The Quiet Sport and the Social Web

Richard Carter -- Tiger Woods at the 2006 Open, Royal Liverpool, Hoylake, UK.

Richard Carter -- Tiger Woods at the 2006 Open, Royal Liverpool, Hoylake, UK.

Both the #WorldCup and the #USOpen merited their own hashtags on Twitter in the past few days, but whereas one trended wildly and loudly, one hugely popular event with celebrity starpower stayed relatively quiet — at least within my view of the social web.

I’m delighted my father took me with him on Saturday to watch in-person the US Open in Pebble Beach. I was born not miles from this truly gorgeous spot, and though I’ve not exactly been a fan of the sport, I love my dad and was honored to spend father’s day weekend with him, and so close to where I was brought into the world.

But that spot, while beautiful, is exclusive. You can’t get to the area without paying admission to the 17 Mile Drive, and I’m not even sure if you can get on the golf course without paying admission. Lodging anywhere nearby was up to 4x its usual rate.

Not coincidentally, we were asked to shed our cell phones – indeed, any connection to technology – before we entered the venerable Pebble Beach grounds. I think I can understand the need to concentrate while swinging in a relatively quiet individual sport, but I can’t help but think that the exclusivity of the spot, the spectators, the lodgings, and the culture coupled with the mainstream-only nature of the reporting and lack of explosion on the social web not only lead to collective social silence but perchance the eventual sunset-over-the-pacific of the sport itself.

Contrast the relative radio silence on Twitter and the social web of the US Open, which closed yesterday with Northern Ireland on top no doubt thanks to our family’s Northern Irish influence, versus the noisy exhuberance of the World Cup.

dmix06 - d world cup vuvuzela

dmix06 -- d world cup vuvuzela

Not only did the event itself trend, but the countries, the goals, the people and the noisemaker itself — the famed vuvuzela — have taken over Twitter trending for days.  I know this is a world-wide event (as much as we think there’s only one kind of “football” in the United States), wheras golf is rather provincial in nature — cause or an effect? I could also ask myself whether the huge lucrative US Open event would really care to be a worldwide Twitter trending topic.

I appreciate the gorgeous isolation of a rocky inaccessible beach as much as the next, but as a person existing in the world and more and more thanks to the social web, I feel it’s my duty, right, and necessity to share this world and the things I enjoy on it, and this is part of how I appreciate Twitter. And yet even I’m not beyond wondering if all this noise is always a good thing.

The real irony may be that collective access destroys and we can thank exclusive sporting events and multibillionaire mansions for keeping our coastlines pristine (no thanks to their — everyone’s — oil dependency) and maybe, just maybe, a little exclusion is not a bad thing in the right places. Though I’m hardpressed to think of many things these days not changed by the noisy social web, golf, Pebble Beach, and its people appear to be exactly that, and were certainly largely missing from the Twittersphere over the weekend. The man holds up the baton, says “hold please,” and the huge crowd is quiet, for the swing and beyond. Even the drunk medics are strangely obedient.

In the end, perhaps some sports join other battles of the more personal nature and are better played out on the private landscape.

My gold medal

new lucy

new lucy

Now I remember what it is that feels so familiar about the Summer Olympics. It was this time of year four years ago that they last rolled around. It was August 2004 when I also went into labor.

That first night after my water broke, I felt cramps in waves and I laid awake on the couch trying to do the impossible (ignore them). Late at night, I watched the great San-Francisco-y movie “Dopamine” and I remember it as the drug it felt like.

The following night, we felt more festive and turned on the Olympics to compare people’s extraordinary physical feats with what I was going through in my body. The day after that, Lucy arrived. Though no party, labor was nearly marvelous (I say with the miraculous blog-ability of four years hindsight).

In those first couple of years before Lucy could verbalize as much as she can now, her birthdays seemed like testaments to us making it through another year together. Now they are growing with an abundance of her own special characteristics. But there are those moments I look back to those nights of labor and wonder at that line of demarcation between then and now.

These particular Olympics and their attendant controversy (come on, there is always that) are not nearly the point. The athletes themselves form a band around the world, in their exquisitely practiced form so unearthly yet commonplace, and we all feel like we could be one of them – or they could represent us all. Not so much one country against another, but a union. There are some things that all of us have done.

Lucy watched two Olympic dives tonight (which is all of what I’ve managed to catch so far as well) and then proceeded to demonstrate everything that she could do too – just like while watching the Cirque du Soleil, when she dragged her stool out, got up on it, and cried about how much she too wanted to fly.

As Lucy herself said once, “I’m your special, mama.” She makes everything so common and so singularly unique – nothing felt like this before those Olympics four years ago. Just like she is, I’m still working on it and still get to wonder all the time.  If birth were an Olympic sport…



> So what are your views on motherhood and parenting now that you have a
> couple of weeks under your belt?

the question has stunned me. for late night/early morning (what’s the difference?) feedings, i sometimes read ‘a life’s work’ by rachel cusk. i like the writing because she writes quite frankly on being shocked by this new life; by being afraid of the loss of the old; yet feeling guilty because the little one is more important now after all. i like the story on ‘colic’. i have no idea what that really means and if lucy ‘has colic’ – but she cries much and at random parts of the day. we rather think it’s gas or currently, she has the cold i had – and it is heartbreaking her cries; i wonder if i could sing more pretty, or were stronger enough to hold her correctly, would i be more forgiven?

i have never felt so old, so weak, so unstrong before! i never felt like age had anything to do with me and now suddenly it frightens me and i do the ‘when she is sixteen, i’ll be…’ game, and fear my ability to provide. to be A Good Mother. i am just fortunate lucy has two mothers.

i just read this passage about salmon:

By the time she has finished building nests, releasing all of her eggs and protecting them, she is weak and scratched and scraped by her efforts.  Her life's journey is done, as is that of the primary male she mated with, and they both settle in at the edge of the stream to die.  The bodies of these majestic fish are then carried off by forest animals who feast on them, or they decompose in the stream and contribute to the nutrient cycle of the stream.  The journey of those salmon has ended in the act that will carry on their species.

— jessica prentice

it makes me feel deeply sad but in awe of nature.

> And how is your body feeling? You never
> did tell me anything about your labor experience.

my water broke on the friday night; we went into the hospital sunday afternoon – almost buying two days at home. i couldn’t get labor to restart and sustain so i didn’t avoid the pitocin – though by the time they finally admitted me (waited four hours in a room while they dealt with multiple surprise breaches or something) i was regularly contracting painfully every two minutes – for one minute – with no break in between – which was not what i expected! – and which sorta reminds me of breastfeeding at present! – and hadn’t slept properly for two days – nor since! – and so nor did i avoid the epidural, but it wasn’t the ‘gateway drug to the cesarian’ or Totally Bad Thing that i had feared. i was told i could get a milder dose and i opted for that, being horribly claustrophobic and afraid about being paralyzed – and was pleased i could lie on my side and could move my legs (couldn’t feel them, but could move them). i trembled and shook uncontrollably. they turned off the lights and said ‘you’re at 4cm; it’ll take forever now, sleep, we’ll see you tomorrow.’ two hours later, i had felt the funky pressure and asked about it. once they agreed to examine me i was suddenly fully dilated and lucy was bouncing at the door! i pushed for a halfhour or so and that was that. i had a nasty tear. unpleasant but it seems to be mostly mended now.

yesterday, someone asked me if i threw up during labor and i confidently answered ‘no’ — leanne finds it quite funny that i forgot all about all that.