September 26, 2007

Using Sports to Relieve the Stresses of Being a Student

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I don’t know about you all, but lately the world is moving just a little too fast for me. Just settling in to the life-at-college routine, I was shocked to realize this week that it’s already been a month since classes started, and, more importantly, there’s barely a week left of regular season baseball.
With all the schoolwork assignments, extra-curricular activities and “entertainment” opportunities over the past month, time has just disappeared.
A solution, or at least a quick fix, came to me when I thought wayyyyyy back … all the way to senior year of high school. By that final year, the home stretch, the stress and apathy has gotten to even the nerdiest of college-bound teenagers. Fortunately, a good number of parents recognize that these kids need a break once in a while.
One parental response is the “mental health day.” This is not encouraging senioritis or bad habits. It’s a realistic plan to prevent a full-on breakdown by giving the student some time away from the high school campus and the pressures that swarm there. The mental health day lets the senior regain some of the momentum lost after three years in the high-friction environment of high school.
Now, we come to how the mental health day can help you — a little older but still ridiculously over-scheduled. If you’re stressing about that last Orgo prelim and have two papers coming up sooner than you can stomach, and you’re feeling like you won’t make it to Fall Break, try the sports fan’s version of a mental health day.

Baseball soothes the soul:

I think that Philadelphia and Washington have been the most entertaining teams to match up over the past week.
The Phillies have made good on shortstop Jimmy Rollins’s warning that Philly would be the team to beat this season. With their exciting style of play led by Rollins (who defines the term work ethic), the team leads the league with 47 come-from-behind victories.
Though the Phillies are the team with over 10,000 losses, they are much more respected than the Nationals. The Nats are, by far, the best worst team in baseball. Baseball’s youngest franchise will finish a three-game series with the Mets today after winning two-of-three against the National League powerhouse last week.
They demolished the Mets in Game 1 on Monday, 13-4, and jumped out to a 4-1 lead by the end of the first inning the next day as the usually reliable Tom Glavine gave up a three-run homer to Austin Kearns and a solo home run to Tony Batista.
The Nats also played the Phillies last week and took the last game of the series, 5-3, to win the franchise’s final game in D.C.’s RFK Stadium. The Nats may be the laughingstock of the league. (Washington pitcher Mike Bacsik even suffered the unavoidable indignity of pitching to Barry Bonds as he broke Hank Aaron’s record in August.) But talented first-year manager Manny Acta’s team gets style points in my book for accomplishing so much with so little to go on.
The Nats are the purest form of underdog that exists in the MLB universe. If that doesn’t give you hope that you’ll survive the dog-eat-dog world of Cornell, then I don’t know what will. If those lovable fools in D.C. can struggle through a 162-game season, you and I can too.
(About another certain baseball story, I’m not going to suggest watching any Yankees or Red Sox games. Those games don’t treat insanity; they cause it.

International soccer competition to get your patriotic juices flowing:

Many may be surprised to know that the Women’s World Cup has been going on in China for over two weeks now. Of course, I don’t completely blame the audience since ESPN2 in its infinite wisdom broadcasts the games at 8 in the morning. Cornell students would understandably be more upset that their 9 a.m. classes interfere with getting Colbert tickets.
The U.S. team blanked England on Saturday, 3-0, to reach the semifinals. Possibly the most important and exciting matchup of the tournament will take place tomorrow morning. Tape, TiVo or YouTube it, but definitely try to catch this one to see if the U.S. team can topple undefeated Brazil, which is led by Marta, another Brazilian one name wonder.
The final is then on Sunday, when the American women might have a shot at repeating their 1999 World Cup success.

Some sports drama that doesn’t involve O.J. or some other idiot getting indicted:
ESPN’s eight-part miniseries, The Bronx is Burning came out on DVD yesterday, and Blades of Glory remains my top pick for recent uplifting — literally and figuratively — sports movie releases. But if you feel like going out to the movies and want some content about halfway between the seriousness level of those first two movies, then The Game Plan comes out this Friday.
The Disney flick stars ex-WWF super-star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as NFL quarterback Joe Kingman. The QB, who Johnson modeled on Joe Namath, is in his prime and in the playoff hunt when he discovers that he has a seven-year-old daughter. Disney’s marketing people could have subtitled the movie, Touchdowns vs. Tutus. Though The Game Plan sounds like every other formulaic family-friendly sports movie, that might not be such a bad thing.
Exactly a week ago, ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd had Johnson on his morning show. Apart from a very disturbing section when Cowherd rambled about how “cut” The Rock is, the interview intrigued me.
Johnson humbly emphasized his respect for actors and his dedication to getting the part of the big-time quarterback right. He also repeated and publicly admitted to having tried steroids as a freshman on the University of Miami football team, but he quickly stopped and moved on with his life — now advocating a better education program and a zero-tolerance policy across the whole sporting world.
Athletes are often idolized by ordinary people, but athletes are definitely human too. They make the same mistakes and a few more. Some athletes use banned substances as a shortcut in athletic competition, while some students skip a class because they just can’t bring themselves to get up in the morning after four hours of sleep.
Do yourself a favor … take a break sometime. Watch one of the games I’ve talked about or all of them or some of the thousands of other sporting events going on. Feel free to use this list as a jumping off point. As a certain stressed-out assistant sports editor said earlier this week, there’s so much going on right now that there’s barely enough time to keep up with all the football scores, wild card standings and everyday scandals in the athletic world, much less pay any attention to the events that are more under-the-radar.
But if sports feel like an obligation, then they’re not being seen or done the right way, and I think the same principle applies to our lives at Cornell.
Do something outside your commitments for school or clubs or work or even social events. Don’t put yourself in a prison of expectations. I’m pretty sure that’s what got Barry and the like in trouble. Life is too short to waste time that could be better spent enjoying a good game, a good match or a good show.