Sunday, February 26, 2012

We held them to 63

When I was a sophomore in high school I played slot receiver on the junior varsity football team. One week, when we were playing a big rival, several of our starters were moved up to varsity, leaving 13 players on the junior varsity. We called ourselves the Baker's Dozen.

As you might expect, when you're playing with only 13 players, including the backup quarterback (who was the starting running back), the backup running back (to replace the one now playing quarterback), and a couple of backup linemen, the game is not going to go well. And it didn't.

During the first half, the left guard blew out his knee. We didn't have any backup linemen, so I had to move to guard for the remainder of the game. I weighed 120 pounds, so I was a bit over-matched.

Later, after being punched by the guy he was blocking several times (in full view of the referee) our left tackle finally punched him back and was thrown out of the game (as was the guy on the other team). One of our wide receivers had to take his place, and he weighed less than I did. And unlike me, he had never played on the line before. He also didn't know any of the blocking assignments, so before each play he would ask me who he should block. I would point to one of the players lined up near him and say, "Block that guy."

Since we had two lineman on the left side who were much smaller than the opposing side, and since our quarterback was a runner and not a thrower, our entire offense consisted of running plays to the right side. We were very easy to stop. I'm not sure if we got a first down the rest of the game.

And since all 11 starters on offense also had to play defense, we were very easy to score on. In fact, the opposing team kept their starters in the entire game, running up the score. They were attempting to score 70 or more points.

But we held them to 63.

EPILOGUE: The following year, when I was on the varsity football team, this rival team was favored by 14 points when we played them. We won by 29.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Just Keep Pedaling

Over the past few years of cycling I've learned a few things.

First, always look behind you before you spit. Or clear your nose. You never know when another cyclist (or a vehicle) is coming up behind you, and you want to make sure the coast is clear before you do either. And I certainly hope any rider in front of me offers the same courtesy.

The second thing to remember about cycling: it is a metaphor for life.

Riding is an activity that is often solitary. Other people may come along for a time, but often it's just you and your thoughts. Or thought, as the case may be. There are hills and valleys, sunny days and rainy days, injuries and accidents, and days with struggles and days without.

And then there's the wind. A strong headwind on a ride can make you feel like you're actually going backward. But a strong tailwind can make you feel like you're flying.

In life, you may get married and divorced, have kids, send them off to be on their own, but there will be times of solitude. There are ups and downs, good days and bad days, illness, and days with struggles and days without.

And there are days where you feel people or forces are pushing against you ... you feel your headwind. It feels like you'll never get ahead, no matter what you do. And then there are days where you feel like you're on top of the world, like there's nothing you can't do. You feel your tailwind.

The interesting thing about a tailwind is that you don't always know it's there. We like to think of ourselves as self-sufficient, that we don't need any help. But often, an unseen someone or something was there all along, pushing us and guiding us.

With a headwind, you always know it's there. You can feel it when someone or some force is keeping you from moving forward, and it's a struggle to continue. But no matter which wind you have on your ride or in your life the most important thing I've learned is this:

Just keep pedaling.