Saturday, January 30, 2016

Hey, Sports Fans! Or: Five ways to look like you're loving the game when you have no idea what's going on.

Sports and I have never been close. We have been at a stand off ever since I was a kid — a kid standing off in left field dropping the ball. It was more of a long distance relationship — I kept a long distance from the gym on volleyball days — hiding in the locker room. And as you might guess, I wasn't exactly a top-pick athlete — having been picked dead last by every team captain ever.

So, you see sports never courted me. I hadn't the talent, natural ability or hand-eye coordination to be much of a catch. As a result, I never developed much interest in sports. Without that early bond, odds were that I wasn't ever going to pick up the rules and regs of most games. Put me in front of any athletic event and I will be clueless about what's going on. I can walk in front of the TV at the very moment somebody scores the winning goal, touchdown, or whatever, and not pick up on why the Mister looks like a vein in his neck is about to pop. 

This can be awkward. Especially when it comes to watching sports with other people. I dread being asked to a Super Bowl party. But if I am, I have developed some coping mechanisms for watching a game with a crowd. I will share them with you here. If I can save just one of you from outing yourself as a non-jock, schlemiel like me, it will all be worthwhile.

  1. Learn the names of the teams involved. This can be fun because they all have colorful names like Panthers and Broncos; Penguins and Ducks. In fact, many of them are named for animals which means you can drift off into fantasy land imagining, for example, actual ducks playing hockey, or real broncs galloping down the gridiron. This will put a silly grin on your face and everyone will think you are having a whale of a time.
  2. Keep your eye on the ball (or puck.) This, of course, is the central object of the game. But for you it is even more important to maintain this focus. Repeat: this is a KEY strategy. If you aren't paying attention, you won't know when to cheer. And cheering is what it's all about. That's why you are in a group. I have spent too many live games with my eyes glued to the time clock, ticking the seconds down, and I've missed entire plays. If you must watch the clock, just look up occasionally and everyone will think that you are really into it: look at you!Checking stats up there! 
  3. Know when it is appropriate to cheer. Goals are good. If you aren't paying attention, you might make the grave error of clapping and cheering when the other side scores. This is not good sports behavior. You might feel like the other guys need a little support, too, but take it from me, unless you want a beer dumped on your head, do not, repeat, DO NOT jump to your feet with raucous rah-rahs unless it's YOUR team.
  4. Don't ask dumb questions. It's okay to learn what you can about a game, but try to do it on your own time. Don't wait for the game day party to finally get it. You don't want to ask in front of an audience. Save it for home. "Explain 'downs' to me." "Again?!? We've been over this a hundred times!" "Yeah. Still don't get it."
  5. Watch curling. Curling is brilliant. For me, the beauty of this sport is that it has its own language that no one understands. You could say, "Hey, did you see last week? How about that shot rock in the last end of the Bonspiel when the skip got a double take-out even after his gripper caught the ice in the hack and he had the hammer and he had to throw a kizzle-kazzle but ended up in a Manitoba tuck and it flew down the ice in a no-handle but his rock landed up in the house anyway, right on the button!" No one is going to know if you are making this stuff up. But they will be duly impressed and you will thereafter be a sports hero! 

And remember, if you're at Super Bowl party next weekend, and if all else fails, tell everyone that you just came to watch the commercials.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Blogged Down OR Where's the Muse When You Need Her?

I've had writer's block since early December. This work stoppage occurred at the same time I got a Facebook post announcing the Erma Bombeck Writer's Competition. I believe the two events are related. And I will tell you why. 

It all began in January, 2012. I was a rookie blogger. The Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop was coming up in April. Its companion essay competition whets the appetite for this bi-annual orgy of humor writing. I submitted a piece thinking I might actually be the next Erma. I could see it all. The syndicated newspaper column. The book signings. The TV show. The movie deal. Turns out I wasn't any kind of Erma, let alone the next one. Judges commented that I had a well-structured article, but it wasn't funny enough. It was mildly amusing, they said. But not funny.

Erma was funny. Tina Fey is funny. Amy Schumer is funny. I'm mildly amusing.

Anyway, I regrouped from this body blow by 2014 when it was again time to submit work to the competition. This time I won an honorable mention! Which is a big deal, because there is only one winner — the top prize — no third or second or runner-up — just first place and a handful of honorable mentions. Okay, so I wasn't First, but I was an Honorable Mention! Oh, glory! Oh, victory! At last! My big break! The recognition I so richly deserved! Roll out the red carpet and put me in a ball gown! They like me! They really, really like me! Thank you to the Academy and all of you who voted for me!

My euphoria lasted about two days.

It came to my attention shortly after I got the "Email that was Going to Change my Life" that I had not followed ALL the rules. Well, who reads rules? Am I right? It's like reading all the terms and agreements on a web site. NOBODY does it. Besides, I swear up and down that they changed the rules after I sent my entry in. I clearly (or semi-clearly) remember in 2012 that it was NOT okay to send in something you had previously published but it WAS okay if it had been on your own blog. In 2014, I expected that the same would apply. I was wrong. I looked it up on the EBWC web site. There, bold as brass, next to a flash that said, NEW THIS YEAR! was the stipulation, the directive, the order, the decree, the LAW!!!! that submissions CANNOT have been published ANYWHERE!!!! including YOUR OWN BLOG POST!!! Rats! I blew it. 

I had already crowed about my win on my Facebook page! Oh, how humiliating! What to do? The only noble thing was to come clean. I contacted the EBWC folks who were very nice about it. They stripped me of my win. They took my name off their web site. They thanked me for letting them know in enough time so that they didn't embarrass themselves by putting my name in print. But they hoped that I would enter in 2016, because, they said, "You're very funny!" Yeah. A riot.

I had an anxiety attack when I saw the Writer's Competition post back in December. But, I had almost recovered from my 2014 embarrassment, so I decided to give it a shot. I tried and tried to think of a topic. A funny topic. The funniest ever written. A winning topic. Nothing. Trying to be funny is hard. Erma could do it. But she was Erma. 

Then I decided to NOT try. What would happen if I just let it go? Surely the muse would bestow her blessing upon me. She sent me "movie kissing." I showed it to the Mister. He said, "It's mildly amusing." I put it on my blog and haven't written a word since.

So, unless I get a really great idea between now and the deadline in February, it is business as usual on my blog, laughing at my own jokes, and hoping that my writer's block gets unstuck. Wish me luck.