Posts Tagged ‘YMCA’

By Peter Stern, Philosophy Faculty. 

My life in sports! Where to begin? “Begin at the beginning,” you marvelously faithful Turtles intone to yourselves in unison, despite all manner of post and even pre modern distractions. OK, sure. But not so fast. Don’t you see: there’s a rub here. For where exactly is the beginning? Who can say with absolute 100 % Cartesian certainty where the beginning is? And who would be willing to settle for less than 100% certainty ?

Where’s the beginning? That’s the question. Out of the great flow of life that constitutes my early existence on this great green globe I’d have to arbitrarily pluck out a moment and magically announce with hale and brimstone, sound and fury, joy and sorrow: here’s the beginning, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s start.

You see a question like where did my life in sports begin isn’tlike well, gosh I’ve got to turn the light off before I can fall asleep, or turn on the ignition so the car will run, or get a glass of water before I can drink it. No, the question concerning the beginning of my sports life is far more difficult to answer requiring probably hundreds and hundreds of hours to examine a million trillion neurological events which preceded a decision I must have made to involve myself in sports–or more likely a single sport, back in time’s unfathomable mists. And these thoughts about neurology, and my sports beginnings aren’t some arcane, mad, hare brained assertion of a confused person gone off the deep end of an extraordinarily deep cliff–say like those steep ten story stone cliffsyou see in pictures of the southern portion of the Arizona Grand Canyon.

Au contraire. This my dearest of Turtles is cutting edge, cusp of the wave, up to the minute PhD science. Hard. Straight. True. And your expectations–well, in fact, they’re examples ofsubjective, naive, vague, helter skelter, fantasy, goo goo type thinking. Pure infantile wish fulfillment with no more reality than a unicorn or a wish to pick up the phone and say a few words to Ulysses S. Grant, or Charles Dickens, or Marcel Proust.

Where was I? Oh yes: so I assume you’ll agree with me that deciding where exactly my life in sports began is a very real challenge for me and for you, too, who have far less data than do I.Moreover, in all candoor, I must confess that my difficulty in identifying the beginning of my sports life is truly formidable because in fact I have absolutely no memory at all of a first momentplaying sports or even of my first exposure watching sports being played either live or on the tube. Nothing vivid leaps into consciousness of my sitting on a couch, maybe chatting with Dad, and seeing the outlines of Wrigley Field with the Cubs battling the Reds, or the Giants, or the Cardinals, etc. Zilch. Zip. Zero.

I think I do have a vague memory–and I might well be making this up–of playing soccer in a school play ground when I was about 6 or Image7 years old. But it’s all very vague. What I remember more vividly is joining the South Chicago YMCA and deciding soon thereafter I should learn how to swim. By the way, that Y still stands on the same corner in did years ago in my youth, well before cell phones, smart phones, and computers could take pictures so they could instantly be yours without having to go to Walgreens or send them to the folks at Kodak.

Fairly quickly I did learn to swim and even joined the swimming team, but never became much of a swimmer. Water would get in my eyes, ears, nose, and throat, an experience I never could convince myself was of little consequence and that I should simply choose to ignore. Eventually–meaning I was about 10 or 11, I think–I tried out for little league and made the team, deciding I should become a catcher since not many kids wanted to play that position. For a while that worked out but, like with swimming, I became increasingly disenchanted with the unpleasantries that went along with playing catcher and decided playing little league ballwasn’t for me.

ImageOh!–and I also quit because for some reason I was lousy at the plate. Great arm but just couldn’t hit a baseball. Later I played 16 inch softball, especially during the summers at an overnight camp in Wisconsin, and discovered I couldn’t hit that huge thing either. I mean I could hit it, but very far it seldom traveled. Is I said, I did have a good arm, and did a creditable job playing third base and right field, yet my baseball career never took hold.

But at that same camp, Camp Interlocken, the great piece of sporting news for me consisted in discovering tennis and, truly with not the smallest, tiniest ounce of exaggeration, I must report it was love at first sight and, moreover, that love remains undiminished up to this very day. Exactly why this love should form and take flight I can’t explain. I’m simply glad that it did. I played fairly good tennis, but never got really good at it partly because of a few athletic deficiencies I was born with, and partly because I didn’t take the next step which was to involve myself in a reasonably serious program of tennis instruction. Tennis is a tough sport and to get to a really solid level of play taking lots of lessons is essential.

So, dear Turtles, I’ve provided here a very brief account of my life in sports–and actually I just realized I failed to tell you about my days and nights playing basketball, a topic I’ll have to take up on another occasion. Instead of talking about basketball, I’ll conclude on an entirely different note and state very simply that my life in sports didn’t end when, save for tennis, I stopped playing sports. For what I discovered about sports is that the main reason to take up sports isn’t to play it, but to talk about it. Like the famous tree in the forest which makes no sound when it falls if no one is there to notice it, so the existence of sports depends entirely on having anaudience which chooses to watch whatever game is being played and, when the game is over, get to the really serious business of discussing it endlessly, whether on line, or in a sports bar, or in your TV room, or your kitchen, or car, or at work by the proverbial water cooler.

Indeed I’m certain–absolutely certain with 100% Cartesian certitude—that without an audience to watch and discuss our sporting life, sports would lose its sponsors, and see itself slowly stop attracting people to play its games, and little by little atrophy, and finally die. For as Aristotle told us 2,500 years ago by the wine dark sea, we human beings are endowed with reason and like nothing better talking and discussing and debating and learningabout all the things they do as well as the workings of the wider world of which they’re a part.


By Jenny Jocks Stelzer, English Faculty.

So, there’s this lovely couple that comes into the Y when I’m leaving my spin class at 7am.

(Yes, I said “leaving at 7. A.M.” I get up and I work out VERY early in the morning. Yes, it’s crazy. No, wait, it’s not crazy. What I mean to say is that I like to be out in the morning. Things are slower in the morning. Calmer. Quieter.)

Anyways, so this couple. They are adorable in so many ways. First, they have to be about 100 years old. Also, they are tiny and wear the coolest clothes ever.

(Wait, am I being totally condescending? I mean to say that it is AMAZING that they are 100 and still hitting the gym at 7am and that they are way more fashionable than me and most people I know in that they wear classic, worn coats, he wears a brown golf cap and she wears this beautiful scarf.)

Okay, so there is this totally cool older couple, and, at 7am they walk down the stairs at the Y. This matters because at 7am I am racing down those stairs to get dressed and rush to work. I pause and try to be patient while these folks make their way down with deliberation.

(What I mean to say is that this is not because they are infirm, but because they are taking their time. I must admit that I have been known to skip past them a few times with a little irritation. Why do we always want everyone else to move at our pace? Why do I use “we” when I really mean “I”? It just makes me feel better about being jerky sometimes, I guess.)

Well, so this couple meanders their way down the stairs to the locker room doors, which, until very recently, had these locks with keys that were difficult to make work much of the time. Every morning when we get to the Y, a few of us who know each other quite well say a quick hello and exchange a few complaints about the difficulty of the lock on the locker room door, which, easily, takes 30-45 seconds of our valuable time. Why, we ask, doesn’t the Y get its act together and give us keys that work? After all, we are busy people, here! Then, we rush off to our workouts.

(Why do I say “we” when I mean “they”? I mean, it really isn’t that big of a deal to take a few extra seconds to get into the locker room and, frankly, the YMCA is a charitable, not-for-profit organization, whose totally adequate facilities we get to use relatively inexpensively, not some fancy health club that we pay a bunch of money to that can spring for new keys to their eucalyptus-scented locker rooms any old day. Plus, 5am is WAY too early to start complaining. Come on, people! Hmmm, I suppose saying “we” when I mean “they” makes me feel a little less dickish when I rant about my friends.)

So, today, after our group starts the morning together with our suspicions that the brand new key-cards probably won’t even work (they worked fine), I get out of spin class and head down the stairs. Today I decided to take my time and walk patiently behind the couple.

(After all, the slow, calm quiet is what I like about the morning.)

The couple and I get to the locker room doors and the woman takes out her key-card. Her husband stops to make sure she gets in. They both smile when the key-card works and she looks over at him and says “Thank you,” with a smile and absolute sincerity. He says “You’re welcome,” with a smile and a pat on her shoulder. The whole exchange took about 30-45 seconds. My first thought was “Oh! I thought they were married!” My second thought was “Wait a minute, why can’t they be married AND considerate of each other at the same time?” Intimacy seems, sometimes, to allow for terse, efficient interactions often focused on complaints or irritations. We’re all busy and in a big hurry and those with whom we’re intimate with understand that the most.

When I stop to think about it, THAT is what makes that couple adorable. They actually take their time, and they actually say what they mean.