A sport and pastime

One of the tools of the trade when you're working with the (mostly) elderly folks who suffer from some sort of dementia is memory care - talking to folks about the things they once liked to do. Some people with Alzheimer's can't seem to remember their former hobbies, homes or even specific family members. But others, in the early stages, respond well to brief talks about favorite foods, places, seasons and even movies and sports.

I've been doing so much memory talking lately that I find I've honed my own aging memory a little bit. And I think I've come to the conclusion that even if you can't tell whether a person is good or bad by what they can or cannot remember, you certainly can get a window into someone's personality talking over faves.

My favorite state in the United States might seem, obviously, Washington, since I've lived here for the past five years and, before that, for 12 years interrupted by stints in Idaho and Hawaii. But there is a quibble. I don't find much of interest in Washington south of Olympia or east of Kirkland, other than the Cascades.

I grew up in what struck me as a cultural wasteland, southern Ohio, so Spokane and its environs seemed familiar, and fleeable, within minutes of arrival. My favorite state is Western Washington. Hawaii, Montana and even Idaho seem preferable to Eastern Washington.

Xenophobia, tractors, fishing and talking about God's country, while all around you get progressively fatter, is not my idea of a wowser way to spend one's one and only life. Oh yeah, and don't forget blind obedience to whatever right-wing idiot is running (ruining) the country while talking about old-fashioned values, never specified but most likely bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia and book-banning.

Sports have played a big part in my life. There hasn't been a week in the past 30 years (except for the month down with broken ribs, and the two months a few years ago down with a detached biceps) that I didn't lift some moderate weight. And there hasn't been a week since I met yoga guru Lisa Pidge, in 2004, that I haven't done some yoga, although a lot less since Pidge flew the rainy coop for sunnier climes.

But yoga and, for god's sake, weightlifting are not my favorite sports. I would even argue that neither is a sport. They are conditioners so you can play a real sport. Readers of this column know that sport, for me nowadays, is golf.

And before you laugh, I played 18 holes in the hot sun the other day with a middle-aged friend who is a fitness fanatic, doing all that boring stuff like trail-hiking, biking too close to drivers and mild hill-climbing.

We both walked and we both carried our own bags. At dinner that night, at a third friend's house, this disparager of golf as exercise couldn't stop repeating how tired he was after playing 18 holes at a real golf course. (His usual golfing stop is Interbay - a favorite of mine but only a nine-hole, executive layout you can play on an uncrowded day in less than an hour.

I started my sports life playing and loving baseball and football. Inability to hit a curveball at 15, and inability not to break bones in my upper body trying to tackle running backs from 17 to 20, drove me into the arms of basketball. I hooped for two decades.

Hoops ended for me in ski-town Idaho around 1990. I was playing two-on-two with three teenaged rural Idahoan townies, all reserves on the local high school team, none of them over 5-foot-10. They were driving by me and, sad to say, jumping over my 6-foot (used to get the rim) self. These were good kids, but they were also kids who, a few years before, didn't belong on the same playground concrete court with moi. I gave my ball to the local grade school and hung up my Converse sneakers.

Next came soccer - to Midwestern me, an odd European game that seemed stupid. Why have a ball and not throw it around? But soccer grew on me, and once I found the inside of the net, as a goalie, I was hooked. I played, in Idaho and Hawaii, at the club level, and if I didn't hold many teams scoreless, I never gave up more than three goals, even once.

The detached biceps, following a four-hour surgery and a 10-week recovery period, finished off my soccer days. Leaving Hawaii finished off my daily swim. Golf replaced soccer; yoga and weights replaced the daily dunking. I love golf, but it is just the latest in a string of promiscuous sporting passions.

Sports, to me, are as essential as food. Playing sports, that is. I don't give a hoot about the Sonics, Mariners or Seahawks, although I watch the games when they are on the television in my vicinity. Rooting for a bunch of overpaid mercenaries is not, contrary to Steve Kelley and Art Thiel (two guys who once were great reporters and columnists), any kind of life lesson. My advice would be turn off the tube and get thee to a tennis court, soccer field, basketball court, ball diamond, gridiron or swimming pool. (Stay away from golf courses; they are already too crowded in summer.) Do for yourself, baby. Watching the Sonics only helps out-of-state rural billionaires, and avidly following the Seahawks only encourages guys like Mike Holmgren.

I love books and, lately, film; love good food, wine, song; and have loved some pretty cool women. So go and enjoy something you love, now. Time is flying.[[In-content Ad]]