Shootin' the Breeze

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Archive for the tag “senior olympics”

Not Impressed

Last week, I went swimming at the rec center.  I was doing butterfly stroke, the Fly, flyin’ through the water.

When I stopped at the end of the lane after a lap, or half a lap, a young boy, appearing about ten or eleven, was standing on the deck of the pool, above me.

He said, “That was some good swimming!  I saw that in the Olympics.  Were you in the Olympics?”

I said, “Thanks.  I was in the Senior Olympics.”

He looked at me with obvious disappointment.

“Oh,” he said and walked away.  I guess my answer was not what he hoped for.

Me neither.  It was not the answer I wish I could give.

If given another chance, so as not to disappoint any young admirers, I will say, “Yes, I was in the Olympics.  Would you like my autograph?”

I might add, with feigned humility, “I also play for the Broncos.  I left my Super Bowl ring in the locker so I won’t lose it in the pool.”

That would make the kid’s day, to meet someone as admirable as me.

It would make my day too.

P.S.  I thought of how to sign my autograph — Walter Mitty.

Day at a Time — Day 1

So, today Miss Texas, my personal trainer, suggested that I return to the swimming pool in order to prepare for success at next summer’s Senior Games aka Senior Olympics.

A few years ago, I competed somewhat successfully in six swimming events at the national championships and the World Senior Games.  No brag, just fact.

My training was interrupted due to a number of reasons, including a trip to the hospital for a bum knee and a bicycle accident that injured my right shoulder.

Rather than swim at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Miss Texas and I decided to start our return to competition at the therapy pool at the Fort Collins Senior Center.  Not surprisingly, the pool was full of old people.  Clearly, we did not belong.  Nevertheless, we tried to blend in.

There is something wrong with me besides my knees and shoulder.  My competitive drive is unhealthy.  The old lady next to me did not realize it, but I saw her as a challenge and targeted her by giving her a headstart and then trying to pass her.  She did not realize that she was in a race.  But I did.

Maybe tomorrow she will recognize just who she is dealing with.  Or not.


Something for Dad

I wrote this two years ago. I am re-posting it today because my father’s birthday was yesterday and Fathers’ Day is Sunday, so I am especially thinking of my Dad.

Shootin' the Breeze

We were on the starting blocks.

“Swimmers, take your marks.”

Each assumes the position, poised for the signal.

AAAAAAAAAA.   Rather than a starter’s gun, the signal is an electronic buzz through speakers.  It echoes in the high-ceilinged pool venue.

The swimmers uncoil, fly horizontally for a moment, and angle into the water with momentum pointed toward the other end of the pool.

As soon as the momentum wanes, with arms forward, legs moving together with a rhythmic dolphin kick, I initiate the first arm movement of the butterfly stroke.  The race is on.

In the individual medley (IM) event, all four competitive swimming strokes are employed, in the following order:  butterfly, back stroke, breast stroke, and freestyle.  This was a 200 meter IM in a 25 meter pool, so participants swim 50 meters, i.e., two lengths of the pool, of each stroke.  If it was on a track, the distance is about half-way around a football field.  I don’t…

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Healthy Habits, Unhealthy Competition

So, Miss Sugar has me going to the gym with her the past couple weeks.  I am enjoying it.  I have spent time in gyms before.  It is a healthy habit to exercise.

It is not so healthy to go with my inherent attitude.  There is something wrong with me.  I will explain.

When I get on a weight machine, whatever the previous user set the weight at, I will increase it, or try to anyway. 

When I am on the elliptical machine or a pedaling machine of any type that has a screen showing time, or a setting for difficulty, or miles, or r.p.m.s, I peek at the screen of the person next to me, whether it is a college kid or someone my advanced age.  That is sick.  I try to beat them. I do not always win, but I always compete.

When in the pool, even if an old lady is swimming in the lane next to me, I try to see how many times I can lap her. 

In the steam room, I try to stay in longer than my companions. No one cares but me. No one is impressed. It is personal goal-setting. No one knows what I am doing. They are not competing with me.

However, now they will know because at the club there is a board showing records for pull-ups, push-ups, dips, sit-ups, bench press, dead lift, even mile run.  With my bum knees, I concede that the mile run record is out of my reach, and probably dead lift; however, I am aiming to break the push-up record first.  You are thinking — How arrogant!  How delusional!  You might be right.

Regardless, I talked to the college kid working at the front desk about how to get on the board.  One of the personal trainers on staff has to witness the feat.  I asked him who Lucas is, the current record holder.  I was told that Lucas is a stud.  I replied, “Don’t tell Lucas that I plan to set a new record.”  The kid did not laugh, which was polite of him.  I was wearing a Senior Olympic tee shirt.  I guess I looked like a stud too.  I could see it in his eyes.

I kinda feel sorry for Lucas, but afterall, it is a dog eat dog world.  As the Old West gunfighters acknowledged, there is always someone faster.  This will be a good life lesson for Lucas. I am gunning for him. As Muhammed Ali said before a fight, “I pity the fool.”  

Moving On

Sugar took my Bronco jersey and threw it in the wash.  Football season is over — until April O.T.A.s, i.e., “official team activities.”

Now baseball is appealing, especially since Arizona is warmer than Colorado and many Major League teams go there for spring training, playing in the Cactus League.  I told Sugar that I might mosey down there and play a little ball.

You are probably wondering how an N.F.L. free agent such as myself can find time to play baseball too.  Isn’t there something in my contract that prohibits it?  Well, remember, I am an unsigned free agent, so there is no restrictive contract provision.  How clever of me!

Also, I remind you that Bo Jackson played in both the N.F.L. and the Major League Baseball.  A lot of us extraordinary athletes have transferable skills.

I tried to explain that to Sugar.  She is too conservative about my ambitions as a professional athlete.  Get a load of this — she actually told me to stick with swimming in the Senior Olympics.  Been there.  Done that.  There is no money in it, whereas the league minimum for a regular season in the N.F.L. or M.L.B. is more than some people in the general public earn in a whole year.  Sugar needs to be more practical.  She needs to see the earning potential.  She thinks I play these games for the fun of it, even the glory of it, when actually, I am doing it for her.  I am thinking of her financial security. 

She doesn’t listen to me.  I suppose I should have Bo Jackson’s wife give Sugar a call and clue her in about the advantages of being married to a two-sport professional athlete. 

I was not exactly drafted by any of the Major League Baseball teams yet, so I am basically an unsigned free agent.  Again.  Keep your fingers crossed.  When I bring home that M.L.B. contract, Sugar will be glad I had the foresight and fortitude to provide for her in this manner.  She can thank me now or thank me later.     

Superbowling Without Me

Many of you dear readers are aware of my status as an undrafted, unsigned NFL free agent awaiting that call from the Broncos.  Well, sad to say, my status has changed because I have had to put myself on the injured reserve list due to a non-football related knee injury.  To be competitive in the Super Bowl, I really need full mobility, espectially the ability to make quick lateral cuts, which ability I now lack.

How, you ask out of grave concern, did I injure my right knee?

It is kind of embarrassing.  Many consider swimming to be a safe sport.  However, for those of us at the elite level, the act of kicking displaces so much water that something has to give.  I am a swimmer with special power it seems.  I entered the pool on Friday and swam a couple laps of butterfly, a difficult stroke requiring extraordinary coordination so as to execute the technique.  Then I swam a couple laps of freestyle, cutting through the water with grace and speed.  Next I started my specialty, breaststroke, which employs a frog kick or whip kick.  As you know, one’s knees move laterally and then come together.  On Friday, my usually compliant knees decided they could go up and down but they drew the line at going sideways and back together for in the process of swimming breaststroke, my right knee gave up and gave out. 

I blame my wife and mother.  Sugar dropped me off at the pool.  She said that I needed to get back in my routine so that I can again swim in the Senior Olympics and qualify for the national championships, again.  My mother always asks me if I have been exercising.  Pushy broads!

I hope that they are happy now that I am too crippled to play for the Broncos in the Super Bowl. I wonder how they are going to explain that to Peyton Manning, John Elway, John Fox and millions of Bronco fans. 

I wonder how they are going to explain my injury to the Senior Olympic Committee and the Senior World Games folks and all Americans counting on me.

Tomorrow I am going to see Dr. Gersoff, the orthopedic specialist for many professional athletes.  He has photos in his waiting room of Bronco players and Avalanche players and Olympic skiers and such.  I might be his first swimmer.  I better bring him an autographed photo of me in a Speedo, suitable for framing. Olympian 127



The International House of Pancakes is open all night.  I know a man who goes there every night.  He goes there to get off the street.  He goes there for warmth.  He goes there to not be alone.

He does not sleep there.  He sleeps in the university library during the day, in a study carrel.  He has a routine.

I don’t know where he showers.  Maybe at the university gym.  I never asked.

He has made friends with the staff at IHOP.  He helps mop the floor.  In exchange, he gets coffee and soft drinks.  He might get pancakes too.  They probably should not officially allow this.  Maybe management looks the other way.  Out of kindness, I suppose.  Maybe management does know about the arrangement.

The man does not want to go to the homeless shelter.  He told me that he does not like to be around the people there.  He likes to be around the people at IHOP.

I was his lawyer.  Since he did not have an address or cell phone, I would go to IHOP when I needed to contact him to inform him of a hearing date or to come to my office to meet about his case..  My wife, Sugar,  and I would go for supper there and tell our server to give an envelope to him when he came in later.  The server always cooperated.  They all knew him and said they would give him the envelope.  They always did.

We used the IHOP system for several months.

Sometimes he would come early for an appointment in my law office.  For an hour before the appointment, he would sit in my waiting room.  He would doze off.  He does not have all his teeth, but he smiles a lot.  We gave him coffee, like at IHOP.

One day, my wife, who works in my office, noticed that his bag that contained his belongings was a worn-out paper shopping bag with handles, so she gave him a better one.  Sugar gave him a big canvas gym bag of mine that says “World Games.”  I had received it for being a participant in the Senior Olympics.  Sugar emptied out my swim gear and gave it to him without even asking me.  I did not mind.  I have lots of bags.   He loved the bag.  After his case was over, we sometimes saw him carrying the World Games bag around town.

Colorado gets cold in the winter.  Last time we talked, my client told me that he was planning to move to Florida.  I wonder if he did.  I have not seen my bag lately.  I should ask the IHOP crew.

Winning for the Gipper

There are times when athletes draw inspiration from friends and family to motivate them to try even harder.  To try their best.  To better their best.  To win as a tribute to a loved one.

There are many examples.  Knute Rockne’s half-time speech urging Notre Dame’s football team to win one for the Gipper (George Gipp, a teammate who had died) is famous.  There was another movie about John Cappelletti, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1973, being inspired by his younger brother, Joey, who was dying of leukemia.  If I recall correctly, it was called “Something for Joey.”  People are more familiar with “Brian’s Song” about Brian Piccolo’s friendship with Gale Sayers and his fight with cancer.

I myself have written in this blog about swimming in the Senior Olympics and thinking about my father and his “do your best” attitude when I felt like slowing down.  See written June 8, 2012.

I am sad to say that a few days ago I learned that a friend of mine is undergoing chemotherapy.   He is an excellent swimmer.  He trains much more diligently than I have.  He used to contact me to chide me by noting when he had not seen me at the pool.  So, when I did not see him there, I sent an email telling him when we could meet at the pool to work out together.  His response was that he cannot swim because he is taking chemotherapy.  That is how I learned of his health problem.

So I am telling myself to swim as hard as he used to train because he wishes he could still do that, but cannot due to the cancer.  I have no excuse to avoid the pool.  When I don’t swim, it is because I am lazy.  When I don’t swim it is because I choose not to swim.  When I don’t swim, I am not trying my best.  (Sorry, Dad).

Last week I was back in the pool daily.  This week I will try even harder.  I will swim longer.  I will swim faster.  In part it is because I can.  In part it is because my friend can’t.  I am doing this for both of us.

Olympian 020

Olympian 037

Olympian 028

The medals I will win won’t be mine.  They will go to my friend.  And to God goes the glory.

Accidental Coach

Olympian 020

When I first started training to swim in the Senior Olympics, and was going to the pool a lot, a man in the lane next to me one day was waiting for me to complete a lap.  When I stopped to rest, he gave me a tip about how to improve my butterfly stroke, which was his specialty.

His advice to me, though unsolicited, was not unwanted.  I truly wanted to get better.  I wanted to qualify for the national championship.  So I thanked the man, who introduced himself as Slava.  He is from Russia.  He used to be a swimming coach there.

As we saw each other at the pool on other days, Slava continued to critique my swimming.  He complimented my breaststroke, which had been strongest event as a competitive swimmer in my younger years.  He helped me tweek my freestyle.  He gave me training tips on conditioning.  Mostly he taught me how to swim butterfly better.  I appreciated it all and told him so.

One of the things that he told me was that I better lose weight.  He said, “You are a powerful man, but you are too big here.”  He pointed to my stomach.   He is very direct, more direct than is considered polite in our culture, but he was right.  He told me to do other exercises besides swimming.  He asked me to guess how many pushups he can do.  The answer is 115.  He is 73 years old.  He does not have an ounce of fat on him.  He swims every day.

When I slack off, he sends me emails.  “I do not see you at the pool.”

With Slava’s help, I have qualified for the national championships three times, in several events, including butterfly and individual medley, which starts with butterfly.  My butterfly is still not as good as Slava’s, but was good enough for a silver medal at the Huntsman World Games. It is a good thing that Slava was not competing, at least not in my age group.  There I met some Russian cosmonauts who were competing.  Slava told me that a friend of his was coming from Russia to swim in those games, but had gotten sick.  I wish that Slava had come with me, but he did not.

Slava and his wife, Ludmylla, have become friends with me and my wife, Sugar.  We have been to each others’ homes, including spending Russian Orthodox Easter together this year.

I thank the Lord that He had me swim in that lane that day when Slava criticized my butterfly technique.

P.S.  In the photo above, I was close to 250 lbs.  I got down to 215 lbs.  Slava was right, it helped me improve my swimming times, but I became concerned that the N.F.L. scouts thought I was then too light to play linebacker.  That is probably why I am still an undrafted, unsigned free agent.  What a dilemma!  So, as a compromise, I have elevated my weight to 225 lbs.  Now I am more “well-rounded” as an elite multi-sport athlete.  However, if someone tells me that I would be more competitive as a marathon runner if I got down to 160 lbs, I will not listen.  That is where I draw the line. You can’t please all the people all of the time.

The Visitor

Our nephew Max is visiting from Texas.  Lucky for him, and us, we have a Texas Lone Star flag to help him feel at home.

Max is fifteen.  He flew up here to Colorado all by himself and took the shuttle from Denver to Fort Collins to save us having to go to the airport, which I appreciated.

Max is a very polite young man.  He says, “Yes Sir” and “Yes Ma’m.”  He is so polite that he wanted to attend my Senior Olympics swim meet today.   Swim meets take a long time because there are many events.  He sat with me until my events and even took videos of me swimming, which was an extra incentive to win, so I did.

Our guest house is an old bunk house.  Max is staying there, but not alone, as our dog Rover is his room mate.  They have really hit it off.

He also has been hanging out with the horses.  Unfortunately, he is banned from riding horses this trip due to a sports-related back injury that happened earlier this summer, causing him to wear a body cast for a fractured vertebra.  I doubt his folks would appreciate it if we allowed an activity that might aggravate his condition.

This weekend is New West Fest in Fort Collins, so that will be another activity we can share with him.  And, as I have mentioned many times in other posts, Miss Sugar is a pretty good cook, which is a good attribute for an aunt to have.

It is a joy for us to host Max and we will miss him when he returns to Texas.  Maybe he will miss us, or at least the hot tub, and certainly Rover.

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