Boomer Blog: The sport of thinking


Last weekend I paid more attention than usual to sporting events. My personal prejudices against winter sports being played during June notwithstanding, I did check scores – after all, the LeBron James Cavaliers may finally bring an NBA championship home to Ohio. And at least I know the Chicago Blackhawks and the Tampa Bay Lightning are vying for the NHL Stanley Cup, although the mere fact that the Sunshine State even has a professional ice hockey team defies my sense of logic.

I always try to remain updated on NASCAR because of my nephew’s racing team. I must admit, however, that I know Jamie McMurray had another top ten finish only by looking up the results on the computer.

I did actually watch American Pharoah win the elusive Triple Crown of racing, although the only three horse races I watch all year are the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the decisive Belmont Stakes.

But it was my tennis viewing that defined this particular sports weekend. I watched Serena Williams represent herself and America well by winning the French Open, and I also saw the world’s top male player upset by the ninth best guy – all on the red clay courts of Paris.

When I watch tennis on television, I also do lots of cross-stitching. The sewing allows my mind to wander through a hodge-podge kind of thinking. My brain meanders from the beauty of petunias to trying to remember the first names of the Hardy boys, all within the space of four and a half minutes. Here are the random results of all that tennis, sewing – and thinking.

During the coverage of Saturday’s big horse race, sportscasters made countless references to the 37-year gap since the last Triple Crown winner; but it was the phrase “back in 1978” that made me cringe chronologically. In my opinion, “back in” should be used with the 1940’s or 1950’s, maybe the 1960’s. But 1978? 1978 at best was just a while ago, wasn’t it? According to this method of mathematics, in only 22 years people will be saying “back in 2000”!

As if that age-awareness attack were not enough, I re-cringed as I completed a community health survey. The first question cemented my inclusion in America’s oldest demographic, and I realized I am now in the last age category: 65+. Saturday was a very aging day.

After completing the survey, I mistakenly inverted the postage stamp on my natural gas bill. I recall that in my teen years an upside-down stamp signified love, so I apologize to the people at Columbia Gas.

Some of my college friends used another signal for love. At Otterbein we had no phones in our rooms; a single telephone on each floor of the dorm was our connection with the outside world. Many a co-ed late at night sat in the darkened hallway, community phone in hand, sharing “sweet nothings” with her off-campus honey. It was quite popular then to hang up, redial the number on the rotary telephone, and let the boyfriend’s phone ring a prescribed number of times to signify undying love.

Until this very moment, I was also prepared to reminisce about starry-eyed teenagers ending love notes with S.W.A.K., which I assumed my generation originated. An online research check revealed this “Sealed with a Kiss” abbreviation first appeared in 1909 as a husband apologized to his wife for the bad spelling and writing errors in his letter and urged her to take all the mistakes as kisses. The romantic acronym was later popularized by World War I soldiers in their letters from “over there.” Who knew?

Several of the athletic competitions I watched were televised on ESPN, where I also watched the National Spelling Bee a few weeks ago. I have never been able to make the connection between the all-sports-all-the-time channel and the very academic “sport” of spelling, although a few years ago there was a girl who jumped as she pronounced each letter of each word she spelled.

The contestants this year were truly amazing, especially when I think that most of the words they spelled did not even exist “back in 1961” when I unsuccessfully represented Champaign County at the state spelling bee in Columbus. And somewhere along the line, the spelling powers-that-be changed the rules under which I had spelled: it is now possible to declare co-champions. Is not the whole idea to name the best speller in the country, not the two best spellers? What is next – Super Bowl co-champs? By the way, the name of America’s new Triple Crown winner has been misspelled ever since it was submitted incorrectly during an online naming contest.

With all that televised tennis, I had to suffer through scads of commercials, one of which always makes me yell at the screen. There is a website whose claim to fame is brain training. People wanting sharper thinking skills are urged to take an online test, after which a personalized program of brain exercises will be designed. My shouted reply each of the three times the commercial appeared: “Read a book!”

Such was the weekend journey through the mind of this aging spelling bee champion who still believes in young love and yells at the television while she sews. Congratulations, Serena Williams! Congratulations, Jamie McMurray! Congratulations, American Pharoah/Pharaoh – however you spell your name! And it was Frank and Joe Hardy…