Last night, I wanted to go to one of the wrestling matches for the team state championships. I haven’t gone to any this season and knew there were going to be some really good ones this year. However, I was put in an awkward predicament. I knew where I wanted to go, but I had no one to go with. All of my wrestling buddies were at college so there was no way they were making the trip back to see a high school match. I had to make the decision whether or not I would stay home or go alone.
I started wondering to myself if it was weird to go to places alone where most people attend with family, friends, or even loved ones. This not only has happened to me last night, but has been a dilemma for some other situations. Going to the movies, going to dinner, and even shopping are things I might not have people to always go with. I hate going to a diner and sitting down at a booth alone as I look around and see friends laughing with each other and couples snuggling up next to each other. The worst is when the waiter takes the place mat away in front of you as if to broadcast to others that you are alone. At least at the movies, it is dark enough where you can sit alone and no one can really see you. It’s only bad if the theatre is packed and you are sitting in that awkward place situated in-between two couples. Not only is it horrible when they stare and judge all the food you are consuming for one, but then its just uncomfortable if you look around as the couples are holding each other and making out. So what are people going to think when I’m sitting alone in the bleachers while they are all talking with families and friends.
Fortunately, one of my friends was home and called me to go with him. It was one of the most intense matches I have ever been to as the gymnasium was packed to the brim with screaming parents and a chanting student section. People were pulled out by cops and the athletes actually really put it all on the line with their rivals. As I was sitting there, I was thinking that I still would have enjoyed the match just as much by myself. Yeah, I wouldnt have had someone to talk to during the matches and drive there with, but the actually match still would have been exciting and entertaining. And all this stuff I made up about people staring and judging me was probably just something I have made up in my head. If there is no one around and you really want to go somewhere, you should just go and enjoy it. In the end you’re not going to have someone around you all the time to do regular stuff. So why should it stop you from doing something you really enjoy and like.
My arms are killing me even as I type this. I forgot what it was like to get back into the gym for the first time. After the first few days of extreme soreness have worn off, I am finally able to bend my arms down and touch my back. It was excruciating trying to find the motivation to get myself to lift weights as I was still in pain from yesterday’s workout. Even though I should have eased back into exercising, that just isn’t the way I have grown up working out. If I do something, I want to put all my effort into it. If I owned a company and relied on people working for me, I wouldn’t want them to give me less than a hundred percent. And I am the only employee of my life, so I need to go beyond my expectations and potential. And just like a business, my body felt the aches and pains of starting from the beginning.
My biggest goal is to not only get back to my original form, but to try to get into the best shape of my life. I know it is a long process, even though I am already checking to see if the results are showing. I can definitely feel it in every muscle of my body. The couple of years of goofing around, going on late night fast food runs, and no exercise at all are really showing as I can barely run for thirty minutes. I saw where my body was heading and I knew I had to change my life styles. I even began a new diet and have been eating less portions and more healthy foods. While I barely got through one week, I am happy I successfully pushed myself through it. Not only is it beneficial to my physical health, but I feel much better all around. I feel like I have been given back my energy and drive to go after things. I no longer want to sulk around and wonder why my life is the way it is. I have a schedule and a routine. I am time managing my days and taking the steps in order to achieve my plans for the future. These are some things I could barely do when I was on top of the ball in high school.
As I get ready to go back into the gym for my second week, I have no hesitations to continue to work out hard. I am still battling some aches and the the fatigue my body is feeling from this new routine of exercise, but it is all worth it. I am not looking back towards my past anymore and questioning my decisions. Regret is nothing more than a word to me. No longer will I feel sorry for myself. I am the only one responsible for my life, and will take on every challenge life throws at me in full stride. I am living in the present and feel great about where I am heading.
I hate hearing the phrase “If you come in second, than you’re just the first loser”. Athletes are always pushing themselves to get to their ultimate goal. Obviously they don’t train with the intention of finishing behind other people, but in any sport or contest there’s someone that falls short. There are people that put their blood, sweat, and tears into their passion. This can be the football player that wakes up at five in the morning with barely any sleep to go for a run or the guitarist strumming for hours even if his fingers are bleeding. But if they don’t win that championship ring or succeed, than all that hard work wasn’t worth it. I used to have that mindset for a big part of my wrestling career. I would get so upset when I lost a match that it would deter me from putting in that much effort with my training. I didn’t want that feeling of defeat after I probably put in as much time or more in my workouts and lifts as the kid as I was wrestling. This way of thinking really crippled my potential. I was so scared of losing that I couldn’t even focus during my match. It felt like I was about to have a heart attack before the ref even blew this whistle. This problem wasn’t getting any better until something happened before one the biggest matches I had ever wrestled.
It was my junior year and I had just made my way to the finals of the county tournament. It may not be a huge deal to some people, but one of my biggest goals for the year was to win this event. Growing up with all these kids, it would be amazing to be crowned champion and be known as the best in your area. I was wrestling a good tournament, but I wasn’t used to the pressure and intensity of the finals. There is only one mat in an enormous gymnasium crammed with screaming fans. All the lights are shut off in the building except the lone spotlight shining on the mat. That means every single person is focused on you. There isn’t another teammate to rely on like in other sports. It is just you out there. If you make one mistake, it won’t go unnoticed. The nerves began to kick in, and I could feel all the intensity get to me.
I was doing my usual routine to warm up before my match. I’d stretch out and just pace back and forth thinking to myself. About three matches before I was going to step out on the mat, my assistant coach pulled me over to the side. He asked me how I was doing and I just shrugged saying I’m fine. He could see right through my guard and noticed I was nervous. The next thing he said to me I’ll remember for the rest of my life. He told me about what his dad said to him before he wrestled in his county finals match. Don’t worry about if you win or lose. Don’t think about how people will react if you do this or don’t hit that move. Just go out there and leave it all on the mat. It was like a light bulb just went off in my head. I suddenly didn’t have the prematch jitters I could barely shake off. I actually felt excited to go out there and wrestle. I stepped out on the mat and my whole style changed. I didn’t hear any fans blowing their lungs out cheering. I didn’t think about what will happen after the match if I lose. I didn’t even see my opponent. I was going to wrestle my match and leave everything I had out there. If I wrestled like this, I would have nothing to second guess later on. This new found mindset propelled me to win my first county championship. All the five o’clock runs in the mornings and sacrifices finally paid off. I was overwhelmed by so much joy and happiness that the only thing I could do was cry. I left it all out there on the mat and no one could say anything about it.
I haven’t ever thanked that coach for the little bit of advice he gave me, but that one speech probably changed not only my wrestling career around but my life as well. I was so caught up in the cat and mouse game of life that I never let myself go. It felt like my whole existence was measured by the amounts of wins and defeats I had. This stopped me from really going after what I wanted with a clear mind. After that speech, I could finally be in the moment and focus all my attention on what I was doing. From friendships to school and especially wrestling, this outlook on life gave me a whole new perspective on everything. And I did lose after my victory at counties. But this time I didn’t storm off the mat upset. I actually had no regrets because I knew I gave everything I had in all my matches and shouldn’t be disappointed. I began to learn more from my losses and it helped me become a better wrestler and person. Life shouldn’t be a tally board or record, it is a journey that should be experienced in the moment. Sometimes you just need to let go and everything else will fall into place.
Nothing gets me more pumped up than to see an epic showdown in sports with great story lines. It was the end of a career of one of the most prolific defensive players to ever step on the field. I thought it was funny that Ray Lewis has been playing for so long that his first sack ever in he NFL was against the coach of the opposing team Jim Harbaugh. He has been admired for his eye-catching antics before games and motivational speeches, but that was overshadowed by his personal problems he encountered in earlier years. One of the best safeties in the league Ed Reed might have played his last game in a Ravens’ jersey, even with helping his team to a Super Bowl victory. On top of one player having the possibility of being let go, the MVP and quarterback of the Ravens Joe Flacco will be looking for a big payday on his new contract. His heroics and leadership definitely was a big contributor to the successful season his squad had. However, my favorite headline of all had to be the quarterback situation in San Francisco. Not only did they let go of Heisman winner Troy Smith a couple years ago, but they sat their first round draft pick in Alex Smith to start the phenomenal, rising star Collin Kaepernick. Despite losing, his performance in last night’s game definitely showed there is a lot more to come from this young quarterback. Also, I forgot to mention that the two head coaches playing for the ultimate prize in professional football were brothers! The game definitely lived up to the Super Bowl hype, and I couldn’t have asked for a better performance. Here are some of my thoughts on the game.
- While I didn’t really have a favorite team playing, I always like to root for the underdog. The 49ers definitely got my attention with the gutsy decision to start a pretty much rookie qb. And the best part of it all was that the criticized choice paid off for them more than they hoped. They also have some of the best players for their position in Frank Gore (very underrated), Vernon Davis, and Patrick Willis.
- The first half was not what I had expected at all. I was hoping to see Kaepernick throw a couple deep passes and break away for twenty yard gains. The Ravens’ defense pretty much dominated the 49ers’ offense. Baltimore marched up the field with ease as they built up a 21-6 lead before the half. I was hoping this wouldn’t end like the dreadful BCS Championship game.
- Despite the first half being one-sided, the most excitement came when a fight broke out among the players. Unfortunately, the NFL had to preserve their integrity and pan away from the action. This really bothered me because I found myself not even paying attention to the game until I heard a brawl had started. I wish it was more like the NHL and just let the players take out their anger on each other.
- I enjoyed the half time show but I wasn’t really wowed by it. For years, this performance is supposed to be the ultimate spectacle in entertainment. I wasn’t thrilled by the choice of Beyonce either. Don’t get me wrong, she is one of the best artists around and has the showmanship and dance moves to back it up. I just felt like it was short and not as crazy as I anticipated. I loved the stage and the cool images they simulated on the screen as Queen B was shaking it. The fact that she reunited Destiny’s Child for part of the show made it even more impressive, despite the fact it seemed like their mics were turned down to not be louder than Beyonce and they were on stage for probably a minute. Maybe it’s just me, but I always feel like I’m looking for more from these shows and question the choices for the half time performance. I guess nothing can live up to Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s memorable act.
- The kick return in the beginning of the second half threw me back into my seat. I couldn’t believe the Ravens had just added another seven points to their lead. I was hoping for the comeback team I saw in the 49ers with their come from behind victory against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC championship. I was ready to pack it in and start surfing for reruns to watch.
- Then the unforgettable “Blackout” happened. I don’t think any fan minded a delay in the game because it just meant more time to keep drinking and watching football. But the players were definitely concerned, especially the Ravens since they had the momentum. I don’t know if it was an accident, a planned way to turn the game around, or a unexplained miracle; but it was exactly what San Francisco needed.
- And then the team that I had known started to come alive. Kaepernick was throwing deep passes, maneuvering his offense, and breaking away on runs towards the end zone. The defense for the 49ers started to show why they are considered one of the dominant forces in the NFL too. They began to slow down Ray Rice and Joe Flacco, and held the Ravens from scoring. The swing of momentum was in the favor for my team, all they had to do was capitalize on this drive in the last two minutes.
- This play will live on forever in the history of professional football. On fourth down in the red zone, Kaepernick threw up the ball to Michael Crabtree. Any person that wasn’t blind could have seen the Ravens’ defender holding him. I jumped up in the air and screamed, “Yes! The ball is coming back”. I waited a good few seconds and still saw no flag. I couldn’t believe it as I watched the head coach of San Francisco have an aneurysm on the sideline. The refs had been favoring Baltimore the whole entire game, but this play had just proved it. Even though a game as important as the Super Bowl shouldn’t come down to the officiating, it almost felt like they robbed the 49ers of their victory.
- It honestly didn’t bother me about the end of the game, I was still excited to see the Ravens celebrate. Before the game was even over, Ray Lewis was crying on the sideline. I think that a tissue company should definitely contact his agent and give him a endorsement. I was happy to see Flacco finally get his ring after years of criticism and saying he wasn’t an elite quarterback. And even if Ed Reed doesn’t get resigned to Baltimore, it was great to go out with a victory the last time he wore that jersey. Also, the 49ers might have lost but it shows the true potential they have for years to come. The best part about everything is the Super Bowl lived up to its hype and will be remembered for years to come
I still can remember that first time I got Madden Football. I ripped off the plastic covering like I was the Incredible Hulk tearing a car apart. I placed the Madden ’04 disc into my PS2 and I never looked back. I would spend countless hours practicing my running, dissecting defenses to know where to throw the ball, and memorizing offensive strategies for my linebackers to counter. I loved playing in franchise mode that started with the great minicamp games and lead to a grueling regular season schedule (unless you stimulated all the regular season games until the playoffs). I won so many Super Bowls that I think I ended my franchise play in the year 2020. Not only was playing with your favorite team great, but you could also create your own super team. I remember me and my friends making ourselves into these unrealistic players that were almost seven feet tall and over 300 pounds with no body fat having 99 stats in every category. No team could touch us as we pounded on every professional player in the game. It might not have been up to the standards of gaming today, but Madden back then was simple and perfect.
While playing my favorite video game, I picked up on a quick trick that made me impossible to beat. I had always settle for a solid team that had a quarterbacks with a reliable arm. I realized that if I never had a open receiver, the defense would break through my offensive line and swarm the quarterback. It happened over and over again and was so frustrating. I didn’t know where to find an answer to my dilemma, but the solution was staring at me the whole time. The case of Madden ’04 had Michael Vick on the cover. What most people don’t know is Vick in ’04 was as close to having a made-up, 99 stats player than any other person in the game. Not only could he quickly out run everyone trying to tackle him, but he could throw bombs farther and faster than all the quarterbacks. Besides having Vick, the Falcons were loaded with other stars. Once my playbook showed the quarterback icon as red meaning the defense was focusing on that player, I could quickly switch to running with Warrick Dunn. He was almost as fast as Michael Vick and I could maneuver him in and out of the defense. He sliced through holes smoother than cutting butter and would break away if you ran him outside. Let alone having these track athletes in my backfield, I had the amazing presence of the wide receivers Michael Jenkins, Adam Jennings, and tight end Alge Crumpler. They pretty much could catch anything thrown to them, even from halfway across the field. I was unstoppable with this team and putting up scores that were only Madden-like. My friends would give up and some even throw the controller in frustration like a baby when I was leading by forty points. I loved seeing their faces as I broke their linebacker’s ankles or made their cornerbacks eat turf as they tried tackling my wide receivers. Gaming was good and Madden Football was close to my heart. I thought I was invisible, but even the mighty shall fall.
After a hiatus from playing video games, I bought an Xbox 360 for my freshman year in college. I refused to buy Madden because I knew it wouldn’t feel the same as playing with a PS2 controller. My biggest fear is I wouldn’t be as dominant as before, especially it being years after the infamous ’04 Falcons. So I decided to wait on buying a copy. But I started to get that urge to run my quarterback to the end zone as I juke out defenders and even throw a couple unbelievable passes from fifty yards away to my wide receivers. So I drove to BestBuy one night and picked up Madden ’13. I knew I’d be a bit rusty and it might take some time getting back into it, especially playing on a Xbox 360 instead of a PS2. However, I was in for a bigger surprise than I thought.
I looked at the cover of my new purchase and already had a bad feeling in my stomach. I don’t what it is but the picture didn’t give me that same excitement as the old fashion game I cherished. After unwrapping the case, I put in the disc and held my controller in anticipation of getting back into some football domination. After exiting quickly through a couple developer logos and the cheesy intro, I finally got to the start screen. I was then proceeded to a update alert that made me wait a few minutes until it was done downloading. Funny, I didn’t remember Madden ’04 having to download more content for ten minutes. Shouldn’t it already be in the disc? The download didn’t phase me really, but I was thrilled to have to quickly skim through the ads for a second time. Once again I am back at the start screen, and it feels like my Xbox 360 is spamming me. The screen is flashing with redeem online code and update rosters and ten other different options. I just want to play the game, not fill out a resume to work with Madden. I figure out how to exit out of all this junk, and I finally press the start button.
The original Madden would just load to a classic start screen where you can scroll through all the options. It would have some sliding images of relevant players in the NFL with modern pump up music to get every gamer in the mood for football. Madden ’13 brought me through this three dimensional worm hole that felt like I was riding the Fireball at the carnival. The vivid colors alone could have sent a kid into a seizure besides me now having the feeling I want to vomit. I am now brought to a screen that looks like I am watching a news room’s broadcaster or the stock exchange board. I am pretty sure there is even a ticker of stocks strolling up at the top. I am all for modernizing the game, but it is too much being thrown at once. After my eyes adjust, I realize where the play now option is and click it. I choose the Philadelphia Eagles only because I know Mike Vick in on the team and I can use him to my advantage. Picking the options for the play now aren’t that difficult and I am finally ready to start my next chapter in Madden Football.
The screen now turns to Lincoln Financial Stadium, and I must admit that the graphics are pretty impressive. Even the commentators look like their real selves. I win the coin toss and pick receive. The Giants kick the ball off and I am ready to run this back for a touchdown. However, I notice something strange about the running feature. I couldn’t pinpoint what it is exactly but it just seems off. The runner feels like he is a weeble wobble or something as his body dips side to side. I can’t really explain what bothered me about his running but it doesn’t have that classic Madden feeling to it. It didn’t matter because now Mike Vick is up and I know I am running straight for the outside. He gets the snap and immediately I break free. There are no defenders near me, I am running this no problem to the end zone. I then notice that out of nowhere the defensive linemen outruns Vick and tackles him to the ground. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I tried it again and the same exact thing happened twice. How is it possible that a bulky line men is not only going to keep up with Vick but actually outrun him. The guy ran a 4.33 for his 40 yard dash at the NFL combine, which is the lowest for any professional quarterback. I shrugged it off and decided they lowered his stats from nine years ago. I guess it’s time for me to pick a new team.
I then tried out the Washington Redskins because they have to have the fastest quarterback in the league with Robert Griffin. Unbelievably, the same exact thing happened with him. Linemen that could not even come close to his acceleration and speed were able to catch up to him and tackle him. Not only was it bothering me that every player seems to have the same speed, but the juke and spin seems all off. In Madden ’04, I was flawless with my ground and pound moves. You can’t even juke one player in this game, yet alone spin around them and watch as the defender breaks his ankles. You can barely even time the jukes for your running back it seems you are controlling an awkward kid that just learned to run, Besides all this, the way the player moves is just frustrating as he sluggishly sprints and never breaks free. What had happened to the Madden game I fell in love with. I understand they are trying to make it more realistic and modern, but I’d rather take simple substance over all these flashy add ons. Football is a realistic sport, but Madden is a game and should be kept in its original, well acclaimed form.
Maybe I am just being too harsh on Madden. He is trying to keep this gaming series going and I guess modernizing it seems like the solution. Making it more appealing and flashy can help it contend with the heavy hitters like Call of Duty and Halo. However, I have talked to my friends and they agree with what I said. They don’t like the way the players handle and the feel of the game. There is just too much crammed in there, even for one play. I don’t even see them buying the new Maddens anymore, and have now turned their attention to the Fifa franchise. It’s sad to see this happen to a game I have so many memories of. Staying up late with friends as games came down to the wire or even the infamous blow outs where your team would score a hundred points. No longer will there be domination, the breaking of ankles, or bomb passes. The game has tried to revolutionize itself by becoming more realistic. Maybe next year Madden will install a feature so you can feel the actual hit from Patrick Willis on your quarterback. I’m sure that’s the next step for Madden ’14.