Monthly Archives: March 2010

The real winner is not the champ

Last night during the finals of the 2010 Maryland State Wrestling tournament, I saw one of the most selfless and touching moments I’d ever seen while watching any sport.

When the 140 lb wrestlers began their match one of the other wrestling moms mentioned that one of the wrestlers was known to often hurt his opponents (and someone else referred to him in even less glowing terms), let’s call him Vince. Vince has a tattoo on his right thigh of the United States divided in half — one side red and the other blue. Not quite sure what that means. His opponent, let’s call him Caesar, also has a tattoo, but I think it is just his name on his back with a design below it.

I was actually more interested in watching my son get his 4th place award than watching the match going on in front of me. I used my binoculars to watch my son sitting on the podium and talking to various people who walked by while he waited for the 140 lb match to be over so he could get his award. Sometimes I would look at the wrestlers through the binoculars — mostly to see what their tattoos looked like and to check to see if their nails were clean (I have a really good pair of binoculars).

Riot Squad
Riot Squad

I’d gotten bored with the binoculars and was watching the match, the score of which was something like 8 – 3 in favor of Vince with 13 seconds to go,  when Vince somehow had Caesar in the air and either dropped him or threw him on the mat. The official called it dangerous (I knew that he said “dangerous” because he put both his hands behind his head). Then many things happened in swift succession. Caesar didn’t get off the mat. His coaches and the officials crowded around him. Vince ran around the ring, tore off his head gear, almost threw it on the ground before thinking better of it and then sat on the mat, holding his head and rocking back and forth. The crowd around us (we were sitting in the section housing Vince’s fans) began shouting at the officials and booing. A large group of people rushed down the stairs. Men in black (riot control?) rushed down the steps and shouted to the people in the aisles to sit down immediately, then escorted a man (who turned out to be Vince’s Caesar’s father) out of the stadium.

After quite a while in wrestling time, Caesar stood up, with the help of his coaches and slowly limped to the center of the mat where Vince joined him. Vince hugged Caesar tightly, let him go, hugged him again, wiped tears from his own eyes, then either Vince held up Caesar’s hand or Caesar held up Vince’s hand. The crowd cheered and stood up, applauding.

I asked a more seasoned wrestling mom what had just happened. She told me that if a wrestler does something dangerous and his opponent cannot continue wrestling the wrestler who did the dangerous move loses the match. Caesar could have won the match by not getting up and continuing to wrestle. He chose, instead, to stand up and allow Vince to win.

This really says something for the character of Caesar and I hope that by his example, Vince will learn about true sportsmanship and this experience will make him a better athlete.

News articles & other links about the event here:

Gators snap up a 3A-4A Crown

Four score wrestling state titles

Thread on Message Board

A video of the match (fast forward to the end if you want — it is really heartwarming)

Confessions of a Wrestling Mom

I didn’t always like wrestling. In fact I might have hated it. I didn’t like any sport, even the sports my son participated in. Oh yes, I’d occasionally attend a wrestling meet or tournament or soccer game or rugby match, and even watched Andrew play basketball a few times, but being raised in a family in which sports was not important, I didn’t like going to any of those events. It meant shrill whistles, or loud buzzers in a smelly gymnasium in the case of basketball and wrestling; or chilly, even rainy weather in sports played outdoors like soccer and rugby. It meant either being ignored by other players’ parents or having to participate in dreaded “small talk” with them.

I didn’t understand the rules of most of the sports, but could figure out the ones that involved a ball. The team had to move that ball from one end of the field to the other and put it through some sort of goal. That way the team would score points. I did not understand wrestling at all. Two kids of similar weight would roll around on the mat while an adult with a striped shirt made strange hand signals. They’d get up sometimes. Sometimes one would get on his hands and knees while the other one put his arm around the opponent’s middle. They’d roll around some more and eventually the time would end and one of the kids would smile and the other would cry, or at least look very sad.

Although Andrew started wrestling in elementary school, I didn’t have any interest in it until he was in high school and was chosen to be on the varsity team. I attended all of his matches that first year and most of the tournaments. I got to know the parents in the bleachers and began to learn what the referee’s hand signals meant. I even learned about scoring. I learned that a take-down was worth 2 points, as was a “reversal”. I learned that if a wrestler held his  opponent in such a way the opponent’s back formed an acute angle with the floor the wrestler doing the holding would get “back points” — the amount depending on how long they held the opponent there. I learned that a pin (or “fall) was worth 6 points, but the match could be over before 3 2-minute periods if one player earned 15 more points than his opponent and that was called a “tech fall”.

That year I also volunteered to redesign and maintain the team’s web site, which helped me learn the rules. I learned the names of the wrestlers and usually went home with throat raw from cheering the players as they “grappled”.

I never expected to love this sport. The bleachers are still uncomfortable — especially after sitting on them for 12 hours or more. The gymnasiums still smell like old socks and are usually far too warm. The buzzers and whistles (and shouting fans) are still loud. All that, often combined with glaring overhead lights, makes for a sensory over-stimulation not often found outside heavy-metal rock concerts. Yet, I love it all — sights, sounds, smells, physical discomfort. It energizes me. I’m proud to be a part of it and proud of our wrestlers and proud of my son.

This weekend we sent 7 of our wrestlers to the state tournament and last night 4 of them placed in the top 6 in their respective weight classes. (Andrew took 4th place)

My son -- 4th best 145 lb wrestler in the state of Maryland

[Please note: Several females wrestle, but I used typically masculine pronouns.]

The Girl who Stalked a Tree*

Monkey puzzle tree in Ireland
Monkey Puzzle Tree in Ireland

Prologue

Summer 1976. Near Leeds, England. She stood staring at the absurdly strange-looking tree, unable to believe it could possibly survive outside a fantasy world. She didn’t like breaking rules, but she wanted to trespass on the lawn that hosted this tree and touch it to make sure it was real. The tree was quite tall and shaped somewhat like a fir tree and, from a distance, seemed to have needles similar to that of a fir. But that was as far as the similarity went. The only tree she could think of that looked at all like this tree in front of her, was a Norfolk Island Pine.

This tree looked like it might have been around when the dinosaurs were top dog.

Her companion told her that the tree was a monkey puzzle tree. He added that it was thought to be  impossible for a monkey to climb a Monkey Puzzle Tree, hence the name.

Summer 1987 or so. Berkley, California. She and her husband, strolled leisurely around the neighborhood where her husband’s cousin lived. Something about the houses or the streets or the lawns that looked more like gardens reminded her of England and being reminded of English gardens reminded of the long ago monkey puzzle tree.  To her surprise, shortly after thinking about monkey puzzle trees, she saw a one  in front of one of the houses in the neighborhood and pointed it out to her husband, repeating what her companion had said about the tree eleven years earlier.

July 9, 2008. Killarney, Republic of Ireland. Driving around the roundabout that led out of Killarney and onto the Ring of Kerry, she shouted, “A Monkey Puzzle Tree!” and pointed out the passenger’s side window. Everyone in the car got a good look at the tree, and she made a note to take a photo on the way back.

Later that day, after visiting waterfalls, a stone circle and a town called Sneem, the driver pulled the rental car into a parking lot and let her out so she could snap a few photos of the Monkey Puzzle Tree.

Chapter 1
July 25 – August 15, 2008

Upon arriving back from her wonderful trip to Ireland, Dona turned on her Dell Dimension 8400 and began uploading her many photographs of the trip to the photo sharing site, Flickr. She’d kept a journal of her adventures and planned to transcribe the journal to a blog she started on the online blogging site, WordPress.com. She set up the blog and began to type.

Days later, after many cups of coffee, Dona came across the photograph of the monkey puzzle tree. Dona took another sip of coffee and opened up a new tab in her Firefox browser and, into the search field of the browser, typed

"monkey puzzle tree"

The first result on the Google search page was for the Wikipedia article about the Araucanria araucana, more commonly known as the monkey puzzle tree. After reading the article and saving it as a bookmark (Dona does not have a photographic memory, unlike some fictional characters), Dona wondered if it was possible to grow a monkey puzzle tree in her town of Bethesda. Through numerous searches, and cups of coffee, Dona discovered that where she lived in Maryland was in zone 5 for plant hardiness and that the monkey puzzle tree could grow in zone 5. She also read some bulletin boards after searching

"monkey puzzle tree" maryland

and discovered that there was a monkey puzzle tree in Gaithersburg, a town not far from Bethesda. She wondered where it was, but could find no clue even after many searches.

Chapter 2
Months later

Dona needed to make a Christmas list and had lately been thinking about monkey puzzle trees. She wondered if one could purchase a monkey puzzle tree nearby so she typed

"monkey puzzle tree" bethesda

into the search field on her browser. She didn’t find any for sale at the local nurseries, but did discover that a 30 ft. monkey puzzle tree graced the lawn of someone in Bethesda. The listing gave the name of a couple, but no address. Dona’s first thought was to use low technology. She got out the white pages of the phone book, but the name of the owner of the property on which the monkey puzzle tree stood was not listed. Then she searched online, but still could not find the couple who owned the monkey puzzle tree.

Chapter 3
More Months Later

Once again Dona thought about the Bethesda monkey puzzle tree and wondered if she could find more information by searching for the owner’s names separately.  Somehow she was led to an Internet link that led her to believe the monkey puzzle tree was in the neighborhood across from her son and daughter’s high school. She opened Google Maps and tried to see if she could see the monkey puzzle tree from the satellite view. No luck; but then she’d never seen a birds’ eye view of a monkey puzzle tree. The next day she drove around the school neighborhood intently at the trees in people’s yards, trying to find the monkey puzzle tree, but had no luck except that the cops didn’t come and ask her what she was doing staring in people’s back yards.

Chapter 4
Today

Dona opened her RSS reader and noticed that Mali posted a blog post, listing things that made her smile that morning. One of the things was a cabbage tree and Mali conveniently provided a link to a photo of a cabbage tree for readers that had never heard of one. Dona followed the link and then began thinking about the monkey puzzle tree in Bethesda once again.

She searched Google, using various search terms including, again, each name of the owners of the tree. She found a few results that she’d not seen before. One was to an entry in an online guest book for a funeral home signed by one of the owners of the house that hosted the monkey puzzle tree, but it listed her city as Rockville** and her husband’s name was the short version of his full name.  Another result was to a home that sold in 2007. Dona hadn’t thought that they might have moved — and give up ownership of a monkey puzzle tree? What were they thinking? A third (using the husband’s shortened name) was to another online guest book for a funeral home in which the husband mentioned being a neighbor of the deceased and mentioned a name of a street which was adjacent to the one the house that was sold.

Jackpot!

Dona hopped in her black Camry and drove past the house. There, in the front yard, was a 30 foot tall monkey puzzle tree.

*with apologies to the late Stieg Larsson

**The house is technically in Rockville, but is listed as North Bethesda some places