Sports: Officiating, Part II

In the last blog, I wrote about the way officials are paid, trained and reviewed. This whole system needs to be improved if officiating is ever going to get better. Instant replay, which was supposed to correct bad calls has been nothing short of a disaster and needs to be revamped and re-defined. All the leagues need to do something, and then each league needs to do something more specific. All professional leagues need to do more performance reviews. The purpose of performance reviews is to improve the employee’s performance. Every corporation does this. A performance review is meant to give constructive criticism and praise to each employee, which should help each employee to do a better job. With all the video technology today, this should be a snap for professional sports to do. Apparently, the NBA is starting such a program and the other sport leagues should quickly follow. This should lead to weeding out the bad officials. If an official is not making any progress, then he should be demoted to a lower league if possible or dismissed from his job. No one should have the job security of professional officials. All officials should continue some kind of training for their craft a least a couple times of month. They need to be schooled on some of the tougher and more judgmental calls in their respective leagues. There is plenty of time to do this during the season in all the sports. Now let’s look at each individual sport.

Hockey needs to get rid of the philosophy of the so called make up call. The idea that penalties need to be pretty much equal during a game is just ridiculous. That mentality makes the game seem so weird. I know it has been going on forever but if the game ever wants to be taken seriously, it needs to end that, along with fighting. Pro football needs to get full time officials. If this means paying them even more, so be it. During the week the officials can review film, see where they made mistakes, and do practice scrimmages or attend other team’s practices to see plays and call penalties. There are more officials on the field in football, because it is difficult to see what is going on when there are 22 players running around trying to do mayhem on each other. They just need to be involved in the game full time. Baseball needs to set up a better review process, much like the NBA is starting to do. I think one of the excuses for Major League Umpires, about reviewing them, is that they have the longer schedule and season. They do get a day off, just like players. The review process can take place during the afternoon of a night game. These processes do not take lot of time if they are done frequently, around 2 times per month. I was going to mention the same thing concerning the NBA but that seems to be taking place as I am typing.

Then there is instant replay. An entire blog could be devoted to instant replay the way this has been botched by professional sports. It seemed like such a simple concept. Make sure we got the calls right. This should not have been a big deal. The first problem is the basic concept of replay got lost in the shuffle. It was meant to reverse obvious botched calls. It was not meant to change things that could not be seen with the naked eye. It was not meant to call a runner out at second because for .1 of a sec. he was 1 inch off the bag. It was not meant to re-spot a ball 3 inches one way or the other. It was not meant to change a fumble call when a runner lost the ball while is knee was 1 inch from the ground. You get the picture. There are a lot of ego trips going on here. We need to get back to the simple reason replay was introduced to the game. There would be two things that can help this. One, end the process that coaches and managers can challenge a call. First of all, in football the coaches are wrong about 60% of the time and on the baseball side about 50% of the time. That means the game is stopped unnecessarily over 50% of the time. All replay calls should be initiated by the replay official. If a call is wrong, it is wrong. Here is a big tip for all replay officials about what makes a call wrong. If you have to look at the replay more than twice, then the call is not wrong. The NFL is already doing this for a lot of plays. All turnovers, touchdowns, and plays with less than 2 minutes to go in the half or game can only be reviewed and initiated by the replay official. Baseball is particularly bad when it comes to managers initiating plays to review. It takes forever and slows down an already slow game. Secondly you need to have better communication between the replay official and the on field official. One solution for football, would be to have the replay official in a booth, right on the field. If he thought a play should be reviewed, then a light could go on that would be seen on top of the roof. Between electronic communication and the light, the ref should know right away if the play needs a review. The other thing in football is why does the on-field official have to look at the replay. Just another thing that slows down the game. Let the replay official make the call, tell the ref and let the game continue. One final thing about replay. The practice of the putting the replay up on the video screen at the stadium or arena should stop. Those screens are not that clear. All it does is to incite the fans and add an unneeded stressor on the replay official’s call. Replay should be part of the game, but it needs to get back to basics and be run much more smoothly, so the monster it has become can be vanquished.

Now see, that wasn’t hard was it. If these changes are made to way officials are handled and the way instant replay is done, then there will be less bad calls and the game will move along at the pace that it should. What sports needs to do, is to make sure that the official’s incompetence does not determine who wins a big game and a championship. It would be nice to see that just luck and team incompetence are the true keys to winning a championship. I do not expect to see this in my lifetime.

Meditation: Euthanasia

Euthanasia is defined as the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease or in an irreversible coma. The practice is illegal in most countries. When I read this, I did not realize that there may be some countries that have legal euthanasia. While there are a lot of countries that have laws that allow assisted suicide, there are only 3 that have legalized euthanasia. They are Luxembourg, Norway, and Belgium, with Norway being the first to do so, in 2002. Euthanasia at first glance seems like a straightforward process. If someone is having extreme pain and suffering, and it is due to a terminal illness, then the kindest most humane thing to do would be to terminate their life. What about a person that has extreme senility due to Alzheimer disease or aging, how much pain and suffering is going on there? It doesn’t take much of one’s imagination, to see how this is a very controversial subject. Being a veterinarian, I had firsthand experience in being the administrator of drugs to euthanize dogs and cats. Over a 44-year veterinary career, I euthanized well over 5000 dogs and cats, for various reasons. Of course, it was the owners of these animals that made the final decision, sometimes with or without my guidance. Even though euthanasia in theory sounds like a kind and gentle thing to do, I would not support making human euthanasia legal. Let’s look more closely at my experience in veterinary medicine.

This is just one veterinarian’s opinion, when it came to the decision-making process of putting their beloved pet to sleep, I grouped people into three areas. I felt 50% of people euthanized their pet too soon, 25% waited too long, and 25% did it at the right time. This did not include people that put their pet to sleep for non-medical reasons. Some of these reasons I felt were legitimate, like financial restraints, the owner not being able to take care of the dog, and the owner’s death, where the owner wanted the pet euthanized, rather than go to another home or shelter. Sometimes, and fortunately, this did not happen often, but the reason would be rather ridiculous. I would have somebody want to put their pet to sleep because it had fleas, or they were moving, or the kids, who wanted the dog in the first place, had moved out, and would not take the dog. Naturally, I would refuse these requests, even knowing that another veterinarian might do it, or they would just take the pet to a shelter. I did not include people that because of the religious beliefs, would not euthanize a pet under any circumstances. Most people would come to the decision to euthanize their pet too soon. They came to this decision for various reasons. They overestimated how much the pet is suffering. If the dog or cat is eating and drinking and seemingly moving around ok, and still enjoys interactions with the owner, then the pet must not be doing too badly. I think that some people just got tired of taking care of the pet’s problem, or it may have become too costly. These people agonized over their decision but decided to euthanize, when the pet probably had at least a few good months left. I know some people waited too long for the simple fact they could not bring themselves to do it, until it became unbearable to see the condition that the pet was in. Here is the main reason I think that euthanasia can be sometimes, just too convenient. Over the years of practice, I saw many clients with their pets, that other veterinarians had recommended euthanasia. In well over 80% of those cases through a more thorough examination and tests, and relatively inexpensive treatments, those animals’ lives were prolonged at least 1 year or more. The quality of life for those pets were from good to excellent. In my view a year is very significant when you are talking about a dog or cat. There was no question in my mind that euthanasia was taking the easy way out for those veterinarians.

Now I know euthanasia for humans is different than what it is in veterinary medicine. The biggest is that a person is making the decision for his or herself. That does not mean however, that other people cannot be an influence on that decision. Relatives and close family members could put undue pressure on someone that they feel is having extreme pain and suffering. The opposite could be true where family members could influence a person to continue the pain and suffering, just because they do not want to lose them forever. There is no question that deciding to end one’s life can be extremely difficult but should be made with no outside influence whatsoever, other than the person’s physician. Each and every case is so unique, that it is impossible to make some general recommendation on when it is time euthanize an individual. I have watched many people agonize over that decision, when it comes to their pets, and that decision may have lifelong consequences. Those consequences may be even more so, when a loved one is involved. It does seem like a great way to alleviate much pain and suffering, and maybe someday, as a society we might progress where that decision will be allowed to be made solely by the individual involved. I do not think we have reached that point yet. We should allow the natural progression of disease take place, until that day comes.

Meditation: Emotion

Emotion is a very complex feeling. It is something that has been hard to define. Looking at various dictionaries here are some of the attempts. Merriam-Webster defines emotion as a conscious mental reaction subjectively experienced as a strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body. Freedictionary. com states that emotion is an affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate, or the like, is experienced, as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness. Volitional means making a conscious choice, rather than an emotional choice. The Cambridge Dictionary simply states that it is a strong feeling like love or anger or any strong feeling in general. In most circles being “emotional” is considered a bad trait. People have a tendency to think that feelings and emotions are the same, but basically it is emotions, that lead to feelings. Emotions and feelings arise in different parts of the brain. Another way of putting it is that emotions are aroused before feelings. You could write a blog, or even a book on just trying to define and explain emotions. What is more interesting is how people and mental health experts feel about emotions.

There is a general consensus that we should try, and hide are emotions, most of the time. Crying, particularly by men, and even more so if the man is a leader, is considered a sign of weakness by some. Is there somewhere that we could see, where some part of our society has become more emotional over the last 20 to 30 years, and the effects that that may have had. You do not have to look very far to find that that has happened in the world of sports. Players today, show more emotion, than any time in history. It used to be, that teams and players would only show a lot of emotion when they scored a touchdown or even waited until the game was over. Now players are fist pumping, bat flipping, dancing, and going through extreme gyrations, just when they make a good play. It doesn’t seem to make any difference, when it takes place during the game, or what the score is, players will show their emotions when they make a good or great play. Even coaches on the sidelines are getting into the act by running up and down the field, clapping, fist pumping, exhorting the crowd, and showing every level of emotion during the game. The stoic, stone-faced coach is a dying breed. Has showing all this emotion been bad or good for all of these sports. You can find opinions on both sides of the question, on how all this emotional behavior has affected sports. If you google “being emotional” you will find sites that take a positive spin on being emotional and some trying to give advice on how to stop being so emotional. When people talk about the positive things of being so emotional, they feel that being emotional can help you be more aware of your own and other people’s feelings. The negative spin of being emotional, is that most of time, the emotional person becomes a big pain in the ass. There is no question in my mind, that people are showing more emotion in public, than they have in the past. I think it goes a long with people’s desire to discuss their dirty past, so to speak, in a public forum. Quite frankly I don’t see any good coming from that. Is there a best way of dealing with our emotions?

There is no question that emotions need to be acknowledged and treated kindly. Emotions should not be judged, or need to be justified. The feelings these emotions create need to be examined, and an attempt made to see what their root cause is. Emotions are just another sign, that the inward journey is the most important one you can take. Certain overwhelming, catastrophic, and unexpected events, may cause emotions that cannot or should not be repressed. In the normal, day to day events in life, we need to find a way to deal with the emotions, that could be detrimental to ourselves, and those around us. Relaxed deep breathing is an excellent method to deal with unwanted or detrimental emotions. This can allow you to get over the situation that is causing these emotions, and then you can express these emotions when you are alone, or with one other person. Expressing emotions when you are by yourself, should be just as effective and more positive, than expressing them in a situation where harm may be done. Caring and being emotional can seem to go hand in hand. Many times, the thing that you care about can be harmed if you become emotional in certain situations. You have to take the emotion out of the situation, if you want to make clear and precise decisions. Emotions never should be repressed. You must know when the proper time is to show them and express them. The inward journey can help.

Meditation: The Scary Inward Journey

Meditation has been around for centuries, and there are many benefits from meditating. If you google the benefits of meditation, you will find an almost endless list. First there is the 12 science-based benefits. Science based is a popular term now. The benefits are, reduces stress, controls anxiety, promotes emotional heatlh, enhances self-awareness, lengthens attention span, may reduce age related memory loss, can generate kindness, may help fight addictions, improves sleep, helps control pain, can decrease blood pressure, and last but certainly not least, accessible anywhere. Whew, I am exhausted already. Something called the EOC Institute (I’m not sure what EOC stands for) but they are in San Franscisco, say there are 141 benefits to meditation. Needless to say, I am not going to list them. There are other sites that will tell you the benefits of meditation, with the numbers ranging from 6 to 12. Some are into the word science based, while other sites will use the term surprising, when referring to the benefits of meditation. So, if there are so many benefits to meditation, why don’t more people meditate? Even a meditator like myself, really does not believe that meditation can have that many benefits. So, it is no wonder people that don’t meditate are skeptical. There are a lot of opinions of why people don’t meditate, found on the web. Those sites are also into numbers, like 5, 9, and 10 reasons people do not meditate. I was surprised that no one had 141 reasons people don’t meditate, because I bet there are. After reading about 10 articles, on why people don’t meditate, there seems to be a consensus of about 5 or 6 things that keep people from meditating. They range from not enough time, too difficult, being associated with spiritualism and religion, I could never do it, and I think it is just plain stupid.

None of the articles covered the reason that I think that people do not meditate, or if they start, they suddenly quit, and never really get back to doing it. One of the benefits listed above was enhanced self-awareness. This is the big stumbling block when it comes to meditation. Getting to know yourself, like you have never known yourself before can be very scary. The fear of knowing who you really might be, and facing some of your not so good qualities, can be quite traumatic. Fear is the most powerful emotion known to man. When fear is defined, it is always outward forces, that are defined as fearful. What happens when the source of your fear is you? There are many things that a person may not be proud of, or want to forget, rather than have them explained. We have all made decisions that may have affected other people badly, that really did not need to happen, but did because of our actions. There are always things that we feel we should or could do better. Everyone needs to take that inward journey in order to face and resolve issues, that have been caused by unwanted behavior and emotions, that have originated from within. Anytime, we have done things in the past, that were not very kind, we have tried to rationalize that behavior, by blaming someone else’s actions. There is no question, when you meditate you cannot escape yourself. You will get very close to exploring some of that behavior, but you will pull back out of fear, to keep from learning what kind of person you are. That fear may keep you from ever meditating again. Does this explain why people never even start to meditate. Yes, I think it does. Even though you do not meditate, or maybe have no intention of meditating, you still can not totally escape what you know to be true, deep down in your inner sanctum. For people that do meditate, and have faced their inner being head on, and continue to nurture and be kind to themselves, despite their faults, are the ones who can be kind to their fellow man as well. Even though meditation is a simple and easy process to do, and really takes only 20 minutes per day, it still takes lots of courage and guts to face and love the real you.

Golf: More on Starting the Downswing.

The handicap season ended this past Sunday in Western Pennsylvania, with me adding two more rounds in the seventies, to end the season with a 5.2 index. I started the season at 4.9 but before I changed the way I started the downswing my index had climbed to 6.9. Of my last 20 rounds I now have only 2 rounds posted in the 80’s. This is by far the most consistent golf I have ever played. I have not shot any real good rounds but my 14 rounds have been between 74 and 79. As I discussed in my previous blog putting as had a lot to do with my sudden improved scoring, it always does. If you don’t putt, you do not score. Despite all the practice, swing changes, and obsessing we do about our golf swings, putting remains the most important part of the game. It is one of many reasons that this game is so goofy. I know that many of you like to think that greens in regulation is the most important stat, but if you can not finish the job, then the score will not reflect your better ball striking. Striking a golf ball, and controlling where you want it to go, can seem like a very hard skill to learn, while putting seems so simple and easy. Until you accept that putting is the most important part of the game, you will always be frustrated when it comes to golf. It doesn’t mean that you can hit the ball all over the place, and shoot par or better. It is important to find an efficient and easy way to make contact with ball. The first move to start the downswing has always been a little controversial, with many well know instructors advocating different ways, to do one of the most important fundamentals of the golf swing. Let’s look as to why this is, and what many believe is the proper way to do it.

One of the basic principals of the golf swing, has always been, the downswing starts before the backswing is fully completed. There is video proof of this, and I am not going to dispute it. However, when you try to do this in the golf swing, it usually leads to poor results. This is something that just happens naturally, and you do not have to really think about it. Here are some of the many recommendations on how to start the downswing, that you will see in many instructional articles or videos, by well know instructors. A slight forward movement of the hips, with the hips turning. Kicking in the right knee toward the ball. If you lift your heel on the backswing, then placing the heel back on the ground should initiate the downswing. Begin straightening the left knee. Shifting the weight to the left side with the lower body. Dropping of the right shoulder with the arms following. There are other suggestions but these are the ones that are seen most often. What they all leave out of course, is the hands. The one thing that actually connects you to the club. It is the one and only thing, that allows you to feel the clubhead. The great fear in golf, is that you will use your hands to soon in the swing, and lose your power. The solution to the problem, makes it seem that you should not use your hands at all, or try to throw them in at the last moment. The idea is that the body will control the hands. Allowing the hands to initiate the downswing, by pulling straight down from the top of the backswing, no matter where that top of the backswing is, let’s the hands control the body, and forces the shifting and turning of the hips. Doing this method, will get your hands where they are supposed to be, at the halfway point of the downswing, and you will begin to make much more solid contact with the ball. It is a most simplistic method. Hands pulling straight down and then firing away with no inhibitions. This method works for all shots, from short game shots, to chipping and bunker play. Once you activate the hands for the second half of the swing, you will see that the game is going to become much easier. This will stop you from throwing your hands at the ball, which causes the over the top action of slicing and pulling. It will also stop you from having a too shallow of an angle of attack, from the hands being to far inside during the downswing. It has improved my ball striking immensely and should do the same for you.

Golf will be sporadic from this point on until about the middle of March. Hopefully, I will be able to get out and continue to improve this downswing method. As I progress or digress, which ever it may be, I will continue to update via the blog. Have a great holiday and do eat a lot of turkey and enjoy!

Sports: Injuries

One of the big factors in sports, especially the major team sports, is injuries. Teams that can stay healthy, and seem to avoid a slew of injuries, have a better chance of getting a championship.  Injuries throughout the history of sports, have always been a bit of a mystery.   Some players seem to avoid injuries, and other players always seemed to be plagued, with various injuries.  Some years teams will experience the same thing. One year there seems to hardly any injuries, and the next year the whole team seems to go on the shelf.  What I find interesting, you do not hear much about teams in any sport, trying to avoid injuries.  It seems they leave it up to Devine intervention.  All teams, in all sports, seem to go through some heavy duty workout routines, but they really don’t seem to make much difference, in injury avoidance.  I do not think there is any doubt that football has the most injuries, with the other three sports, baseball, basketball, and hockey running neck and neck, with maybe hockey having the second most.  The latter three seem to have their own set of unique issues, when it comes to injuries.  Baseball with the arm issues, basketball with the knees, and hockey with various upper body injuries. If you google why one player seems to be able to avoid injury, and others seem to be prone to injuries, there are lots of articles. Let’s look at some theories, which for the moment don’t seem to be helping much.

One theory is  the micro injury or tear, which goes unnoticed, until the repetitive action of the motion causes a bigger problem. These are termed, the injuries of redundancy of action.  Working out can cause these injuries, and throwing motions in the respective sport, can be good examples, of potential injury causing problems. One study looking at football injuries, narrowed it down to three issues.  Muscle Imbalance, Core Stability Deficits, and Poor Neuromuscular Control.  There has been developed a set of 7 Functional Movement Screens which evaluates the aforementioned factors, and is  scored anywhere from 1 to 3.  The top score is 21 and anyone scoring lower than 14 is consider prone to injury due to having a problem with any of the three.  Of course, if you are resistant or prone to something, it must be genetics.  Apparently collagen and bone density is the big factor hear. Another factor that is always considered when something has gone wrong, is stress.  The stress factor in over emphasizing winning, could lead to an increase in injuries, some hypothesize.  I looked at one team that was probably under a lot of  stress to win, the Green Bay Packers of the 1960’s and compared them with the best  team of this past decade the New England Patriots.  I looked at it from the standpoint on how many players from each team were able to play every game during the regular season.  Now granted, in 1960 the season was only 12 games, but then expanded to 14 games in 61, and for the rest of the decade.  The Patriots had to play 16 game seasons.  The Packers, averaged 21 players a season that played every game, with their best year being 23 players in 1960 and their worst was  17 players in 1961.  For the Patriots of the past decade, they averaged 17 players, who played every game, with their best year being 2016 and 17, where they had 21 players play every game, and their worst year was 2015, with only 13 players playing every game. Despite the fact that we should have more information on the function of the human body, the number of injuries, at least in football, seem to be worse, than they were 50 to 60 years ago.

Nobody seems to be very concerned that injuries seem to be dominating the sport news of today.   It seems like work out routines are becoming more and more intense, even though there seems to be more injuries everyday.   There was one interesting comment by Zack Greinke when spring training was in full bloom, before the pandemic.  On his first outing of the season his fastball velocity was up when compared with other spring trainings in the past.  When asked about that Greinke  responded, that he was throwing more during the offseason, but worked out less. He also stated that he felt better, by not working out as much. I know this is only one athlete, but it makes you think back to a time in sports, when essentially nobody really “worked out”.  They just seemed to play their sport and they played it often.  Back in the 20’s and 30’s baseball players almost played the game year around. They barnstormed the south playing games against players of the Negro Leagues.  We always talk about the long season in baseball, but players of that era practically played the game year around, with no off season.  I still feel the best exercise for golf, is to simply swing the golf club.  You do not have to hit a ball, but simply take a club and keep swinging.  I am not too sure if isolating on one muscle, or a group of muscles, is all that great for the body, as a whole.  I do not know if that is the answer for the injury issue in sports, but I am sure going to watch Zach Greinke this year to see how he does.  Stay safe and watch you step.


Meditation: Normal

Normal is a word, we have been hearing a lot of lately.  Can’t wait until things get back to normal.  What will the new normal look like?  Will we ever get back to normal?  Normal is defined as, conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected. Most reporting in the media is optimistic, that we will return to some kind of normalcy.  The way things have gone lately, that seems hard to believe.  We seem to be in a never ending spiral of flattening the curve, with little reduction in the number of cases, on a day to day basis.  In fact, it is rather freaky, how each day, seems to be about the same, in each state, on the number of cases per day. In the 22 days of May, there have been 17 days, where the new cases have totaled between 20 and 26 thousand per day, in the United States.   Three days, there were over 26,000 cases, but two of those were the first two days of May.  There have been 2 days under 20,000 cases with last one being May 17th.  For 17 out of 20 days, the new cases have not varied by more than  2 to 3 thousand per day in the entire country. There are 18 states where the number of cases are decreasing but 4 of those states were some of the hardest hit, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Jersey.   There are 8 states that the cases are increasing.  People keep talking about a vaccine, but even the most optimistic estimates are at the first of the year, and that’s with no set backs.  How likely do you think that is, when trying to make a vaccine for a disease, that we don’t totally understand, yet. So what are the chances of seeing a normal life in 2020?

I would say slim and none.  That does not mean, that we will not be doing a little more than we are doing now, but for this year, this is what I think will not return. Fans in the stands.  Team sports, if they are played at all this year, will be in empty stadiums.  Restaurants will not even be close to normal, if they even  open at all.   Waiters with masks on, my appetite is disappearing as I type.   Youth sports  are done for this year.  Mall shopping will be at 20% volume.  Air travel will be lucky to be at 30% capacity, especially since they showed how irresponsible they have been, by packing planes and risking people’s lives.  Hotels and motels with be no better.  Travel in general, will be way down, for the entire year.  Jobs will be non existent, in the above areas.   Staying at home, and having a good time with known friends and family, will be the new normal.  Hopefully, there will be some live sports to watch on television.  In nice weather, there will be some outside dining to be enjoyed. But life as we have known it, is officially gone. Get use to it.  Make the best of it.  Wear a mask if you go into a place of business.  Maybe summer will help in defeating the virus. I think there is more of a chance of a treatment than a vaccine that may help get us back to our previous life.  There is only one thing certain at this point and that is the virus is ruling the country for the next 7 months.

For now, meditate and be appreciative for what you have.  Good health, and well being, and hope that the people closest to you, stay healthy.  Even with this new normal, life can be good.  There is joy, in just being outside, and breathing some clean air, and the air is a lot cleaner, since everybody has had to stay home. People will have to adapt, and find a new way to make a living, in many cases.  This pandemic has and will make life difficult for the next  12 to 24 months guaranteed. The great depression lasted 11 years and we have people now, that can not or will not shelter in place for 3 months, for the health and safety of the nation.  Normal now, will be sacrifice and suffering both economically and medically and there is nothing that can be done about it.  It’s time to buckle in and hang on, and hope that things don’t  get worse.  For now, the virus is the new normal but hopefully not super long.  Take a deep breath.

Food: How Did It Get So Important

Food is a necessity.  Without taking in food, you would die in about 6 weeks or less. We all have to eat.  You do not even have to eat healthy, to survive.  You must supply your body with fuel, to function. In the modern world, food is much more important than that. Food is associated with events and activities.   Popcorn at movies, Peanuts, cracker jacks and hot dogs at baseball games, the hot dog at turn, in golf, and cake at birthday parties.   Food has a whole day devoted to it, called Thanksgiving.  If the Pilgrims only knew what they started, they would have given thanks by only drinking water.  Even at the most casual get togethers, like playing cards, book clubs, and watching sports on TV, the host will feel an obligation to provide some food. So how did food go from becoming a necessity, to becoming the part of almost everything we do socially, to the point that sometimes it is the main event?  There are lots of ideas about the subject, and all the things that food can do, to make any social event better, and how much it shows you care, by providing food, and lots of it, at an event that you are hosting.  But no where is there any mention, on how this process all came about. There had to be sometime in history, where people got together to do something, and food was no where to be found. But there seems to be no documentation of this.  Even very old movies, made in the 1920’s show people gathering together, and eating and drinking, in almost the same way, that we do today. Naturally I have some theories, and there is very little data elsewhere, to dispute it.

It all boils down to the rich and famous.   There was a time in our history, particularly during the depression and World War II that food was hard to come by.  Even so, if you had money, then food was plentiful.  What better way for the rich and famous  to show how much money they had, by serving lots of  food at any big social function.  As times got better and food became more plentiful, and less costly, it was a way for the middle class to be just like the rich and famous, by having food included, in any social event that they were going to have. Plus, it was not a problem for the rich to distance themselves from everyday people, by other means.   Today, with the corona virus taking away all social functions and contact, food has become less fun.  We have returned to the day, where food, now is just a necessity, that we have to cook for ourselves, and whoever we are sheltering in place with.   Once this pandemic is over, I am sure food again, will take its place as the center piece of most any social function.  The way things are now, it is hard to believe that this will ever be.  We are a more open society today, than we were 100 years ago. Today, you can have quite a diverse group of people getting together for fun, food, and a good time, wherever that may be.  Food is taking a back seat, as the pandemic is moving on and on and on.  With so many questions on what will happen, concerning the virus, food has lost a lot of its importance.  So, no matter what started  food having to be at the center of all social events, these last two months have shown, that it is something that is ingrained in our beings, and is not helping us get through this crisis.

Hopefully, we will again, be able to enjoy food with our friends and family, in the not too distance future.   Food has been a big part of the human experience for a long time. This pandemic could affect how we enjoy and feel about food, for the rest of our lives. Let’s hope that we can all get through this, with as few emotional scars as possible, and that everyone we know remains healthy and safe.  As things begin to open up, I hope there will be no major setbacks in the near future.   I can smell those hot dogs already.


Meditation: Thoughts

When you write about meditation and discuss thoughts, it is usually what to do with them while you are meditating. But for  this blog, I am just going to wing it, and discuss my thoughts, about the last 3 weeks. It has been that long, since I have written anything on the blog.  It has been a very strange time in our history, and time does march on however, no matter how mundane the days feel.  The days just seem to roll into one another, with the weather not being that great, with a few nice days thrown in.  I feel that the world is standing still, and that’s kind of the way I feel, just kind of muddling along, in this world of sheltering in place.  There are lots of ways people are trying to express themselves, about the pandemic, and are feeling various emotions.  They range from being anxious, to fearful, frustrated, angry, and depressed. I just kind of feel numb, through the whole experience.  Like anytime in one’s life, there are always ups and downs, and this is no exception.  Let’s take a closer look at those ups and downs.

On the upside, I have Facetimed with my grand kids twice weekly, over the last 6 weeks, which is much more than we ever had in the past.  While this not like seeing them in person, it is pretty cool, and  everybody seems to be doing all right, and is staying healthy. I don’t know when I will be flying out there again, but hopefully by mid summer.   I have watched some shows, that  I would have probably never  seen, if it was not for the pandemic.    I have been able to walk more.   I have gone into West Virginia, where the golf courses are open, and played 4 rounds of golf.  My game is still pretty good, despite the long lay off.  I am cooking more, and have made 3 batches of chocolate chip cookies.  I am meditating longer and feeling some benefit.   I have enjoyed watching some old sporting events. We have been able to get all the food and basic products that we need. It’s like any situation, things could be a lot worse.

Now for the downside, which is easier to see and express.  The biggest thing is the uncertainty, and despite the social distancing ,the possibility of getting sick. It is more worrisome for me, of giving the disease, than getting the disease. I know there is a lot of uncertainty about the disease, but I think the media really does not help our concerns.  They feel the need to spread fear and panic rather than find out some answers.  Here are two questions I would like to have answers. How did the Corona Virus get into a pork plant in South Dakota? I understand how it spread, but how did it get in? Maybe some spring break people brought it back from Florida. The second question is, who are the health officials that the governor of Georgia claims he is listening to, that allows him to open his state up to just about every business. Would some one please interview these people.  For the first time in our history we are using humans for guinea pigs for controlled studies.  That is essentially what is going on in Georgia, and will happen in Las Vegas if the casinos open.  This by far, will be the most interesting two weeks of the pandemic.  Will Georgia pay the price for reopening too soon, or will the explosion of the disease not happen in two weeks.  The people of Georgia are going to be the Corona lab mice, whether they want to be or not.  I want to see who is going to be the first person to get the Corona Vaccine.  I nominate Bill Gates since he seems to feel that you can fast track a vaccine.   This will be the most interesting and possibly scary 6 months in the history of the world.  All I can say is lets hope that Trump does not think there is a nuclear cure for the Corona Virus. Hopefully my writing brain will perk up in the next few days and I will blog something in under 3 weeks.

Sports: Can’t Buy Me Luck

For those of us that remember the Beatles, one of their big hits was the song, “Can’t Buy Me Love”.  Well, the same thing can be said about luck, just ask the New York Yankees. In baseball, where there is very little limitations on what teams can spend to sign players, the Yankees have one of the biggest payrolls in baseball, and have built a juggernaut of a team.  Last year, despite having an unbelievable number  of injuries, this team still had enough talent to win more games, than anybody in the American League.  They signed Gerrit Cole to a record contract, and I made the comment, that they may win more games than any team in history.  Of course, that won’t happen, because the season will probably have less games, because of the Corona Virus. But the injury bug continues to haunt them, which would have affected their season, anyway.   That is one type of luck that affects sports, the injury bug.  This blog is going to discuss the  luck, that happens during the game.  Luck has always been a part of sports and life, that is  uncontrollable.  Everyone has heard the saying, I’d rather be lucky than good.  Nobody in the media ever will say that the only reason a team won a championship, was because they were lucky.   How much has luck been a factor in the various sports. and is it given too much  or not enough credit, when evaluating why a game turned out the way it did?  Which sport does luck play the biggest factor?  Let’s take a look at each of the four major team sports.

There is no question in my mind, that the sport where luck plays the biggest factor is football.  The reasons just pile up.  The shape of the ball is an oblong sphere.  Because of this, you have  crazy bounces, and deflections, that can have a major effect on the outcome of a game.   All the championships are decided by one game. If this was the case in other sports, there would be a whole different list of champions.   There is lots of down time in football.  The clock is running during  huddles and players going back to the huddle.  Even though the game is 60 minutes long, there is not near that amount of time, when action is taking place.  I know there are comebacks in football but time can be stalled more in football than any other sport.  The next down the luck line is hockey.  Again the puck is a disc that has a tendency to take crazy jumps and bounces, which will affect the game.  Goals can be deflected into the net, which can add to the luck of the game.  In the playoffs you rarely see the team with the best record making a long run into the finals. In a seven game series luck can be even a bigger factor. No other sport has  as a person on their team that can make or break them like a goal tender. He can single-handedly win or lose a game or a series.     Next is baseball.  Baseball has a round ball, and a long season.  There is an old saying, in the long run, class will tell.   Baseball has no clock, so teams can overcome a bad luck streak in a game, to make a come back.  In order to win a game, a team must perform one task.  They have to get the last out. Some teams have never gotten that last out. No sitting on a lead in baseball.  But in my mind, basketball is the sport where luck plays the least factor.  The big factors are, the ball is round, the game is indoors, you must make an offensive move in 24 seconds, and you are limited on what you can do to stop a team from scoring.  The proof of all this is, unlike hockey, usually the team with the best record during the regular season wins the NBA Championship. In fact it’s happened 12 times since 2000, almost double any other sport.

Even though I think luck is the biggest factor in football, I no way mean to imply that it was only luck that enabled the Steelers to win 4 Super Bowls in the 70’s, teams like the 49er’s and Cowboys to dominate their respective decades, and New England to dominate the 2000’s .  In fact luck, can go both ways.  Maybe it was some bad luck that kept these teams from dominating even more. So how much of a factor is luck when it comes to the various sports?  What makes a championship team?  You need a combination of talent, hard work, and coaching to go along with luck to be able win a title in any sport.  One of the four components, acquiring talent, needs to have some good luck to go along with it, too.  In football I think the break down is this:  Talent 33%, Hard Work 26%, Coaching 25% and Luck 16%.  For the other sports, I think there is a gradual decline in how much luck is a factor in winning a Championship, coming down to 6% for basketball.  The rest of the factors probably have some variability from sport to sport, but luck will always have to be figured into the equation, when giving reasons for teams winning one or multiple championships.   People never want to think that something so unrelated to the business of the game, could contribute as much as it does, to winning it all. Dropped balls, missed or bad calls, wind, bad hops, deflected balls, that do or do not end up in the opponents hands, hitting or not hitting posts and poles, all have played significant roles, in how important games, have turned out. Post game analysis always wants to talk about all the great plays, and how well coached, and talented the winning team is.   When a player drops a ball in the end zone, it has nothing to with the other teams talent, hard work or coaching. The bottom line is this.  Nobody really wants to give luck, whether it is good or bad, it’s just due. If it wasn’t for luck the sports world would look a lot different when it comes to who won, what championships.

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