This morning, as I was starting my “to do” list before the Bills game, I quickly became sidetracked. I sat down to fold laundry, turned on the TV and saw ESPN highlights of Curry getting ejected from an NBA game for flaring a temper and throwing his mouthpiece. I thought, heh, I should tell my fiance’s son about this seeing as he loves Curry and we are always trying to teach him not to argue with the refs or act out. But then I just left ESPN on as I folded clothes and became quickly attached to their next story…
A 9 year old boy, star of his little league football team in talent and in attitude, complained of stomach pains one day. Long story short, it was a tumor. The doctors said he was going to have the fight of his life. An avid Philadelphia Eagles fan, all he ever wanted was to play for the Eagles when he grew up. His room, laden with Eagles logos and decked out in Eagles colors, a Wentz jersey (QB) hanging on the wall. I couldn’t turn the station. I couldn’t proceed with my chores. I watched as he underwent all the treatments, lost his hair, went through rehab to walk again, and was sent home clear in March. In April, a new tumor was diagnosed. Doctors said he likely wouldn’t survive this one. Ok, so I could have changed the channel there since I saw where this was going, but then they started interviewing Carson Wentz. I knew nothing about this guy but within 2 minutes I loved him. He met Lukas when he was sick, as all Lukas wanted was a chance to thank Carson. That visit, Lukas gave him one of his bracelets that read “The Dutch Destroyer,” a nickname for Lukas.
Less than two weeks later, Lukas passed away. They filmed Carson when they told him that Lukas was burried in… they didn’t have to tell Carson. Tears poured from both Carson’s eyes and mine. I couldn’t stop them. Lukas was burried in Wentz’s jersey. Do you have chills yet? If not, keep reading. When the family sat down to watch the first Philly game without Lukas, they saw Wentz run out on the field, bracelet on his wrist. Ok, now do you have chills? Carson said he hadn’t taken it off since he was given it in May. All Lukas ever wanted was to play in the NFL, and there it was, his chance to play in the NFL, through the heart of Carson Wentz.
Alright, i’ll stop with the tearjerker. My point that became so clear to me that inspired this blog (which meant I would hold off on posting the one I had actually already written for today) was that THIS IS WHAT MATTERS. This is sports. This is was sports can do to people This is so beyond the body. It made me so angry as I thought about what fitness has become in so many ways. This is why my blog is titled LIFE IN A SPORTS BRA. It is not because I love the gym. In fact, I don’t!!!! What I love is sports. Why do I love sports? Because of the emotion. The feeling. The lessons. The pride. This story made me think back to my experience with sports. What did I love? Why did I love it? Where was my passion? Who were my role models?
All I ever wanted growing up was to be like the magnificent seven, 1996 Women’s Gymnastics Gold Medal Team, mainly Dominique Dawes and Dominique Moceanu. It was normal to find me and my sister copying their routines, over and over. My friends/teammates and I would spend sleepovers copying them. Trying to be like them. You know what we weren’t trying for? THEIR BODIES. Never in my childhood, did I try to get a body like them. No. I wanted to BE like them. I wanted to PERFORM like them. I wanted to EVOKE a FEELING like them. I wanted to be a ROLE MODEL like them. Never did I want their arms or legs or abs. Never. And it’s amazing to me now to look back and realize that. Even in college, I wanted to shut down my opponent. I wanted to out rebound the tallest girl. I wanted to beat the fasted girl down the court. Never did I want calves like hers or whatever. Maybe her sneakers lol, but never her body. Seriously though, WHY?
This is LIFE IN A SPORTS BRA. It’s the feelings. The emotions. The lessons that I learned growing up in sports. And even more importantly, the values I learned. Going from seeing Stephen Curry ejected to Carson Wentz in genuine tears over a 9 year old boy… God damn that says it all. I am not a mother yet, but I can only hope my children have role models like Carson Wentz. I do believe pro athletes have a standard to adhere to. If they knew how many kids want to be like them, maybe some would think twice about their actions. I know they are human and they aren’t perfect, but we need sports and kids need role models and it just so happens that the sporting venues are a prime spot to find many of our youth’s role models.
It made me cry with happiness to see a role model like that. It made my heart cry to see the innocence that gets lost as kids grow up. And now I see the difference in sports and fitness. I hate that fitness is so BODY focused versus PERFORMANCE focused. Or maybe I should say EMOTION focused. When you play sports, what are you thinking about? When you see a great athlete, what do you notice most about them? I always root for the good guy. The genuinely good guy. There are so many stories like Lukas and Carson that we will never even hear about.
Like at the Bills game today. First, we celebrated cancer fighters, those who survived and even those who didn’t and I got to share that with my mom, a breast cancer survivor. Then, we celebrated members of the Military, and one specifically, who stood there choked up at the crowd support, even the Refs took off their hats to acknowledge them and I don’t usually notice that. And finally, it was a game of many momentum swings, up and down, back and forth, mistakes that could have cost either team the game. It was a game where normally Bills fans would chalk it up to another loss before the clock ticked zero. But the EMOTION there is always like no other. It doesn’t matter if we have zero wins going into a game, everyone pulls together. Everyone gets excited. Yea they yell and swear at bad plays, but in the end, we are all rooting for them, together. And watching everyone walk out of there singing “Sweet Caroline” after a hard fought win was just another reminder of why I love sports.
I get very angry when I look at fitness today. I think we are getting too caught up in it, or at least the part that isn’t truly fitness. Like Jillian Michaels said in a recent podcast, selfies for validation are not fitness. Athletes are fitness. Your body doing epic shit is fitness. And I agree. It is getting very hard to compete with the “assies and the boobies” as I so lovingly call it. And I’m sure none of them are spending their Sunday morning crying over a kid they don’t know or their Sunday evening trying to be real with anyone who will listen to them, even if it is only a dozen people. And I don’t say this to pat myself on the back. But I want you to open your eyes beyond your body. We are getting too caught up in our bodies, our weight, what we “should” be.
What we “should be” is good freakin people like Carson and Lukas.
I am a personal trainer. I own my own studio. I teach group classes. I help people. But I do not think Arnold is amazing because of his muscles. Or because he taught people how to body build. I think he is awesome because he was the first. He was a pioneer. He was a role model for people to feel better about themselves. I just wish they didn’t need muscles to do it. I watch many people revel over Gold’s Gym Venice Beach. And if you are into body building, this is your Mecca. But, despite my career, this is not my Mecca. Arnold is not my God. I would rather go see USA Gymnastics training camp. Or the bobsled run at Lake Placid. I want to see people do epic shit. And lifting heavy weight is not epic shit to me guys!
So, if you take anything from this blog, I want you to ask yourself what fitness is to you. Ask yourself if you place more stress and importance on your body or your performance. You can weigh yourself everyday if your goal is a certain weight. You can take pictures of yourself everyday if your goal is a certain body. You can track personal bests if your goal is to lift a certain amount. But I don’t care about this the way you think I might. I care about Lukas. I care about Dominque Moceanu as my 9 year old self. I care about the role models our kids look up to. I care about sports and what they teach us, because my life in a sports bra has taught me more than any bodybuilding book ever could.
RIP Lukas. Thank you to people like Carson Wentz and to Jillian Michaels. Thank you to Shannon Miller who won Olympic gold and needed a strong body to fight and beat her recent ovarian cancer. Thank you to my mom for showing strength outside the gym.
This is what matters guys. Your body is capable of so much. Your heart is capable of even more.
Link to the story about Lukas and Carson Wentz