Monday, October 31, 2011

The Changing Nature of Halloween

Where I live, I've noticed a trend the past two to three years.   When I was younger, every Halloween, there would be a stream of kids coming by with their parents to get candy.  But I started noticing fewer and fewer kids stopping a few years ago and then the past two to three years, there has been ZERO kids stopping by.

I had heard that parents had decided to take their kids to the local malls where the stores were passing out candy.  Being at the mall tonight, I saw it was true.  There were a ton of families and kids there including someone I knew.  I guess I can understand why parents have been doing this.  Safety at night is an issue though I can't say that my neighborhood is all that bad.

The funny thing is that I talked to a co-worker in Virginia today and he was still taking his kids out to the neighborhood.  I'm not sure why parents in my area are not taking their kids out to the neighborhood but it is an interesting trend I don't think will change anytime soon.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Writing For Dollars

A couple of weeks ago, I made a tough decision to take a leave of absence from high school basketball officiating.  The reasons for this are plenty but nothing I really want to discuss at this point in time. However, the decision was not made without having some plans in mind.

Some weeks ago, I felt I had an inkling to start writing more again.  I do various blogs throughout the year. I write a monthly column on Apple II and other retro video games.  A couple of years ago, I had embarked on freelance writing covering high school sports.

The reason for freelance writing was that high school sports coverage is pretty sparse in the area I live in.  Since I was unemployed at the time, it was a good idea to try and I did it for the better part of a year.  The issues I ran into was that I was a freelance operation and I had to do everything myself.  When I returned to work a few months later, I continued to write as much as I could but it proved difficult to juggle freelancing with my job.  Eventually, I stopped my freelance writing.

However, another enterprising person saw the same gaps in high school sports coverage I did and started up his own website and got a staff of writers to work with him.  In fact, I was asked at one point to contribute to this site.  I declined as I was busy with work, officiating and other stuff.

Alas, as I had an inkling to write again, I asked the website if I could potentially contribute to their site as a writer.  The owner/editor noted that he would love it if I could help out.  At this point, there is nothing formalized but I do plan to contribute as much as I am available to watch games.

It was time for a change and I am fortunate to be given an opportunity to try and do something different.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Being in shape is not quite the same as basketball misc topics

Typically, a group of guys I know play pick up basketball on Saturday afternoons.  For as long as I have known and played with these guys, we have hardly played full court basketball.  I'd say 99.99% of time we have played half court games with the rare exception of playing full court.   Most of the guys are in the mid 30's and some are older than that, so running full court isn't always optimal.

In the past few years, we have hardly missed many weeks.  Of the 52 weeks in a year, I'd say we play 80 to 85% of the time.  Obviously some guys come and go due to various thing but we usually get enough to play regardless.

Alas, the past three weeks, we have not played.  There were several reasons for that.  One, several guys were out of town.  Two, the gym we normally play at was closed for gym floor maintenance.  Since we have grown to love playing indoors, the remaining guys decided to just skip playing.

As someone who typically plays a lot of basketball, I realized how much I have missed playing the past few Saturdays.  First, since I didn't really play Saturdays for a few weeks, I lost a little bit of stamina and feel on my jump shot.  That affected me in the first three games on my Thursday night basketball league. I was getting up and down but not as well as I normally do.  Plus, my usually reliable shot was just not going in.  When my shot is going, it's pretty automatic.  But the past three Thursdays, I felt I was pushing my shot.

Today, the Saturday basketball crew finally got back together and played.  Just about everyone was a little out of sync early because your body hasn't really moved that much in a while.  I struggled with my shot quite a bit today.  Because I played in league, I was in ok shape so I could rebound and hustle a little but my shot was way off.

Playing basketball today made me realize how everything works together.  Lots of young kids just like to run and play full court basketball.   Those pick up games end up being run and gun affairs with minimal defense played.  Our guys play hard and we have to keep moving.  I think playing with the Saturday crew actually has helped me get my shot more consistent during my league games.   I personally don't mind playing full court pick up sometimes but it gets harder as you get older and have to run against young kids.

Lastly, even I haven't played a ton of basketball lately, I did work out at the gym a bit.  There is a major difference being in decent (and healthy) shape versus being in basketball shape.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sports As A Social Exercise

The past couple of weeks have been interesting for me.  Two of my best friends went away on vacation at the same with their respective families.  At the same time,  I had been expecting to play basketball about three times a week (Monday & Thursday leagues + Saturday get together).  However, the Monday and Thursday leagues were merged due to lack of players on both days.   My usual Saturday basketball group also did not play in the last couple of weeks with some people away and the gym being closed for remodeling.

All of this forced me to become more adaptable.  I hung out with some of my other guy friends (who are usually busy with kids but we had a get together a couple of weeks ago).  I reached out to some others I hadn't seen or talked to in a while.  Some folks I hadn't talked to in a while actually called me too.

But the toughest challenge proved to be finding an activity to substitute for playing basketball.  A few of my friends always say I should play "less basketball" as it's an activity that consumes my time at the expense of other things.   Alas, I disagree with the assessment.  Basketball is an activity I enjoy and it's exercise.  Exercise is always good for the body.

However, as I learned in these past two weeks, if basketball were JUST exercise, I could easily replace it.  I could play basketball elsewhere, play another sport or just work out in the gym.  In fact, I did do some cardio work AND played basketball at my local gym.  While the exercise was nice, I really realized why I was missing some my basketball that I was expecting.

I realized that part of my enjoyment from playing basketball (or other sports) is the socializing.   My current Thursday night basketball is competitive but I know a lot of the guys too.  While we all try to win, it is also a chance to catch up and talk to folks.  The Saturday basketball crew is also like that as well.  I was introduced to my Saturday crew from one of my friends I mentioned above.   It's been only in the past 2 or 3 years that I have been showing up consistently.  It's always good to play but talk to the guys.  While I don't share a long history with them, I've become a part of their circle.  We have birthday gatherings and other things we do together.

Simply just doing cardio or playing pick up ball with random strangers is good and I've done that plenty of times in the past.  However, I don't usually work out with others.  Playing ball with random strangers is cool if you want to just play ball.  While my basketball playing style is adaptable, sometimes it's just good to play with people you know.

All in all, As I get older, I am realizing the social aspect of sports is become just as important as playing the sport itself.  In fact, I see this applying to other activities such as officiating.  I was officiating a tournament this weekend.  My partner today wanted to have breakfast so we met up early, had breakfast, talked and watched some football before working our games.  I plan to socialize more with my fellow officials as my high school season rolls around in the next few months.