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July 17, 2010


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Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing.

- Vince Lombardi

Referees cause a profound shift in minds of recreational athletes. League organizers pay official officials to bring a sense of fairness and objectivity to the competition. They're an unbiased source of experience paid to run the show and hold the rulebook on the tip of their tongue.

Of course, even the most qualified refs miss calls and make mistakes. Participants acknowledge this up front. All parties agree to submit to the best judgement of the ref. Putting matters of conflict in the hands of the official is in the best interest of everyone. Winners win and losers lose when there's no room for cheating or complaining.

Supposedly. Shhyeah, right. What actually take place due to the presence of a mere man in a striped shirt goes far beyond the rules of the game.

It's not all bad. Intensity of effort is dialed up a notch or three. Heart rates are maxed out and people suffocating under domestic responsibility are suddenly warriors forced to live in the moment. They push hard, as if the welfare of women and children were at stake. Teammates forge bonds and strain their bodies and break their capacities.

With refs comes the awesome opportunity for athletes to really try. Ooh, there it is.


To try means to risk failure. That's where things get hairy. If you care to know a man, be courageous enough to compete against him and try. Or better yet, compete with him. Forget the uniforms because the field or court is always where true color is laid bare.

The glory of having refs is also the curse of having refs. Nice guys get serious and sometimes frustrated. Serious guys become angry. Angry guys become jerks. Jerks quit.

Hire a ref and, for some reason, the rec athlete's own responsibility for conduct suddenly becomes the refs obligation. Respectable associates become egomaniacs that can only see it one way. Fit and sturdy youth become spineless weasels, sometimes violent but always testing to see what they can get away with.

Fathers who try to make every missed basket and dropped fly ball into a "learning opportunity" for their child are suddenly ready to go fistacuffs over a lane violation.

Such is the power of refs in rec sports. Yes - recreational. I testify to the truth as an eye witness. The power discriminates against neither race nor gender, socioeconomic status nor sports experience. It's proven effective on construction workers and professors, beginners and former professionals.

I've litteraly seen the refs power over punk gang members at Harrisburg's Reservoir Park and over pastors and other brethren at Messiah College. And yes, it holds sway over physical therapists too.

If winning is the "only thing," then we better seriously consider what winning really means in rec sports. Winners still go home and have to live with themselves.

"Nobody wins" is certainly a realistic possibility. It occurs when participants blame and bitch and moan to save face in the event of a loss. It's where you arrive after leaving a wake of bickering and bitterness, broken bones and burnt rules, on your way to scoring more points. And that's not what anybody came for.

Yet still, refs can be worth it. Absolutely they're worth it, if you remember (ironically) that it's not just a game.


Ma crew rollin' white and nerdy last winter:

July 08, 2010

Music Is

Central Pennsylvania's WNNK 104 played over my dentists radio last week. Sitting motionless, mouth propped open, I forced back a laugh at the soundtrack to my dental exam.

before I leave
brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack

"Harrisburg's work day radio station," apparently deems this to be standard fare for the workplace. From what I'm hearing, many local businesses agree. I picture politicians at the Capital, attorneys in Hershey and neurologists in Camp Hill bopping through their offices.

I'll get him hot
show him what I've got.

I know it gets a lot worse (or better) than this, depending on who you ask. Keep in mind that central PA is somewhat conservative. It's certainly not LA or New York City.

I'm not even the radio police. Much of what's out there is pretty fine by me. You'll catch me subtly playing air drums with my thumb or foot, mostly not understanding or even giving much attention to the lyrics.

I have a hard time tolerating only "positive" Christian radio, not that it's all bad either. I don't imagine a constant loop of Crystal Lewis and Michael W. Smith should be played in a nondenominational workplace. In the same way that I don't prefer a dental dance party, I'm not so sure that interjected sermons and mini sermons on Christian radio are appropriate for a workplace setting.

Yet who can deny that there is at least the potential for some powerful self-destructive forces to be at work? I'm not sure if it's my own filter creeping rightward or that of the greater culture leftward, but something is definitely moving here. Go ahead and listen to pop radio and tell me somethings not moving.

In my mind, there's a difference between

Let me go on
like a blister in the sun


Honey got a booty
like pow pow pow

Daytime - workplace - radio.

Sure, back in my day we had our Samantha Fox and Guns-n-Roses and Ice T. But you didn't hear their more obscure references played over mainstream radio. The booty lyrics just aren't fitting when you're trying to do a gait analysis on military personnel and soccer moms.

Music is good for the atmosphere of a PT office. Plus, it's practical for HIPPA privacy regulations. A little background noise keeps people from overhearing the details of other's business. I'd prefer that my mind (and the minds of my patients) not dwell even more on Lil Wayne and Lady Gaga.

Sorry, but country music is no option either. And sometimes, usually on Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons, I'm just not in the mood for the Gwen Stefani WHOO-HOOO guy.

So I made a CD from my home itunes selection. It contains a lot of Switchfoot and Reliant K and Kim Walker Smith alongside O.A.R. and Muse and Dave Matthews. And U2. Can we all at least agree on U2? The CD is simply made of songs that 1) the PT likes and 2) have lyrics appropriate for a professional setting.

I want to be respectful and sensitive. I'm there to do my part in stretching shoulders and strengthening knees. The last thing I want or need to do is preach to and proselytize somebody who already feels like an outsider.
Bad witness - bad for business.

On the other hand, it's pretty much white bred Christian America around here. My honest guess is that for every patient who's turned off by even subtle faith gestures, there will likely be ten who appreciate it and see it as a sign of shared values.

like Frank Sinatra
like Elvis and his mom
like Al Pacino's cash
nothing lasts in this life

If that alternative to the workplace booty call is too Jesus for someone, then maybe I should be okay with the fact that there are plenty of other outpatient PT offices around, some of which are certainly "WNNKing at Work," as they say.

Not everyone has the same values. I get that. Even WITHIN the office lies a good example of the dilemma. Kim is pretty conservative and gets a headache from anything with perceptible Auto-Tune. Debbie is far less conservative and perfectly at peace with the Black Eyed Peas. I think both of them claim to be Christians, and I see their points.

So today I sing to you, as one who beholds the power of the radio dial on an old CD/Radio/Cassette tape player in a small physical therapy office.

What should I play?

Is there an HD radio mix that justifies an upgrade? I think Howard Sterns permanently ruined my perception of Satellite Radio. Even if Satellite Radio is not all breast and fart jokes, it still seems unnecessary.

The whole thing becomes tedious and a little ridiculous when I don't have the time or mental energy to devote to such matters. That's why we mostly end up listening to nothing.

Is this trivial?

First Choice Rehabilitation Specialists is a smallish, independent company with no official music policy or custom mix ala Chic-Fil-A. Which is excellent, by the way. All walks of people go there because they do good work.

Yeah, I want our office to be like the Chic-Fil-A of orthopedic rehab. I could live with people of all worldviews coming because we do good work, the work being a testimony to what we believe. I want my joint manipulations and exercise prescription to be as good as a classic Chic-Fil-A chicken sandwich.

I could use one of those
right about now


July 04, 2010

Poured Out

We moved into this house in September of 2005. Full boxes were strewn about the living room. Pictures and furniture leaned against walls. We had no phone service. Yet the stream in the back yard was the very first order of business.

Tim and I dripped with mud and sweat as we rolled three massive boulders down to the far end of the property to buttress a small line of stones that crossed the stream. Tim was a 330-pound offensive guard then and I thought it was cool that a Steeler assisted in my homemaking.

From that day forward, people young and old have enjoyed the fruits of the dam. Wildlife flourishes. Kids have swam and rafted around. We've been entertained by native trout, ducks, turtles, and countless frogs, minnows, dragonflies, and crayfish. Crowds have roared during Walnutfest as their walnut floated toward the finish line.

Well, the dam came to an end today, converted to what I'd like to term a "trout nook." A resident far upstream claimed the dam was flooding the route 15 underpass and part of his property. Later, Zach Blair from the Department of Environmental Protection paid a visit to investigate the issue and the claims.

The trout nook. A determined trout can climb that now. Definitely.

"Your dam is less than three feet so it's fine, except for the fact that this is a native trout protected waterway. No dams are allowed in these."


Hmm. In the effort to harbor trout and other critters, I overlooked the possibility of wildlife wanting to come upstream to visit this area. Taking down the damn for the sake of the trout, in my mind, made the whole thing a lot more palatable. Zach and I talked for a while. I noticed his eyes light up when he saw a few trout dart away from us. He said this stream is a pretty unique and amazing thing, and I agreed.

Earlier today, a small crowd watched me, head hung low, standing waist deep in the water, reluctantly pulling up rocks and tree limbs.

"Do you think the trout can make it through that?"

Thirty minutes later, the frogs had two jumps to hit water. The level was well over a foot less. And guess what? The route 15 underpass is still completely submerged. It's been that way for about two years, ever since the state installed a drain that failed. It was supposed to divert highway runoff from a row of nearby town homes. That had nothing to do with the dam, and I'm pretty sure the little dam is a lot more trout friendly than highway runoff.

The underpass is still flooded. And awesome.

Ben and our neighbor Lianne and I have seen a beaver that resides back there, but lets not get into that. Seriously, I didn't mention the beaver to my complaining upstream neighbor.

Here's a photo of our back yard on the day the drain washed all kinds of rocks and dirt onto the underpass.

The waterway still amazes me. I stare at it, mesmerized when the sun is to my back. Pure water continually rolls through my shadow. It just keeps coming. I get the same feeling looking deep into the night sky.

This birthplace of the great Atlantic is only about a mile upstream, boiling from under two rocks and an old oak. It flows remarkably cool and consistent through summer drought. It never freezes in the winter. The surrounding topography contains no huge mountains or valleys. Where and whence it comes is a mystery.
I - said - mystery.

So please, geology and waterway engineer people, hold your tongue. What good can come from knowing more about this spring, being that I'm already compelled to be gentle? No, this is Gods blessing to my bunch of critters, and trout, ducks, frogs and bugs too. And a beaver. Lets not forget the beaver.

Right here in Mechanicsburg is a fountain of the deep poured directly from the hands of angels.
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