Saturday, July 30, 2011

Appreciating life

Last night, I was flipping through TV channels and came across an episode of “20/20” on ABC. In terms of journalism, this is one of the best shows on television, along with “Dateline” on NBC and CBS’ long-running “60 Minutes.”

This particular broadcast focused on the subject of progeria, an extremely rare disease that affects children. It involves rapid aging and most kids who are diagnosed with it rarely live to see their teenage years. Barbara Walters did an outstanding job of telling the stories of three young girls with progeria and how the disease has affected their families. She interviewed the girls, their parents, and a few doctors. One striking statistic that stood out is that there are only 16 documented cases of the disease in the United States. Even though it is clearly a condition most people don’t have to deal with, Walters and her producers made it seem important to the viewer.

Can you miagine being in the shoes of a child with progeria? Or a parent with this child? It is hard to even fathom how they must feel knowing their fate is closer than that of their parents. Their health is practically in greater jeopardy than that of most elderly people. One mother commented that she wakes up every day “wondering if this will be the day” she loses her daughter. Just think how difficult it would be having a child in this situation.

Watching this broadcast was somewhat disturbing, but it made me appreciate life more than ever. There are individuals living among us who are in more difficult positions than we will ever be ourselves. To me, these people should be rewarded. I’ve never really bought into the mindset that everyone should live life to the fullest and take risks, probably because I’m a little more cautious than most people. But now I can understand why people feel this way. Life is a precious thing that we should all, at the very least, cherish.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The problem with hotel pillows

Have you ever paid attention to hotel pillows when traveling? If so, you probably know where this blog post is going.

I have had the opportunity to travel both around the country and internationally. Along the way, I’ve stayed in numerous hotels and motels. There is one thing that the pillows at these homes away from home all seem to have in common. They are lumpy and lame. Right as you plop your head on them, they sink in, almost as if they aren’t even there and your head is propped on the actual bed.

I know it’s kind of an inconsequential complaint, but don’t people want to be comfortable when staying at a hotel? I sure do. Sleeping in a bed other than the one at home is tough enough. Even the higher-end places that charge a fortune and have fancy rooms with all the amenities imaginable still fail to provide comfort for your head. Using these pillows is basically like sleeping on the floor.

I know I can’t be too crazy if there is a Facebook group called “I hate hotel pillows,” can I? I have to believe that this complaint is more prevalent than some may think. The next time I stay at a hotel, I think I will bring a big sign with lyrics similar to those of the holiday tune that goes, “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.” It will read, “All I want in my room is a firm pillow.”

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A day with no sports section

Almost every day of the year, something is going on in sports. A baseball game is being played in Cincinnati. A basketball game is tipping off in Los Angeles. A football game is at halftime in Green Bay – with the score knotted at 21.

But there is one day of the year when newspapers can practically forget about printing their daily sports section and ESPN may not even need to air SportsCenter. Today is that day – the day after baseball’s All-Star Game.

There is really no reason to check for scores, no reason to dial 1-800-555-TELL (a sports score resource) to get updates on games. That’s because nothing is going on. And this rings true even louder this year in the midst of both the NFL and NBA lockouts.

The biggest event going on in sports right now is the women’s World Cup. Forgive me if I offend anyone, but soccer is just not a sport I have ever been interested in as a fan. It’s not one of the big four leagues in this country and probably will never become the fifth. Although I might feel slightly more patriotic knowing that the USA team has played quite well in this tournament, it is hard to get excited about it.

So what do us sports enthusiasts do on a day of no sports? The simple answer is to turn off your fandom for 24 hours. Give it a rest. Then focus on something besides athletics for once, like your significant other – or video games. Hey, why not pop in Madden or an NBA game to get your fix? Or instead of rooting for your favorite team, root for the calendar to turn to tomorrow. It will be here before you can put on your Rays hat.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What's in a sport?

This Fourth of July marked the 96th annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island in New York. The competition was once again broadcast on ESPN. I often wonder why competitive eating is considered a “sport.” It has been shown on ESPN for years. But so has the Scripps National Spelling Bee. And other non-athletic events. Just because something is broadcast on the home of SportsCenter doesn’t mean it is a sport.

People often debate what a “sport” really is. Does it have to involve a ball? A stick? Physical ability? Mental strength? According to Merriam-Webster, the long-trusted American English dictionary we all consider to be an official source, the word “sport” as a noun has several definitions listed, which furthers the debate about its actual meaning. The top three definitions call it “a source of diversion,” “sexual play,” and “a physical activity engaged in for pleasure.”

I guess an event like an eating competition could be described by two of these three meanings. It is definitely a diversion from everyday life. Rarely will you witness someone devour 62 hot dogs in a matter of minutes. It could also be considered a physical activity because one must position their bodies in a certain way as they chow down on the increasing amount of solid food going down their esophagus. The more salacious definition, however, doesn’t seem to apply here, unless there is a food fetish involved. (For your benefit, I won’t delve any further into that one.)

So perhaps there is some merit to including specific activities in the category of sports that some of us think have nothing to do with sports. I’m still not totally sold on the fact that eating – even in enormous quantities – takes nearly as much effort as playing football or basketball at the professional level. That is why five-time hot dog eating champ and 2011 winner Joey Chestnut will never rise to the level of Joe Montana or Michael Jordan.