Normal sports, not-so-normal sports
On the Bright Side
August 15, 2020
I love sports. I played them all through childhood (and yes, I was the only girl who played baseball with the boys in grade school, after my parents had to raise a ruckus so the school administrators would let me) and the teen years and a good part of young adulthood. Organized sports were my thing but I also enjoyed recreational activities like hiking, biking, bowling and the occasional game of horseshoes.
Some sports – like softball, basketball and volleyball – I enjoyed so much I officiated and coached for many years. Others, like tennis and swimming and canoeing, I taught. For many years I was a prep sports reporter and photographer; sports have always been a big part of my life.
They still are, although now I am more of a spectator and self-appointed cheerleader, especially when I'm at live games. (I'm told it wasn't always so; attending a college football game with my grandfather at the ripe ol' age of five, I was embarrassed and wanted to go home early because he yelled so much and jumped up so often – how I wish he could see me now.)
I love going to major league games, especially baseball, basketball and football, and that was a lot easier to do when I lived in the Denver area – Go Rockies! Go Xplosion! Go Broncos! – but even here in the southern Sierras, I much prefer attending live games to watching sports on TV. Not able to get to L.A. for Dodger games, I'd rather be sitting in the bleachers of a hometown baseball game (go Cal City Whiptails!) than spend an afternoon indoors watching baseball on television.
I guess in a nutshell, I can say I love the whole experience of a sporting event, the people, the noise, the smells, the color, the sounds of the crowd ... and watching on TV just isn't the same. This summer we were supposed to have the summer Olympics, another favorite of mine – sports I do enjoy watching on TV – but those games too, like so many others, have been postponed until next year. So I've been casting about to see what other sports might catch my eye on the boob tube.
I've found some interesting events that I might have missed if things were "normal" these days. I still enjoy American Ninja Warrior, as I've mentioned before, and thanks to ESPN I have now been exposed to, and become a fan of Cornholing, which I'm not sure I've ever seen in person. But it's a big deal for cornholers and their fans – athletes throwing bean bags some 27-29 feet to hopefully fall into a hole on a slanted board to score. Like horseshoes, coming close can also get a cornholer a point. I can't say it's all that exciting to watch but it has, for some reason, captured my attention and I caught it all this summer from qualifying rounds clear through to the world championships.
One day I turned on what the TV Guide says was to be regional cornholing, but it wasn't. It was a "Grit and Wit" competition for college kids, involving both physical and mental challenges for teams of two, three and/or four. Solving puzzles, getting over, under or around various obstacles, memorizing and calculating, it presented a clean and entertaining challenge for the participants. I'd never seen it before or since, but I might look for it again next summer.
And on that particular day, when "Grit and Wit" was over, the next competition was for grocery baggers. I admit I watched the whole thing, delighting in how those people managed to bag a certain set of groceries with speed and care. Strategy, hand-eye coordination, it was all there. Who'd a thought it?
I did turn the TV off when the next show came on. It was an airing of the "Stupid Robot Fighting League" (I kid you not) and I just didn't feel desperate (or curious) enough to go there.
I'll be glad when we can get back to normal sports, whenever that may be, but I'm also glad that some of these other not-so-normal sporting events (or just plain competitions, if you prefer) are getting a little bit of attention right now.
© Marilda Mel White. Mel White, local photographer/writer and ex-jock, and co-owner of Tehachapi Treasure Trove, has been looking on the bright side for various publications since 1996. She welcomes your comments at [email protected]