Tag Archives: Sports

How I Caused The Buffalo Bills to Lose Super Bowl XXV

Buffalo Bills logo

Buffalo Bills logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1991, I lived in Buffalo, New York.

That year, the Bills made it to the Super Bowl for the first time. The team was  favored to win, and everyone who lived within a 60 mile radius was stoked.

Except me.

A graduate student at the time, each week, I sat in Wash World for one-hundred-minutes, reading and taking notes as the machines hummed around me.

I’ve never been a football fan, so I swear on a six-pack of Bud Lite when I tell you that I had no idea it was the night of the Big Game when I ventured out to do my laundry that Sunday.

All I knew was that the tiny parking lot was jammed with cars.

Cursing my bad luck, I parked a half-block away and kicked my basket down the slippery sidewalk. The snow looked blue in the darkness. I remember the cold and the way my breath curled in the air.

Inside, I paced around looking for an available washer only to discover every machine was in use. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why it was so dang busy at Wash World. Usually, the joint was quiet on Sunday nights. But that night, more than two-dozen men huddled around a tiny television, which someone had set atop a crooked table.

I glanced at the screen. Oh. I rolled my eyes. A football game.

That night, I tried to read, but the men cheered and cursed at a deafening decibel. A tall dude in acid-washed jeans crushed an empty beer can against a wall.

Sunday the laundromat sucks

Sunday the laundromat sucks (Photo credit: haaaley)

As you can imagine, this bunch wasn’t diligent about checking to see if their laundry had finished spinning.

When a machine stopped, I waited to see if anyone noticed. No one did.

Standing at the edge of the rug, I made my announcement. “Someone’s wash is done.” I gestured toward a row of white washers. The men sipped their beer with indifference.

I should have left.

But I needed fresh towels and clean underwear to make it through the week.

So.

I tossed someone’s load of graying tee shirts and ratty boxer shorts into a wire cart with wheels, and I continued to listen to them burp and fart and laugh and whistle and swear.

Forty minutes later, I dumped my wet pile into a wheelie basket and contemplated the whirling wall of dryers.

I checked my watch and noted how late it was.

I didn’t want to be in Wash World anymore.

Trapped in a world of testosterone, cigarettes, and beer, I silently prayed that I might own a washing machine and dryer one day, so I wouldn’t have to go out in the cold with a roll of quarters and touch the damp underclothes that belonged to strange men.

When a few dryers rolled to a stop, I planted my boots at the edge of the rug again.

But no one moved.

I had a right to dry my laundry and, game-be-damned, I was going to do it.

I crossed in front of the television.

The men snapped to attention. I might as well have stabbed someone.

These were totally hot in 1991.

These were totally hot in 1991.

“Holy shit!” A scraggly guy in those gawd-awful baggy red, white and blue Zubaz pants clutched his head with both his hands.

“A bunch of dryers stopped,” I said to no one in particular.

Glancing at the television, I noticed a slim figure in white running onto the field. A man on the rug chewed his fingernails. Some of the others pressed their palms together, as if in prayer.

I heard an announcer say something about a player named Norwood; about the 47-yard kick he would have to make. He said he thought Norwood could do it. Another argued there was no way.

I heard all this as background noise.

You know, because I didn’t care about the game.

I just wanted to finish my laundry and go back to my crappy little broken down house.

“I hope he misses,” I grumbled. I didn’t think anyone heard me.

As the kicker’s field goal attempt went wide right of the uprights, I watched the **players in blue** jump up and down, and I heard the announcer say something about the Bills losing Super Bowl XXV.

Looking up, I realized I was the only woman in a room full of men who had just watched their dreams die.

Men who had been drinking.

The man in the baggy pants pointed a finger at me. “She wanted Scotty to miss!”

A beer can whizzed past my face.

Someone called me a bitch.

I thought they were going to kill me.

Apparently, by walking in front of the television and speaking a few words, I had altered the outcome of the game.

It made perfect sense.

A girl’s gotta know when a girl’s gotta go, and that was my time to git.

Abandoning my laundry, I hustled into the darkness. The freezing air slapped my cheeks as I hurried down the street, trying not to slip. Glancing back, I hoped no one was following me. Inside my car, my breath hovered in the air when I finally exhaled.

I went back to Wash World the next day to retrieve my things, but my laundry was gone.

I don’t like to think about what might have happened to it.

These days, I remain uninterested in the NFL.

If we are invited to someone’s house for a Super Bowl party, I stay in the kitchen. At halftime, I emerge to watch the show long enough to be able to comment on it the next day.

And I am careful to never cross in front of the television.

Which team do you follow? Or are you just there for the bean dip? If you don’t watch, what do you do during the Super Bowl? And can I come with you?

**NOTE: I had to Google “Who won the Super Bowl in 1991?” to find out the winning team. It was the Giants. The Giants won. Seriously, I had no idea.

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Failure IS an Option: a #LessonLearned by Iris Zimmermann

After our son tried (and rejected) what seemed like every sport invented, my husband and I were tearing out our hair. Athletic adults who recognize the value of competition, we wanted our son to be involved in something physical… anything, but we were running out of options.

At some point, we heard about the Rochester Fencing Club and from the moment our son held saber, he has loved the sport that fits his personality.

I am fortunate today to have Iris Zimmermann, Olympian and Co-Owner of the Rochester Fencing Club as my guest blogger. Iris holds the distinction of being the first U.S. fencer in history to win a world championship in any weapon or any age category. In 1995, she won the World Under-17 Championships at her first major international event. Four years later Iris became the first US fencer to medal in the Senior World Championships, earning the bronze medal in women’s foil.

Iris has an amazing teaching ethos and runs a terrific program. Of course, she wants students to have fun, but she is all about personal responsibility, good sportsmanship, hard work and patience. You might think a Champion competitor would be all about winning, right? Well, here’s what Iris has to say on that topic. Follow Iris on Twitter @rocfencing.

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Failure Is an Option

Failure is the new “F word”. The more I step into the life of coaching, the more I realize that failure has become something more feared than Snooki in a bathing suit. (If you don’t know who Snooki is, good for you). It’s not just the kids that fear the black cloud of failure, but the parents who put all their hopes into the athletic endeavors of their 6-12 year olds who can’t stand to see little Timmy “fail.” I think this is why so many school and athletic programs have adopted the “everyone wins” strategy.

I’m sorry Timmy, but everyone does not win in this world. Rather than go on a diatribe about the downfall of Darwinism and the culture of healthy competition, let’s start talking about what failure can do for you.

In order to do this, you will need to accompany me on a short trip down memory lane. While training for the 2000 Olympics (yes, I am type A), there was this United States team fencer who had a tattoo on his arm that read: “Victory or Death.” I joked with him about it and said, “Nice tattoo. You must win everything. What’s your secret?” The fencer, who could count height as one of his strengths, looked down at me and glared.

Let’s get this straight. No one is that good. Michael Jordan — “The Greatest Basketball Player of All Time” according to the NBA website — knows this. He said:

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

Well said, Mr. Nike Air. Let’s take an academic step forward and do some modern research. What does Wikipedia say about failure?

Failure refers to the state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective, and may be viewed as the opposite of success.

Interesting thing – “may be viewed as the opposite of success.” The Wikipedia community is, in general, back and forth on the scale of accuracy of definitions and explanations. However, in this case I would say they hit the nail on the head with the definition.

She

Failure is only a view or perception of the opposite of success. The problem with failure is that fear of this perception can keep well-meaning people from becoming great. So, if failure is just a perception, is it possible that if you altered your understanding of this perception you could make failure a valuable tool? For those of you like me that are to the point. Failure is merely a state of mind.

First of all, a person has to get it through one’s thick head that he or she must fail in order to succeed.

When I competed, I think my most powerful tool was that I wasn’t afraid to lose. I somehow knew that within every “failure” there existed an opportunity to learn about any weak points in my game. Having made peace with losing, there was nothing to be afraid of — which made me a very effective fencer at a very young age.

At age 14, I was the youngest to win a Cadet (under 17) World Championship medal and until recently, the youngest at age 16 to win a Senior National Championship title. I owe much of that success to losing competitions because if I was afraid, I would never have tried some very risky actions that ultimately helped me to win important competitions.

What separates the “good” from the “great” is the state of mind they chose to be in when they come up against a hurdle, a loss, or a failure. Unlike many people who are paralyzed by the thought of failure, the successful people are the ones who learn and move on. If you don’t believe me, take it from Michael Jordan.

How has “failing” helped you accomplish your goals? Anything you want to ask a World Champion?

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson

Something Wrong

Photo by Auntie P at flickr.com

Today, I did something wrong.

I ate a perfect pear in January.

In this part of the United States, January usually means down jackets, snow pants and polar fleece.

By now, we should have built a snow fort or two; our weekends should involve ski slopes and sleds and hot chocolate by blazing fires.

January is supposed to mean batting flakes out of my eyelashes as I go into the grocery store and scraping the ice off my windshield on my way out.

So while the earth is firm under my feet and breathing the air makes me cough, I can still see grass.

We are at a threshold, neither in nor out.

And on this winter morning, as my son slid out the back door wearing a new parka — so blue against the white sky – biting through that pear’s flesh tasted entirely wrong.

The sweet nectar was delicious but wrong.

I tried to be grateful for a summer reminder.

{In subtraction, they would call it the remainder.}

But I’m tired of these remnants, the what’s left sticky residue of summer on my fingers.

Let it be winter already: enough of this in-between.

Is anyone else wishing for full-blown winter?

Lessons From Losing

As a self-admitted, ridiculously competitive parent who wants her child to know how good it can feel to work hard and win, it is my duty to report that my son competed in a fencing competition last weekend. On the strip, he fenced his butt off and did not lose a single match. As parents, my husband and I were internally beyond psyched, but externally we tried to contain ourselves.

After two hours, Monkey came over to the area where we were standing and said, “Explain how I have won every bout but I am now ranked #7?” Husband and I looked at each other and said (practically in unison), “Don’t ask us! Ask the guy with the clipboard.” So Monkey did. He marched right up to his coach who is like nine feet tall and tattooed and has a goatee and sometimes yells at kids or bonks them on their helmets for not paying attention. (It should be said, this treatment is always deserved. Elliott is an amazing coach, but he can be intimidating.)

Several adults were standing in a small cluster when Monkey barged in. From my vantage point (wedged against husband and the cola machine), I could see Monkey say something and point at the clipboard. Then I saw everyone look at the clipboard. And then I saw four horrified adult faces. I watched people erasing and nodding. Eventually, words were exchanged and Monkey came back over to us.

Apparently, an error had been made. One of the refs accidentally wrote down the wrong last name in the brackets and so Monkey’s competitor, the kid he had beaten, moved ahead of him.

When the error was brought to his attention, my son was composed. He stayed for the remainder of the competition and watched other fencers compete. He even congratulated the winners afterward.

Later in the car, Monkey was mad. It’s the first time I’d ever seen anything close to a kind of fire in my son. He said he was frustrated – really frustrated. That he had wanted to go as far as he could, and he was mad to have been prematurely stopped in his tracks. He did not have a hissy fit or cry. He understood an error had been made. He knew it was not intentional. He knew that by the time the error had been caught, it was too late, as fencers were already fencing in the semi-finals. He just kind of wished he had known about the mistake earlier.

So there were lots of lessons that day. Lessons we take through life. Monkey kept his head about him and kept his cool, despite the fact that he got a bum rap. He understood his disappointment wasn’t so much about the losing so much as it was losing the opportunity to do his best. That was the frustrating thing for him. (And I’m guessing next time, he’ll be the kid hovering around whomever is holding the clipboard.)

There were lessons for this trophy-seeking momma, too. I have to admit, my first instinct was to feel anger. I felt Monkey had been gypped. Privately, I wanted the coaches to go all the way back in the seeding to where the error was made and start over. I didn’t care if it meant another grueling two hours for the fencers; I wanted justice! I was surprised by how quickly my inner Tiger Momma wanted to pounce: claws bared, teeth clenched. I wanted apologies and a free year of private lessons. I wanted someone to publicly acknowledge my child’s amazing composure. For the love of Pete, I wanted to scream, Someone mention that you guys screwed up and my kid did not really come in 7th place!

Of course, I didn’t.

I squished these urges down, but it wasn’t easy. But I took my cue from Monkey, and I rode the tide. And just so we’re all clear, I’m not a great tide-rider. But on that day, I had to be. We all did. Because sometimes life really does just happen and — even if you have a sword — sometimes you just have to put it away and prepare to battle another day.

Father and Son: Gone Golfing

A golf ball directly before the hole

Image via Wikipedia

Note: This blog was written the Sunday before the school year started.

My husband and my son have been on the driving range for an hour.

I know this because I have been spying on them from my car.

About twenty minutes ago, it started to rain, and I thought they would stop. But they didn’t. They kept on whacking dem balls, oblivious.

I never thought this day would come.

When my son was 9 months old and just starting to walk, my husband decided May would be a lovely time to get serious about the game of golf and join a local club.

I remember being furious and feeling completely abandoned. I’d imagined the two of us taking turns watching our teetering toddler as he endlessly padded  down the tile floors. But then I became a golf widow, and I lost my husband.

I suppose, at the time, the golf course was a better lover. After all, she was beautiful, well-maintained, undulating, and brimming with splendor. All of that gorgeousness was in sharp opposition to the new-mommy me. When our son was 9 months old, sometimes I looked downright ragged; sometimes I was mean; some days, I didn’t  shower, and I was cranky when my husband came home. I offered no new vistas. At home, every day was the same thing: Diapers, feedings, naps. Or – heaven forbid – no naps.

My husband promised that it would get easier, the parenting gig. And it has. Our 11-year-old son is easy-going, funny, eager to try new things. He is kind, loyal, open-minded, intuitive and imaginative.

And I just watched him whack a golf ball farther than I have ever managed to hit one. The ball flew long and straight, right over the flag.

So he is starting to golf.

It’s kind of cool. Something he can do with his dad.

Maybe one day they’ll go on a guy trip to some fabulous location together and bring their clubs. Talk about guy stuff.

Watching them enjoy themselves as the rain pours on their heads, I realize, it’s time to stop being pissy about the golf thing.

Because they enjoy it.

Even in the rain.

I don’t have to be part of everything. As long as I can meet up with them for dinner, I’m good.

tweet me @rasjacobson