Sometimes, the idea in your head sputters on the turf.
Luckily, it was just practice. My mind drew up a box with two teams of eight, a 1v1 battle inside, passing out of the box. It looked lively in my mind, challenging, ever-changing, active. I split my squad up and put everyone in place.
The two girls in the middle immediately faced off.
Only, they didn’t know what to do next.
Wait! I said. This line should be here. That line should be over here. OK, start!
Nope. It still didn’t add up.
I scooped up the ball and bit my lip. My players – U14 girls who’ve captured my heart, if not any wins yet – closed the ranks around me.
“Maybe if this line went over here, coach,” one offered. “No, that still won’t work. Where will she pass the ball if she wins it?” I paced off 12 yards, and the girls followed. Would they doubt my ability to coach? My grasp on reality?
“Wait, coach! What if we did this?” Nope. It still didn’t work.
“It worked in my head. I swear it did,” I said as I conceded defeat.
I gave them something new to do, and we were fine. One girl walked behind and stood next to me. “Don’t you hate when it makes sense in your dreams,” she said, “but then in real life …”
I did dream of it, I told her. And it’s unusual. Usually my dreams involve Jennifer Lawrence. And pizza.
Maybe the answers today will work out better.
1. Don’t they have oxygen tanks on the sidelines of football games in Denver?
Yes. The Broncos aren’t the only Mile High team that uses the altitude as an edge.
For years, the NBA’s Nuggets have employed a fast-break, run-and-gun offense. If not successful, it’s often entertaining. Denver lost 186-184 in triple overtime to the Detroit Pistons in 1983.
Four players finished with 40 points or more, and the Pistons kept pace with Denver’s fast break.
It’s one thing when you’re the svelte jump shooter like Alex English. When you’re a 340-pound lineman wearing a helmet and shoulder pads, the altitude takes a different toll.
Our bodies are at their best at sea level. Oxygen concentration is 20.9%.
Life is good.
As you climb the mountain, though, that decreases. Unless you’re Lance Armstrong, the adjustment is tough. Denver teams are built for this: The NHL Avalanche usually has small, fast defensemen.
MLB’s Rockies look for power hitters. A baseball travels farther in the thin air.
So yeah, that’s oxygen you see players sucking down on the sideline. There are few sights in sports as beautiful as a raiders lineman gulping oxygen. Especially as he looks with disdain at a 27-0 deficit on the scoreboard at Mile High Stadium.
2. What’s the record high score in figure skating?
It’s just a bit higher than the Nuggets or Pistons could muster.
South Korea’s Yu-Na Kim racked up a 228.56 at the Vancouver Winter Games in 2010. It represented a combination of her short and long programs.
In 2003, the International Skating Union adopted a new scoring system. Seven years later, Yu-Na blew the roof off it.
The judges probably needed a little oxygen after that action.
3. Has there ever been a deaf Olympian?
Thirteen deaf athletes have competed in the Olympics. Italian boxer Carlo Orlandi was the first. He won gold at the Amsterdam Games in 1928. He beat American Stephen Halaiko in the lightweight final.
In those same games, Donald Gollan won silver with Great Britain’s rowing team.
Jeffrey Float was the first deaf American to win a medal, in the Los Angeles Games in 1984. He qualified for the 1980 games in Moscow, the Olympics that the U.S. boycotted. He was captain when his 4×200-meter relay team won gold. Since 2004, the U.S. has had at least one deaf athlete in the Olympics.
They are: Basketball star Tamika Catchings (Athens, 2004); diver Chris Colwill (2008, Beijing) and volleyballer David Smith (2012, London).
There’s even a deafylmpics held every four years. It’s the longest running multi-event sport after the Olympics.
4. Who has won the most gold medals in the Olympics?
Love all these questions about sports lately.
You know that lanky dude in Subway commercials? Not Jared. The tall guy. Michael Phelps. He has – get this – 18 gold medals. I’m not sure I have 18 pairs of socks. He won eight of those in the Beijing Games in 2008. His haul was so significant that China’s GDP dropped 13 points when he passed customs.
In three straight Olympics, he won more medals than anyone.
He’s a cool guy and approachable. I got to interview him a few times at the UltraSwim in Charlotte. He gets a bad rap, but did you know he turned a $1 million endorsement payout into creating the Michael Phelps Foundation.
5. How do octopuses change colors?
What happened to the sports theme?
Octopuses (it’s okay to call them that – I heard it on NPR) need to change colors to hide from red wings fans. Those hooligans have embraced the tradition of tossing their carcasses on the ice during hockey games. It started back in 1952. As recently as 1995, wings fans lobbed 16 octos on the ice – one that weighed in at 38 pounds.
Octopuses are like living LED screens. They have thousands of chromatophores just under their skin. These are cells that allow an octopus to change color to blend into its surroundings.
Each has a bag of pigment that expands and constricts to give our favorite cephalopod a new hue to suit his needs.
The blue-ringed octopus is venomous, and considerate about it. If you bug one, it’s light up with iridescent blue rings to warn its antagonist it means business.
It’s pretty brilliant.
More brilliant than I could ever dream up.