Friday, December 17, 2010

1980 NBA playoffs Western Conference Semifinals Seattle Supersonics vs Milwaukee Bucks

This is highlights from the 6th game and intro to the 7th.

This one is the first few minutes of the 7th game.

I wish I could find the last quarter.  I'd love to see it again.

On the Place of Sports in Society

My husband an I have made a conscious decision to avoid over-involvement in extracurricular activities for our family members.  That is not always a popular decision.  We do understand that as the kids get older, they will want to participate in more things, but family must always come first.  A person could make themselves crazy trying to support each child in a multitude of various activities, and we've decided that is not where we want to expend our time and emotions.

Because of this, there are some who suppose we don't like sports.  I am not going to answer for Joe, because, well, I'm not him.  But for myself, I LOVE SPORTS!!!  I was a huge tomboy growing up and would sneak away from my household chores any chance I got to ride bikes or play football or basketball with the neighborhood boys.  I thought it grossly unfair that girls could not play football in those days.  There was a stage when I even wanted to learn to box.  I had a thing with "tough" in those days.  It was my number one goal.

My family watched the Seattle Seahawks and the Sonics regularly and I joined in these pursuits.  I think it was during my sixth and seventh, maybe even eighth grade springs, that the Sonics did especially well.  I took it quite personally (must have been the final moments of the final game of the1980 playoffs) when that big Milwaukee Bucks center, Bob Lanier, grabbed Jack Sikma in an obvious and horrific assault, and threw him down, risking the foul and its ensuing free throws rather than let him score the pretty much guaranteed lay-up.  In the process Sikma's collarbone was broken and so went Seattle's chance for the rest of the playoffs.  I think they did beat Milwaukee, but they couldn't get past the Lakers without Sikma.  Sigh.  Can you tell it still rankles?  I can still see clear as day, Denny Wilkens, with his satiny collared shirts and light colored jackets, pacing the sideline hollering out cues and reprimands.

I remember one series, one of the final games was the same night as our spring skit night at school.  I remember huddling backstage (in the stairwell to the church basement, where we had our "stage"). Someone had a small radio back there that we took turns passing around getting updates and sneaking in a few minutes of the action. I think some of the parents in the audience were probably doing the same, sneaking out to the car here and there rather than watching the skits.  Exciting times.

We got to several Sonics and Mariners games throughout my youth, with various church groups, I think.  It was fun to try to force our way down to where the Sonics came onto and went off the court, trying to get an autograph or at least touch the sleeve of a warm-up suit.

One special highlight occured during one of the Sonics' playoff bids. The upper grades from our school were at the Sea-Tac Airport for a field trip.  The tour guide mentioned that if we were cooperative so that we could finish our tour on time, she would finish off the tour by leading us to the gate where the Sonics were expected to land that afternoon.  We were all very good. We got to the gate with plenty of time to spare.  I still have the two postcards I had purchased with probably 6 or 8 autographs scrolled around each.  It was wild.  Here we were, all us little grade schoolers, amidst the throng of fans with signs and banners and other fan paraphernalia.  We were like rats in a maze, winding our way around all the grown-ups to get to our favorite players.  "Gus Williams is coming!" or, "Hey, there's DJ," (Dennis Johnson). They were everyone's favorites, but there was Jack Sikma and Fred Brown, Paul Silas, Wally Walker, Johnny Johnson, and Lonnie Shelton...They were all getting off the plane and wending their way through the cheering fans, patiently signing autographs and visiting a little.

I don't have much time for baseball.  Just too slow moving, I guess.  And although I enjoy watching and playing football, I especially love basketball.  There is something about the sound of the sneakers squeaking on the court, the bouncing of the balls, the ref's whistles, the calling among the players, the bullhorn for a timeout or substitution, the pep band rowsing the crowd.  It's the whole thing.  I was reminded of this yesterday when I was out and about visiting an older member of our congregation with a friend.  Before we left, the friend I was with was trying to find something on the TV that the woman wanted to watch, scanning channels with the remote.  I was not paying much attention, but even while still visiting with the elderly woman we were visiting, I was instantly filled with a mini-adrenaline rush when the channel flipped briefly to a basketball game.  Even without looking at the TV, the sounds were all there.  I knew it was basketball and wanted to turn and watch.  Good thing I didn't have the remote.  The other ladies may have lost me for a time.

But we don't have a television in our home.  So we can't follow our favorite teams.  Actually I stopped following sports after I left home for highschool.  When one lives in Wisconsin, it takes a bit of extra effort to follow the Seattle teams.  I tried to check the scores when we had current events.  But that's just not the same as watching and hearing the games.  I love the Superbowl, but have only probably watched it two or three times in the last 20 years.

I was always in sports in highschool.  I wasn't a star player and our school had a pretty competitive sports program.  I generally made the teams, but also, I generally sat on the bench.  Some years if I didn't want to sit on the bench or didn't make the team, I played inter-murals.

I almost always went to the basketball games in high school.  I was blessed to attend a Lutheran prep school and so lived right on campus in the dorms.  Some kids found dorm life restrictive, because of all the necessary monitoring the dorm staff has to do to keep track of all those kids.  But having been raised to appreciate privileges when they come, I reveled in the freedom of being able to be involved in things on campus.  All I had to do was sign out that I was at the game.  And then walk across the quad to the gym. And there I was.  In the middle of the crowd, singing the national anthem and the school anthem, rooting for my team, following the lead of the cheerleaders, singing along to, "We will, we will, rock you," with the pep band, being a part of something bigger than oneself.

And that brings us back to my current stand on school sports. I've heard all the talk about being part of something bigger than oneself.  About learning good sportsmanship and teamwork.  About keeping out of mischief.  I can understand all that.  I can also remember the good clean fun I had both participating in and cheering on my sports teams.  But there comes a time when....

It is just too much.  When middle school and junior high kids have to miss family time to be in sports, it's too much.  When young kids' sports come before church and church activities, it's too much.  When parents don't have time to help their kids with homework or their Sunday school or confirmation homework, but they spend hours traipsing around for sports, it's too much.  When families have no possible time slot available for a family meal, it's too much.  And when volunteers are solicited to help with these things and parents feel obligated to help out in order for the "oh-so-beneficial" program to continue, the family unit is put under further strain by that one more obligation, yes, you've guessed it, it's too much.

I do want my kids to be in sports, but at the high school level, not younger.  I do want them to experience the thrill of being part of the team, of being cheered on by adoring fans, or of being an adoring fan.  But at this point it's hard.  We have small (and medium) children at home.  Those kids need homework help and chores monitored, and supper and bedtime on a schedule.  They need the stability of home life.  They need mom home when they get off the bus.  The bigger kids are ready to stretch their wings and be a bit more involved.  So how do we balance everything?  How do we set limits and decide what things are priorities?

Right now we've allowed the older kids one extra curricular activity a year.  They also have choir and band, which I consider academic, so we allow them, even though they also involve a bit of evening time.  We have chosen to be frank with the teachers, that if there are non-school-day activities, our children may be unable to participate.  Sometimes that may even mean a lower grade.  But the way we see it, the grade is not as important as the stability of the family unit, nor is the risk of a lesser grade reason to forgo the musical opportunities altogether.

We do have a son on the cusp of being a driver.  A daughter will follow closely on his heels.  We anticipate that this will help somewhat with the transportation issues involved in extracurriculars.  Or it may just add to the general confusion of raising a large family.  That remains to be seen.

Each family has to find its own balance.  But I do wish there was not so much societal pressure to do everything.  I wish the sports programs did not begin at progressively younger ages. I wish the younger kids could just be kids without so many "opportunities."  All the opportunities easily become temptation for parents to take on too much.  I wish more parents perceived that they do have choices in these matters.

And sometimes, sometimes, I wish I could watch the Sonics play.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Thoughts on Palin

I'm in the midst of a discussion with a fellow conservative woman about Sarah Palin.  We're bemoaning how "pop-culture" she has become.  It's as though her persona is a marketable commodity.  Even the respect she may have once elicited seems to be evaporating because of this pop-phenomenon. This makes me somewhat sad, since I consider myself a Palin fan.

After several e-mailed brainstorming sessions with this friend, I summarized my opinion as being along the following lines.  Although I think she may be doing herself political harm by allowing herself to become pop-culturized, I still think she's good for America.  I'll get into my reasons later, but I want to take a moment to point out that in her book, Going Rogue, she makes no bones about the fact that she's not "out to get" a national political position.  She is waiting to see what God has for her to accomplish in this life.

That's very like how I live my life.  People often ask if I planned to have ten kids.  I didn't plan anything.  There was a time, if I think way back, at which I held onto some non-child-bearing hopes and dreams.  But I also realize that God's ways are not my ways. (Is. 55:8)  He knows what is best for me and His kingdom.  He has plans to prosper and not to harm me. (Jer. 29:11).  That's just to big for me to attempt to overwrite.

Back to Palin, I appreciate the fact that a woman of national political and also pop-cultural reknown holds those same guiding principles.

But more than that, I think Palin symbolizes what might be called the clash of cultures in our country.  I posted this excerpt on Facebook a few moments ago.  It is from an article on Patheos by Timothy Dalrymple, titled "Palin Enragement Syndrome."
For the populist Right, Sarah Palin is a personification of all that is still good about America: rugged individualism and bootstrapping success, toughness and pluck, firm devotion to Christian family values, a commitment to the cause of life, and the kind of folk wisdom that cannot be gained through graduate degrees but is packaged in common sense and reinforced through the experience of a hardscrabble life.
Mr. Dalrymple seems to have encapsulated why people like Palin.  And for me, it is an apt description of why, whether or not she pursues national office, I think she's good for America.  In the world of national media, pop, political, and social, its refreshing to see someone I can point to who holds values similar to my own.

My family is a bit different than some (go ahead and laugh), in that we don't have a TV.  So sports figures, Hollywood figures, etc, are mostly just names my kids hear on the radio or among friends.  But as they get older and have more access to the internet and magazines and friends televisions, they become more familiar with pop culture.  Oh yeah, lots of Hanna Montana a few years ago.  Now it's Lady Gaga.  Mmm, now there's a roll model I'm overjoyed over.  But if one of my kids happens see Palin's show at a friend's house, or a snippet of it goes around the e-mail or facebook circuit, I probably won't feel like I need to preview it.  I probably won't need to cringe.  And it might even elicit conversation.  Of course the other pop figures also elicit conversation, but they tend to be somewhat one-sided, "Did you hear those lyrics?"  or "What is she wearing now?"

I realize that, as Dalrymple also points out in his article, there are those who don't appreciate the values portrayed by Palin.  He theorizes that the entire reason many people loath her is cultural rather than political.  Most of those who despise her know little more about her political views and record than the exaggerations and outright lies that were spread during the campaign.  (Case in point, the "I can see Russia from my house," line.  That was Tina Fey on SNL.  Most people think Palin said it.)

According to Dalrymple, from the point of view of those who oppose Palin culturally,
Palin lacks everything they pride themselves on possessing, possesses everything they pride themselves on scorning, and stands for everything they pride themselves on opposing. She lacks cosmopolitan tastes and elite university credentials, a well-worn passport and fluency in foreign tongues, a blueblood vocabulary and literary speech patterns, not to mention a fashionable address and a vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard. She possesses a beauty-queen title and the wrong kind of good looks, a large brood of lily-white children with outdoorsy names like Track and Piper, a commoner’s cadence and a steady supply of you-betcha folksy phrases, and a background in conservative white evangelical and even Pentecostal churches. And she stands for the defense of the unborn, for heterosexual marriage, for premarital abstinence, for the extraction of our natural resources, for small government and second amendment rights, for conservative Judeo-Christian traditions and for American exceptionalism.
How can a person argue with that?  Those types of cultural values cannot be argued.  We all hold our personal values so deeply that they are like breathing.

And that is exactly why Sarah Palin's presence in the American scene is important and good.  She gets people thinking and talking and trying to define and articulate those things they love or hate about her.  Once we can speak coherently about those things we oppose, and also those things we hold dear, we stand a much better chance at civil discourse.  And civil discourse leads to peace, stability and progress.

I don't know if I'd support Palin for national office.  It will depend upon the other candidates who come forward.  But whether or not she ever rises to the presidency or another national office, I still say she is good for America.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Life of Riley

I remember my mom using this phrase when I was young.  Most often it was in the context of me not doing my chores in a responsible, "This is not the Life of Riley, Mary."  Although I do remember asking once what it meant, and although I did understand, contextually, what Mom meant, I really don't remember where the phrase came from.

So today, in typical sound like mother style, I used that phrase on my daughter.

I was quickly inspired to do a google search to investigate the origins of "the Life of Riley."

From several sources I learned that most agree the phrase originated among Irish American immigrant in the early decades of the 20th Century.  It appears to have been in somewhat common use among Irish American immigrants by the nineteen teens.

There seem to be some earlier references to a wealthy Riley or Reilley or O'Reilly in song and theater, but nothing that seems to be generally acknowledged as the source of the phrase.  The most well known of these was in a Vaudeville song by Pat Ronney in the 1890s, in which Mr. Reilley is a wealthy hotel keeper.

The earliest written reference appears in a Hartford Courant article, in December 1911; the author has the phrase in quotes as one might a new or less familiar idiom.

Later, the phrase commonly used among Irish American soldiers in World War I.

And finally, the phrase came into popular use because of a radio and TV character, Chester A. Riley. The radio show began in the 1940, with a feature film coming in 1949, followed by the television series that ran for seven seasons.

And there you have it, The Life of Riley.