Achilles problems: Back to the drawing board

Sunday, I went on what, for recent training purposes, would have been considered a “long” run. It was 3.01 miles, and yet having only done one mile earlier in the week and none the three or four before, I guess it was a classic example of me setting myself up for failure.

This Achilles Tendonitis stuff is no joke. I’ve been working around it since early in 2016. Now I’ve lost all of 2016 and 2017 as a runner, two of my prime years considering I turned 27 and 28 in that time.

Alas, it’s back to the drawing board one last time. I’ve never been great with stretching or icing or doing strengthening exercises, even when physical therapists have given me the plan and instructions for how and what to do. Discipline, it seems, is something you can’t impart on someone. I have been as terrible a student of this as could ever be possible.

But hey, there’s never been a more opportune moment to learn.

I spent 20 minutes icing each tendon (and an hour trying to stay off it so it could thaw lol) twice yesterday. Today I’ll do the same. I’m hopeful though, despite how annoyed I feel even as I write this.

So while I let these damned things heal, I’ll be going to back to those old workout sheets that I know I still have somewhere, and maybe this time I’ll succeed in doing the things religiously over the next month. Meanwhile, I’ll be staying away from running until Jan. 5. 2018. I have some huge, wonderful, exciting athletic goals for 2018 and for 2019, which I’ll share later this week or month.

If I can do the right things and take care of my body the way I need to in that time, maybe I’ll be able to accomplish all of them.

Have a great rest of your day, and as always, I hope you’re well.

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Poetry: You Decide Which

I start to write a feature on a place I visited Saturday.

On paper, I see the words I type. They are mine. Indisputably, unequivocally, mine. I see them in my voice.

In my head, when I read them, I imagine hearing Rinaldi.

Perhaps this is a flaw in my creative process.
Perhaps it’s a reflection of some terrifying, mortal vulnerability
You decide which.

That I don’t see myself as fully capable of telling such heartbreaking, inspiring stories.
That I don’t believe an employer will ever truly like me enough to trust me with such things.
That I don’t believe I have much to offer
except a face for radio,
a voice for print,
a tone for silence on a page

and a knack for inventing new synonyms for self-deprecation.

Then again, maybe it’s something else.

Maybe it’s a sign of the vital, youthful swagger
that comes from both expectation and desire
the kind that comes when you believe if you can just work hard enough,
push long enough, seek hard enough,
you’ll find that story and become the best possible version of yourself. You’ll evolve your own voice
Not Rinaldi. You.

Maybe it’s a sign of timid confidence, but confidence.

The kind it takes to think that just because you haven’t risen your voice
doesn’t mean you can’t.
The strongest voices, after all, are the ones that are silent
until they aren’t.
The ones that speak only in a whisper
but whose whisper is loud enough to silence a combusting conference room.

I have railed on, shouting my proclamations for what felt like years,
but for what might have been mere seconds in the development of a writer.
I have desperately preached what I hoped might be wisdom from what I felt were mountains,
but from what might have been merely as high and stable
as sandcastles among the masses.

But maybe what the world
or I… or both,… need more than anything right now,
is for me to be silent.

until I’m not. then

Perhaps not with a proclamation. a whisper.

You decide which.

 

 

 

Countering arguments against the national anthem protests

Introduction to the cause at hand


What an usually divisive time for us as a country.

Here in the United States, players of the most watched and attended professional sport in the country today knelt, locked arms or just weren’t present during the traditional playing of the American national anthem before the games.

They’ve done this largely due to recent tweets by President Donald Trump saying members of the teams who chose not to stand during it should be fired. NASCAR owners, meanwhile, have reportedly threatened to fire anyone who protests in such a way.

Here’s my official stance. It is my own and mine alone, and I admit it’s undoubtably overdue. But here it is:

I’m glad players and teams are doing this and I think NASCAR fans should be ashamed, especially because of the number of confederate flags often present at their sport’s events.

I applaud the members of the Los Angeles Sparks for staying in their locker room during the anthem ahead of the first game of their league’s championship series, as reported by ESPNW.

The tweets by our president, in my opinion, reek of blatant hypocrisy.

The President calls out players for not respecting our flag as a country, essentially saying their lives and livelihoods should be threatened through their firing because he doesn’t like the way they propagate or exercise their freedom of speech and expression.

Yet he himself is a beneficiary of the nearly absolute protection he now says these athletes should be stripped of. He tweets, from the highest ranking office in the U.S. things that are frequently racially insensitive, broadly disrespectful, and that occasionally border on obscene.

He can get away with calling many immigrants “criminals” during his election campaign. He can talk about the sexually-harrassing of women as if it’s ethical.

Somehow, though, when it comes to these players refusing to honor America in the way Trump feels best, they should somehow be stripped of their First Amendment protections.

I categorically disagree with this, and detest the possible wide-ranging precedent which firing or even threatening these athletes with such would set.

I also, however, find a small precipice of middle-ground here, in that he should still be allowed to continue to tweet it.

Despite how serious in nature his words inherently are due to the fact that as president, anything he says or supports can be and is a statement of the official policy of my U.S. government, the fact is he is a man and a citizen of the United States. Whatever my views on his personal character, the fact is that he is an American, and to discount him his rights is, in my opinion, hypocritical as well.

I won’t do that. I think he, for all the reasons listed above, has a duty and an obligation to exercise extra care in what he says and who he says it about. I don’t, however, believe that any perceived or real failures on his part to abide by that duty mean he ought to be stripped of his personal rights.

When I read things online and see comments both through Twitter and through ESPN about the responses they receive, I generally hear two arguments for why these protests are bad and/or should not be allowed. The first is that it’s disrespectful to the flag at all and that these players are displaying a lack of patriotism. The second, which is tied somewhat to the first, is that these players make so much money they have an obligation not to protest a country which either A. They didn’t fight for (implying that somehow you have to earn your right to protest) or B: Which by virtue of its choices in entertainment allows them the so-called privilege of making more money than the rest of us (implying, in my perception, that being better off somehow entitles you to fewer civil rights).

I vehemently disagree on all accounts. Here are my arguments against each.

My Rebuttal to the first argument I hear the most

On the first account, I disagree with those who say this is a protest against America or the flag or the national anthem in the first place.

I think the public seems to be muddying the waters in terms of what this protest is about.

Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback in the league, started these protests largely in response to instances of police brutality across our country last year. Kaepernick is on the record as saying he has protested because he doesn’t agree with what he believes that flag represents. In my opinion, there’s a careful distinction to make there. Kaepernick isn’t saying he hates America or is in any way ungrateful for the institution which allows him the wide-ranging voice he now has; it simply means he hates how minorities in this country are being treated in the name of that flag. He’s not, in other words, arguing against the institution itself, or the physical symbol or the merits of democracy. He’s arguing and protesting its execution.

That ought not to be seen as rebellious or disrespectful. It ought to be seen as patriotic.

After all, our country itself was established because a group of people had protested their government and felt they were not being heard. The minority spoke up, and felt they were utterly ignored, and our nation is founded on the idea that when people feel their government is ignoring them, they have not only a right but a duty to petition. Knowing that, it seems foolish of us as a population to label these protests as disrespectful.

I also believe our government is based on the underlying principle that those in the majority, in this case white-people like myself, have an ethical duty to listen and protect the minority, including and perhaps especially from slights or oppression by us ourselves. Because of this, I believe that now more than ever, these protests not only need to be allowed, they need to be heard and seriously discussed.

And whether we agree or disagree on the facts behind those slights (I believe they’re real but understand not everyone does) that Mr. Kaepernick and the others are protesting are real and factual, one thing we shouldn’t be able to disagree on is the fact that he and those protesting have the right to protest as they feel necessary, so long as it’s peaceable and doesn’t disrupt or endanger others.

You can’t convince me the silent kneeling during the national anthem disrupts or endangers me in any way, especially not so as to merit restricting freedom of speech or expression.

Some will argue back and say “Well, his/their lack of acknowledging the flag respectfully disrespects me.” This is a foolish argument because these protests are inherently silent. Therefore you have to choose to be offended by it. You have to deliberately notice it (when, by tradition, you should be looking at the flag anyways) and you have to somehow be restricted from practicing your own form of respect for the flag by these protests in some tangible way.

“Because his actions offend me, they disrupt me because they make me angry” is not a valid reason to suppress these expressions either. The U.S. Constitution doesn’t protect your feelings. It makes no amendment which ends with “so long as it doesn’t upset or offend anyone.” So this whole argument against these protests, is in my opinion utterly invalid.

My rebuttal he second argument I hear the most against these protests

One of the other prevailing arguments comes from detractors who say “Well, he didn’t fight for that flag, others did. So he needs to respect their sacrifices on behalf of it.”

I disagree with that also.

I do not speak for all U.S. military veterans, nor do I speak for anyone in service or who will at any point serve.

I only speak for myself, and as far as I’m concerned, nobody who fights for the U.S. Constitution does so for any single part of the document or the idea behind it.

When you take an oath to service, be it military or political, you take an oath “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

You don’t, however, get to choose which amendments you fight for.

You don’t get to say “I’ll take a No. 1, a No.2 (I like my guns) and a No. 5 (because being compelled to testify against myself would really suck with some of the stuff I’ve done).”

You don’t get to do that. Service to our country is not a “have it your way” kind of thing. You don’t get just the toppings or ingredients or Amendments that you specifically ask for and then get to leave the others out, and you most certainly don’t get to decide who you’re buying for. You’re buying for everyone.

So when I hear military members and veterans say they didn’t fight for the rights of these players to “disrespect” America, I counter with this:

That’s exactly what you fought for.

You fought for the rights of all to help execute and effect an increasingly improved government for and by the people.

You fought not just for those you like, or with whom you agree, or who practice the same traditions or like the same sports that you do. You didn’t fight exclusively for any of that.

You fought for those voices which you disagree with too, perhaps not realizing that having both is absolutely necessary for our government to thrive, prosper, and improve itself.

So just because these men did or didn’t fight for the flag is irrelevant. Our military protects and defends the Constitution of every American citizen, whether they served or not. This is absolute, so the second argument I’ve listed is absolutely and terminally flawed.

Final Thoughts

We are in perilous times.

But in much the same way hills are miserable for the runner, so too are times of such strong and heated debates for democracy.

I believe that both running and democracy are similar in that are self-correcting processes. Hills, though agonizing, are shown scientifically to cause the body of the runner doing them to self-correct flaws in their running form, completely involuntarily. In the same way, such discussions over our national traditions and over issues such as institutional racism, however agonizing, are also absolutely vital, necessary, and must be protected for the benefit of both our democracy and those democracies abroad which look to it for example.

Let us not forget that although these protests are limited at the moment to American sports, the impact of our actions and discussion will be felt far more broadly than just our own little shores.

We as a nation, whatever our agreements or disagreements about anything, have an ethical obligation to set a good example. It can’t just be our politicians. Heck it may be outright in spite of our politicians. It has to be all of us. I cannot be just athletes, just minorities, just those with money, just those who like sports.

This time, this issue, this cause affects more than just any one group. It affects humanity as a whole. We have both an ethical obligation and a duty, every single one of us, to invite and propagate these discussions now.

Not just for us, but for all humankind.

I hope you’ll be bold enough to start a conversation, either here or on Twitter, with me or anyone else who has a viewpoint other than your own.

Fitness Journal 9.12.17

Workout Area? Not today...More Like Library

Our little workout area, doused in the chaos of my second-to-last trip of this recent move.

 

My happy little place has been turned upside down yet again, this time by the second-to-last trip (pictured above) of this move.

Still remaining is my coat-rack, my couch and my shoe-stand, but this…this is the bunk of it. My primary collection of books is back in my immediate possession, though I’ll need to buy new ones, and am still deciding what to buy exactly. Pictured just beyond the boxes in the foreground is my group of my favorites, the rest are off-stage (obviously). Couple of collections of Jack Gilbert, a few study Bibles, a regular Bible, the Alexander Hamilton bio by Ron Chernow, Etc.

But all that, dear Reader, is not why you opened this writing. Nor do you perhaps particularly care about how I took the weekend off from fitness, but got in 35 pushups and 40 sit-ups yesterday.

Alas, here’s what I did today:

Fitness Journal 9.12.2017

– 35 pushups
– 40 sit-ups
– 50 bicep curls with 5lb weight with right hand
– 60 bicep curls with 5lb weight with left hand
— (*Sidenote: Did each set with the other arm holding its allocated weight in Ballet 1st position arms. See this link but imagine that instead of out front with empty hands, you’re holding a 5lb weight between thumb and index finger. Trust me, you feel it).

– 30 Overhead presses with 5lb weights

Stretched my achilles’ in the shower, but felt soreness afterward (as I have a lot lately). So I’m going to start back up on a steady, rigorous ice regimen like when I first injured myself: ice applied via ice-cup to each, 10 minutes at a time, three times a day. That felt great this morning. We’ll see if I can use that to heal up a bit more and build back into stretching. In the meantime, we’ll start finding some core and butt workouts to start sliming down that way and building muscle to support running again once I’m ready.

Have a great day everyone.

Poetry: Let Me Show You What I See

Let me show you what it feels like:
Waking up at 5 a.m., semi-groggy
and going for a drive.
Smell the country, Kansas air
mixed with the sounds of
city. A mixture of smells assaulting the nostrils
horse-manure and diesel engines, united
by country music
in a place everyone thinks they want to get the hell out of.

But I know something they never knew,
like Steven Curtis Chapman dancing with his daughter
I know the oft-overlooked energy
of a place 26,000 strong, going on 100K.
I can feel the energy.
It calls to me on my balcony at 6 a.m.,
in sounds of car horns and air-brake discharges. It invigorates,
energizing the soul like a deep-tissue massage
to the heart.

Yet I also understand Cinderella’s youth
is fading, transient, and prone to missing.
I understand perfection is relative,
and this isn’t always relatively-perfect.
All the while, Chapman knows
what I too am old enough to:
Beauty in the eyes is fleeting,
but there’s inherent humanity in choosing.
To look below the surface.
To be wounded by the flaws
Yet still feel blissfully lovestruck.

By a job.
By a place.
By a person.
By an idea.

To feel i from the Spanish
shouts you don’t understand at a high-school
soccer game, or with a camera
on a sideline, under Friday-night lights.

If I am Johnny Cash
this place is my El Paso.
I don’t know that I always love it
But I hope I’m always strong enough
to choose to.

Fitness Journal 9.7.2017

Personal note: left out yoga today and the last few days due to Achilles soreness. We’ll see  if my traditional stretching routine helps prevent that the next time I practice. I’m indescribably frustrated that I can’t even do a few days of downward-dog without issue, but that’s where we are I guess.

9.6.2017

– 35 pushups
– 50 situps
– 50 bicep curls (right arm) with 5-pound dumbbell
– 60 bicep curls (Left arm) with 5-pound dumbbell
– 50 grips (right hand)
– 60 grips (left hand)

Sports: Week 1 College Football Observations: Bama’s Good, Texas Is Unpredictable, And OU’s Offensive Line Is A Vulnerability

By tonight’s end, the first week of college football will be in the books for DI schools. With that, here are a few observations. Enjoy.

Observation 1: Alabama = ….just…damn.

Everyone in the country knew Alabama probably wouldn’t drop off too much from last season, but the defense was one area of concern entering this season in part because seven players from the Crimson Tide’s defense went in the 2017 NFL Draft, according to SaturdayDownSouth.com.

Everyone got their answer Saturday in the Tide’s 24-7 win over No. 3 Florida State. This was the fourth straight year the Crimson Tide recorded three sacks in their season-opening game. The most recent two were against the No. 20 teams in the nation.

That doesn’t bode well for Alabama’s next opponent, unranked Fresno State. Neither does the fact that the Tide haven’t slowed down off those performances, winning their last three week-2 matchups by a combined score of 116-20.

Week two should be a cakewalk for Alabama. In case you somehow thought Fresno State had a chance before…

Observation 2: Texas is too inconsistent to predict, both now and for the next two-to-three years.

In his Monday press conference, first-year Texas head coach Tom Herman said “We’re in this for the long haul.”

Herman was equally as candid about the depth of work needed in the program immediately after Saturday’s 51-41 loss to Maryland.

“If we all thought that we were going to come in here and in nine months, sprinkle some fairy dust on this team and think that we’ve arrived, then we’re wrong,” Herman said after the game.

Last year, the famous quote that came from broadcasters during Texas’ 2OT win over Notre Dame to start the season was “Texas, is, back folks.”

First, Texas isn’t.

Second, I’m not sure we’ll know in any one second when they are.

I don’t think that when Texas actually is “back,” there will be one defining moment when we know. I think we’ll look back at maybe a season, or a couple of them in a few years year, and realize “OK, Texas can legitimately contend this season.”

That’ll only happen if Tom Herman gets time though, something Texas fans and regents have historically been reluctant to allow. Still, looking back statistically at previous seasons, there really aren’t a lot of scoring trends that point to simple conclusions like “Texas needs to play better defense” or “They need to score more points” to be able to armchair-quarterback Texas to success.

Realistically, Texas just needs to play better.

If they give Tom Herman time to make the cultural-shift he’s curating work, then they’ll be back at Alabama’s level before long.

But it will take two to three years.

For now, I wouldn’t bother trying to predict what they’ll do until they do it, because Texas is just too unpredictable at the moment, and it’s impossible to say how long that will last.

Observation 3: Oklahoma’s offensive line might be a real vulnerability this season

This morning, I watched the replay of the first half of the game Saturday between UTEP and Oklahoma.

My opinion: Oklahoma kind of got away with one in that game.

Who knows, maybe I’ll eat what I’m about to say next week. Maybe Oklahoma will come out, drop the hammer against No. 2 Ohio State in the Horseshoe.

But watching that replay, the part before OU quarterback Baker Mayfield came out, that Oklahoma offensive line did not look very good. Here are some statistics to back that up.

UTEP had a sack and five tackles-for-loss against the Oklahoma offense. OU, ranked No. 7 in the nation going in, had a sack, and four tackles-for-loss against the UTEP offense.

Same number of sacks.
UTEP had more Tackles for loss.
OU had more points and got the win.

In the half I watched, UTEP got fairly regular pressure on Mayfield, who started off 16-16 passing and ended up going 19-20.

Still, this was the first time since 2014 Oklahoma has had fewer sacks than an opponent in a season-opening game, and won.

Last year, they were out-sacked 5-2 by No. 15 Houston, who pulled out the huge upset under the guidance of then-head coach and now conference-rival Tom Herman. Two weeks later hosted No. 3 Ohio State, losing 45-24 and again getting out-sacked, this time 3-1.

Now, Oklahoma only gets a week to prepare for a road-game against an Ohio State squad fresh off beating Indiana 49-21 behind senior quarterback J.T. Barrett, who had 150 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions on 14-20 passing last year against Oklahoma.

Maybe it won’t matter. Maybe this week, the Sooners players will get a lot better from week one to week two just like many teams do after they’ve tasted actual gameplay for the first time in a season.

But I’m predicting Ohio State will win by at least 14 points, largely because their defensive line will rock Oklahoma’s offensive line.