Monday, January 30, 2012

Sports and TiVo

Some people complain that sports aren't real-- that people get all worked up about something that has no actual affect on their lives.

Bad actor, but you get the point

But I think that sports are real in one important sense: in terms of entertainment, they are the only real true drama. If you watch a movie or TV show or play, you know that it's scripted. There's a protagonist who you know to root for and if there's not necessarily a happy ending, there's at least some redemption.

With sports, that's not the case. You truly don't know who's going to win, so you don't know whether there will be a happy ending, or redemption, or what. You cheer for someone, but they might not actually be the protagonist. You just don't know what will happen. So it's the only "true" drama we have.

This is why it's so important for people to NOT know the outcome of a game, match, race, or wiggly scrum (or whatever they call them in cricket) before they watch a sporting event. The excitement of the event is in the fact that the result is a mystery.


This point was made clear to me last week when I tried to TiVo the semifinals of the Australian Open. The live matches were aired at 2:30 in the morning local time, and because of stupid sleep and work, I was not able to watch them live. So I recorded them on my TiVo, hoping to watch them 16 hours later after work.
I tried to find an image of TiVo holding a tennis racket, but no luck. Use your imagination

The first semifinal, on Thursday morning, featured a matchup for the ages: Federer vs. Nadal in another chapter in the fierce rivalry between two of the Best Players Ever. I was very excited about this match. I was also worried that somehow I would find out the results of the match before I got home from work, either from the radio, interwebs, or co-workers. Generally, people don't talk about tennis around the water cooler like they do other sports, so I felt relatively safe. On the other hand, this is Federer vs. Nadal, the rivalry of a generation. People might talk about that.

There are LOTS of online images of "Federer vs. Nadal." I could have picked them screaming, looking fierce, playing hard, or posing in front of trophies together. I decided to go with the post-match hug instead.

In my paranoia Thursday morning, I checked my TiVo to make sure it had recorded the match, and to check some settings. (They usually replay the match later in the day, and in the event that TiVo turned off before the live match was over, I wanted to make sure it would record the second showing.) As I did that, I accidentally clicked on live TV. It showed one of the players smiling and signing the camera, something they only do when they win.


Fuckity fuck fuck fuck!!!!

In my worry that I would find out the results too early, I had sabotaged myself. I hadn't even left for work yet, and now I knew who won.

This is a first world problem, I know, but it was supremely frustrating.

I came home later and watched the match, and it was a good match with amazing points, but still, in the back of my mind I was bothered by the fact that I knew how it was going to end. There was no real drama.


Friday morning the exact same scenario would repeat itself. The next semifinal, between Djokovic and Murray, would be played at 2:30 am. I TiVoed it, and this time I didn't sabotage myself. Because of a hectic work and social schedule, Friday night was the only night all week I had off, so I planned to come home, eat dinner, and plant myself on the couch for exciting tennis action.

The plan was going great until late in the afternoon, when I received an email from the USTA (U.S. Tennis Association.) All I read was the subject line, but it was enough to send me into a fury: "Nole vs. Rafa! Exclusive Aussie Open Finals digital preview!"


I googled "Djokovic" and the auto-fill function offered, among others, "shirtless." Why not continue with the homoerotic theme started with the hugging men above?

"Nole" is the nickname for Novak Djokovic, one of the semifinalists. This email was telling me that he had won his semifinal against Andy Murray, and would be playing Rafa Nadal in the finals. I don't even know what the USTA was advertising, and I didn't care. I never signed up for ANY email alerts from them, so I don't know why they sent me this message. I even went to my notification settings on my USTA account, and none of the "email alerts" was checked. So why the hell are they sending me solicitation emails I never asked for that reveal the winner of the match I'd TiVoed and planned to watch later?

I sent a nasty email to member services to complain, and received this quick reply: "I apologize for the inconvenience. Your request has been forwarded on to the appropriate department." Since then I've received no response whatsoever.

So, am I being unreasonable here? In this age of instant information, is it unrealistic to expect to wait 16 hours to watch a sporting event? Or is the USTA justified in sending me some promotional email advertising an event (the Finals) that was to take place in less than two days? In this age of TiVo and DVR, what's a reasonable time to wait and expect that people have already seen the match?

I don't know the answers. It's not that I couldn't enjoy the matches once I knew who would win, it just wasn't as exciting. Maybe I'm fighting a losing battle, and if I really want to enjoy a sporting event, I have to watch it live.


Speaking of tennis, I've been frustrated for a different reason lately. I'm in one of the worst slumps of my tennis career. Since last September, I've gone 2-15 in league play. And most of those 15 losses have been blowouts. I struggle to win 2 or 3 games in a set.

My latest match was a 2-6, 1-6 loss to a friendly rival. We used to have these epic long three-set matches with lots of exciting points, games, and sets. At the end we'd both be exhausted but happy for the workout and competition. I miss those epic matches.

I used to be the guy who, even if I lost, made you work for it. I'd push people to their limit. Now I'm the guy who just loses with little effort or struggle. I lose by scores like 0-6, 2-6 or 3-6, 1-6.

Granted, I've been playing in the highest league, the Gold, where the competition is a lot tougher. But still, I'm playing people I've played before and losing a lot worse. Am I playing worse or are they playing better? I don't know. I don't know how to get out of this slump. I can't explain it, and for me, not knowing what's causing a problem, much less how to solve it, drives me nuts.

I know this is a first world problem. There are a lot of things in my life that are going great. But I miss tennis. I miss being competitive.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Video

I came across this video and had to share. It's funny and amazing. I love the swarming monkeys and the juxtaposition of nature with human clothes/cars/toys.

And as an added bonus, here's a fun pic:

It's a cute kitten facebook pun. How often do you see one of those?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Belize was amazing-- unbelizeable!-- definitely one of the best trips I've ever had. Now I'm trying to figure out how to write (blog) about it.

For the class I took at my college, I had to submit a report of my travel experiences. Since I'm not really interested in the college credit, I could have just blown it off, but it was a fun and valuable experience to write out all my thoughts and memories of the trip. That, along with 379 pictures I took, will be a good way to preserve and capture my Belize experience.

The report I wrote for my college was 13 pages and almost 5,000 words. Way too big for a single blog post. And it was a boring diary-like account of what we did each day, with random snarky comments and observations thrown in. There are a few themes or specific experiences I could break out into different blog posts, some possibilities being:
  • Belize as a Hollywood set
  • Where chocolate comes from
  • Flora & Fauna
  • Injuries & ailments
  • People & Politics
The problem is I have lots of random, disjointed observations that don't really fit within larger themes. I feel like an artist who has a wonderful array of colors and wants to use all of them. But art isn't about using ALL the colors, but the right ones in the right combination.

I could just post what I wrote for my class, and break it down chronologically, devoting one blog post per day in Belize, but that could be boring.

Who am I kidding? I could make it boring either way. After posting 200 pictures (with comments) on Facebook, I'm not sure what more a blog post could add, other than bore a slightly different audience in a slightly different medium.

I'll ponder it some more. In the meantime, here are some pictures of things in trees (in Belize):

Leaf-cutter ants

Termite nest


Monkey (w/ fruit)


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Packed Into One Year

In 2011, I...
  • took my first cruise
  • visited Mexico for the first time
  • saw Chichen Itza, the "Vegas" of Mayan ruins

  • had my first "published" article since college
  • wrote several articles for Smile Politely, a local online magazine, including three installments about my cruise
  • won my first tennis tournament, and won a league also
  • went 8-0 in singles tennis in one of my outdoor USTA leagues (yet still couldn't beat my big brother in our annual Schreiberfest tennis challenge)
  • discovered new music: Ben Folds, The Book of Mormon, etc.
  • read at least 35 books, according to my Goodreads bookshelf
  • was inspired to blog about eleven different books
  • made several new pen pals (and Facebook friends) through blogging
  • went to a conference in Chicago. Realized that for the past 11 years I've lived 150 miles away from one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Made it a goal to start visiting more often.

  • visited Chicago at least once a month for the next eight months
  • attended my first Green Festival (in Chicago)
  • went on 6 different first dates
  • took a road trip to Wilmington (NC)-- hung out with my brothers and an old high school friend
  • visited Denver, hiked in the Rockies, saw Red Rocks for the first time
  • attended my first Bar Mitzvah
  • took on my first major lawn project: filled in the Portal to Hell in my back yard

  • switched to green kitty litter, started making my own granola bars, ate more greens (fell in love with arugula), and in general become a little more hippie-ish and foodie-like. Also, switched from drinking Gatorade as my main drink to water.
  • joined a second book club, created the FB page for it and became the co-organizer
  • organized my own (very successful) tennis league
  • attended my first pro tennis tournament, was spitting distance from Roger Federer (!) and countless others
  • had my first in-real-life meeting with a blogfriend (who lives in Germany, but we met in Chicago)
  • played tennis on a clay court for the first time
  • turned 40
  • threw a successful Night Before Timageddon birthday party
  • painted my living room (with much help)
  • finally got past a second date, made a new girlfriend
  • got to know Evanston (suburb of Chicago) and became well-acquainted with the 154-mile route between my house and my girlfriend's.
  • took my first trip to Belize (which I will write about soon)
  • a wild monkey touched me! took fruit right out of my hand

    (Just got this one in, since it happened on the last day of the year.)

  • met dozens of new people, learned hundreds of new facts/ideas, tried new foods, read new books, heard new music, saw new sites, gathered hundreds of stories, smiled, laughed, cried, mourned, ranted, and felt joy, pain, and contentment.
For someone who thinks of himself as a slacker, that's quite a list of experiences. I may have had lots of ordinary everyday occurrences, but when you add them all up over the course of a year, it's amazing to see all that can happen.

I'm not the kind of person to make resolutions or set goals for a coming year. Because I know that, merely by living my life, I'm going to experience new things and grow in ways I can't anticipate.

I know 2012 will be no different.