Monday, November 30, 2020

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Joe's Extra

2020 Drake Relays — a slight variation

4/30/2020

“Drake University has postponed the 2020 Drake Relays.” 

The sporting world goes quiet. The blue oval is an empty, wind-swept desert. A hotdog in a steamed bun is a distant dream.

Except at our house.

“He’s rounding the corner, ladies and gentlemen. Come on, let’s give him a big Drake Relays push down the turn.” 

The student section erupts. Everyone stands. I have my shirt off. My wife has rolled her sleeves up over her shoulders. Our winter-white skin is turning a blotchy bright red — the telltale mark of a Drake Relays fan.

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The applause is deafening. The competitor reaches out, elongating his body in a twist that seems to defy Newton’s apple and grabs with a ferocious lunge the… orange Frisbee.

“That could be a new Drake Relays Record, folks, in the 40-yard Frisbee throw. What a day today!”

And I sit back in my seat, buzzed with adrenalin and awe. Wow. World-class athletes performing at the top of their game. And during an Olympic year that isn’t. Amazing. 

Where is that mid-morning beer stand anyway?

The men’s relay teams are warming up. Texas, Baylor, Louisiana. And there are the Iowa men doing front lunges down the inside of the track as they warm up for the final. Their black and gold uniforms flash in the sunshine. 

The Iowa men’s team has been riddled with controversy this year. Their strict vegetarian regimen and insistence on feeding their young regurgitated seeds have sparked concerns.

Is their unusual diet a healthful lifestyle or an illegal enhancement?

So far, the judges have ruled in Iowa’s favor. And, fortunately for the fans, the Hawkeyes’ performance IS enhanced as they are competing at the highest levels before their crazy and wild June breeding season.

“At this special invitation-only event, in lane one, the two-time winner of the NCAA indoor track and field, holding the best time this year in the world, is…”

And the announcer builds the field. Competitor after competitor. I’m straining my neck trying to see the start. The officials, all decked out in blue and white, line them up.

“On your marks.” 

My view is unobstructed except for that guy with the cowboy hat who always seems to be my best friend at the Relays. Or is that a bluejay on a branch?

“Get set.”

I stretch up out of my seat, not quite standing, but nearly.

The gun goes off. The crowd roars. My heart lodges in my throat.  

“Oh my oh my, it’s an all-out battle. Look at Iowa go. Let’s give them a big hand, folks, as they come down the home stretch.”

Iowa wins! Iowa wins! Iowa wins!

Yahoo! Our very own Hawkeyes win the Seed-Eating Invitational.”

“Check to the north end of the track everyone. Yes, that’s the time. With hundreds of events over several days, here we are, running 2 minutes ahead of schedule before our last competition. Let’s give a big hand to those volunteer Drake Officials, the best in the world.”

My wife and I applaud as the bunnies in the yard perform the march of the officials around the blue oval. Yay.

Back to the competition.  

“With the bird bath obstacle and the fierce competition from the woodpeckers, the last event is a doozy, folks, the 2-meter bird-feeder hang. The nuthatches are particularly adept, but being pushed hard by the squirrel team.” 

“Shoo, shoo, shoo,” jeers my wife as she tries to distract the hated squirrel team while she raps on the window. 

But the good guys don’t always come in first. The squirrels have been masters of the 2-meter bird-feeder hang ever since they hired that Russian coach back in 2010, who taught them how to climb a greased pole. And today was no different. They walk away with the blue ribbon. And all the bird seeds. 

So the 2020 Drake Relays come to a close. We stream away from the track with thousands of  other fans. But, like most, we stop by the kitchen to grab a glass of wine before moving on to the den to see what happens with Father Brown on PBS. 

There you have it. The 2020 Drake Relays. A slight variation. ♦

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