sports.   I am most thankful for:

Norv Turner, for defying logic and remaining gainfully employed as a head coach in the NFL.  Seriously, does he have photos of A.J. Smith in a compromising position or something? 

The 2011 Boston Red Sox, for making us all forget that “All My Children” had ended.

Theo Epstein, for giving Cubs fans hope, as blind as it might be, for that’s where it begins.

Jim Harbaugh, for showing that going from the college to the pros is easier than everyone prior to him has shown it to be.

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, for keeping the economy growing with fines levied from hits.  C’mon, James, it’s been a while.  Your country needs you!

The NFL, for making it a safe game to play again, except to the myriad players foolish enough to get injured on a weekly basis. 

Tim Tebow, for being a great quarterback even though the numbers show he sucks at it.

Ndomakung Suh, for being a dirty player while remaining so damned likeable. 

Andrew Luck, for saving the Indianapolis Colts while still at Stanford.

Boise State, for losing a game this year so as not to confuse things in the BCS as they did in 2009.

The Big East, for keeping the words “big” and “east” in their title even though both are misnomers. 

Dirk Nowitzski, for winning that ring he deserved five years earlier.

The NBA players, for standing their ground and taking a charging foul.

The NBA owners, for arguing the call, saying it was a blocking foul.

David Stern, for continuing to ruin a league he once built to prominence.  The guy’s like a gambler at Vegas who doesn’t know when to leave once he’s accumulated a stack of chips.  It’s become quite comical to watch.

Novak Djokovic, for showing he should be on “Dancing with the Stars.”

Roger Federer, for finally allowing others the chance to win trophies.

Tim Tebow, for forcing us all to love him.

Bob Costas, for getting the interview with former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky so we could see the worst denial in the history of speaking, a 16-second denial on whether or not he is sexually attracted to young boys where the alleged child rapist repeated the question, qualified it, danced a little, then finally denied it once we had all switched over to “Dancing with the Stars” that we had TiVoed.   

NCAA football conferences, for making geography class irrelevant. 

Michael Vick, for regaining the respect of his fans, only to lose it again with his performance on the field.

St. Louis fans, for being so even-tempered. 

Albert Pujols, for doing something legendary just days before his contract expired.

The Texas Rangers, for allowing networks to replace footage of the 1986 Boston Red Sox with them.

Playoff beards, for making a world of difference in how you play. 

Cal Ripken Jr., as a reminder not to take his feat for granted.  He played in 2,632 consecutive games.  I, for one, took a week off between writing the beginning and end of this piece. 

Tim Tebow, for making us all believe in ourselves.

Sports karma.  That’ll teach you to take anything to South Beach.

Floyd Mayweather, for finally realizing he gets paid a ton of money to fight Manny Pacquiao. . . whether he wins or loses. 

Mike Tyson, for being viable again. . . in some funny acting bits.

Coach K, even though we all hate your team, we gotta admit, you’re pretty good

Shaq Fu, the Shaq Daddy, The Big 401K, and so on, for his fun-loving personality we hope continues into retirement. 

Chad Ochocinco, for his tweets before he got to “heaven.”

Major League Baseball, for stepping up to the plate and showing America it’s still a force to be reckoned with.

And finally, Tim Tebow, for making every day just a little brighter.

What a year it’s been.  Sports are as they always are – intriguing captivating, nauseating, emboldening, and demoralizing.  And that’s only on a Sunday.  Here’s to the other six days of the week.  Now, pass the turducken.  I’ve still got some eatin’ to do before I watch “Dancin’ with the Stars.”

[Featured image by: David Castillo Dominici]

Posted on

Thor’s Exploration

Thor stood at the bow of the massive vessel.  He was tired.  It had been months since he constructed the ship, years since he first dreamed of setting out to discover new territory, and almost a decade since he and Fjorgyn Karsefni had spoken after one sordid night he deemed to be true destiny and she chalked up to too much mead.

In one hundred days at sea, they’d lost two ships and countless men.  Thor wondered if he’d ever see his family again.  He longed for the simple life of pillaging and plundering he’d left behind (though he could never remember which was which).

Their only amusement was a chessboard brought on board by Thorfinn Sturluson.  But the crew lost interest quickly when they realized Thorfinn cheated terribly.  He would swear, “The horsie can move anywhere!  If you don’t believe me, ask the Eastern Slavs.”  But if there were any Eastern Slavs on board, they weren’t talking.

The men were destitute:  want of spirit, want of affection, want of life.  Their meager diet consisted of porridge, boiled fish, and  crème de menthe brulee with wild berries and caramelized sugar garnished with a mint sprig.  They could take no more.

As they rowed, the crew glared at Thor with contempt, a far cry from the trust and admiration they felt towards him when the journey began.  But Thor was filled with resentment as well—mostly towards his longtime friend Thorvald Herjolfsson, who, in a moment of frustration, pushed Thor’s Runic monument to his father overboard saying it disrupted the energy of the boat.  Thor retaliated by throwing Thorvald’s book on Feng Shui overboard.  Petty as it was, neither man was going to present the other with an olive branch of peace.  Thorvald had thrown that off two days earlier.

There was not much time left as the supply of grain was running low.  Thor was not going to look at the endless horizon anymore.  He lowered his head and prayed silently to the Gods.

In a moment one could only call divine intervention, a speck appeared on the horizon.  Leif Thorrson cried, “Land!” but no one paid him any heed mainly because he had a bad habit of yelling “Land!” every hour, a habit that earned him the nickname, “The Timekeeper.”  This time, however, it was land.  All at once, the crew exploded in elation.  But lest they suffer from premature celebration, each man returned his focus to reaching the shore.  With the strength and power of a hundred ships, they stroked and stroked as the oak planks glided through the water.  The tide lent a hand and propelled the boat onto the beach lurching the crew to the sand.

Standing slowly on dry land for the first time in months, they looked around, gazing in stunned silence at the natural beauty that lay in front of them:  forests of willow and birch, magnificent fjords, rolling hills.

After what seemed an eternity, Thorvald approached Thor and handed him the flag.  Thor accepted it as the two men shared a moment of unspoken reconciliation.

With a tear in his eye, he jabbed the stick into the sand.  The crew cheered.  Then, with his voice cracking both from pride and exhaustion, Thor spoke.  “My friends,” he began, “it has been a long and arduous journey, but our labors have been rewarded.  We started out mere boys, but ended up men who have made history.  After a myriad of sunrises and sunsets, storms, the loss of our brothers at sea, we accomplished the impossible.  Now we must get word to our families and neighbors that we’re alive and well and about to settle in a new world.”  He sighed.  “Everyone back in the boat.”

*excerpted from “Will Beg For Dignity” (OhSchnappa Publishing, 2001)