Bartolo, My Hero

Now that the reality of Monday morning has set in, I can take stock of the highlight of the weekend: New York Mets pitcher Bartolo Colón hit the first home run of his 19 year career.

USP MLB: ATLANTA BRAVES AT NEW YORK METS S BBN USA NY

Smile for the camera, Big Sexy. Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports 

There’s nothing I can say here that hasn’t already been said.

He’s an unlikely hero. Overweight, middle-aged. Ironically nicknamed “Big Sexy.” His batting stance lacks awareness of technique. He hunkers over the plate and swings so hard he typically loses his batting helmet.

He’s been a bit of a running punchline and early in the 2015 season he managed a better batting average than a few of the (then LOL)Mets’ position players—including a spectacularly lucky looking RBI double against the Marlins. It’s like he doesn’t expect it… nobody else does either. And just look at the child-like glee on his face as he runs.

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Basically me.

Bartolo is all of us. He represents why we love baseball so much. He defies expectations. He’s the underdog at bat. He’s the kid who elicits groans from the other kids in PE because they know he’s going to strike out and lose the game for the team. But then he gets up and rips one to left field.

I’m not saying let’s put him in the 2016 Home Run Derby or anything, but I’m certainly willing to keep the celebration over this hit running until his next start. And he deserves it. First homer in a 19 year career. He’s proof that it’s never too late to accomplish a dream.

As someone essentially starting life over in my mid-30s (and who will be competing for jobs with people in their early to mid-20s), I’m a bit sensitive to this concept. And right now, Big Sexy is my #1 hero.

I’ve got a home run in me too. We all do. Bartolo is proof of that.

 

 

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On Half-Marathons and Broken Hearts

I have run two half-marathons (my third will be the 2016 Brooklyn Half) and I have had my heart broken a few more times than that. In my most recent heartbreak, I realize how similar running a half-marathon is to the process of picking myself back up when I have fallen too hard for someone.

When starting a race, I’m ok. I’m fine. I don’t get nervous. I may have a few thoughts about how glad I’ll be when it’s over, but I’m more anxious to just get going. Standing in the corrals with thousands of other racers, I feel really alone. But I’m ok with that. I’m just working on being calm and preparing.

I know that the first part will be the hardest. I know if I can just get past the first mile or two, I’ll be ok. From miles 2-4, I’m in the zone. I’m feeling good. I’m forgetting that there’s still a lot of ground to cover. But I’m at a steady pace. I’m even smiling a little. I’m encouraged. I’m attempting to enjoy the race and the scenery around me.

Around mile 5 or 6 is when I start getting a little frustrated. I’m not even halfway through? Where’s the Gatorade? Is that a blister I’m feeling? Oh god, my nipples are starting to chafe. Why didn’t I train more for this?

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Struggling during the 2015 Brooklyn Half

So I walk. I take my time. I rest. I let my energy build back up. Occasionally I’ll start a small trot. I know I’ll finish, but it feels really far away. These few miles are when I am really alone with my thoughts. And that can be scary.

Mile 10 is rough. I’ve come so far and I know I’m so close. But everything hurts. People are passing me. I’m trying really hard to focus on me and only me, but it’s hard. I wonder if anyone I know will be along the finish to cheer me on. But I know there won’t be. So I get a little down. I have to remind myself that I’m doing this for me and no one else.

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The final 200 meters or so… can you see the exhaustion in that smile?

Thankfully, that part goes by fairly fast. Pretty soon I’m hitting mile 13 and I know I just have a couple of hundred meters left and I need to pull every ounce of my energy and strength to finish strong. I refuse to walk across a finish line. I will run. Cue the “you can do it” inner pep talks. (Pretty sure I have actually uttered these words aloud to myself during a race).

 

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Always, always finish strong.

And then I see cheering faces along the finish stretch. I begin to smile. People are ringing bells and clapping. A friendly stranger will run up next to me—”We GOT this!”—and I’ll push across the finish. Usually choking down some tears.

And when it’s over and every inch of my body hurts and I’m walking like there’s a hot metal rod up my ass, I know I’ll be ok. I know because I’ve been there before. I’ve covered the miles and the ups and the downs and I endured.

My heart has been broken a few times. And it will likely be broken again. The aftermath of heartache sucks. There are high moments and low moments; one day it’s all confidence and independence and awesomeness and the next it’s being bummed that you can’t talk to your best friend anymore. But it’s not a sprint. I’ll have good miles and bad miles. But eventually, I’ll finish. And I’ll be running when I do.

 

#MoreThanMean

While walking my dog one morning, I paused on the corner of my street as he was doing his business. A man in a car was making a left hand turn towards my block and practically leaned out his window, watching me as he made the turn. I found myself suddenly very conscious of myself. I was being watched. Who else was watching? Watching me walk. Watching me bend over to pick up my dog’s shit. Watching me walk in a daze because I haven’t had my morning coffee yet.

And I wondered if men have any idea how this feels.

After the PSA from Just Not Sports showing men reading horrible tweets to female sportswriters Sarah Spain and Julie DiCaro came out, I was simultaneously proud of them for putting themselves out there in such a way and also disheartened at the inevitable backlash they, and anyone standing up for them, would face.

There are people out there saying the tweets read were fake (nice name, coward):

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There are people saying this happens to men too (LOL):

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Or perhaps they’re jealous of the harassment?

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Aw, I’m sorry… I didn’t realize you wanted to be told that you should be raped.

Unfortunately there’s also this really weird side effect happening. And it’s called #NotAllMen… the feminist equivalent of #AllLivesMatter (from Jezebel):

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Oh sure, it looks like it’s supportive by calling those vile tweets “shit,” but somehow the poster made men the victims—taking the hit for the supposed small minority of men.

But stay with me, here’s where things get tricky. Going and attacking these men for making these comments isn’t making things any better.

The point of this PSA was to show how bad things can be for women in sports. The very nature of women working in a profession that has long been dominated by men seems to rile people up (how dare they have thoughts on sports). Their male counterparts may receive angry tweets, but they will be about the content of what they write. Skip Bayless is awful, but are people telling him he should be raped? Or that he should go back into the kitchen? No, they mock what he says.

This PSA fired a lot of people up because it highlights the disparity on how women are treated. So many women face harassment on a daily basis. Whether it’s catcalling on the street or threatening tweets, it’s happening all the time. And for men to dismiss it by saying that it’s just a small percentage of men doing it… well, it feels like giving permission to these situations.

I know there are great guys out there. I’m fortunate to be friends with many who love and support me as a woman. I know not all men say and do terrible things to women. But enough of them do. Enough that I can’t just have a relaxing walk with my dog in the morning without wondering who’s watching me.

I never want to discourage men from speaking up in support of feminism and #MoreThanMean and other equality initiatives. I think men are valued in the conversation here. Essential, even. And that’s the point. It’s a conversation. We all need to have a place here. Listen to each other. And hopefully attempt to reach understanding and sympathy.

 

 

The Dark Knight of Hope

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

Ah yes, baseball is back and all is right in the world.

All of the slates have been wiped clean. The bad memories from last season are forgotten (mostly) and those who were at the top are back on equal footing with the rest of the bunch.

Fans and analysts have spent the spring watching minor league prospects show their skills to the big guys in hopes of getting the call-up. Spring is also the stage for returns, whether it be a post-PED suspension redemption, or a chance to see how a recently rehabbed elbow fares against live batters. No player’s return has been more closely watched, and perhaps more hyped, than that of New York Mets right handed pitcher, Matt Harvey.

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

Dubbed “The Dark Knight of Gotham” by Sports Illustrated in 2013, Harvey was touted as the savior for the joke of a franchise. That is, until he tore a ligament in his elbow and was scheduled for the dreaded Tommy John surgery. He would be out for over a year. Just when Mets fans had gotten their hopes up for salvation, they would be doomed to go on without him.

Harvey stayed relevant in the media, as any true New York athlete (and playboy) should. Always impeccably dressed, he attended Rangers games with his model girlfriend to see his good friend Henrik Lundqvist tend the goal and he caused controversy at Yankee Stadium for being at Subway Series rival Derek Jeter’s final game. Whenever interviewed he would mention how healthy he was feeling, perhaps indicating he might return before 2015. What a tease.

And so the baseball world watched with bated breath as he pitched to live batters for the first time in the regular season. April 9th, 2015 became Harvey Day. He was back on the mound, facing the preseason favorites for the pennant (and World Series), the Washington Nationals.

His stats are now famous: he pitched 6 scoreless innings, allowing 4 hits and getting 9 strikeouts. The Mets won 6-3.

It’s easy to dismiss the Mets as a joke. Perhaps it’s because of their proximity to the Yankee dynasty. The Mets are like the doofy kid brother that lives in the shadow of their handsome prom king-class president-valedictorian-varsity letterman older brother.

But the fans. Mets fans are hopeful. Mets fans are naively optimistic. And it’s beautiful. It’s one of the best parts about sports fandom in general. Every year is a fresh start. Every year is full of possibility. Every year could be the year.

But this year feels a bit different. Mets fans are singing the same “this is our year” tune, but there’s a renewed sense of hope. It seems that Harvey has been the catalyst for this. The doofy brother just got a movie montage makeover. Morale is high. The team seems to be bolstered by his return and the fans are, well, fanatical.

Will he be the one to save the Mets? We’ll have to wait and see. But it sure does look like dawn on the horizon.

In Defense of My Fandom (Redux)

(This was originally published on throwlikealady.com in July 2014. I’ve updated it just a bit and added some new stuff.)

Since moving to New York, I have found myself having to do something I’ve never had to do: Defend what teams I root for.

Ain't it the truth...

Ain’t it the truth…

During the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, I rooted for the Rangers. My New York friends seemed dubious, but I suppose were pleased to have a new convert and extra drinking buddy at the bar for game watches. I did get asked why I was a Rangers fan “all of a sudden.” My California friends called me a traitor. My response to both sides, which was in all honesty, was that I have liked hockey since I was 12 but never felt tied to any teams. It was exciting to be in a city with a team in the playoffs and subsequently the finals, but it also felt good to have an NHL team I could actually root for. I then had to explain to my friends in California that I was never a Kings fan and I’m not going to root for them simply because I am from Southern California. Will I root for the Rangers next season? You bet your ass.

Also, since I moved to New York, I have been rocking a Mets hat. (I also have a Yankees hat, but I can’t bring myself to be a member of the Evil Empire). Back in May 2014 I went to CitiField with my LA friends when the Dodgers were in town. They were all wearing Dodger hats and shirts… I wore my Matt Harvey t-shirt. One of my friends asked with curiosity if I was really a Mets fan. Another friend said, accusingly, that I was an Angels fan. I said I was both. One team is in the AL and the other in the NL. Why can’t I root for both? And to make things more complicated, I spent a lot of time with someone during the 2014 season who happened to be a San Francisco Giants fan. We watched many games together. I had fun watching that team, but I had fun watching his enthusiasm. And it didn’t hurt that they ended up World Series Champions. Will I root for the Giants if I’m watching their game? Sure. Will I make an effort to watch those games? Probably not.

Let's Go Mets!

Let’s Go Mets!

I have never been a huge fan of professional sports. Not in the way that I am for college sports (Go Bruins!). As such, I tend to root for teams wherever I live. I love watching just about any sport and it’s a lot more interesting when you can root for a team. It seems that in order to be a fan of a certain team, you must have either loved that team since birth, or be from the same location as the team. I suppose it’s not surprising that my fandom comes under fire quite frequently.

So, how does one become a fan of a particular team? These are the top two reasons I’ve heard from people on how they choose their professional teams:

1) Geography: Many people say they have been Mets fans since birth because they are from New York. Well, I lived in four different states before the age of 10. If I base my fandom on where I’m from I would be rooting for the Colts, Pacers, Bears, White Sox, Bulls, Cubs, Blackhawks, Jazz, Lakers, Clippers, Kings, Angels, Dodgers, Ducks, Padres, Sharks, Giants, 49ers, Rams (once upon a time), Raiders, Warriors, and A’s. That makes no sense. Through all of that, the only team that stuck were the Angels… but only because I loved going to baseball games and the Angels were the team that was nearby for most of my life. Now that I’m living in New York, I find it easy to be a Mets fan (no thank you, Yankees) and a Rangers fan. As far as other sports… well, I typically take them game by game. When it comes to playoffs, I will shift my cheers accordingly – usually geographically. I really just like watching sports, and don’t mind not having the same team to root for year after year.

2) Family: Many people tell me that they grew up loving a particular team because that’s what their family did. I find this as a plausible reason because I love the idea of family and community coming together for sports. But I grew up watching more college sports in my house than anything else, so my professional allegiances have been somewhat disparate.

I have a friend from Southern California. He has lived just about his entire life within a 20 mile radius of where he was born (with the exception of a brief stint in Oregon). He is a Boston Celtics fan. His childhood friend happened to be from Boston and since his family wasn’t really into the NBA, he got all of his basketball knowledge from his friend. And thus, a Celtics fan was born. He is the exception to the geography and family rules all in one.

Fans are made in many different ways. Just because I don’t know every statistic or every past player doesn’t mean my cheering means any less. I’m a devoted person. When I like something, I like it all the way. I won’t stop liking a team because they are losing. I will sport team colors a little more frequently with some W’s on the board, but I will still stand by the team through the L’s.

Being born somewhere doesn’t make you a fan. Parental guidance doesn’t make you a fan. Knowing the names of every player ever doesn’t make you a fan. Knowing every stat ever doesn’t make you a fan. A genuine love of a sport and the willingness to stand by a team through wins and losses makes you a fan. So, go forth… love your sport and love your team. I know I will. And proudly, at that.

 Photo credits: someecards.com; the7line.com