Saturday, June 12, 2010

I Got Lost in the Wilderness There for A While

So, I'm just under a month shy of not posting anything for a year. Let me tell you, it's been a bit of a trip. I was laid off from my job, I went through a bout of serious depression, returned to school, I left mxdwn in a rather unprofessional fashion - which I regret - and I ended up back where I was before I spirited myself to this side of the country, Pepsi.

Yeah, that's a bit of a short version of things, but I got some other things I want to talk about rather than my own sojourn through the wildernesses of unemployment life in which I almost had a complete emotional shutdown.

Starting with recent events, I want to say a belated goodbye to Coach John Wooden. While I wasn't around to see his UCLA absolutely dominate college basketball, I did grow up playing the sport and many of the coaches I had referenced him in coaching teams that I played on. One team in particular, was my final year of basketball camp at Iowa University. It was a 2-week camp in which I didn't really grasp what I learned till well after I left college the first time around. I remember we had a motley crew of people from completely different backgrounds, many of my teammates weren't even from this country, which was a completely new experience to me. While we all were able to communicate in English, our coach's main goal was to get us working as a team using Coach Wooden's pyramid. Our first practice was drills and running on the first day of camp. Each subsequent practice and game, there would rarely be a mention of plays, tactics or even a scrimmage. His main argument against our questioning him was, "You're at basketball camp and this team is a part of that. In every other minute of the day, you'll be drowned in fundamentals and tactics, I want to teach you to be a team." The first few sessions with him sucked. We wanted to practice and play the game in order to win, but he got us talking to each other and through that specific interaction we began to figure each other out off the court. What none of us knew was how well that would help us on the court.

While our season was awful at a piss poor record of 0-10, but of course all teams made the playoffs. By the time the games began to matter, we knew where any member of our team would be on the court at any time, no matter which five of us were playing. In the first round, we blew the team out by 50. In the 2nd round, 65. The quarters and semis were more of the same and these teams that were tanking us in the regular season didn't even recognize us. There were kids from my school also at the camp and we hung out during free time. Prior to the playoffs, I made a crack about my team playing possum till the playoffs. I didn't expect it to actually happen, but my friends actually showed up to our final game. Of course, I didn't expect it to go to double overtime either, nor did I expect the fairytale ending of sinking the game-winning 3 pointer. Sure, the game meant nothing in terms of my life, but I still have the trophy (we hang on way too long). Back to Wooden, I found out about his style of coaching years later and found out that my camp coach pretty much copped the method from him. In learning more about Wooden, I began to figure out the parallels of team sports and life and realized that it's not always the greatest amount of skill that can help you achieve an objective, but hard work and character as well. So, Wooden had an affect on me, though very indirectly. Hopefully, he's joined his late wife in the afterlife and delivered the letters he'd written to her. R.I.P. Coach.

Now to what's up now. The 2nd day of World Cup 2010 in South Africa has come to an end. I've watched every minute of every game thus far and my goodness does this tournament have some personality. There hasn't been enough matches to really say the tournament has taken off and those that have come and gone had an infestation of hesitation and tentativeness about them. South Africa opened things against Mexico in a decent 1-1 draw where both goals (scored by Tshabalala and Marquez respectively) had quality about them. South Africa didn't break the unbeaten streak for a host nation on the opening game and actually look like they could mess things up for France or Uruguay. Speaking of them, their match, while there were a few moments of possible brilliance, was an absolute bore of a 0-0 draw. South Korea gave spectators their first glimpse of a team coming out all guns blazing and put Greece to the sword 2-0, breathing some more life into this event. Then Argentina absolutely crawled to a 1-0 victory off of a tragically un-marked Heinze goal early in the game. Nigeria looked really up for equalizing, but simply couldn't close the deal. Then there was the final game of today, England vs USA.

I have a few English friends that have loved taking the piss out of me ever since this draw occured in December. Then there was that picture that graced a tabloid in England using 'easy' as an acronym for how the group would turn out (England, Algeria, Slovenia, Yanks). While my friends were winding me up, I really wanted to go all Kevin Keegan on them, but I kept saying to myself that it doesn't matter until the game is played. The game played out for us in awkward fashion. I got some bad news from back home, which caused me and my US-supporting crew to be late, but I had my jersey, a vuvuzela and red, white and blue afro wigs and we brought a flag. While support for both teams was in equal measure at my friend's house, I about cried when Gerrard scored on 4 minutes. I thought, it's 06 all over again. Then the US squad slowly started to come into their game. While I'm not good with tactics and I'm not really looking at stats, there was a decent ebb and flow to the game. Lots of mistakes were made on both sides, especially Robert Green assisting a Clint Dempsey shot over the goal line just prior to halftime. Then, my friend's power went out and we had to listen to the game on the iPhone app. While that was hard to do because I wanted to see the possible mistakes being made by either side. Not being able to, even pushed my blood pressure to severely unsafe levels. It was easily the most stressful sporting event that I've watched, ever.

I think that's enough from me today. It's great to be back and I'm going to try to be more regular about it. Hope all is well.