July 26, 2007

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

The Outdoor Corner is a somewhat regular look at sports. Topics generally focus on hunting or fishing, but also include golf, softball and other pursuits. But anymore, the term sports, has expanded. The horizon has broadened to now include such entertainment as poker, the National Rock, Paper and Scissors Championship and even hot dog eating.

This is coming from the guy who scoffed when they made synchronized swimming an Olympic sport.

But as I get wiser (read as I get older, fatter and slower) I am starting to understand the evolution of the sports world. Really its quite simple. As my waistline has broadened, so too has the spectrum of hobbies that can be considered sports.

Like most people, I have a competitive streak. I like to win, but more importantly I simply enjoy the competition.

Growing up, I got my fix playing baseball and basketball. I tried football, but believe it or not, I only weighed 145 pounds at my biggest in high school. At a larger school, that just didnt cut it on the gridiron. (Thats why I counsel all the kids here to play, as they dont realize how fortunate they are to enjoy the small school program.)

I broke my collarbone one summer in Babe Ruth baseball and I never caught back up after missing a full year of development.

I put most of my effort into basketball, but short and slow arent combinations too many college coaches are looking for.

I stuck with hoops when I went to college. I wasnt a Missouri Tiger, but I was quite a gym rat those first few years of school. I took advantage of our student recreation center to play plenty of games.

Baseball transitioned into slow pitch softball, as the beer league was a better fit for my skills.

Yet as time passed, the pursuit of sports waned. It wasnt for a lack of desire to play, but simply for a lack of ability to continue physically. It seems that 40 plus hours a week sitting at a computer is not conducive to too many evenings or weekends of racing around a ball diamond or running and jumping up and down the hard court.

Thats when I discovered golf. It seemed like such a perfect fit. A slower paced game that doesnt require you to be seven feet tall or be able to bench press a Volkswagon. Heck you even get to ride around on a cart. But my love affair has been short lived. While it seems like such a perfect fit, there is a Catch 22 involved. While golf is a perfect sport to pick up as we get older, it seems like you really needed to have learned how to play at a younger age. Apparently, I am less flexible in my older age, meaning I can not reproduce a quality golf swing, at least not on a regular basis. So I make up for this inability by crafting a shot style that fits my physical shortcomings. In a nutshell, that means I stink.

But golf, at least on the local level, does its best to keep guys like me interested.

Thats why we have flights in golf tournaments. I know without a doubt that I will never win the championship flight of any golf tournament, unless I am the only participant. Organizers know there are lots of golfers like me, who know we have no chance of beating the games best. So flights create artificial winning scores, weeding out the top scores in the championship flight, and lumping us lower level performers in groups where we can compete against each other.

I include myself in that statement only for argument sake. I dont ever play in a golf tournament expecting to win anything. It is just dumb luck if I do.

Maybe thats why my new sports love is poker. Actually it is more of a love/hate relationship. I really enjoy the game, but it doesnt seem to like me much. At least I can argue that I have bad luck, and it isnt because a lack of skill or deteriorating physical abilities which have chased me away from my other sporting pursuits.

I no longer have the athletic ability to play basketball or baseball (some who saw me in my hay day may say I never did). Ive never developed the skill it takes to be successful at golf. The same can be said about my poker game, while Ill excuse my lack of ability by claiming plenty of bad luck. So what sport is left for me to pursue? Well, my expanding waistline proves that my appetite is one thing I have not lost, so maybe I should look into entering the next world championship of hot dog eating.

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