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All Points West: Physical fitness heading toward defeat
August 20, 2015 Frank Marquez   

Read more by Frank Marquez
Rifling through some news archives for my last column on a glorious year for Gering football, I ran across a story debating the merits of physical fitness.

I couldn’t decipher every bit of it because old newspapers were stored on microfiche, which is not especially easy to copy or transfer. Curse the genius who thought this invention was a big leap forward, sort of like going from LPs, to 45s, to 8-track, to cassette, and voila … disc or worse. Microfiche went nowhere. As for music, it’s called data now and stored somewhere in the Cloud, some nebulous Internet vacuum. I venture to say most of my life will be stored there once I’m gone. Really peculiar considering Heaven might be in the cloud(s), too.

Last spring, President Obama proclaimed May 2015 National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, writing: “Physical fitness is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise can produce long-term health benefits; it can help prevent chronic diseases, combat obesity, relieve stress, and increase the chances of living longer. By making physical activity part of your daily
routine, you can put yourself on the path to better physical and mental health..”

Why the proclamation? And why are we desperately urging Americans to do more?

And why was the validity of physical fitness, or sports, debated the final year of the ‘70s? The country’s mood? All of us who were alive then were eager to move on. Critics heaved a sigh about how wide collared shirts and plaid trousers − except on golf courses (thanks to the late Payne Stewart) − were on their way out, giving way to a more ridiculous throwing-caution-to-the-wind movement. Frizzy headedness and psychedelic synthesizer and spasmodic silliness followed. My gel-headed gyrations on the dance floor were proof. And fitness took an interesting twist. Anyone remember the song, “Let’s Get Physical?”
At the end of the decade, Jim McKay exclaimed, “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” as part of the opening for TV’s Wide World of Sports for several years until obscure sports became known as just that, obscure sports. The point to all of this, what drowned or clouded our thoughts or better phrased, our actions – the advances of technology. It drove us to a full throttle love affair with our TVs and media offshoots. You couldn’t pry most of us out of chairs.

Or, we would have rather rested in our favorite bean bags, Lazy Boy rockers or comfy memory foam beds to watch reality TV on a thousand-plus channels. Did you know there are about 40,000 movies available on DISH? TV then and now? It’s hard for me to fathom because my family’s house was just a half a block from the Oregon Trail Park on 12th Street, where during the summer, baseball games were played almost every other day or so it seemed. Legion contests were better than watching nothing, except for another sport. That’s why I couldn’t wait for fall and winter – Bulldogs, Huskers, Broncos, Lakers, in that order. Not much has changed.

There wasn’t any place in my house to rest, given five rambunctious brothers, and a strict mother who insisted we play outside. On warm summer days, half the neighbor boys in south Gering showed up to eat a mouthful of grass in our legendary survival games called Throw ’em up and Kill ’em, and not because of the vomit factor, or, maybe it was. It didn’t hurt that our TV choices were limited by only three channels, thankfully some of them were Denver broadcasts.

And guess what? If and when we did watch TV, it was sports or something like it. On Saturday mornings, we couldn’t wait to watch wrestling – the fake kind. It kept me and my brothers glued until commercials broke us out of trance. Then, we’d do our best to imitate the moves of The High Flyers. Though, my favorite move was “the claw” perfected by Mad Dog Vashon. Modern day psychologist say I was a kinesthetic learner. I’m not absolutely convinced. Sounds like some fancy rationale for other people to sit or lay around. Don’t be fooled. I did my fair share of being still, reading books. When it was time for dinner, I carried my book to the table. When it was time to walk to school, I cracked my books and read some more.

My brothers and I also discovered the joy of riding bicycles and found a really cool way to get off the ground, Evel-Knievel style. I know my mother secretly cursed this man, who made the attempt to jump the Grand Canyon at the famous landmark’s narrowest gap.

This was disappointment to the ‘nth’ degree for a kid like me. Plus, using a rocket attached to his red, white and blue motorcycle dampened the excitement, and killed the buildup. Plus, he only made it halfway across. Though, I must say it wasn’t as bad as the Manny Pacquiao v. Floyd Mayweather Jr. pay-per-view debacle. And, Evel’s failure didn’t stop thousands of boys, maybe girls, from trying the same darned thing at home. Early TV did not include disclaimers that today, don’t work. A quick search on YouTube confirms this. And, this was before BMXers called it big air. This was definitely the pre-safety era. Who needed elbow and knee pads and helmets? Forget that. Wussies.

Our ramps were made of plywood, cinder blocks held together by Super Glue and rusted nails. Who could have stopped us? The answer was easy: us. My brother made that very clear one day. Sans safety checks, at the point of no return, this once wiser and older daredevil brother of mine smiled into an endless blue sky as his rear wheel left the apex of the ramp. The descent was an entirely different story. In an instant, his euphoric smile twisted into a terrifying grimace. Victory turned into agony in mere seconds. My brother’s bike seat went one direction. Gravity pulled him and his two-wheeled death trap to a disastrous ground-jarring finish. At first, my friends and I cheered, then groaned. Another visit to the emergency room.
Despite the risk of serious injury, or actual serious injury, my parents just wrote it off as kids being kids. To me, these unofficial and unsanctioned sports antics were … well … to me, they were glory days. But I liked the on-field antics, too.

Comparing generations might be akin to apples and oranges. Make that a marshmallow. Apparently my kinesthetic style of learning didn’t carry over to my daughter who is more anti-sports than anyone with Nebraska roots. Hopefully, it’s a hiccup in our genetics, and skips a generation. She opted for a more creative outlet – playing bass in a few Punk bands. I was a proud pop when she suffered a few bruises in a mosh pit, a badge of honor to her. (I can hear her mother cringe from miles away.)

Truth? I fear the lack of physical fitness is more about complacency and Americans stressing less and less the importance of getting out of the house. Sure. There are still the soccer moms and little league dads, but now there’s even more helicopter parenting, smothering what’s left of a child’s drive right out of them. And the kids? They’re OK with their media pacifiers – TVs, laptops, tablets. Oh wait. That includes more than just the kids.

My greatest sports hope? Let not this next generation be the agony of our defeat. As motivation, I blow my symbolic coach’s whistle. Ready? Up! Down! Up! Down!
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