Sports Sports


I don't closely follow any professional sports these days, but there was a time in my life when I was very emotionally invested in baseball. I am a lifelong New Englander, as is my mother, but my mother grew up rebelling against her father and brother's rabid Red Sox fandom; she idolized Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, and her household was a citizen of Yankee Country, not Red Sox Nation.

I played softball in Little League as a child and enjoyed it. I became a half-decent pitcher. At the time, however, I didn't much enjoy watching baseball or softball, at least the way the rest of my family seemed to.* I much preferred playing and being at the center of the action. Around high school, however, my interest in baseball grew. I followed the Yankees closely; my family and I watched or in some fashion paid attention to almost every game they played. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera adorned my dorm room walls once I got to college.

I no longer have the time or the inclination to be a fan in that focused of a way, but I still consider myself a casual fan. Certainly I carry a vague hope that they will win; I just don't pay all that much attention to whether they do or not. It's probably better for my blood pressure.

* I know plenty of adults who think that baseball is just a boring sport to watch. I actually don't quite agree; I really like watching a game here and there. But only here and there. [Back]

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I started running in a way that more or less stuck in the spring of 2013. I say "spring," but my first run was on an incredibly hot day. It may have been in May, or it may have been in June; I don't quite remember. What I do remember is that I ventured out underneath a very bright, hot sun, and I felt like I was going to die.

At least I was realistic: I knew that I wasn't going to be able to go very far right away. I ended up following the popular Couch to 5K program, which involves generous alternations between walking and running. On that first day, as I made my way around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir -- a hefty portion of which notably lacks shade -- even a one-minute jogging interval was incredibly difficult. I managed to complete the program, and I recall celebrating the last session -- a thirty-minute uninterrupted jog -- with a hefty breakfast.

I honestly don't know why I decided to start running. It was a very arbitrary decision, and in light of that fact I'm actually a little surprised with myself that I stuck with it. Granted, as I type I'm a little out of shape; my physical fitness took a small dip during the height of the pandemic, when I was a nervous about going out for runs in a crowded neighborhood and unable to safely access a gym, so right now I need to start building my strength back up. But I have been running relatively consistently, barring a few injuries here and there, since that first Couch to 5K, and I have found it to be beneficial not only to my sense of physical health but to my mental health. I've never been very fast, but I have managed to complete a handful of 5- and 10Ks over the years; I don't think I'll ever make it to marathon-level, but I do have my eye on running a half-marathon one day.

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My parents always seemed to like playing badminton, and they had some pretty nice rackets hanging in the garage while I was growing up. Strangely enough, we didn't own a net. I suspect that this had something to do with the fact that our yard wasn't at all flat; we didn't have a great place to set a net up.

So my siblings and I would sometimes try to play badminton without a net; we'd draw a line in chalk on the driveway, for instance, or sometimes we would just volley the birdie around without particularly aiming anywhere or keeping any kind of score. Occasionally badminton would come up as a unit at school in physical education class, and it was one of the sports where I felt I could hold my own.

My undergraduate institution required a certain number of physical education credits, so I took a badminton class. I can't remember much specific about it except that it was a reasonably fun way to fulfill the credit. Certainly it didn't leave bruises on my forearms the way that volleyball did, and it was much less physically traumatic than our final sport:

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Ice Skating

I grew up in Maine. Knowing this about me, one would think that I had spent at least some of my childhood learning to ice skate. This, however, is not the case.

I loved watching figure skaters whenever the winter Olympics rolled around, and in fourth grade or so when a class assignment asked us to write a letter to a famous person we admired, I chose to write to Michelle Kwan. I thought that she was the most beautiful and wonderful person in the world. (To be fair, maybe she is.) I wanted to learn to skate on some level, but evidently I didn't want to learn so badly that I took any kind of initiative about it. My older sister owned a pair of skates at one point, I believe, but I never did; learning to skate was something I occasionally dreamed about idly, but I ended up spending my time pursuing other passions (in particular, music).

When I got to college and needed to fulfill the physical education requirement, I signed up to take Beginner's Ice Skating at the first opportunity: January term of my freshman year.

I was a slow learner. It took me a long time to find and trust my balance. Thankfully, the instructor of the class was very flexible and patient; she would introduce new skills and techniques to the class, but she allowed us to practice at our own pace. This meant that I was sticking pretty close to the ice rink walls for a little while.

I did, however, learn to skate! By the penultimate class meeting, I was skating confidently around the middle of the rink, no wall-hugging required. Sure, I couldn't skate backwards, like everyone else had been practicing that day, but I had started my skating journey from zero; many of the other students had at least learned the basics as kids. I hung around with a few other friends in the class to skate freely and practice a little more.

Unfortunately, some of the more advanced students in the class hung around as well and continued their backwards skating. One moment, I was balanced and happily tracing the "W" imprinted in the middle of the rink, not paying adequate attention to my surroundings; the next, I was on the ice. My left shoulder had absorbed the force of two bodies slamming to the ground, as a backwards-facing student had skated straight into me.

I was lucky enough not to need surgery or anything of the kind; I wore a sling for a few months and went to physical therapy for a while, and the only hint that something was ever wrong is the fact that I can bend my left arm backwards ever so slightly less than I can my right. I haven't gotten back on the skating horse, though. I tried once, a couple years later; I got on the ice, but I didn't feel comfortable enough to stray out of reach of the wall. Perhaps one day I'll try again; but it is very clear that my wild dreams of being Michelle Kwan will never come to fruition.

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