I'm in the middle generation of a multi-generational sports family on both sides. Both my parents were good athletes in their day, mom at tennis and baseball and dad at almost anything he tried. When it looked as if I might be good at track and field (at age 9), my dad would wake me at 5 in the morning to run and practice sprints. My siblings and I tried out various sports and competed in almost every team and individual sport except swimming.
We love to play, watch and endlessly discuss sports, competition and the qualities of champions, winners and losers.
When my family moved to Europe in the late 70s, mom used to listen to baseball games at 2 in the morning on a small transistor radio. In later years she could be found working in her yard in Hawai'i, wearing a goofy radio headset under a Giants cap, listening to whatever games were playing.
The last time she visited me in San Francisco, I bought cheap seats to a Giants game so she could see her beloved Barry Bonds (I know! - we had *many* faux arguments about Barry) almost hit a homer into McCovey Cove.
In late 2008, never having been sick her entire career as a social worker, she started having increasingly debilitating pain that her young-ish male doctor took several weeks to finally take seriously. Almost 2 months after she complained of pain, a PET-scan showed she had late-stage cancer throughout her body.
I and one of my sisters took turns caring for her over 4 months until she died. She never complained about her fate or her pain, and every day enjoyed her little house next to the Pacific with a view of the beautiful Ko'olau mountains.
There weren't many highlights during that time for us, but a couple of sports-related things did energize and excite her and helped us enjoy our time together.
The 1st bit of fun was a surprise visit in December by Misty May-Treanor and her husband Matt, yes, that Matt Treanor, currently playing with the Texas Rangers. My Uncle G is a long-time friend of Misty's dad. He and my aunt went to Beijing at Misty's invitation and watched her and Kerry Walsh win Gold in Beach Volleyball.
Uncle G decided to take the Treanors on a little detour to the windward side when they visited Hawai'i in 2008. Mom and my sister got their picture taken with a 2-time Gold Medal Olympian *but* all mom talked about later was how excited she was to talk with Matt Treanor about pro baseball and what his plans were (I think he had just been released by the Florida Marlins and was uncertain about his future). According to mom and my sister, Matt Treanor was a friendly, down-to-earth accessible guy. I think Misty was more of an enigma.
Matt Treanor bounced around teams quite a bit between that sickroom visit he made to my very ill mother who was "only" a friend-of-a-friend. He was traded to the Rangers in March this year, and now he's playing for the 1st time in a World Series against my mom's favorite-of-all-time baseball team, the San Francisco Giants.
My mom, being a true fan, would be cheering on her Giants, but she would be just as happy for Matt Treanor to win a Championship after slogging it out under the radar for so many years.
It's a win-win for me as I'll always be appreciative of how much my sports nut mother enjoyed Matt and Misty's visit 2 years ago.
The 2nd bit of fun with mom is tennis-related. She and I got up at weird hours and watched the 2009 Australian Open. While she appreciated Roger's tennis, she loved watching Rafa. Yes, she was an unorthodox, self-taught lefty who beat a bunch of club players for a local championship that her peers still talk about decades later. We had so much fun watching him win that tournament and that time period was the best she would feel, physically, throughout her chemo treatments.
This is what I posted on the blog I kept, Not Maudlin Mom:
Monday, February 2, 2009
Mom and I stayed up into the wee hours Sunday to watch the Australian Open men's final. Mom's version of watching was to sit in her fold-out sports chair, bent over with her eyes closed. I would periodically rouse her and tell her to watch a replay of an amazing exchange or ask her if she wanted to get onto the bed and she would say, "No, because then I'll really go to sleep."
By the 5th set we were both wide awake to watch Rafa Nadal win his 1st hard court major. That last set was a lesson in focus of intent to the exclusion of physical discomfort, environment, and the other guy across the net, who may just be one of the greatest tennis players of all time. My take-away was that a great competitor beat a great artist and comparisons don't apply, but sports fans reap the benefit of one of the great rivalries of the current generation. Wow.
Long-time friends and family know which player mom most closely resembles. Hint: not the artist.