The unintentional results of sports in four stories of death, history, panic, and rebirth.
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Wrestle with Care
Heart Of Sports
My attempt to raise a dying wrestling coach out of a coma failed. It worked on my father in law. I narrated his last wrestling match beside his hospital bed then said good-bye for the thousands who couldn't be there.
A so-called dying sport gets new life from unlikely enthusiasts.
One place not to be in a moment of triumph? Surrounded by the moms of the recently defeated. Where can you go? Out of body, where else?
'Tis The Season
The old coach comes back to life in a recording to remind others to do the little things.
Each story finishes with a description of a wrestling move interpreted by the old coach.
Wrestle With Care is about dying dreams, coaches, and sport, and bringing it all to life.
HEART OF SPORTS
Finding the heart of any sport depends on how bad you want to see it. You’ve seen the heart surgery video on PBS? Just as messy in sports.
Take the pulse of endless ball games. Read chart notes on tennis and golf. You’ll still be digging for the heart. Scan every Olympic track and field event for a beat. You may not find it, but it’s there somewhere.
I explained this to Stu the Sports Fan while he flipped through ESPN channels from his chair, the current Sports Illustrated wedged in a cushion. He’s the guy who calls sports talk radio shows, that kind of fan.
“The Olympic running and jumping and pole vaulting looks like one Eastern European on a pogo stick,” he said. “Pole vaulters collect bonuses each time they break a record. Every eighth of an inch.”
“That’s a problem?” I asked.
“I’m not putting money on a runner or a jumper who tanks because of a bonus. I’d bet a horse or a frog first.”
The Olympic Games always stirred him up.
“If its sports, then you can bet, except when it’s the 1972 Munich Olympic basketball finals,” I reminded him.
“Most sorry event ever seen on TV,” he said. “You can’t keep re-doing the end of a game until you get the score you want. Where’s the finality?”
“It is all about finishing, isn’t it?”
Stu shook his head.
“The ’72 game will never finish. Look it up. The American silver medals? No one’s touched them in thirty eight years.”
The heart of any sport is struggle. It’s a struggle to get in shape, to compete, and to win.
It’s a struggle best defined by wrestling, the sport of struggle.
Where else do conflicting messages of ‘giving up’ or ‘carrying on’ clash with more frightening results. Every time two wrestlers step on a mat, one voice is stronger.
Fight or flight. That banging they hear is the alarm. Sometimes you even scare yourself when you hear it inside.
But it’s more than that.
When one person’s sports biography takes twenty five seconds to read and their opponent just needs a name announcement there’s some very real fear getting choked down. By the sound of a wrestling resume a match should be easy to call.
“Everybody gets their due,” I said. “Every eight time regional section champ.”
“You’re saying they go out afraid?” the Fan asked.
“Not that you’d see it. Wrestlers don’t show fear. At least not the way you’d notice. They don’t talk about fear afterward either, it’s all about ‘the Experience.’ And ‘Building on it.’”
DNA suggests strong tendons and quick twitch muscle ought to make the difference between most athletic victories and defeats. The Podium says it’s more; Results show those who refuse to quit winning; that the winners who do what it takes to win, learn to win again.
“It’s like science,” I said. “If A links to B and C in order to achieve D, and an opponent only has A hooked to B, then the first guy wins.”
“You forgot the link to H,” Fan said. “It’s called Heart. Everyone has one, some have more.”
“Or a link to S. It’s called Smart. If you must win, you change the game until you do. You find a way. If you started high and tight, get low and loose; if you started inside, go out. Change from an upper body attack to a tripping foot sweeper; a shooter to a thrower. It’s there, but you have to find it.”
One struggle is making yourself get on the mat, another is doing something while you’re out there.
If a sport can have a heart, there is none stronger than Dave Abraham, the wrestling coach in North Bend, Oregon.
He was the right man in the right place for generations. He passed his will to others through wrestlers, who passed it on in their own way.
Abraham was old, at least thirty two. I was fifteen and everyone seemed old, even guys a couple years older.
Playing basketball with kids my own age one year to flopping around the high school mats with juniors and seniors the next was an age-group shock.