Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Farewell to March...

For a sports fan March is a glorious time of year and this past weekend was the perfect example of this.

A few weeks ago perfect brackets awaited the chaos, but now, with tattered brackets in hand, we had the Elite Eight games for the men's NCAA tournament as well as the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight games for the women's tournament to enjoy. Two weeks into the tournament, every team has a story and with close games and continued upsets, every game held heartbreak and triumph. This is what win or go home is all about. This is what happens when every possession and every shot counts.

And then, on this last day of March, Major League Baseball opened its season. After an overseas opening day for the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, top pitchers took to the mound in ballparks all over the league. Overlooking gorgeous outfields of green and flawless infield of dirt, every team started their season with the possibility of winning it all.

And now it is April. The Final Four games will close out the college basketball season, and soon stories will emerge from Major League Baseball of teams over and underachieving, of aging ball players like Jeter and new stars like Trout and Puig. This Dodgers fan will remain optimistic, but I know it's a long time before October.

March ends, and spring and summer stretch out before us. Filled with possibility I will embrace this one shining moment while I can.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Free Throws

After Oklahoma State hoops player, Marcus Smart, went into the stands a couple of weeks ago I've been thinking about crowds, and fans, and all the indiscretions that people get away with at sporting events. And since I'm working on a high school memoir, I went back to the early nineties, to this moment in the Crook County High School gym: my least favorite place to play in all of Central Oregon.

Free Throws
I stand at the line, find the center and press the toe of my high top to the edge. I take my three dribbles and lift the heels of my feet in little steps like I always do. I spin the ball to my fingertips, set, shoot, and drain the first of two free throws.

I step away from the line.

That’s when I hear someone from the crowd yell, “Connie Chung.”

I freeze. The sweat chills on my skin. I forget the score. I want to peer over my shoulder, to rewind the audio and listen again to make sure I really just heard that. With my ears piqued, I hear laughter from the crowd, and then silence. Then I hear it again. “Connie Chung” in that sing-songy way that crowds chant names. But it’s not a crowd. It’s just one voice. Then the giggles again.

I step to back up to the line and the referee bounces me the ball. I line up my toe and on that first dribble I wonder if someone is really saying that to me. I’m not sure. All I do know is that I’m the only one with an Asian name on the court. I’m the only Asian in the gym since Dad isn’t here. I shake my head. I dribble again.

Second dribble. I barely even look Asian since I'm only half, and don’t they know Connie Chung, the news anchor, is Chinese American and I’m Japanese? And my name’s in the program. Nori Nakada. Clearly Japanese, not Chinese. Why can’t people even be racist right?

My third dribble echoes in the silence of the gym. At least no one is joining in.

I take a deep breath and it’s there again, “Connie Chung.” The laughter again.

I take a second deep breath. I never do that. I never break my free-throw shooting routine, the one I took on in middle school and haven’t changed since. The one I’ve used to shoot over 90% from the line all through high school.

I stare through the net at the back of the rim and suddenly want to cry. I study the orange metal, feel the ball heavy in my palm, bend my knees and shoot. Don’t think. Just shoot. Rely on all that muscle memory.

I shoot, watch the ball arch through the silence, and I swishes right through. Figures. Another stereotype. The model minority. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Some Favorite Sports Moments

I am really glad there isn't much video evidence of my basketball playing days. I'm sure some AV kid could dig through the archives at Mountain View to find tapes from the glory years when the Lady Cougars' varsity squad won two, maybe three games a season, but I think it's pretty safe to say no one will do that.

If they posted said videos on Youtube, you'd catch me rolling my eyes at referees, complaining about calls, maybe giving an occasional extra shove after a foul... and I was playing basketball in a small town for a team that rarely won. My stakes were so incredibly low that I can't imagine how my emotions could have gotten away from me on a larger stage.

So when I see athletes react in the heat of competition, in a big college game or playing in a playoff game at the professional level, I love it. I love seeing the raw emotion of competition on display. I understand Marcus Smart pushing a fan in the stands this past weekend, and Richard Sherman's impassioned post-game smack talking. I doubt either of them see this as one of their finest moments, but I can relate to their responses.

But as women's basketball rolls back around, this emotional moment by Shoni Schimmel upsetting Baylor in the Sweet 16 is one of my favorites.

She says after that shot she got up and asked Brittney Griner about the weather. I've written about Shoni before. Girl can ball and, Mountain View AV students, you can just toss those videos.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Buh bye, BCS!

Hey! Look, folks, another college football bowl season has ended and I'm back here at Throwing Cookies to talk some smack about sports. It's been a while, but not as long as the break I took for all of 2012 when I didn't post anything between the Ducks' Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl wins because of that darn baby. And look at that, Oregon won their bowl game again. What bowl did they play in again?

I have no excuses for my lack of sports writing. There was no torn Achilles' tendon, no newborn baby, no book tour. I just haven't written about sports aside from the occasional tweet or Facebook, or instagram post even though there was plenty to write about. We made our first trip to Dodgers Spring Training this
The family at spring training...
year and to a handful of Dodgers games. Our Emerson girls and boys flag football teams both brought home city titles. It was a great year in sports, but I didn't write about it. So, for 2014 I vow to post at least once a month, maybe even more. Yep. I know all of my 10 readers just gave me a virtual high five.

So, tonight I watched the final BCS championship game between Florida State and Auburn. If both could have lost, that would have been awesome, but at least it was an entertaining game. No SEC field-goal contest like in 2011. But Oregon's last loss in a bowl was to Auburn. I don't like Auburn and I don't like the SEC. So, yeah, how does it feel, Auburn. War damn eagle, family all in.

But what a great game to finish on: SEC loses in a great FSU comeback. But 2010 Auburn team that beat us and this FSU team were both led by Heisman winning quarterbacks who made and make me cringe. I'll take some Marcus Mariota for another year. Oh, and that Seminole chant is terrible. It was terrible when the Dodgers were beating the Braves in the playoffs and it was painful to hear it through the whole game tonight.

So long BCS. I can't wait for 2015 to see how this playoff thing works...

And until then, go Dodgers! Go Ducks basketball, baseball, and softball. And go Niners! Yep, I'm still on the Kaepernick bandwagon which I wrote about last January when all that Manti Te'o drama was unfolding and the college hoops season was just underway. I even got that Oregon run in the tourney that I hoped for.

So, here's to another great year in sports. 
March Madness! Go Ducks!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Back On My Feet

A year ago, I tore my Achilles’ Tendon. A year ago, we had a dog. A year ago Kiara wasn’t even
crawling yet. A year ago, I came home from the hospital on crutches and pain-killers.

It was a long three months recovering from surgery, getting off crutches, and out of the boot. Then there were the long months of physical therapy, but during one of those sessions, the PT told me my days of training and completing triathlons were over.

When he said this, I wasn’t devastated. If he’d told me no beach volleyball, no basketball, no tennis, or flag football, I would have been pretty bummed. But it was just triathlons. Even though I’d trained for and completed about 10, I could let go of triathlons. Tri training is a
lot of work. It’s time consuming. It requires a lot of gear. No triathlons? Oh well.

But this summer, I was determined to get back in shape. So, when a friend said she was doing San Diego Tri Rock I decided to make a go of it.

Thanks for all the support this weekend/year!
I had been walking for my workouts but got back into running. I got my bike serviced and starting riding for the first time since Wildflower in 2009. I got back into the pool. In these hours of working out, I found my breath again. I started eating cleaner and with all the exercise lost the baby and Achilles’ tendon weight.

This past weekend we made it to San Diego, watched the Dodgers win, and after a miserable
mile-long swim, a 21-mile bike ride, and 6-mile run I crossed the finish line.

So much can change in a year. Scout is in a new home, Kiara is a rambunctious toddler, and I am grateful to be back on my feet.

Monday, January 21, 2013

This Week In Sports: Highs and Lows

It started out pretty rough with all of that crazy Manti Te'o stuff to sort through and then Lance. I can't even look or listen to that guy. These two stories made me hate sports, but then things started to turn around.

Oregon beat UCLA. In basketball. For the second time in a row. To take sole possession of the PAC-12 lead. Wow. Maybe my New Year's wish that Oregon make a run in the tourney isn't as outlandish as I once thought.

The end of the Butler v. Gonzaga game. Crazy. If you haven't seen it here it is.

Then there was football. It's pretty rare that both teams I want to win make it to the Super Bowl. I'm on team Kaepernick. Make some room on that bandwagon.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

How to Heal an Achilles' Tendon

Ah, Achilles, the hero of grief. That is the tendon I ruptured one September afternoon. It's January, and I'm back on my feet, but it has taken a LONG time. Here is a bit of a timeline for anyone unfortunate enough to tear this tendon or as a cautionary tale for those of you who think you don't need to stretch.

September 25, 2012: Ouch!

I tore the Achilles' tendon in my right foot while coaching the Emerson girls flag football team. It hurt. A LOT. But somehow the adrenaline got me through and I made my way back to my second floor classroom on crutches to teach fifth and sixth period before heading to the ER at Kaiser in West LA. 

This is my right foot after the diagnosis: Right Achilles' Tendon Rupture. They sent me home with my right leg in a splint, crutches, pain killers, and an appointment in orthopedics the following week.

September 25 - October 3: Waiting for Surgery

I was home with my leg elevated, extremely elevated, and on crutches. The toughest part was not being able to take care of my six-month-old daughter. I couldn't put any weight on the foot and with the crutches I couldn't carry her anywhere. It sucked. It was also challenging to shower because I couldn't take the hard splint off. Once I consulted with the Orthopedic Surgeon, he had the techs create a removable splint so I could shower more easily, but we invested in a plastic shower stool to prevent falls. Having a removable shower head was also a huge help.

October 3: Surgery

So, I didn't have to get surgery. The doctor said it looked like a complete rupture, went through the complications that come with surgery, and then left it up to me. If I wanted to remain active, the chances of a rerupture were slightly diminished by having surgery. The scarring at the heel is apparently an issue with some people post op. I decided to have the surgery. I am an athlete. I couldn't imagine never having any push off my right leg so under the knife I went! It only took a couple of hours and I didn't have to spend the night in the hospital, but I did have to fast all day because of the anesthesia.

October 3-14: Splint, Crutches, Elevate

After surgery they put a soft splint and wrap on my leg, and again, I couldn't get it wet. This was probably the roughest time. The pain was bad for a few days and I still had to keep it elevated constantly. Even when I went back to work on the 10th, I had to keep it propped up all day or the swelling worsened. I was on crutches, but I managed to get back to work, go to a wedding, and a first year birthday party. So, I was still able to get around.

October 15 - 23 Cast

For a couple of weeks, they put me in a cast. It was blue and pretty but I couldn't get it wet and it was itchy. I wasn't bummed when it came off.

October 24 - November 15: Boot with Crutches

Aw, the boot. For Achilles' surgery recovery, they put all these foam layers inside the boot to keep your toe in a pointed position. The boot made showering easier, but I was still on the crutches, still couldn't put any weight on my right foot, and had to sleep in the boot. On the upside, the pain had dissipated and I didn't have to keep it elevated as much. I even went on a field trip in a wheel chair.

November 16 - December 16: Weight Bearing in Boot

Goodbye crutches!!! What a relief to be weight bearing in the boot! I could carry Kiara again, and get a drink from the fridge. I could cook! Still couldn't drive, but I became so much more mobile at this point, and each week as I took a layer of foam out to bring my foot from pointed down to level I was getting closer. My hips hurt every time I took a layer out, but every week I felt myself getting back to walking normally!

December 17 - January 5: Two Shoes and PT

Goodbye boot, hello shoes. Yes, almost three months after surgery I was in two shoes, limping pretty noticeably because the tendon was so tight, but walking. You can't really tell in the pictures, but look, I'm short, no longer height assisted by a boot. And there, in that other one, boots, two of them! This week, four full months post-surgery, I can finally drive. With physical therapy, flexibility exercises, and strength conditioning I expect to be getting back on the court soon!

I still have a couple more months before any quick twitch movements and I am just now coming to the realization that I am never going to be the same. Still, I'll be back, people. I might not have the first step I once did, but I have to be able to beat Kaira at one-on-one until she's taller than me. Two bits of advice for anyone with a rupture: be patient with your self and your recovery and ask for help. There's no way I could have made it without the help of my partner, co-workers, and friends.