Sport’s great champions, pre-event preparation and my bowels
Forewarning…..I am not a professional writer, so if my words and blogs seem to meander and seem unfocused, well……sorry, but they are thoughts and I tend to put them down as soon as they come to mind. To no surprise, I was not an ‘A’ student when it came to writing English or history papers in high school or college. Many times, much to the dismay of my teachers, my rough drafts were generally no different than the final copies I turned in for grades. Laziness was the assumed culprit, with no argument from me.
Bird, Johnson, Jordan, Musial, Williams(ted), Gretzky, Unitas, Montana, Orr, Nicklaus, Woods, Lopez(nancy)…………..for the non-traditional sports fans I’ll continue; Hawk, Mirra, Mcgrath, Kiraly(beach V-ball), Owens(Jesse), Merx, Hinault………………….do you see the thread. The common theme. These are the ‘Greats”, the Pantheon of sports champions. Sorry if I left out anyone’s childhood hero. We all know the obvious common physical characteristics “the Great Ones”. They were blessed. When Bob Gibson was born, God came down with a strike of lightning from the heavens and blessed ‘Bullet Bob’s cannon of a right arm. George Brett was blessed by the baseball ‘gods’ with the ability to hit any pitch in the most climactic of situations. Just ask Goose Gossege about Bretts’ bomb of a 3-run homerun in the 7th inning to clinch a trip to the World Series in 1980. We know about there physical gifts. We can also read about stories told about them and thru interviews how these athletes talk about their ability to slow things down. Through the fastest of game situations, the event almost seems to be playing out, to them, in ‘slow-motion’. The ‘greats had and have an uncanny ability to process thoughts faster than the average athlete. ‘magic’ or john Stockton talk as if they see a play develop 3to 4 passes before it ever happens.
I’ve read tons of antidotes and stories of all sorts of different great athletes. The true sports geek in me comes out when it comes to stuff like this. The mental strength, the ability to outwork their rivals, the ability to suffer for longer under the worst of conditions, the ability to sacrifice ones’ self goals for the greater good of the team. Since I was a child growing up under the roof of a baseball and basketball lover, these are the things I was taught were the characteristics of a champion. Thru my career as a collegiate and brief professional golfer, I prided myself in excelling under the worst of conditions. Be it a ‘goat-path’ of a golf course or the worst of weather, I prided myself in being tougher than the spoiled rich kids I was playing and competing against. The first to come to ‘my’ mind (that i actually watched live on tv) when you talk about great “golf” battles, is the 1987 British Open. American Paul Azinger battling Brit Nick Faldo. Not just the battle between the two sticks in my mind, but the conditions they played under is what I recall most. Rain, wind and fog on a stereo-typical ‘great’ English weather kind of day for golf. These 2 great golfers separated themselves from the rest of the field on that final Sunday and waged an epic battle that to me goes down as one of the great ‘major’ championships.
So what the ‘frick’ does golf have to do with cycling? What do all of the aforementioned athletes have to do with my cycling and racing as a late 30 year old ‘never-was’?
Well, to be quite frank! I wonder if they struggled with the same kind of pre-game, pre-race nerves or ‘jitters’ that I do. The movie “Invincible” about Vince Papale comes to mind. You know. The bartender slash substitute teacher who turned up for the public and very laughable ‘open tryout’ for the NFL Philadelphia Eagles. Vince ends up spending 4 more years in the NFL having never played a down of college football. Well, a scene from the movie that stuck with me was with Mark Walberg and Greg Kinneer(playing former Chief and Eagle coach). Both of these guys were preparing for there first professional game, Vince as a player and Dick vermeil as a former college coach taking part as a first time NFL head coach. These guys are both in a bathroom stall puking their proverbial guts out prior to taking the field.
So my question is, did Michael Jordan puke prior to his first pro b-ball game? How about his first game in the NBA championships? How about ten years later in his 6 and final Championship series? Did he puke before game 6? Now I am not a puker. I have a strong aversion to puking. I think I have it worse. I Get ‘it’ coming out the other end. Yes, the other end………….come on, you can say it. ‘the shits’, the ‘squirts’………..DiaFrickinRhea.
30 minutes prior to me teeing off in my first high school golf tournament, where was I you ask? On the shitter. Where was I 30 minutes prior to my first and last high school basketball game and avery game in between? ON THE SHITTER. How about 30 minutes prior to my first college and last professional golf tournaments? You Got It. On the Shitter! I am like clockwork. Do you think Bobby Orr was on the toilet with diarrhea prior to strappin’ on the skates? I contend that athletes don’t put on a “Game-Face” because they are mentally preparing for their game. They are just trying to hide the fact that they are nervous and they are mentally talking themselves into dealing with those nerves.
No, my multiple pre-race visits to the port-a-potty are not because I ate Mexican food the night before. My visits to the trees to pee 8-10 times an hour prior to my race time are due to the fact that my nerves have me peeing and ‘shitting’ my brains out to the point that I would actually rather throw up once or twice instead. That final time to the port-a-potty actually has me dreading having to ‘wipe’ my ‘ars’ cuz it hurts so bad.
Actually 5 years into racing mountain, road and cross’, I have noticed the nerves have lessened to a degree. I can tell the difference from race to race as well by how important a race is to me. The more it means to me, the more I’ll be visiting the ‘jon’ or the trees prior to race time. I sleep like a baby before a race. No nerves or ‘butterflys’ the night before. I would trade my ‘runs’ for No-Sleep anyday of the week.
Hmm………….i say that now, but in two months when my first child arrives I may be singing a different tune. No, I wont. I still remember the last time I wiped my ass before the 3/6 hour Spoke Pony Showdown this past Saturday.
Now understanding me when i say i am not by any means comparing my self to these great athletes that i have mentioned. I have just always wondered what was going on in there heads' before a game, a race or a contest. Were they just thinking about their gameplan? or, better yet like the rest of us mortals, were they actually contemplating something similar to what the rest of us mere mortals might be thinking about? Such as; 'jeez, i hope that jonny-on-thespot doesn't run out of toilet paper', or ' i wonder i can still make the race on time if i stop at that Mcdonalds to use the bathroom?'
Its' amazing how a persons bowels can affect the decisions he/she has to make!
hmm.....just some food for thought.
Steve Tilford Eulogy
8 months ago