Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Looking Backwards To Go Downwards

 Hope to publish tomorrow (Jan 9)

Foreward /Disclaimer>  \I am an EXPERT on Parkinson’s - (My Parkinson’s) I’ve been around the PD block enough times to know that with so many different flavors of PD around, - there are few prescriptions for the disease that can be considered universal. However I am confident in saying that you can take the following three gems to the  bank. 1) There   is nothing better than daily exercise.  2) Don’t bet the farm  on a cure in your lifetime - Chip away at that bucket list  while you can. 3) Laughter is therapeutic. Find a good blog from someone who likes to poke fun at PD. And if you don’t think it's funny, laugh anyway. Your body apparently won’t know the difference - and neither will he.

Since 2005 I have been involved in  a bare-knuckled donnybrook with a fellow,  and the altercation shows no sign of waning. Of course I am not the only one to engage this fellow on the playing field. If you frequent any of the  neurodegenerative disease forums you will find that many others  also choose to frame their dealings with him in terms of their favorite sport  I have heard having Deep  Brain Stimulation done compared to pulling the goalie in hockey, another comparison I have seen is to throwing a Hail Mary pass in football.  Yet another described Parkinson's having some good body shots, but that recently he had managed to take a few rounds.

In fact  it is common in Degenerative disease communities, whether expressed in sporting terms or not - to consider a tie, a win. (Ie, if one managed to finish a 6 month period in the same condition as they started that would be considered a success. Apparently I am not the only one who imagines that he plays for the Bad News Bears, that he unfortunately is locked into a long-term contract - but I confess that I am likely the only one who fantasizes that after a long spell of losses, my Neurologist implements the newly instituted Neurodegenerative Mercy Ruthe, where after incurring a number of losses due to PD, my Neurologist is required to take me out to Dairy Queen for Ice Cream following my appointment.

And yes, that is quite the speculative observation that the job of a Neurologist can be contrasted with coaching the Bad News Bears. I suppose that you are referring to the low expectations of both scenarios. I can see how a job with such low expectations would be so attractive to a person like you that thrives on low expectations.  

    Also, your observation that only monitoring two practise's per year would seem rather light on the preparation sid, seems right on. I might add that in most leagues, regardless of the sport, that kind of laissez-faire behaviour would net the coach a one-way ticket to the farm team in Schenectady, You are right - the clincher certainly has to  be the fact that they are not required to attend ANY games.

Old Man Parkinson's (OMP) - Scouting Report
Old Man Parkinsonès (OMP)
Being built like a fire hydrant - he’s not quick off the start in fact, he has been known to give away a lead in the early going, but he has a devastating finish. His forte is mind games - he is a master of psychological warfare. He owns some immobilizing physical shots  that target your gait, balance, and memory - but he would much rather see you beat yourself, as he knows the race is won or lost upstairs in the noggin. The truth is he's the classic bully. He loves to intimidate, so the theme of his race strategy is to make you feel small by diminishing your voice, stride, and your handwriting until you feel like a Liliiputian. Sadly, the bastard will not quit until he has you not caring whether you get a medal at all.

The Challenger
So if the old fella  really is that fast  - what business does a mere mortal such has myself have in even lining up beside OMP at the start? I had rowed in University  for four years in 5-seat (the engine room of the boat - where your presence is expected to be felt but not heard (Just think of me as one of the big galoots in the classic Far Side rowing cartoons. While I had never considered myself a “big fish” in the sport I represented Canada twice – once as a U18 in 1979 in Moscow and as a U23 in Copenhagen in 1984.

By sifting through scrapbooks, connecting with former teammates, and jogging my yard-glass fogged memory, I have calculated that I won 51% of my races - In other words, I won the majority of my races but more importantly spent likely more time  in not just a trailing but in a chasing position.This is important because I think that you learn the most not when you are winnng - but when you are ,chasing and "in the hunt".

1) It’s Your Game- You Define The Win 
One of the core skills required of a successful rowing coach is to manage a crew's expectations. 
The part most fraught with peril is when every scrap of intelligence tells you that maybe it's 
time to aim for silver or bronze. A ways back I saw a documentary on Canadian Boxing Icon George 
Chuvalo. Chuvalo speaks of his fight with Ali and how success for him was a fluid concept - in 
flux as the fight went on. A win for him was initially to survive, which then morphed into lasting 18
rounds with Ali, then to not getting knocked down. 

Chuvalo was the master redefining what winning meant. If you have PD you may want to
consider  pondering what the gold might represent to you. Forgive me if it sounds like I’m 
pissing on hope - but if a PD cure is your gold, that’s perfectly fine as long as you ready yourself 
for the possibility of having to settle for silver. 

2) Keep Your Head In The Boat
Looking out of the boat during a race in my opinion is indicative of an athlete that lacks confidence in either themselves, the crew or the race plan. They are racing another crew's race without knowing it. How many times have you caught yourself playing  that short loop of film where you are  looking twenty years ahead? Keep your head in the game! Learn what parts of the Parkinson's sphere you can control,  which ones you can manage, and which ones you can only have a slight effect on

3)Have Fun - It’s The Stupid Stuff You Will Remember
Moe often than not, when I am recalling some memories of the "Golden Years" I am not telling tall tales of epic victories - but rather re-playing stories of idiotic debauchery - like downing 8 plates of spaghetti in our crew's pasta eat-off (I did NOT win), going to the three stooge Film Festivals at the New Yorker Cinema, or having a wrestling party in the back yard (every mattress in the house was outside on the grass). PD has a nasty habit of making doing anything just a little bit harder. Laughter and smiles are crucial for your PD wellbeing.

4) Row Your Own Race
As mentioned at the outset, there are so many different flavours of Parkinson's, that you need to become an expert on all things related to your specific variety. Only you and your crew know thoroughly your crew's strengths and weaknesses. In the same vein, YOU are are Master of Your PD Domain.  Be the architect of your own therapy, learn what works for you. Don’t let anyone tell your you that you have to be  on this or you have to be on that. Learn what works best for you.

5) Fake It Until You Make It! No one is always ready for primetime - but sometimes you have no choice, you must go on stage anyway. Just as in as race where you do not want your opponents to see you squirm - there are times  where you will, want others to see you as"OK" even if you are not.

6)  It Takes Only One Asshole To Ruin Aa Crew`
Apologies for the language but I couldn't find an acceptable substitute for the word. Rowers  that have spent any amount of time in a crew boat will immediately  relate to this one. Anyone, whether in rowing, life, or Parkinson's management would do well to surround themselves with quality people that don't necessarily agree with you but generally share  your positive outlook on life. And  immediately shed yourself of anyone who cannot make a decent cup of lemonade.

7) Remember, Life Isn’t Always Fair 
Occasionally the other crew may “jump the start, or your stroke (lead) rower may miss the big race due to injury.Whatever the scenario, it just does not seem right that your best 8 will not get to prove your superiority over their best. It’s just not the way it was meant to be! Sport certainly teaches you that much of life - especially as it relates to degenerative illness  - may as well be sitting at the craps table in Vegas.

8) Showing Up Is Half The Battle 
Not all of my rowing memories are fond. I have a very clear memory of spending quite a bit of early am time standing around in a circle in the boat bay,fuming, waiting for the last guy(s) debating the best way to take care of   a chronically late teammate and get away with it. Note that we did not have access to any shows like Miami CSI to teach us the proper way to dispose of a teammate.

Seriously Blair - you expect us to believe that you sit at home cnjurng up cartoon images of fictional degenerates do yo? Of course not, I come up with  my best fantasies from the prone position. . I think that in many ways, the lessons we learn from competitive sports are similar to the changes one undergoes from tavelling -or even better, living in a foreign culture I hav no doubt that after living in Japan for four years I returned fundamentally a different person. Pressed to  quantify how - I might likely regurgitate what would likely sounnd like some well-worn cliches. I ,think sport is similar. It has the capacity to change one's outlok in many subtle (often unrecognizable ways.

Ps… Before any readers out there start calling me the Preacher let me confess that I do not consistently do all of these things. One of the reasons to write a blog was precisely for this reason. I figured if I was public with these preachings I would be more likely to get them done myself!

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff Blair. Comments certainly applicable to many aspects of life. And was the wrestling party in the back "yard" at Wharncliffe?

    J Ox