Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What's your greatest personal sports triumph?


Me, I was never much of an athlete, so I have to cling to a few playground memories.
  • Once, in a 2-on-2 pickup game in college, I went on a tear, sinking my patented (but usually terrible) running baseline hook over and over. My buddy and I beat two superior players with that shot plus hardnosed defense, and I'm still proud about it.
  • In high school, before I had even learned to shoot an open jumper, some friends schooled me -- in a good way -- about how to play serious man-to-man defense on the blacktop. Later that year, playing in a P.E. game, I caused problems for the best athlete in that class, who was running the point for the other team. (He was from the barrio and knew lots about fixing cars; I was an egghead on the school newspaper.) I knew I impressed him when, as he tried to set up a play from the top of the key, he smiled and said "You don't f--- around, do you?"
  • In fourth grade, through a combination of guile, teamwork, and simply running away, I found myself as the last surviving member of my team in flag-tag. My opponent was Billy Piper, by far the best athlete in the elementary school -- the golden boy. Though my teammates watched with dread, in the critical moment I managed a matador's subtle dodge when Billy came at me. I still remember staring at that flag in my hand. For once -- possibly for the first time in my life -- I had delivered victory for my team.
Now, surely you can do better than this. What are your greatest moments of sporting glory?

(Image source.)

24 comments:

redplasticmonkey said...

Little League - I was terrible at the plate. Then a coach had me adjust my stance to back up from the plate a couple of inches. I hit 10 out of 10 pitches out during practice and hit two home runs the next (and final) game.

adamcohen said...

Summer camp in New Hampshire (overnight - 7 weeks). I was 13, named starting QB for Color War flag football team. Our team was a huge underdog, the staff didn't split teams evenly - played 13-15 yr olds together. I threw for 1 TD, ran for one, underdogs won 14-0. Not quite "Meatballs"-esque but pretty close.

Mark Sylvester said...

AT 50 my wife introduced me to the martial art Hapkido. Since that time I received my first dan black belt (age 53) and in July of 2009 I passed the test to receive my second degree. Never in the preceding 50 years would I have thought I could achieve this goal. And now, I can't imagine my life without 3x a week on the mat. It has bled over to my business life and is a dominant force in our relationship as well.

Gabe said...

I was in fifth grade, an alternate relay racer at the junior olympics, a school district-wide competition. About half an hour into the event, I found out that the fastest runner injured his leg in the high jump, and I would be leading off the race. I ran my heart out, and we took home first prize.

Gradon Tripp said...

In high school, junior year. Ran varsity indoor track, the 600. My coach sent me to a state invitational at Harvard. I was ranked something like 150th in the state, and there was less that no chance of me actually outright winning the 600, but my coach wanted me to get the experience.

My heat comes up. I'm ranked the lowest of the six of us running. The gun goes off, and I can feel myself pissed off that people told me I'm slower than them. I ignored all the training and coaching about pacing yourself and floored it. I don't know where it came from, but I had exactly enough to run all out the entire way, and break ahead just enough to win - and a personal bet time too.

As I got off the track, with my coach, my teammates, my family congratulating me, I went outside and threw up.

Aaron_Strout said...

Tim - great meme. I have a number of fond "personal sports triumphs" but I'll start by sharing one. Several years ago, I was playing in a weekly hoops req league and we were playing against a team with a player that thought he was a hot shit (in fairness, he was pretty good). One one of our missed shots, the rebound bounced right to him and off he was streaking down the court for an easy layup. Somehow, I was able to not only catch up to him but pinned his shot against the backboard from behind for a clean block. You should have seen the look on this dude's face. He was like, "what? how the hell did you just do that?" I'm still smiling.

John said...

I hate self promotion, but here it goes....

Myself and three others were a part of 14 straight (14str8) softball championship teams in our Fire Department league. I was voted MVP in four of those seasons by my teammates and other players in the league, with the first and last awards coming 10 years apart. So many great memories and friends for life!

Carissa Caramanis O'Brien said...

While I never had the pleasure of winning a championship in my own personal sports career, a few "prize" moments come to mind...
--Elementary School: All my life, I've never been what I would call a runner. I mean, put a ball in my hand or at my foot and give me a goal of some kind, and I'll run 60 minutes straight, but just tell me to 'run' and I'm done. But, I had athletic ability, so I was always recruited for track and was somehow convinced to run my school's annual "Turkey Run" on Thanksgiving. I was dreading it. I thought for sure my jock rep would be ruined forever. That day, I told myself I'd just do my best. It was a hard run, but I somehow managed to place and bring a trophy home. I still remember that I made myself proud that day.
--High School: I was one of the few kids in my school that didn't hang with any one clique. I had friends from just about every different group in school, but I would not have been considered one of the "popular" set. We had a few of those girls on our softball team, so when I was unanimously voted in as Captain, I was humbled and considered it a personal victory I earned by example.
--Does coaching count? While still in high school, I coached a ragtag team of 2nd and 3rd graders in softball. They had next to no skills and the first practice was a disaster. But, I got these kids trained in the fundamentals, and at the end of the season, I had every single kid's parents thank me for being the best coach their kids ever had (and I was the only one under 40)...I guess that's why we also took home the league championship!

Tim Walker said...

Thanks for all the great stories, everybody -- keep 'em coming!

Carissa: I think Hollywood will want to option your last story, with actresses vying to play you as they try to mimic Sandra Bullock's success in "The Blind Side." ;)

Meg said...

I ran the 3,000 in 5th grade, because I had short legs, but lots of endurance. It made sense to my track coach, at least.

I got a wicked sunburn the day of the city-wide, because my event came really late in the day, and I'd neglected to put on sunblock. My dad wanted to just take me home when he got there for my event, because I was fried.

I ran it anyway, though, slightly delirious... and won. I think my altered state actually helped, because I wasn't stressing myself out about the kids running around me.

My back blistered up like crazy, my mom freaked out, and I grew a giant freckle that I still have to this day.

Joe C said...

It took me about 20 years, but I finally broke 80 on a regulation par 72 golf course. It was great feeling not only because of the achievement itself but because I was with my foursome of best friends at my club.

Any golfer will tell you that shooting in the 70s is no mean feat and the fact that I did it just a few weeks shy of my 60th birthday made it even sweeter. I even wrote up the experience in my blog, complete with a scan of the scorecard.

Leanne Chase - @LeanneCLC said...

What a fun post. And I love the comments. I have two that come to mind:

Being named captain for my college cross country team. We weren't very good or very fast but I managed to keep lots of very different and clashing personalities all running in the same direction toward a goal that year.

My first Falmouth Road Race in my mid-late twenties - ran 7:56 miles. I will never run 7.1 miles that fast again...and I'm beginning to be okay with that.

Jim Storer said...

I have some great sports memories and like Aaron may subject you to more in another comment, but I'll start with my most recent sports thrill.

Just this past October I was playing golf with a friend I've known since fourth grade, his brother and his dad. In the match, his dad and I were thumping them, but they'd begun to make a charge when we arrived at the eighth hole. It's a short par 3 (148 yards) with sight lines from tee to green.

My partner hit first and put his ball safely on the green. Given a brisk head wind I decided to go with a smooth 6-iron. I hit it flush and it landed on the front of the green, took the slope and disappeared into the hole. A hole in one!

I'll always remember the day, the hole, the shot and the good friends that were there to share it with me.

Tracy Lee said...

I'm living mine right now. I became a ski instructor this year and last night I got the greatest compliment by one of the top, lifelong skiers I know. He said that he wishes I could see a video of where my skiing was at the beginning of the season and be able to compare it with what I am doing now. Yes, it is that much better! I'm having a blast and I even get paid for it (not much!). It doesn't get any better in my book.

Tyson Goodridge said...

Both Golf Stories....

2 years ago in South Carolina, at Secession Golf Course (old-school, no carts, caddies only) I was teamed up with my Dad against two other really good-6 handicapper golfers. We were completely overmatched.
Down a few strokes on the back nine, I managed to chip in from 30 yards, off the green, TWICE on 2 different holes

5 years ago, playing in a one-on-one match, Ryder Cup format,I was lucky enough to beat my opponent 5 and 4. We reset the match on the 6th hole-and then won 3-and 2...Won 9 straight holes.... ;-)

Jeff said...

Gardner - they were something like 17-0-0 in ice hockey in 1988. We (Nashoba Regional) were something like 6-12-1. A big difference. We went into their fully-packed building on a cold Saturday night and pinned a sweet 5-3 win over them, with yours truly getting 2 goals, including the one that won it. A thrill! It was actually a headline in the Worcester paper the next day......

Kiley Newbold said...

1--Once during a game of snow football I went out long for a pass. The pass was over-thrown but I decided I was going to get it. The result was one of those fully-extended diving catches, the type where your body is parallel to ground. I caught the ball, and gained the nickname “Fully Extended Kiley” As I look back on it now, the nick name is ridiculously uncreative and not even that cool, but it came from 9th graders, and I was a 7th grader—that was all the cool I needed.

2--I was always one of the shortest kids in the neighborhood. While this was great for games like hide and seek or kick the can, it was an obvious disadvantage during our yearly 1-on-1 neighborhood basketball tournament. I was almost always out rebounded and unwillingly padded my opponents block stats (yes we kept stats—in fact, we had an official stats keeper). My best weapon was to try and out run the competition and it worked about half the time. I loved playing, but needless to say, I didn’t usually make it too far into the play-off bracket. One year, somehow, I made it the final game. The Championship. The other player was the biggest and best in the whole neighborhood. About ½ through the game, I was getting beat pretty badly when I went to the foul line for 2 free throws. As my second free throw hit the rim, we all heard a large creaking sound and then stood dumfounded as the rim broke, dangled from the backboard for a minute and then fell to the ground. Although it was obvious that the rim had been weakened by years of use and abuse, it became the general consensus that I had “broken” it. Those present to watch the game voted that I should win the tournament because the rim breaking “was so awesome.” It was the closest we were ever going to be to seeing a basketball standard destroyed like Shaquille was doing in his rookie days. The story became a sort of legend, and I garnered the nick name Shakyle, which several of my childhood friends still use to this day.

chadnorthrup said...

In the spring of '92 I pitched my high school baseball team to a 5-2 victory over our archrivals at Centennial Field in Burlington, VT. It was a big game for many reasons (the rivalry, we'd lost to them earlier in the season, playoff seeding, etc), and playing it on Vermont's biggest baseball stage just made it all the more memorable. I still remember my last pitch when the batter flied out to center to end it, and then my teammates pig-piling me on the mound. It was the ultimate high school baseball moment.

A distant second was a men's league basketball game I played back in '04. 10 seconds left and my team was down by 2. We inbounded the ball underneath the opposite basket. Inbounder passes to a teammate at midcourt, who takes 2 dribbles and finds me spotted up behind the 3-point line. I had a lane to the basket and probably had the time to go for the tie, but instead I rose up for the 3 right where I was. SWISH! We win by 1. The first and only game-winning shot of my basketball career. :-)

Thanks Tim, it was fun to relive the glory!

Mark Larson said...

College. Out in the street, playing a few rounds of foursquare. Playing against 3 of best competitors on the court, our strengths and weaknesses forever balancing each other out. And so... [long rally redacted]... and then Kevin, he of uncanny precision in the square to my right, bumps a sneaky little laser to my back right corner. I backpedal but still manage a deep cross-court right-hander to the opposite corner, maybe with a little spin on it. Charlie, he of ridiculous reflexes + wingspan, responds with a deep hit to my back left. I eke out a soft lefty to the center, landing in Ralph's front corner but carrying across back to Charlie. The momentum of my return still takes me out left, leaving the bulk of my square undefended.

Charlie charges the ball and returns, sending the ball hard and deep in my far right corner. Let's pause for a moment. At this point the ball has already bounced in my square, passing me on the right. It's headed out of bounds and with all likelihood arcing back towards the ground. Lesser athletes would have perhaps let the rally end. I, blessed for a few seconds with a preternatural grace and swiftness, give chase.

BUT, as I pivot to return, I'm off-balance, so while I'm surging back to the right, I have to spin to my *left* to have any chance of return. I cannot see the ball as I spin. I don't have the footing or time to pull off a left-handed backhand. I have to continue to spin/chase. At the decisive moment, when all will be gained or lost -- at this point, because I still can't see the ball, I'm relying on the arcane, subconscious calculations of the physics of an inflated rubber ball in flight, adjusting for spin, skid of impact, and local wind speed -- I finish the spin, spot the ball, plant, and whipping my right hand *right* into the sweet spot. The ball zips over Kevin's square, deep into Charlie's left corner, and sails out of play. Opponents caught flat-footed. I win. Everyone cheers. I take a victory lap.

I am schooled in the next round, but the glow lasts all day.

Bill Church said...

1998--doing PR for Chicago Marathon. Got interested. Since I was running anyway for fun decided to sign up with a group for marathon training. Survived. Finished the race in 4:46:36. Key word is finished. One of the great achievements of my life as I crossed that finish line and got my medal.

David Patton said...

Heart of Texas Regatta 1985: http://bit.ly/70RjcG That's me stroking the boat. The grimace on my face is from a blister on my ass rubbing against the seat (I'm sitting on foam rubber with a hole cut out!). But the two-a-days paid off; we beat Notre Dame, Kansas and Kansas State the next day, taking first place. Made up for getting out butts kicked at the Head of the Charles in Boston the previous Fall.

Neal DeGrasse Tyson, in seat 6, now one of the world's top astrophysicists, directs the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

We were only shirtless during practice. But look at Byron's socks and my headband - No, it's not Flashdance, but it was the 80s!!

David Patton said...

Forgot to mention, my team was The University of Texas Men's Heavyweight Eight.

Joey said...

In my fifth grade Little League, my team was oh-for-the-season heading into the final game. I came up in the bottom of the last inning down a run with one out and hit a walk-off home run on the first pitch to win the game.

It was my personal bad news bears moment.

KFFBOS said...

LOVED reading all the stories here, thanks all.

I have so many fond memories of playing football for so many years, but I'm really hoping my greatest memory happens in 2010.

/kff