Tag Archives: sports

Are You Ready for Some Futebol?

world-41953_1280In fifth grade, our P.E. teacher took us down to the football field one day and tried to talk us into playing soccer.  The only rule we were told was “Don’t touch the ball with your hands.”  For the next 40 minutes, we played some combination of kickball, flag football, and Lord of the Flies.  And after Soccer Week was done, we filed that game away with the metric system and got on with our lives.

Well, things have changed in my life, to put it mildly.  After eight years with a Brasilian, I have learned to holler at futebol the same way I holler at football.  But watching soccer is EXHAUSTING.  Here are a few reasons why:

1.  I don’t know where to look.  With football or basketball, my brain knows how to follow the ball.  With soccer, that ball could go anywhere at any time–backwards, forwards, up or down.  I can’t even blink or I’ll miss the Big Shot.

2.  It never slows down.  This isn’t the good old “first down, let’s show a Budweiser commercial while they move the chains” kind of football.  These players run for 90 minutes straight.  A midfielder can run 10 miles in the course of a game.  Flat out, backwards, forwards, up and down.

3.  The hotness never lets up.  I mean, have you seen these fine men?  No helmets hiding their beautiful faces, filled with intensity.  They’re not wrapped up in pads and those shirts get sweaty with a quickness so there’s a surplus of curvaceous musculature on display.  From the back, from the front, up and down.

brasil_cbf-wallpaper-768x10244.  Futbol is serious business in Brasil.  Y’all know how it  gets between Auburn and Alabama or Army and Navy?  Yeah, that’s NOTHING compared to the way Brasilians live for futbol.  G gets kind of crazy every four years.  He made himself sick this weekend in that game against Chile.  He wears his official canary-yellow jersey to work if there’s a game that day.  He won’t wash it during the tournament.  Seriously, the other day he had taken it off and left it lying on the sofa.  Carlos picked it up and was using it to smack at stuff.  G came in the den and yelled, “RESPECT THE STARS!!!”

4a. Stars, you ask?  Each time a country wins the World Cup, the team adds a star to its official jersey.  Brasil has won the World Cup five times (a feat only recently tied by Italy…who’s already been eliminated this year, so Brasil has a shot at pulling ahead again).

4a1.CORRECTION:  I have been schooled by no less than 3 Brasilians on this mistake.  To quote G: “Brasil is the ONLY country to win five.  We are also the only country to have played in every World Cup.  Italy has FOUR…four.  We have FIVE.  Five!”  All of this said with his fingers used as illustration, as if he was teaching me that A is for apple and B is for buffoon.

4b.  G is considering getting the CBF  (the official governing body of soccer in Brasil) logo tattooed over his heart, but he wants to wait for the six-star design after they win this year.  He has the children’s names on his arm…and would put Brasilian futebol over his heart.  Priorities.

5.  I can’t even learn the rules from listening to the commentary.  He prefers to watch the World Cup on Univision or other Spanish-language channels because it’s…better.  So I’m watching a game I don’t understand in a language I don’t speak well enough to follow.  This is what a game sounds like to me after three years of high school Spanish and 1000 episodes of Dora the Explorer:

…..ball…..team…backpack?…ball…..no…Benecio del Toro…..can….yes…time…ball….head….shoe…ball…time…ball…. GOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!


It’s wonderful to be part of something that brings the world together.  Even if most of the world goes home in tears.  Go Brasil!

P.S.  He just came home from work with a surprise for Vivi.  It’s a picture of Pele the Great.  I shit you not.  She dropped her Barbie and went to hang it in her room.


An Ounce of Quit

Have you ever heard the expression “an ounce of quit?”  I associate it with sports, some bandy-legged kid who has more determination than the rest of the team put together:  “That kid don’t have an ounce of quit in him.”  It’s a high compliment. 

Last night, when I set the alarm for 5:01 a.m., I gave myself a pre-sleep suggestion:  “Wake up feeling like a bad ass.”  Don’t hit the snooze.  Don’t sit there on the edge of the bed feeling tired and sleepy. Get your feet on the floor.  Put on the clothes you’ve already laid out.  Eat some protein and GO.  It may be 13 degrees outside and you only had six hours of sleep, but GO.  Don’t apologize, don’t half-ass it, don’t quit.  GO.  

And it worked.  Until it was time to run.  

When I run, I can’t escape the simple fact that I am carrying 40 lbs more than I carried back when I ran long distances.  Try doing something you like with a large bag of dog food strapped to your back and see if it still feels the same.  It doesn’t.  Still, I forced myself to focus on each footstep, on one victory at a time.  I didn’t think about anyone else in the gym–just myself.  But my calves were screaming and I wanted to walk, just for a little bit.  I wanted to quit.

That’s when another music moment happened.  As I was rounding a corner, Kelly Clarkson belted out:

You ain’t got the right to tell me

When and where to go, no right to tell me

Acting like you own me lately

Yeah baby you don’t know a thing about me

You don’t know a thing about me

(from “Mr. Know It All)

I’d like to dedicate that song to the voice in my head.  To Fartbuster.  To every other person, including myself, who ever told me I wasn’t quite good enough.  You don’t know a thing about me.  So sit down and shut up.  

I kept running.  It was only a couple more minutes.  I told myself, “You’ve done harder shit than THIS.”  In my head, I heard a color commentary football announcer voice crowing, “She ain’t got an ounce of quit in her!”  

The truth is, I have more than an ounce of quit in me.  I have many many many ounces of quit in me!  But “quit” is what I push out of my body every time I sweat.  Every time I put my feet on the floor and remind myself to choose to be a bad ass.  

I got inspiration this morning from some Wesleyan sisters who are bad muthas:

-Irene has lost 75.1 pounds and she ain’t quitting.

-Wyanne had to give up her tongue to beat cancer, but she kept her voice.  She’s sitting up in bed today and painting–she ain’t quitting.  

-Stephanie has spent 2 years learning how to walk again after she was almost killed by a driver who was texting.  This fall, she and her horse made it to Nationals.  She ain’t quitting.

-Kristina is going home from the hospital today after fighting her way back to life for the last two months.  She’s going to be a teacher one day.  She ain’t quitting.

Sometimes it’s so easy to quit, to slow down–or to never try in the first place.  Don’t quit.  Don’t let that little voice in your head that wants you to be less win.  That voice may be inside your head, but it doesn’t know a thing about you.  


Hammerin’ Hank

On summer nights when I was a kid, my Pop sat in his recliner on the back porch and listened to the Braves game.  In the early years of my life, he’d have the TV set to the game with the sound turned down and a radio playing Skip Caray’s commentary.  Once TBS came along, he didn’t have to bother with the radio.  The voice of Skip Caray will always equal baseball for me.  The “back porch” was actually more of a den–with walls, windows, doors, a gas heater, ceiling fan, recliners, a chest freezer, indoor/outdoor carpet, a wall filled with Grandmama Irene‘s oil paintings, school pictures of six grandchildren–but it had started life as a back porch and you know that’s how it is in the  South, we call something by what it was, not what it is.  Pop called everybody by a nickname, probably because he had been saddled with “Meredith Gaither Mathews” in 1902 when he was born the baby of six children.  His nickname quickly turned to Dick and as he grew older it was Mr. Dick or M. Gaither or Pop.  My mother was “Sweet Pea” and my Aunt Dixie was “Babe.”   Nicknames were everything and they STUCK.  In our town, you could pick your nose in kindergarten and they’d still be calling you Booger at the prom.

Pop’s recliner was the center of our summertime universe.  He kept a stack of Louis L’Amour paperbacks on the side table, along with his glasses, a pipe rack, a packet of Levi Garrett tobacco and in later years, a remote and the phone.  If he was working on a chaw, he didn’t talk, but he’d nod at you and wave so you knew you were loved.  If the game was on, he didn’t move from that chair except to get up every now and then and spit out the door.  I wouldn’t be surprised if that oak tree by the back porch steps sprouted tobacco shoots one of these days because that was the only place he was allowed to spit tobacco.  Oh, and we all know that tobacco products are bad for you.  Pop died at the tender age of 103.  For his funeral, my mom sent flowers with a Braves hat included in the spray.

Speaking of funerals, this side note will give you some hint of Pop’s devotion to the Braves.  When Grandmama Irene wrote out the instructions for her funeral on a yellow legal pad and dropped them off at the Wade H. Gilbert Funeral Home, she included this note:  “If I die during baseball season, please schedule my funeral around the Braves game.  I would like for Dick to be there.”  She has never been one to let things slip and I assume they are still of file with 20 years worth of addenda.

I enjoyed throwing the ball around and I probably have a dusty cracked glove somewhere in the house, but I’ve never become a fan of baseball.  I’ve only been to two professional baseball games in my life and my favorite part was the $7 beer and the roasted peanuts.  I just never know where to LOOK in baseball.  Too many people all spread out.  When it comes to watching sports, football makes me holler, basketball keeps my attention, soccer makes me tense, golf makes me feel lower middle class, and baseball mostly reminds me of Pop.  

But I woke up today thinking about baseball because I have been obsessing about “hits” of my own.  I’ve only been blogging for a couple of months and I’m thrilled with the progress I’ve made, but I keep looking for more hits (my word for the number of views this site gets).  I chase my tail wondering if I should write different topics, change the background, increase my marketing, tweak the tags or edit the slugs.  Some days, I hit one out of the park (like with that panties thing), or a solid double (like teaching my daughter the A word).  Some posts are bunts, some are walks and some are “a high fly ball to left field and it’s three and out for the Braves.”  

Who was the greatest Brave ever?  Hammerin’ Hank, since we use nicknames on Pop’s back porch.  Hank Aaron was in his heyday on those summer nights when I sat on the scratchy carpet and listened to the game with Pop.  Even I know that Hank Aaron hit 755 home runs (and I think those steroid freaks shouldn’t count in the record books so I don’t know where the current “record” stands).  But Hammerin’ Hank also struck out 1,383 times…almost twice as much.  You strike out when you’re TRYING for a home run and all that energy doesn’t go in the right direction at the right moment.  Hank Aaron had 3,771 hits over his career.  He just kept swinging.  He generated 2,297 runs for his teams.  When he came up for nomination into the Hall of Fame, he was a shoo in with almost 98% of the vote on the first ballot.  Yes, sir, hold the door open for him and walk right through.  

So the lesson I learned today from Hammerin’ Hank is that a career is about pursuing something you love, not just about the times you hit it out of the park.  I don’t have to be the best every day to get joy from what I do.

Hank_aaron_jerseyNow, this is the part that made me cry.  As much as I remember about Hank Aaron, I didn’t recall his number.  This is a picture of the jersey he was wearing when he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record.  Guess how old I am this year?  Forty four.  Yeah, it’s been a long time since those summer nights on the back porch.  Pop has been gone for seven years and his recliner is still there.  I miss him so much, but this is my place to write about him.  And that makes me feel solidly on base.