Listen to the Sounds of the Game

sounds

If you are a sports fan, May is a great time of year. There is a plethora of choices of sports to watch, read about, follow and discuss. If you want playoff action, there’s a hockey or basketball game every night. Baseball is in full swing. Soccer has come alive. There is a game on my TV every night, and I will admit, once in a while I fall asleep during the height of the action. A few nights ago, I watched a Toronto Raptors’ game with my eyes closed. I was too tired to watch, so instead I just listened. The sounds of the game fascinated me.

Have you ever closed your eyes and just listened to the game? And I mean really just sat down, relaxed and listened? The radio works, but I find the subtle and nuanced sounds the television cameras pick up are even more fascinating.

Basketball 

The Toronto Raptors play game 2 of their playoff series versus the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday evening. I won’t go into the letdown that was game 1 on Tuesday night. But I will share the audio highlights that I enjoyed from last night’s game. The sound I love most during a basketball game is how the athletes’ shoes travel across the freshly waxed and clean hardwood floor.  Some people may cringe, but it’s this sound that tells me that there’s a basketball game going on. Here is an example:

 

I also like the even tempo of the bouncing ball as a player races down the court. My son loves when a ball slides through the net with a perfect swish sound.

Hockey

A hockey game has very different sounds from a basketball game, even though they are often played in the same building. First of all, there’s no shoes or hardwood floor.  The sound of perfectly sharpened skates flying down the ice or suddenly stopping make me smile. Add a stick and puck to the mix and you get a beautiful melody of sounds. How about when the puck hits the crossbar or a player checks another into the boards? Just close your eyes and listen. It’s a wonder to the senses. Listen to the sound of the blades on the ice:

 

Baseball

The sounds of the ballpark. These are special. I went to a Blue Jays game last week, and at one point I closed my eyes so I could take in all the sounds around me. Even if you aren’t paying attention to the action on the field, there’s nothing like the concession vendors who run up and down the aisles yelling, “Beer here, ice cold beer” or “Popcorn, peanuts and Crackerjacks!” On the field there’s the sound of the bat as it makes contact with the ball or the sound of the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt when the player swings and misses. And the umpires. Some of them articulate the word “strike” so well that you can hear it for miles.

Just listen to the crack of the bat and cheers of the crowd in this example. You know it’s a baseball game in an instant.

 

Other Sports

No matter the sport, each brings its own unique sounds. The grunt of the athlete and ball hitting the racquet in tennis. The calls of the quarterback in football. Oh, how I love the sound I hear when skis turn on the snow. How about the swing of the golf club and the sound when it hits the ball?

What are you favourite sports sounds? Post a comment here or on Facebook or Tweet me @AliciaRichler.

Baseball is Back

baseball

I know what you are thinking – didn’t the Major-League baseball season begin a few weeks ago? Midway through April, haven’t most teams played at least a dozen games? The short answer is, yes. The 2018 season opened on Thursday, March 29, and I was lucky enough to watch it live with my good friend Meir (a super-fan) in Israel.

But, I was so far away from where the action happens. After I watched opening day (at 11:00 at night, semi-conscious), it seemed as though the baseball season really launched without me. If I wasn’t there to watch the games on TV or go to a game with my son, it was as though the season hadn’t really begun.

We arrived home from our whirlwind trip on Thursday, and my team, the Toronto Blue Jays, had an off day. I was so jet lagged on Friday that I slept through the game. I was ready, both mentally and physically, to watch the Jays play Cleveland on Saturday afternoon. Rain got in the way. Same on Sunday. Then a chunk of ice had to smash through the roof of the Rogers Centre in Toronto on Monday. Another game postponed.

Finally, on Tuesday, baseball came back to my life. A double-header. A double-whammy. My dream, hours and hours of baseball, all afternoon and evening. It was a slow start to the first game, but then the boys woke up and started to whack the ball in every direction. 11-3 final score. No complaints here. I continued on, to watch game 2, which the Jays won in the bottom of the 10th. I was on pins and needles, but it was a great ending, thanks to Luke Maile. 

Many people complain that baseball is too slow. It is definitely not the sport of choice for people who like fast-paced action-packed sports. It’s one of the few sports (maybe golf too) where you get a mix of athletes who are in the best of shape and others who are overweight and out-of-shape.

You get to know the life story of the commentators as they share their tales between pitches.  With an average length of just over 3 hours, watching a complete baseball game is a commitment.

And I love it. I love every minute of it.  I don’t care how slow it moves, that some of the players can barely jog to first base or that a blister puts a guy on the disabled list for ten days. Baseball has personality.

Here are some of the things that I love about baseball, in no particular order:

  • A team can score up to four points (okay, runs) with one swing of the bat.
  • The manager (known in almost every other sport as the head coach) wears a uniform, just like the players, who are half his age. Even the players who are out of shape look better in the uniform, but kudos to him for putting it on each night.
  • That I can get a ticket, in a decent seat, for under $30. I may spend more than that on snacks when I’m there, but that’s my choice.
  • Even during and after an ice storm, it feels like summer when I’m watching a game.
  • That I can write while I watch the game, or make dinner, or carry on a full conversation with the person next to me, because the action is slow enough.
  • Endless statistics. How many players have hit a home run, during a home game, with a player on second base and two outs? Baseball has an answer for that.
  • Great catches. Great, diving catches (thanks in large part to Kevin Pillar!).
  • Players jump on each other, like they just won the World Series, when they win in extra innings.

Did I mention that I am thrilled that baseball is back? And because it’s only April, I have months ahead to enjoy it. Whether my team wins or loses (okay, I always want the Jays to win), I will always be a fan of baseball.

Sometimes it just has to be Ladies First

ladies

I don’t know if the best description of me is a lady. There is something sophisticated and elegant about the word. I don’t think it is something I aspire to be. Sometimes the word just makes me chuckle. But if that’s what we were on Friday, all 575 of us, then I’ll take it. I enjoyed my first ever (and hopefully not my last) Ladies Day at my ski club, and wow, what a great day it was.

Throughout the winter, I have written a lot about my love of skiing. It is my stress release, my escape from everyday life and a great chance to enjoy the outdoors and be active. The best way to get through a tough Canadian winter is to find an outdoor activity you love and embrace it. It makes the season not only enjoyable but also something to look forward to.

For many years, I have balked at the chance to participate in Ladies Day at the ski club. I was too busy. I couldn’t take the day off work. Or I had a baby to care for. My mother and sister gave similar excuses and chose to not participate.

But this year my sister and mother said, what the heck, and they registered. I refused to follow suit and even made fun of them. Why would they choose, and even pay, to spend a Friday at the ski hill with a bunch of women, who from stories I had heard, just shopped, ate, did yoga and drank too much alcohol all day? Not for me. No way.

But a few weeks ago, a work colleague, who attended her ski club’s ladies’ day, convinced me otherwise. She told me it was the greatest ski day of the year. There are no men there. There are no whiny and demanding children there. Someone else feeds me. The ski hill is only there for the ladies, who for the most part are polite easygoing skiers. What’s not to love? She looked at me and said, go, sign up! And I did!

And wow, what a great day was had by all.

How nice is it to start the day at the ski hill with a buffet breakfast, that someone else cooked? We stuffed our faces (my sister is an expert at keeping her eye on the prize and making her way through any buffet) and were happily filled to start our day. Then we visited the Marketplace. I did not actively participate in this activity as I was not interested in spending $245 on machine washable shoes or $120 on a micro down après ski skirt. There were definitely some cute items at this little pop-up market, but I was there to ski and eat. And that’s it.

And ski I did. 18 runs. The hill was ours. We crossed the mountain, enjoyed many laughs on the chairlift and definitely seized the day. I even went down, for the time ever, one of the steepest (not THE steepest) runs at the ski club, called Slingshot. I was too much of a wimp to go down more terrifying runs like Crescendo and Free Fall. I’m not that crazy.

ladies
On the hill selfie with Tamara and Darcie
ladies
I looked, I photographed and moved on.
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We took a selfie and moved on.
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But I went down this one!
ladies
And so did my mother.

Lunch was another buffet, with a glass of white wine (that was included too!), followed by an afternoon of more great skiing. I took a spectacular tumble on one run called Ambush, spread eagle, eating snow and all, but I picked myself up and kept going.

The day’s theme was Nashville North, and while I don’t think we Canadian ladies quite understood what that means, after a day of skiing we changed our clothes and enjoyed our themed après ski. There was a lot of plaid and cheesy cowboy hats and even a few Dolly Parton look alikes. By late afternoon the drinks were flowing, appetizers were being consumed and the music was blaring loudly.

ladies
Selfie with my mother, just because.
ladies
Yes, we wore matching shirts.

Kudos to my sister (and many other brave ladies) who rode the mechanical bull. Others danced and sang with the music. Many people (not my group) drank too much. Some of the day wasn’t to my taste, but that’s okay. It was a day off. It was a day for me. For my mother. For my sister. It was a day of pure enjoyment and relaxation for the 575 ladies who participated in the day.

ladies
That’s my sister falling off the bull
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My friend Tamara did a great job on the bull
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That’s the closest I got to riding the bull

Everyone needs a day like ladies’ day. Whether you ski, snowboard, socialize, eat or just relax, it’s a great way to recharge the battery and give back to yourself. If I got anything out of my experience on Friday it’s that I need down time and time just for me. I learned that it’s okay to stop the world for a day and focus on what I love and what I need. Thank you, Heather, for reminding me to do that. Thank you to you my mother, my sister and friends at the ski hill for being part of that day with me. And thank you to the ladies who organized this day. I can’t wait until next year!

North Over Everything – An Evening with the Raptors

Raptors

Have you ever been to an NBA game and watched a couple of professional basketball teams duke it out? Even if you know nothing about basketball and aren’t a big sports fan, it’s a very engaging and entertaining experience. As part of the shared love of sports that my son, Matthew, and I enjoy, we attended a Toronto Raptors game this week. Now that was fun.

I will admit that I am too cheap to spend the big bucks and buy premium tickets to a sporting event. In part, it’s because I was spoiled early in my career working in sports media. I often got a press pass to baseball, hockey and basketball games. It is still painful for me to fork over any money to watch live sports. But really, I guess I’m just a bit stingy. Going to a game is great. Spending well over $100 per ticket to be at the game – I just can’t stomach that.

As a mega sports fan, Matthew begged me to take him to one Raptors game this season. I finally relented and bought us a couple of tickets using one of my favourite apps, SeatGeek. The prices are in US dollars, but there are many deals to be had if you are willing to do the research. I found a couple of decent seats for the February 26 game versus the Detroit Pistons, and I bought them.

That was months ago. This week the day finally arrived for us to go the game. I hadn’t been to a Raptors game in years and didn’t remember just how much fun being at a game could be. No doubt watching the game played by the most elite of athletes was thrilling. The running, jumping, tossing, shooting and dunking were incredible. The level of athleticism was to be admired.

Matthew and I are both basketball fans, and while we aren’t experts about the sport, we both have a fair amount of knowledge between us. He is a walking encyclopedia about the various players and their statistics and shared every minute detail he knows. The joy on his face as his favourite players hit 3-pointers, blocked shots and passed the ball was contagious.

Raptors
Matthew couldn’t get his eyes off centre court

But, an NBA game is not just about basketball. It’s also about putting on a show and entertaining the spectators. There’s music, a light show, live dancing (I will admit I could do without the scantily clad dancers), contests, giveaways and great food. Okay, the food is overpriced and for the most part greasy and disgusting, but it’s fun to eat junk food at a basketball game, don’t you think?

We watched an Under-11 Girls rep basketball team have a 5-minute scrimmage at centre court before the game. Fans tossed around a pair of giant blow-up dice below us as part of a contest. And Mike Weir was there, shooting basketballs into the stands with his golf club! It wasn’t just a game, it was a party.

Raptors
Mike Weir got his own jersey!

The fans all around were fun and clearly enjoyed the game along with us. The rather intoxicated guy down our row actively cheered on the Raptors and booed the Pistons, using always colourful language. People danced and sang, drank a lot of beer and munched on a ton of snacks.

And the Raptors won. Big time. 123-94. It was a butt kicking. And we loved it. As a bonus, we got free pizza too (thanks to Pizza Pizza who offers a free slice of pizza if the Raptors score over 100 points and win). Matthew enjoyed his slice after school on Tuesday).

Next on Matthew’s list is a Leafs game. I’m definitely too cheap to buy tickets to one of those games. I need a fairy god mother for that. Luckily baseball is just around the corner.

Raptors
He enjoyed every moment

Going for Gold – Feeding my Olympic Addiction

gold

I love the Olympics and just can’t get enough of it. Over the past week and-a-half I have fallen into a rhythm of following every moment of the PyeongChang Games. As I watch athletes fly in the air and speed down the hill I am amazed by what the human body can do. Whether an Olympian competes for gold or for a personal best, a big kudos to them all.

There’s only a few days left of the Winter Olympics, and I know that on February 26th I will have to go through a tremendous withdrawal. I will admit it: I’m obsessed. I just can’t stop watching, listening, reading and checking my CBC Olympics App (which by the way is fantastic). The wall-to-wall 24-hour-a-day coverage fills my addiction, and I love it.

I, like so many other people around the world, suddenly become a huge fan of sports and sub-sports that I would normally ignore. I have watched hours of competition and feel like I have become an expert on everything from Snowboard halfpipe to two-man Luge to twizzling in ice dancing. Here are some of my favourite moments so far:

Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir win gold in ice dance

How can you not love this pair? They have become the darlings of not just Canada but of the Olympics. With their gold medal win in the ice dance competition, they have five medals from three Games and are the most decorated ice dancers of all time. This team’s unique style and connection with each other is something special.  Even though the free skate was just 4 ½ minutes long, I could have watched them for hours. Smooth. Silky. Confident. Amazing.

Snowboard Halfpipe

This event is just crazy. I don’t understand how a human being has the ability to fly up and down this gutter-looking path. And they go many feet into the air, often upside down, flipping and contorting. We were excited to watch this event in my family as the lone Canadian competitor, Derek Livingston, trained early on in his career where we ski, at Alpine Ski Club. The person who first taught Derek on the halfpipe is now my son’s snowboard coach. No, I don’t encourage Matthew to pursue a career in halfpipe. These guys are nuts.

Two and Four Person Bobsleigh

If I am going to travel down a curvy icy track, I will choose bobsleigh any day over luge or skeleton (don’t get my started on this one which terrifies me). At least the pair or foursome is protected inside a giant metal tube.  I will admit this event looks a little fun. I don’t think I’m interested in traveling the speeds these athletes do as they go for gold, but I would consider jumping in a bobsleigh and testing it out.

Short Track Speed Skating Individual and Team Relays

This is a roller derby on ice. It’s every man or woman for him or herself. You have to be aggressive and fast. A bunch of skaters jump on the ice and go around in circles over and over again, almost making me feel dizzy. Sometimes you win because everyone else was disqualified or fell. I can’t stop watching.

It goes on and on. Ski jumping. Speed skating. Aerials. Ski Cross. When an athlete performs at his or her best and wins gold I feel the excitement with them. And I just want to watch more and more. What am I going to do next week when it’s all over and the athletes have gone home? Do I go back to House Hunters and Top Chef? I guess so. Well, at least I have a few more days to enjoy the Olympics and cheer on a few more elite athletes as they go for gold.

PyeongChang 2018 has Arrived

pyeongchang

The 2018 Winter Olympics are here, well almost. As I write this, the opening ceremonies, in PyeongChang, South Korea, are hours away. Thousands of athletes, coaches, trainers, journalists, volunteers and spectators from around the world have arrived in this northeastern, mountainous community on the Korean peninsula. And as I see on the official website for these Olympic games, formal training events have already happened for certain sports, such as Biathlon, Luge and Ski Jumping (I love watching ski jumping, or experimenting with it on my Wii, but you won’t catch me trying it for real!).

The Winter Olympics is a key event on my sports calendar, something I look forward to every four years. I become a terrible TV junkie and become addicted to sports like bobsleigh and short track speed skating that I basically ignore in the years between the Olympics. Somehow watching a person flying down an ice-covered track is only exciting to me when it’s in the context of this massive multi-sport international event. And I doubt that PyeongChang will disappoint.

With the 14-hour time difference between PyeongChang and Toronto, at times it will be a challenge to watch all my beloved Olympic sports live. But I will try. First up are the opening ceremonies, which are scheduled to begin Friday evening in PyeongChang, or, if you do the math, early morning in Toronto. Canadian networks start their live opening ceremonies coverage at about 5:30 am Friday morning, February 9th.  I will set my alarm so that I can watch it all unfold, live. I most probably will be warm and cozy in my bed and watch in a semi-conscious state, but I won’t miss it.

One advantage of the Olympics happening in PyeongChang, half a world away and 14 hours ahead, is that the live events don’t interfere with my day, for the most part. I don’t have to sneak away while at work and check results. On the other hand, if competitions like the Men’s Alpine Combined Slalom event only starts at 1:00 am my time, I may not get much sleep over the next couple of weeks.

While I am an Olympics junkie, I will admit that there are some sports I just can’t don’t have the patience to watch. I respect all athletes who compete and train for these high calibre events, but no matter how hard I try, I just can’t catch on. Some examples:

Biathlon

To put it simply, this is two sports (hence “bi” in the title) combined, in which a person straps on a pair of cross-country skis, follows a set course, and at certain points, the athlete shoots a gun at a target. The more targets the athlete misses, the more loops around the set course that person must make. While I am sure it takes great skill to be an expert at two events at the same time, I just don’t see the attraction to it.

Curling

I am Canadian, and I don’t like to watch curling. This event involves throwing a rock on ice, hoping to get the rock into a specified zone and knock the opponent’s rocks out. I just don’t see the joy in watching it. Many people around the world, particularly in Northern communities, like to participate in curling. At its most amateur levels, all you really need is some ice and rocks, which are easy to find in Canada in the winter. At the competitive level, you need a beautifully smooth ice surface, and the rocks aren’t really rocks.

Skeleton

This one I have trouble watching simply because it gives me nightmares. Would you want to put on a skin-tight body suit, lie face-down on a board, then fly down a frozen path head first, at high speed? There are many people who seem to enjoy doing this, and I just can’t understand why. This sport made its debut back in St. Moritz in 1928 and again in 1948, and it’s been a permanent part of the Winter Olympics since 2002.

I don’t have a favourite sport or event, but I am looking forward to a few specific races which include participants from my family’s ski club, Alpine.  Roni Remme will be competing in Ladies Alpine events and Derek Livingston, who is part of the Canadian Men’s Snowboard Halfpipe team, is there too.

I am looking forward to watching, discussing, analyzing and sharing my thoughts about the Olympics over the next couple of weeks. As the world’s attention focuses on PyeongChang, I am sending my best wishes to all the athletes (especially Roni and Derek!), and I hope the 2018 Winter Olympics is fair, fun and memorable.

I Watch the Super Bowl for the Food and Commercials

super bowl

I made pizza for my daughters last night and buffalo chicken wings for my son. I also chopped up a bunch of vegetables and prepared a zesty and creamy and yet non-dairy ranch dipping sauce. The TV popped on at 5:59 pm and we watched sports. Sounds like a typical Sunday night in my house, with different people eating different food and sports on TV. But it wasn’t just any Sunday – it was the Super Bowl.

Like I wrote back in November after the Grey Cup, I am not much of a football fan. I love sports but have never fully grasped the concept of North American football – a bunch of grown men running up and down a field, throwing a ball and smashing each other to the ground. I know there are hundreds of more rules in baseball, but no matter how hard I try, I just can’t fully understand football (the Canadian or American version). It’s not that complicated, I know, but it’s just not for me.

Unless it’s Super Bowl Sunday.

I will openly admit, that for the most part, I love to watch the game to catch the commercials, the half-time show and to eat some traditional and fun football food. As my son’s interest in sports has developed, this event is definitely a must-watch on our calendar. Matthew even knows who many of the players are, many of the rules and the kinds of plays the athletes make. I follow the score and look up when there’s a great run, catch or turnover, but for the most part I’m barely aware of the game until play is called and the network goes to a break. With commercials, of course.

Put your hand up if you yell at the TV sometimes when you are watching a live show or you quickly press fast forward when watching something you recorded earlier. In 2018, we try our best to avoid commercials when we can and become infuriated when we are forced to watch them. But not during the Super Bowl.

Now that Canadians can watch the commercials live on the US networks during the game, Super Bowl is really fun. While most of the commercials aren’t exactly earth shattering, many of them do give me a good chuckle. We decided that this year or favourite was not a beer company, or for a new luxury car or soda pop, but Tide. Ya, the laundry detergent people:

 

Now back to the food. Last year, on Sunday, February 5, 2017 to be exact,  my family of five and I were driving back from our usual weekend of skiing at the cottage. I announced that it was Super Bowl that night, and I suddenly had a craving for chicken wings. So did everyone else in the car (okay maybe not the baby who was 8 months old at the time though already a good eater). I explained the popularity of the common chicken wing to my family, and we decided we just had to have them.

So, in the car we devised a plan to stop at a grocery store in the city to pick up the ingredients to prepare our chicken wings. This is not necessarily an easy task as we are kosher (to be explained further in a future post). I had to find a store in Toronto that had kosher chicken wings in stock, on Super Bowl Sunday. It took a few stops, but I found them. We feasted on chicken wings that night, watched some of the game (including the incredible New England Patriots’ comeback) and decided we had to do this again next year.

I was more organized this year and actually bought the chicken wings in advance as well as all the ingredients I needed to prepare our festive meal. My daughter threw me the loop in the car when she demanded pizza, but because of the fact that I am a mostly organized mother, I always have pizza ingredients on hand.

We arrived home from the cottage yesterday at 5:55 pm, and my TV was on by 5:59. The girls had their hot and freshly prepared pizza by 6:15, and the chicken wings were cooking for the rest of us (in my Instant Pot, of course!) before kick-off a few minutes later.

I am not a football expert, but I know that it was a great game. The score was close, there were some incredible plays and tense moments. The commercials were entertaining, and my chicken wings…. Yummy. The baby dipped her whole fist into the ranch dressing and enjoyed licking it off her hands, and Matthew finally learned how to properly eat a chicken wing.

And the Philadelphia Eagles beat the mighty New England Patriots and won their first ever Super Bowl. Congratulations to them!

It’s not just about the Score

score

When you play a game or a sport the person with the higher score at the end of it all is the winner. Or at least most of the time, as I guess the goal in golf is to achieve the lowest score. A game, at its core, is about winning and losing. It’s about the competition and one person or team beating the other. But I think that’s too simplistic as I believe with sports, in particular, it’s not just about the score.

For the purpose of this blog post, I am going to focus on sports. I am a big fan of many kinds of sports, both the individual and team versions. I have participated in countless games over my 40 plus years, and anyone that knows me well knows that I am not the competitive type. From baseball and hockey to skating and skiing, they are all a big part of my life.

When it comes to team sports, I will admit I usually participate from the comfort of my couch, as I watch on TV. Whether it be Major League Baseball or the National Basketball Association, as I watch the most elite athletes participate in the sport they love, I have to hope that they do this for more than just winning.

I don’t minimize the adrenaline rush that an athlete must feel when he raises the Stanley Cup above his head. His team scored more goals than the opponents did, and his team won. But getting to the championship game brings together so many factors.

Something I love about sports is the drive and determination needed to succeed. Whether the athlete is a 6-year-old child, a teenager, young adult or senior citizen, sports are about physical and mental strength and tremendous resolve. And I must note that success is not necessarily measured by coming out the winner, with the higher score.

Success can be about a team coming together and bonding as a group, maybe making new friends. Or it can be about learning a new skill or a start on the path to living a healthier life. Or even if at the end of the day your team had the lower score, maybe you as an individual, finished the day with a personal best.

Then there’s individual sports, in which I participate in more actively. Many individual sports, like skiing, swimming, skating or gymnastics, can be competitive if you follow that track, or it can also have no elements of judging and a score.

For example, my son, Matthew, loves to snowboard. He is a natural athlete and is seemingly comfortable with every sport he plays. Matthew picked up snowboarding a few years ago, and within a few weeks was flying down the hill. He went from beginner to advanced in a matter of just a couple of years. He joined the Development Team at our ski club this year. And he made this choice not because he hopes to be an Olympic athlete but because he wants to gain skills and spend time with friends.

Matthew is participating in a few snowboard competitions this winter, and I know that for him his score doesn’t matter. He wants to learn to ride faster, do a few tricks in the terrain park and enjoy the camaraderie of being part of a team.

Of course, sometimes it is just about the score. I want my Blue Jays to win a World Series again sometime, and I don’t doubt that the thousands of fans in Toronto who are part of “Leafs Nation” have had enough of the 50-year draught without a Stanley Cup.  You need to win more games than your competition to raise the Cup above your head. The quickest way to do that – score more goals, give up fewer goals and win as many games as you can.

How Many Steps does it take to get on the Ski Hill?

ski hill

Do you participate in winter sports? Skating? Hockey? Tobogganing? How about Bobsledding? Have you ever thought about all the steps you take from the moment you leave your house until you actually participate in your beloved winter sport? I thought about this this past weekend, as I enjoyed my time at the ski hill

I probably should not have gone down this path, like I did at the grocery store a few months ago (how many times do you move your milk before you actually drink it?). Honestly, it made me depressed. I could not believe how much preparation I do each time and how much stress I go through to participate in this winter sport.

Do I spend more time preparing myself for the ski hill than I do skiing? Very often the answer is, yes.

Now that I have you thinking about this too, let’s go through the process. Or I will take you through the process of getting me and my extended family to the ski hill on a winter weekend. Note that we are often up to sixteen people in our house. That alone often adds steps, complexity, craziness and even rage.

My typical ski day begins at 7:00 am, when my alarm goes off. I press snooze a couple of times and throw myself out of bed by about 7:15. To get a few minutes back of my day, I lay out our special ski clothes the night before. I grab my pile (my bed is usually filled with at least two sleeping children so I can’t get ready in my own bedroom) and head to the nearest empty bathroom.

By 7:30 I am dressed, my hair is kind of brushed and I am basically awake. My kids are still asleep. My sister, brother and their kids are usually awake at this point, and the collection of random children are loitering around the house. I head to the kitchen to prepare the ski hill lunch. Different people contribute to this process, and the kitchen is usually a scene of mayhem, as we attempt to also eat breakfast.

By 7:45 am I am back in my bedroom coaxing my children to wake up. I throw their clothes on their heads and  also throw some kind of bribe at them to get them moving. It works.

8:00 am and the house is awake and alive, with a mix of screaming adults, wild children and barking dogs. Some have eaten, the lunch coolers are packed and it’s time to put on the many layers necessary to stay warm for hours outside during a Canadian winter.

Which brings me to those layers. The first one is the stylish and tight-fitting long underwear. Next is the heavy sweater – it can be a fleece or wool-blend. On top of that I wear my packable down jacket, and my top layer is a heavy (but stylish of course) ski jacket. Try getting all those layers on a pile of rowdy children.

When the clock ticks to 8:15 am panic ensues as no one is ready. Children’s ski and snowboard boots must go on the feet, balaclavas on the heads and coats zipped closed. We toss the lunch cooler bags in the car, strap in the kids and we are off – hopefully by 8:30 am.

I have been awake for 90 minutes already and I’m just leaving the house.

It’s a 20-minute drive to the ski hill. We park and gently nudge the children along the snowy path from the parking lot to the locker to the meeting area for their group lessons. I wave good bye to my kids at 9:00 am. Now it’s time for me to get ready, or rather, to continue to get ready.

Back to the ski hill locker room. By 9:10 am it is, for the most part, child free and a little quieter and calmer. The adults wipe their brows and recover from the insanity of getting the children on the ski hill.

ski hill
Our loaded family ski locker

And now, for the ski boots. They are big, heavy and clunky. I walk like some mechanical robot when I wear them. But it’s the only way to protect my feet and ankles and to connect to the skis. Next comes my balaclava, helmet, goggles and two layers of gloves. I pull out my skis and poles and close the locker.

ski hill
How long does it take the adults to put on their boots?

It’s time to walk over to the actual ski hill.

ski hill
Starting the walk to the chairlift
ski hill
Skis are on and I’m ready to go

If I’m efficient, I can be on my way to participate in my beloved sport by 9:30 am – yes, 2 ½ hours after I wake up. We strap on our skis, line up at the chairlift, sit down and up we go. If it’s cold and windy like it was last weekend, I cover my face with my gloves and pull up my balaclava to protect every bit of bare skin. We “unload” (yes that’s what the sign actually says) off the chair and get ready to ski down the hill.

It can take me two or three hours, with many steps, to arrive at the top of the ski hill. Is it worth it?

Oh yes, it is.

I look out at the view in front of me – the glistening white snow and the frigid and almost frozen water of Georgian Bay – and I start to fly. All the stresses of the week and steps to get to the top of the ski hill disappear. I may only get in a few runs before I pick up my kids for lunch, but I’ll take it. Oh yes, it’s worth it.

Countdown to the Winter Olympics

Winter Olympics

It is 2018, so that means the world will come together this year for the Winter Olympics. Or at least most of the world. I am not ashamed to say that I love the Olympics, in particular the sports celebrated in the winter. Every four years I become an addict. I just can’t stop following it all during those two special weeks.

In the age of technology, I can follow every sport at every moment of the day. I switch between my television, computer and my phone. I download the latest app to keep me up-to-date at all times so that I don’t miss anything. With the Winter Olympics this year in PyeongChang, which is fourteen hours ahead from where I live, I know it won’t be easy.

If the Winter Olympics happen from February 9-25 this year, should I become nocturnal during those two weeks? For example, the opening ceremonies start at 8:00 pm local time on Friday, February 9. That’s 6:00 am in Toronto. I can start my day early for that. No problem.

But once the opening ceremonies are over I will need to go back to sleep for a while and be ready to watch the first snowboarding competition that starts (my time) at 8:00 pm on Friday night. So what if it’s only the Men’s Slopeside Qualification? I need to watch it.

The first Winter Olympics I remember well was back in 1988 when the games were hosted by the great city of Calgary, here in Canada. There were so many great moments that I recall from the Calgary games, but my favourite one was when I watched Elizabeth Manley perform the skate of her life in the women’s free skate. When she raised her arms high at the end of that long skate she knew the night was hers.

 

For junkies like me, it was great in 1994 that I only had to wait two years between Winter Olympics. With the six-hour time difference I watched as much as I could of the games in 1992 in the Savoy region of France, then a short time later enjoyed them again in Lillehammer, Norway.

One of my favourite Winter Olympics moments actually came on a day in the summer, when no games were happening. It was July 2, 2003. I worked at the Assignment Desk at Rogers Sportsnet at the time and was handed the job to bring in the live feed and manage the content for the announcement of the host city of the 2010 games. Vancouver was in the running, so as a national sports network we had to be ready.

The announcement happened at a meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Prague, Czech Republic. It came at 8:41 am local time. That means it was 2:41 am in Toronto.. I stayed at work all night. We had to be ready to watch the announcement live and be ready to bring in any relevant material.

We were a small group who worked all night, and we felt elated when Vancouver was announced as the winner. The Winter Olympics were returning to Canada. It was an incredible moment.

 

When the Winter Olympics finally arrived in Vancouver almost seven years later it was the culmination of years of excitement for me. I watched round-the-clock coverage. The three-hour time difference didn’t bother me. Staying up a bit later was no big deal for me. I was six months pregnant at the time and wasn’t really sleeping anyway.

The Winter Olympics in PyeongChang begin in just 37 days. I am very excited. I will watch as much of the competition that I can on TV, read about it on the internet and follow on social media. And for those of you who live in Toronto, you may not see me for a couple of weeks in February. Unless of course you are an Olympics addict too and will also become nocturnal. In that case, come watch with me.