Mr. November and My Aunt

NEW YORK (AP) — Derek Jeter held a microphone and spoke without notes to the crowd that filled sold-out Yankee Stadium. His No. 2, the last of the single digit pinstripes, had been retired and a plaque in his honor dedicated that will be placed in Monument Park alongside tributes to Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra and the rest of the team’s greats.

“There isn’t a person or player I would trade places with that’s playing now or ever,” he told the fans.

Derek Jeter’s Number Retired in a Ceremony at Yankee Stadium, Time/AP (May 15, 2017).

Seeing photos of Derek Jeter at Yankee Stadium reminded me of a time many, many years ago.  Yes, it was a different Yankee Stadium than where I watched him play.  Yes, he is a different man now than he was then.  Regardless, he is a modern day legend, who deserves to be feted.  He donned No. 2 for 20 seasons, during which he excelled at what mattered:  hitting, baserunning, fielding, and leading.  The result?  Five World Series championships. 

As I read about Derek Jeter’s accomplishments, I couldn’t get my late Aunt Joan’s voice out of my head.  “Oh, Kim, he’s so much more than a fabulous shortstop, he’s a leader–on an off the field.  He teammates respect him.  And his charitable organization Turn 2 speaks volumes of his character.”  My Aunt, who had an opinion on anything and everything she knew–and she knew a lot about a lot–didn’t let it go at that.  “I think you and Derek would be a power couple,” she proudly opined.  “He hasn’t found anyone, really,” she continued.  Her hopes were fueled by me casually mentioning that I had run into him at a bar–one which, it would turn out, we both frequented.  But that was years ago. 

My Aunt was a bright woman.  She knew it was against all odds for Derek Jeter and her niece to date, just like she knew that she would not see another Derek Jeter in her lifetime. 

#No2

The Goal: 42.195 km

Before meeting my husband, my knowledge of endurance racing was minimal.  I cheered on marathon runners from Second Avenue annually while living in New York and that was the extent of my participation.  Since we’ve been married, I have watched Russell compete in one full IRONMAN triathlon (distance:  140.6 miles), two half IRONMAN triathlons (distance:  70.3 miles), and several shorter distance races (sprint and Olympic triathlons).  All of those races, save one, were registered for prior to our marriage.

Since that time, endurance events have taken a back seat to our relationship, our daughter, and his work.  It has been difficult to keep an endurance athlete from registering for races and with good reason.  They are personally challenging and physically addictive (think of that massive endorphin release).  Races also provide a training goal for athletes.  Need motivation for getting to the gym?  Register for a date-certain race.

So, he did.  On Sunday, February 19, 2017, Russell is registered to run the 25th Annual Okinawa Marathon.  In turn, he has been putting miles on his trainers, hitting the road (and treadmill) to prepare for one hilly race.

Course Map and Traffic Control

Curiously, Russell’s dedicated training schedule has had an unexpected knock-on effect.  His waking at 4:30 a.m. to get to the gym before work has motivated me to get to the gym as often as possible–a pre-[S] long lost habit and one that cannot be accomplished without him.  Yesterday, instead of going to the gym, I decided to make the most out of the cooler temperatures and ran up a long steep hill near the Officer’s Club 12 times, earning the respect of three men.  One man who also was running hills breathlessly commented what a good workout it was; another was walking his dog and commented I was “working the hill over”; and, the last was my husband who noted that it was a better workout than hopping on the elliptical machine.  The workout paid off.  Today, it hurts to walk, sit or stand.

I am proud of my husband for taking on another challenge given his tight schedule and current commitments.  I am also in awe of the fact that he continues to push me to achieve–and do–more.  I can only hope I do the same for him.

#RunOki

The Kaepernick Conversation

“I’m not anti-America,” he said. “I love America. I love people. That’s why I’m doing this. I want to help make America better.”

— Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49er Quarterback.

It’s old news.  San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick has been refusing to stand during the playing of our national anthem at football games.  Why?  Because he believes America can do better, citing racial injustice, minority oppression, police brutality and the treatment of military veterans.  Admittedly, he means no harm and no disrespect towards America, its citizens, its servicemembers, or its police officers.  Rather, he found a way to stand for something he believes in, by sitting or kneeling during the pre-game playing of The Star-Spangled Banner.

Like Mr. Kaepernick, I love America.  The values our country was founded upon are inspiring.  (Think inalienable rights and liberty and justice for all.)  More importantly, the freedoms guaranteed to American citizens are awesome.  Our country’s guarantee of the freedom of speech, allows us to burn the American flag in protest, anger, frustration, or, even, hatred.  In America, that is a right, not a privilege.  While I have not burned a flag, I am honored to be a citizen of a country that permits such freedom of expression.

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Me and my mother; my naturalization papers in hand.

I was born on foreign soil, arriving to the United States as an infant.  I became a naturalized American citizen years later.  Although I was young, I recall being separated from my parents in the courtroom, taking the stand, and being asked questions by a judge.  Since then, I have had occasion to travel outside of the United States and have lived in other countries.  I understand the value of my citizenship and I have a deep appreciation for my rights, liberties, and opportunities.

Mr. Kaepernick’s actions both are contemplated and protected by our Constitution.  As offensive as that might be to some, the very same freedom of speech that guarantees Mr. Kaepernick’s right to sit or kneel during the national anthem permits those offended to protest his actions.  The breadth of our freedom of speech makes America unique and, arguably, the greatest country on earth–at least in theory.  Sadly, it appears that actually using that freedom makes one, at best, unpatriotic.

In the not too distant past, many commentators and politicians have urged Black Lives Matter supporters to protest peacefully.  Here, Mr. Kaepernick, concerned with the treatment of blacks, elected not to stand during the national anthem.  He engaged in peaceful protest.  Indeed, his actions were without accompanying inflammatory or hateful rhetoric.  But this still is not good enough for some.

Lastly, those who have repeated Donald Trump’s oft-quoted mantra that political correctness has gone too far in our society, appear the first to condemn Mr. Kaepernick’s actions.  There is no rule that one must stand for the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner.  Yes, doing so is respectful.  It is also politically correct.  It is ideologically inconsistent to praise Tim Tebow for Tebowing on the field, while castigating Mr. Kaepernick for kneeling.

While I hope Mr. Kaepernick will find cause to stand during the anthem in the regular season, I also hope he continues to stand by his values, come what may.

Solo Stands Alone

U.S. Soccer terminated the contract of goalkeeper Hope Solo on Wednesday for what it called “conduct that is counter to the organization’s principles.” The federation also said it had suspended Solo from the women’s national team for six months, but in ending her contract, it sent a strong signal that Solo — who has balanced on-field excellence with off-field controversy for more than a decade — might have played her last game for the United States.

The suspension was a direct result of critical comments Solo, 35, made after the United States was eliminated by Sweden in the quarterfinals of the Rio Olympics on Aug. 12. After the loss in a penalty-kick shootout, which sent the Americans home from the Games without a medal for the first time, Solo responded by assailing the Swedes’ conservative tactics and calling them “a bunch of cowards” for not going toe to toe with the more talented American team.

U.S. Soccer Suspends Hope Solo and Terminates Her Contract, The New York Times (Aug. 24, 2016).

Sports.  Those who aren’t fans call it fun and games, but dedicated spectators of fill-in-the-blank understand that the match is about more than mere wins and losses.  At the professional level, sports are about business, branding, sponsors, and money.  But sports also are about the personalities, personas, personal histories, and egos of athletes, whether performing or not. Just ask Ryan Lochte.

Hope Solo’s talent as a goalkeeper on the pitch is undeniable.  Indeed, her records speaks for itself.  But off the pitch, her commentary and actions have plagued her for years.  As a Team U.S.A. soccer fan (men’s or women’s), I was disheartened that the women failed to make it to the semifinals.  But such is life.  Sweden played by the rules and won.  Full stop.  End of story.

Ms. Solo’s comments post-match were inaccurate and unnecessary.  She demonstrated poor sportsmanship.  Her comments were a shining example of what not to do post-loss, no matter how high the emotions run.

U.S. Soccer took the right steps given Ms. Solo’s name-calling at the Olympics, an international competition where goodwill should trump ego.  As for Ms. Solo, I am hopeful she understands why her comments were unacceptable.  And I wish her well in her future endeavors.

Impressive Showing, Team U.S.A.

(L to R) Coach Mihai Brestyan, Simone Biles, Gabrielle Douglas, Madison Kocian, Lauren Hernandez and Alexandra Raisman pose for photographs after women’s qualification for artistic gymnastics on day two of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on Aug. 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

It’s the Olympics and records, as well as rules, are being broken, including our own.  We’ve allowed [S] to watch the four-year sporting competition the past few days.  It started with her wanting to be in a pool, swimming.  She lay on our carpet, face down, and kicked vigorously.  “Poooool, Momma, pooooool!,” she called out. When we turned on the television to coverage of Rio’s qualifying heats of the men’s individual medley, her eyes lit up with awe and wonder.  “Pool, Momma, Pool,” she cried out gleefully.

So it came to be that this morning, I turned on the television to watch the U.S. women’s gymnastics team.  Television coverage started with Team USA on the floor.  As we watched tumbling passes, [S] began running from corner to corner of our rug.  Occasionally, she stopped in the middle, bent over, and put her head on the floor, before continuing her pass.  While we watched only two of the four events (floor and vault), the Team’s showing was impressive.  That is to say the least.  Form.  Difficulty.  Artistry.  All present in abundance.

Can’t wait until tomorrow.

#GoTeamUSA!

#SimoneBilesFliesHigh

Hope Solo, Let Them Boo. Well Done! (And Keep It Going!)

Solo came up big as the United States fought off France 1-0 on Saturday in an Olympic group match at Mineirao Stadium. Carli Lloyd scored the lone goal for the Americans.

Solo became the first goalkeeper, male or female, to reach the 200-cap mark in international play. She also became just the 11th U.S. player to reach that number of appearances.

Solo comes up big for 200th cap, US beats France 1-0, The Washington Post (Aug. 6, 2016).

 

Lionel Messi’s Ego

Copa America Centenario Argentina Chile Soccer
Argentina’s Lionel Messi waits for trophy presentations after the Copa America Centenario championship soccer match, Sunday, June 26, 2016, in East Rutherford, N.J. Chile defeated Argentina 4-2 in penalty kicks to win the championship. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen, so the saying goes.  Football superstar Lionel Messi suggested he will quit the Argentine National Team as a result of the loss suffered in today’s Copa final.

“The national team is over for me,” Messi told the Argentine network TyC Sports. “It’s been four finals, it’s not meant for me. I tried. It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn’t get it, so I think it’s over.”

I understand he has the weight of a nation on his shoulders.  And such expectations are not unreasonable considering his statistics.  It appears clear that his comments were driven by an injured ego, rather than rational thought, in the aftermath of yet another emotional loss.  Personally, I would have preferred if he hadn’t added to the drama of the match.

#SourGrapes

Bringing It: The Ultimate Golf Bag for Her

FullSizeRender(239)Ever since Tiger Woods featured his tiger club cover, accessories on the golf course have been in fashion.  Today, as I was browsing a tiny store selling a bit of everything (think clever clocks, chopsticks, socks, bright fabrics, and wallets), I was a bit taken aback by two golf bags sitting in the far corner.  Despite being black, the bags shined bright.  Indeed, each bag prominently featured large metallic figures–the good luck cat and Mickey Mouse.  Marked down from $420 USD to $233, the WinWinStyle bag looks to be the perfect ladies bag for the woman who can bring it on the golf course.

#StyleIsEverything

On the Pitch, What’s Good for the Goose . . .

Goalie Hope Solo of the United States shared a photo of the Aloha Stadium conditions with her Twitter followers, which number over one million. Credit Hope Solo.

And there’s the rub. The men’s national team does not play on artificial turf. Even when it schedules a game in a stadium that has it, sod is laid down for the game, no matter the cost. The women, however, were to play eight of the 10 games of their current World Cup victory tour on artificial turf.

On Artificial Turf Issue, U.S. Women Dig In at Last, The New York Times (Dec. 8, 2015).

It’s not a new fight.  It’s the same old fight.  The U.S. women’s national soccer team was smart to sit out the friendly game with Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday.  And they are right to expect the same field conditions afforded to the U.S. men’s national soccer team.  Those arguing that such parity should be afforded to the women only when they become as good–or as popular–as the men aren’t football fans.  Indeed, those who have watched the teams play are well aware that there are years when the women are far more interesting than the men.  Oh, have I mentioned that the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final between the United States and Japan was the most viewed English-language US broadcast of any soccer match?

#WomenTakingAStand