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Sports Love

September 20, 2009 2 comments

My football team, the New England Patriots, suffered an embarrassing loss today at the hands of an opponent whose coach and players had been talking all sorts of smack before game day. It was a frustrating, disappointing afternoon.

For a moment though, I’m going to go back in time six days, to last Monday night, when the Patriots came from behind to win the game against my buddy’s Buffalo Bills. It was the return of Monday Night Football and the return of Tom Brady. And I did a dance in my kitchen.

The day after the game, Sports Illustrated‘s Peter King wrote, “Time will tell if the Patriots are really good and just escaped with one, or if they’re just a member of the NFL pack. The latter’s unlikely. This team has flaws, but this team also has Brady.”

After today’s performance, I may get some sass for using that quote. But in that moment, on that night, Brady and his brand of magic were back, and this fan was left with a 24-hour high.

My love of sports started with a love of sports writing. As a teenager, I used to anxiously await the arrival of my father’s Sports Illustrated. If I found it in the mailbox first it meant I wouldn’t have to hunt for it behind my parents’ toilet later.

Once I had my hands on it, I would try to be good and read it in order. But more often than not, I flipped right to the back page, to Rick Reilly’s “The Life of Reilly” column. Reilly, who now sadly works at ESPN, is my favorite columnist of all time. So much of why I love sports, and all the good and bad that goes with it, is because of him and other sports writers who made me care about the games through the stories they told.

I have never been good at retaining stats or remembering the names of players who aren’t in the news often or aren’t on one of my teams. I don’t follow drafts, or participate in fantasy leagues. And lately, I live without cable, so no regular SportsCenter. But I love Sundays in fall. And I love the moment when you walk into a baseball stadium and the green of the grass first hits your eyes. I love filling out my brackets for March Madness. And I love the sound skates make against the ice when they come to a hockey stop.  And most of all, I love waking up the morning after my team won a big game, or even a championship, and scouring through all of the fresh words set out by sports writers in the wee hours of the night.

I have girlfriends who think I’m slightly off for how much I care about my teams. For example, I bawled into my ex-boyfriend’s shirt after the Patriots failed to complete an undefeated season with a loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. We happened to be watching the game with a roomful of elementary school teachers who didn’t care much about football, and who really didn’t understand how I could possibly care enough to be shedding tears.

I have other friends who believe my love of sports will some day help me land a man. And they could be right. I swear the reason I landed my last boyfriend, or more specifically why he stuck around after a rocky start, was because I got so into the 2006 World Cup. How could he not hang onto a girl who so enthusiastically watched every Germany game?

But trying to impress men, or compete with their vast sports knowledge, has never been a reason for me to care about sports. If it was, I wouldn’t call myself a true sports fan.

The Boston Red Sox are on a hot streak right as playoff season begins. And despite the loss today, the season’s just begun for the Pats, which means a whole lot more chances for Brady magic. To top it off, I’ll be wearing my new #21 t-shirt at the Verizon Center on Wednesday for a Washington Capitals preseason game, and then again on October 3 for the home opener.

Thanks go to talented sports writers, my baseball-loving parents, my sports-playing little brother, all of my ex-boyfriends, and my hockey-obsessed college friend for making me care about the game. I can’t imagine a life without my sports love.

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Walk On

September 14, 2009 Leave a comment
Lately, I have heard a lot about my own strength. People comment on how “strong” I am being as I stare down my family troubles and a broken heart. My question to them is do I have another choice?
Am I being strong? Or do people say that as a way to encourage strength? And is it strength, or just life?
I was listening to Pandora today at work and The Weepies started to play. It was a song I had never heard, “Can’t Go Back Now,” and before it was even over, I found the music video on YouTube and sent it to my best friend. It made her cry (hopefully in a good way). The lyrics follow (but I recommend clicking the link and watching the video. It features Deb Talan and Steve Tannen, the husband-wife duo, as puppets).

Yesterday, when you were young,
Everything you needed done was done for you.
Now you do it on your own
But you find you’re all alone,
What can you do?

You and me walk on
Cause you can’t go back now.

You know there will be days when you’re so tired that you can’t take another step,
The night will have no stars and you’ll think you’ve gone as far as you will ever get

But you and me walk on
Cause you can’t go back now
And yeah, yeah, go where you want to go
Be what you want to be,
If you ever turn around, you’ll see me.

I can’t really say why everybody wishes they were somewhere else
But in the end, the only steps that matter are the ones you take all by yourself

And you and me walk on
Yeah you and me walk on
Cause you can’t go back now
Walk on, walk on, walk on
You can’t go back now

I can’t go back to when my family was intact and I had my boyfriend by my side. All I can do is appreciate I had it while I did.
And now I’m taking steps all by myself. I don’t think that’s being strong. I think that’s living.
My friend’s mom, who I adore, left a comment on my Facebook status yesterday. She wrote, “We were just talking about you last night… and how you love life!”
I am fortunate that my instinct is usually to love life. That’s not to say I don’t complain, or have dark moments. But I never falter from my belief there is a way out of the hole.
My mother used to tell me, “You always have a choice.” I could chose to wallow in self-pity, which I occasionally do, or I can chose to find my way back to happiness. I think me being “strong” is me walking on, with those who love me behind me, in case I need to turn around.

The New Normal

August 23, 2009 2 comments

My college best friend told me on the phone I sound like me again. Yesterday my roommate said I seemed much happier lately. And I have caught myself frequently singing in the car (to happy songs!)

I woke up three weeks ago hungover and sad. I had hit the latest “bottom.” As cheesy as it sounds, I sat in bed and gave myself two options–wallow in self-pity or push off the bottom and start making my way back to the surface. I didn’t know how much further down the “down” could go, but I didn’t want to find out.

I went on yelp.com and found out where to take beginner yoga classes in Silver Spring. I joined an online dating service. I started this blog. I began eating healthier. I found joy in being with my girlfriends. And I started going out on Friday nights with co-workers or Bocce teammates who introduced me to their friends.

This morning when I was reading Modern Love, my favorite column in the Sunday New York Times, the exact expression I had been looking for to describe my rise was written in a single line, “This was the new normal.”

The column’s writer was dealing with a break-up and a bout of breast cancer. In my case, I have been dealing with my parents rocky divorce and my own break-up. And though our pain was different, Judy Smith of Seattle and I had come to the same conclusion. We needed to accept our “new normal.”

My parents are leading separate lives. For the first 26 years of my life my mom and dad were together. They aren’t anymore. When I call my mom at the house, I can’t reach my dad. And some years, at Christmas, I’m going to have to pick. But I still have both my parents, and my little brother, and they still love me and want to spend time with me.  The time spent together has just taken on a new form.

I am single. I don’t have a last call of the day or someone to wake up next to. My best friend is out walking the world on his own, and I don’t get to know what he’s doing or if he’s okay. He’s not my best friend anymore. But I get to spend time with old friends and make new ones. And I get to write this blog, which means I get to write, something I didn’t even know I missed.

I will get to have butterflies again some day. And experience the wonder of falling in love.

My “new normal,” compared to so many others’ “normal,” is fairly fantastic. Buried beneath the sadness and pain of the last year, I found “me” again. It’s nice to be back on the surface. It’s easier to “be” up here.