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Soup of This Day #60: So Many Dreams Swinging Out In The Blue

August 31, 2011

Snowboarder jumping above crowd
A snowboarder jumping stuff after being towed in to the ramp by a snowmobile. Not sure why – Photo: Nick Francke, 2006. Nick Francke is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Extreme sports give me an uncomfortable feeling. Partly because the participants don’t seem to understand that wearing your pants down around your knees impedes motion and renders their underwear, outerwear.

Which is barely cool if Superman does it.

Mostly though they make me uncomfortable because I can’t quite see the point. My childhood experiences have conditioned me to accept that athletic risk must be balanced with reward.

When I was little, around 5, my parents made me go to gymnastics. The gymnastics coaches made me go home again when, after months of trying, they couldn’t get me to do a successful front somersault roll. I’d start off ok, tucked up and moving forward, but then something would happen and I’d end up 3m off to the left, having knocked some kid off the balance beam. This confused the adult coaches, who used to stand either side of me and propel me forward, sure that with their guidance I couldn’t go off the rails. Invariably though, while they remained in position I’d be veering off, injuring some unsuspecting bystander who had been lining up for the pommel horse. My parents likewise, were surprised by my lack of coordination. It didn’t stop them trying to adjust me – Once in my teenage years they sent me to an athletics training day with a well-credentialed coach. The guy had trained many, many kids, extracting athletic achievements from the dorkiest of nerds.

But not me. And I wasn’t dorky or a nerd.

Try as he might I couldn’t learn the simplest of drills. At 1 point, as he tried to get me to step my way to the high-jump bar, I tripped and fell over. He looked like he was about to cry. A nearby parent sympathetically announced that in the water I was like a beautiful dolphin but on land I was… challenged.

She meant to say ‘fricking helpless’.

I just didn’t get it. Why Frosby Flop your way over the bar and onto the mat when you could just barrel through the bar to the same effect.

Man, I hated that Frosby guy.

It didn’t stop there. When my brother caught the skateboarding bug I couldn’t even put a foot on 1 without banana-skinning my way to the horizontal. I respected my brother’s ability, mostly, but I preferred more gravitationally stable sports. 1 time he was skateboarding down the drive while I was chopping wood. For reasons that escape me now (Probably he was supposed to be helping me) I picked up a block of wood and threw it after him. It spun lazily through the air, making a helicopter-like whop-whop sound before smacking the dude square in the back of the head. I laughed a lot and it’s my favourite skateboarding memory, mostly ‘cos he wasn’t hurt.

I was around the 11 year old mark when I learned to ride a bike. At that point the only bikes we had were 2 ancient, rust buckets that had been used by Mum and Dad, presumably not long after the invention of the bike. My brother and I used to take them to the hill out the back of town which had the town reservoir at the top. The hill had a long straight dirt road with an incline that induced serious speed. 1 time I was racing my brother and a friend down the hill when I lost control and cartwheeled into a spectacular crash, ironically achieving a near perfect forward somersault. As I got to the bottom of the hill my brother came back to find out if I was ok. I was and so he laughed. When the front wheel of the bike fell off, having been snapped off at the neck, just above where the forks join, he laughed even harder. He did go and get Dad while I started the long trudge home, although he probably laughed most of the way there. Dad must have been ticked off that I’d broken the bike but 1 look at my thundercloud face as he pulled up in the ute and he wisely decided to say nothing.

My brother just sat next to Dad with an idiot grin on his face. He still laughs about it now.

Rather than heed the warning inherent in this escapade Mum and Dad arranged to get the whole family bikes at the next Christmas. My brother wanted a Transformer’s Optimus Prime toy so was bitterly disappointed. His mood was not helped by the fact that they had got us all matching red and white bikes. To distinguish whose was whose Dad had even thoughtfully hand painted our full names onto them in. As in, ‘Fred Winston Longworth’, in bright red paint in a very visible spot.

It would have saved time if he’d painted ‘My kid needs to be laughed at, oh and please punch him,’ instead.

Mum, ever safety conscience in the face of my coordination deficit, insisted on the addition of helmets. Stackhat helmets. The ugliest, heaviest, most ungainly helmets you could find in an era when nobody wore helmets. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying ‘don’t wear helmets’. Just maybe look for streamlined ones that don’t make you look like an Imperial Scout Trooper from Return of the Jedi. But wear them nonetheless, particularly if you plan on tackling the Cannonball Run.

The Cannonball was adjacent to the dirt track up to the reservoir. It consisted of a 5m wide strip of bush that paralleled the track and that was bordered on the far side by a barb wire fence. The challenge was to ride down the 1st 30 or 40m of track, gathering pace before veering into the Run for the remainder of the downhill slope.

Or how ever far you got before dying.

Because the slope was bumpier than a moguls course and with far more trees and bushes as well. 1 memorable day my brother, traveling at just below light speed jumped a 1m high bush and then slammed into a tree. Strangely the bike didn’t bounce off the tree, it just stayed in place while my brother bounced off the crossbar and then the tree. Despite concern from all who had witnessed the feat he was fine and insisted on going again. Once more he jumped the bush, only this time he sensed the impact and in an amazing show of agility jumped off the bike in mid-air. Only he didn’t completely disengage from said bicycle and the conflagration of boy and machine cartwheeled into the tree anyway. This might sound like the dumbest thing ever only we had a game that could easily top it. You’d ride down a hill at full-bore, aiming to crash into a barb-wire fence. The winner was the 1 who was catapulted furthest into a tortuously spiky doublegee patch.

Dumb stuff. We know that now. And this is where I don’t get extreme sports. It seems a little dumb. You’re going to jump a motorbike, without using your hands over 4 buses that have been set on fire and you’re doing this because of what? It’s impressive, no doubt. Especially this street trial’s rider, Danny Macaskill’s work. But the burning question is still: Why? Maybe I’d understand more if Tony Hawk was allowed to throw blocks of wood at competitors.

You’ll notice John Lackey that I said ‘throw blocks of wood at competitors’. Not ‘baseballs’. As previously established that is bad. Which begs the question of why you did it again this morning vs the Yankees?

With the Yankees holding a 2 run lead in the 7th Lackey nailed lead-off man Francisco Cervelli. Cervelli had homered off Lackey in the 5th and the New Yorkers must have felt it was retribution because benches got cleared, handbags were flung and some nasty stuff got said. The Yank’s pitching coach was ejected and Cervelli ended up scoring to make it 5-2. The 2 runs for the Sox came via a Crawf solo shot and a Scutaro RBI double, both in the 4th.

Sadly for the forces of good that was as close as it got. Matt Albers also managed to hit a Yankee (Posada), loading the bases in the 8th in the process, although this time Cervelli could not take advantage. In spite of out-hitting the Yankees by 13 to 9 the Sox went down 5-2. Lackey absorbed the loss (12 and 10) and Boston now with a 0.5 game lead in the AL East.

That’s a league leading 17th hit batter for Lackey now this season and a number of those have cost runs. I’m not sure if he’s learning something out of that.

I, on the other hand, have learnt much out of my dumb stuff. When my, then 2.5 year old, son got a Radio Flyer trike for Christmas I insisted on a helmet. I let him choose out of a range of safety rated models and he now proudly sports a streamlined green number with a stylised dinosaur head design. Seriously cool, very safe and what’s more impressive, the 3 year old lad mostly keeps his pants at the appropriate level.

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