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I’ve been looking forward to this story more then any other. It’s ironic, of course, that I am running late on posting it to Mountaineer Life. Please forgive me. Yesterday, at U92, we had our annual reunion sports talk show, bringing back hosts from the last several years and having them on for what turned out to be a three hour session of wild sports talk and old memories.

That being said, I still have to talk about racquetball. So first and foremost let’s talk about the sport. Four walls, two people, two rackets, and one ball. One high octane ball that takes odd bounces and comes off the racket in strange ways. One tiny ball that if you get hit point blank with it (and I have been) will definitely leave a mark. But the sport is pure adrenaline when you get a good volley going. The ball bounces all over the place, making this possibly the most instinctual game you can play.

Lets talk about the rules. You serve to an opponent from the middle of the court. There is a line that you must get the ball past on the serve or it’s a fault. However, you can’t serve and hit the back wall without the ball landing first. So once you serve it in play the volley begins, and whoever wins the volley wins the serve. If the person serving wins the volley, they get a point. If the returner wins, they get to serve. The first to 15 wins. You can pretty much hit the ball off of any wall, but the only stipulation is that the ball absolutely can’t hit the ground twice–like in tennis.

So over at the Rec. Center there are three racquetball courts available all day every day of the week from early in the morning until ten o’clock when they close. During the week, the sport is extremely popular. You’re often hard-pressed to find an open court (though weekends are a little easier).

You can rent gear for the sport downstairs at the gear rental if you don’t have your own. Junior Ryan Ross often participates in these benefits.

“Just swipe my card and go downstairs and get some gear. Obviously you have to call ahead of time to get a court, but it’s really good that they provide equipment.”

Ross just recently started playing. He’s actually a pretty decent player. I challenged him to a game, and I’ve been playing for a few years. His technique was off, but his natural athleticism and great wingspan allowed him to get to nearly every ball unless I hit it perfectly low and into the corner. He clearly had some potential.

“It’s so much fun. It’s just you, your opponent, and your instincts.”

Courtesy: Prime Time Athletic Club

But it isn’t all fun and games. Quite a few players at the Rec. Center don’t wear protective eye gear when they play, and in closed quarters this can be a dangerous sport. Said sophomore John Scherch, “It’s ridiculous that anyone would play without protective goggles. I don’t play anybody unless they’re wearing goggles.”

But a recent addition to the racquetball scene is someone you may remember from a previous story: Jared Ramos. The hard-working Ramos is still looking for ways to keep college food weight off. He has turned to racquetball, but he doesn’t wear the eye glasses.

“It restricts my movement sometimes and sometimes can make it difficult to follow the ball totally. I’m new at this game and I won’t get better if I can’t hit the damn ball.”

I’ll leave it up for you to decide–whether you’ve played racquetball or not. The courts are high, but enclosed. Does this look like some place you’d like to be near a person swinging a racket or a small aerodynamic ball coming straight to you?

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Grey Hound Rescue

For my post this week I’ve decided to touch on a little known issue: Grey Hound Rescue. I did a radio story on this issue about a year and a half ago (one of my first broadcast stories) and thought that it would be a good and different way to blog this week…I just added a few visual effects to make it a bit more interesting. Hope you enjoy!

The 4th annual Amizade Water Walk took place behind the Lair Sunday afternoon.

This past Sunday, I helped women and children in Africa get clean water.  My dear mother and I participated in the 4th annual Amizade water walk.  Our mission was to raise money and awareness for the women who have to walk up to 3-4 hours just for a bucket of clean water, and the children who miss out on an education because their help is needed at home.

The walk began behind the Mountain Lair at 2 p.m.  The participants carried 5-gallon buckets down to the river, where we filled up our buckets.  I’ll be honest with you.  Most of us didn’t even fill our buckets up half way.  Actually, a lot the participants didn’t even

The 5-gallon buckets used to gather water for women and children's rights.

fill their buckets up a quarter of the way.  You know what else?  It was HARD.  We did not walk for 4 hours.  We merely walked for an hour and half around Morgantown, buckets held high above our heads parading through the busy streets, where every building had access to clean water.

I can’t speak for everyone else, but my arms hurt after…oh about a minute.  I had to alternatively switch hands until someone finally got the bright idea to put a t-shirt on my head and set the bucket on top.

Sometimes, you do not really fully understand something unless you take a walk in someone else’s shoes.  This event made me realize the distress women and children go through in Tanzania just to gather the bare minimal amount of water needed to survive.

Participating in an event is one way to volunteer your time, but consider taking it a step further and actually put yourself through something that someone has to live through every day.  You never know what you may become passionate about, and from there you never know what you can change.

My beautiful mom sporting her bucket.

You can go to room 343 in Stansbury Hall to find out more about Amizade.  Amizade has a program with WVU that allows students to study and volunteer abroad.  Upcoming summer trips include traveling to Ghana, Tanzania, Brazil, or Jamaica.  Two different fall 2011 trips are going to Bolivia or Tanzania, and a winter break trip will go to Ghana.

For many of us, it’s fun to read books. The contents within the pages are entertainment, they allow us to escape, or even provoke new ideas. Some of us are challenged by good writing. And I, for one, always wonder what the author of each good story is like. I grew up reading some science fiction and fantasy by Orson Scott Card, and then I found out he was a Mormon. Although I’m leery of the religion, I met Card at a nice, independent bookstore in San Diego. He was engaging, thoughtful, and endearing—everything that I had thought he would be.

I’ve mentioned before in my blogging that I’m not a celebrity hound. I don’t usually care much for the famous—the exciting no-names are more intriguing. But when I added a face and personality to the books that I had read, I felt some sort of tangible connection to the literature. Somehow they seemed more grounded. I’ve met many authors, before and after that encounter with Card, but he will always stand out to me. Now only if I could have lunch with Bill Bryson…

What if I told you that all of you that access to published writers (award-winning and good writers at that!) is usually nothing more than looking in your neighborhood. Here in Morgantown, we’re practically swimming in authors and scholars. After all, most good professors have been published extensively in journals, texts, and even trade books. Some write amazing stories. When I lived in Illinois, I worked at a bookstore while going through undergrad at the University. I commonly sold books from my professors, such as Leaving Atlanta, by Tayari JonesLedbelly, by Tyehimba Jess; and The Echo Maker (winner of the 2006 National Book Award), by Richard Powers. Getting to know the author can be a wonderful way to learn more about the material, and, if you’re an aspiring writer, find out all the secrets to the trade.

Here’s a list of some of Morgantown’s published and award-winning authors, which is by no means comprehensive. I work with the College of Physical Education and Sport Sciences (CPASS), and I study through the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism and the English department, so this list is heavy on the folks I work with, for, and around on a daily basis.

 

Ethel Morgan Smith

Smith is an associate professor at the English department. She is the author of From Whence Cometh My Help. An excerpt:

Determined to give voice to the African American community that served as the silent workforce for Hollins College, Ethel Morgan Smith succeeded in finding individuals to step forward and tell their stories. From Whence Cometh My Helpexamines the dynamics of an institution built on the foundations of slavery and so steeped in tradition that it managed to perpetuate servitude for generations. Interviewing senior community members, Smith gives recognition to the invisible population that provided and continues to provide the labor support for Hollins College for more than 150 years.

Smith specializes in creative nonfiction and African-American literature. She is working on an upcoming project to be detailed within the website but.if.and.that in April, 2011.

Ethel Morgan Smith, author and professor at WVU / Photo courtesy of Ethel Morgan Smith

 

James Harms

Harms is a professor of English at WVU, and is an amazing poet. He has won three Pushcart prizes, he has published several collections of poems, and has appeared in countless publications and magazines. One of my favorite mags, Smartish Pace, featured Harms, and you can even read one of my favorite poems of his here. One of his better collections, in my opinion, is Freeways and Aqueducts, of which the following praise appears from the English department website:

“Atmospheric and often lovely . . . these poems dwell unapologetically in the quotidian, attempting to transform the banal into the sublime. When this succeeds, it does so beautifully. . . . The collection is worth a good read—both for its images of quiet loveliness (‘you cupped my face like handful of water’) and for its masterfully sustained mood, the pleasant ache of chronic homesickness.”

—Verse

 

Mark Brazaitis

Brazaitis has a book on my reading list, which came highly recommended, titled An American Affair: Stories, which won the 2004 George Garrett Fiction Prize. Brazaitis, also a professor at WVU, offers many courses; one of his classes I wish to attend as a grad student is his fiction workshop (also highly recommended to me). For a sample of his writing, you can visit Sun Magazine and read The Boy Behind the Tree. Check it out!

 

Sarah Einstein

Einstein is receiving her MFA from WVU, and is moving on to Ohio, where she’ll be pursuing her PhD. She is the winner of a Pushcart prize for her nonfiction essay Mot, published by Ninth Letter at the University of Illinois (by my alma mater and creative writing department). You can read selections from Mot and a get a unique perspective on the voice of the “other” at but.if.and.that.

Sarah Einstein, Pushcart winner, WVU alum, and all-around great writer / Photo courtesy of Sarah Einstein

Smash fans rejoice!

I’ve previously covered Save Point as a great destination for gamers in Morgantown, but in my quest to plumb the depths of the town’s gaming culture, I returned to discover how much interest / community exists around the tournaments at Save Point.

Quick disclaimer: interest varies wildly from tournament to tournament, so this is not an infallible indication of community interest in these tournaments. For instance, a StarCraft 2 tournament will draw many more people than a Smash Bros. tournament simply due to the fact that SC2 players tend to be very competitive, and that the game is particularly well-suited to tournament play.

And now let’s meet the tournament entrants:

#1
Name: Victor Bonfili
Photo:

Victor Bonfili battling an unfortunate opponent


Status: Senior at Morgantown High School
Note: Victor won the previous Smash Bros. tournament at Save Point
Weaknesses: None
Main:

Lucario, Sinnoh Pokedex #116, a Fighting/Steel type Aura Pokemon


Secondary:

Lucas, a young tyke from the Japanese game "Mother 3"

#2
Name: Matt Starn
Photo:

Matt Starn wasn't terribly excited


Status: Junior at Morgantown High School
Note: Brother of Nick Starn
Main:

From Pikmin of course


Secondary:

Good ol' Fox

#3
Name: Nick Starn
Photo:

Nick Starn, intent on Smash Bros.


Status: Senior at Morgantown High School
Note: Brother of Matt Starn
Main:

RANDOM

#4
Name: Alex Stolar
Photo:

Alex Stolar, wearing the shirt he won at PAX East


Status: Freshman Computer Science major @ WVU
Note: Previously won PAX East CoD: Black Ops & Crysis 2 tournaments
Main:

Link, the Hero of Time


Secondary:

Samus Aran, protagonist of the Metroid series as well as an accomplished space bounty hunter

#5
Name: Fadi Amin
Photo:

Last but not least, Fadi Amin, master of projectiles


Status: Senior at Morgantown High School
Note: Has defeated current champion Victor in tourneys past
Main:

Pit from Kid Icarus, an ancient NES game. "The fight is on!"


Secondary:

Samus, pictured here in her Zero Suit

The tournament was structured in a round robin format, and spectators filtered past periodically to see who was on top. Rather than discuss each individual match, I will instead relate the tone of the experience. It was a good time for all; it’s not often that one gets to play video games with an audience, after all. Observers are mandatory when you play Smash Bros. too. The game has its own crowd soundtrack built into it!

Unfortunately, the players essentially were the crowd

Yes, it’s true, not many folks game out to play in or watch the tournament. It’s a shame too, because crowd or not, these lads were going at it hammer and tongs.

Two men enter, one man leaves

Fadi playing prevent vs. Alex

Still, the behind the couch crowd was a fun addition to the tournament. The impact of a telling blow was increased exponentially by the immediate chorus of “Ooooooh!” from the peanut gallery behind the players. It’s just one of those things that happens spontaneously when a good community gathers to share an enjoyable hobby, like the table chatter at Four Horsemen Comics.

In the end, though, the match of the evening belonged to Fadi vs. Victor. Fadi played keepaway as Pit, spamming projectiles till hell wouldn’t have it. Victor, as Lucario, managed to close the gap effectively time and again, just barely edging Fadi in the end.

Fadi and Victor square off

Overall, Save Point lists Fadi and Victor as the… well… victors, but in the matches between them, Victor was victorious.

“The one match against Fadi was nerve-wracking, just ’cause he and I go at it a lot,” confessed Victor. “His character can trash almost anyone. He can sit back and chill, letting his opponent make mistakes.” As you may have noticed, readers, MHS students accounted for 4/5 of the players in the tournament, and that’s no coincidence. They all play against each other with regularity.

Victor believes that this triumph isn’t the last we’ll see of him. “I think that based on who I’ve played, I should win [the next tournament],” he confessed.

And now the challenge has been passed on to you, gentle readers. Will you allow the challenge of a mere highschooler to stand? I look forward to seeing the next tournament’s turnout, and for a true Mountaineer to take the champion’s baton from the hands of this young upstart.

Until next time,
Kirk

So it’s four o’clock and I head down to the bowling alley in the bowels of the Mountainlair. I’m thinking to myself that it should be no problem finding some bowlers only to find that the entire bowling alley was empty.

Fate it seems, was not on my side to interview some amateur bowlers. Well, until, luck would have it in walks one of my best friends, Caitlin Fitzgerald with one of her friends–Scott Levine. Scott was visiting from New Jersey and the two had decided that a trip to the bowling alley was just what the doctor ordered (and good thing to because we crossed paths while I was just about to leave the bowling alley, dejected).

The exchange of greetings was followed by a trip to the front desk. A pair of shoes for just $1.06 and a lane all to yourself just as long as you have your WVU student ID. We hand over the money, grab our shoes, and grab some bowling balls and set off on a trip to Lane 15.

Now I’ve been bowling in the Lair a fair few times, but never had I seen it so empty. Another thing I had never seen was amidst the nine white pins, an oddly placed blue and gold West Virginia pin that turned up in our lane in almost every frame that we bowled. Said Levine, “It was almost like it was taunting us. I had a couple of frames where I’d knock nine pins down, but I couldn’t knock that blue and gold pin down.”

It almost became more important then the game. Who could knock down the blue and gold pin? Obviously, Caitlin and Scott and I weren’t taking the game too seriously. It was hard to take the game seriously anyway considering I bowled a 25 in my first five frames (not my best work).

Then things got interesting two strikes and a spare later…and before you know it I’m closing in on Caitlin and Scott who had been duking it out for first all game. Going into the final frame Scott had 104 points. Caitlin had 113. Scott had been bowling well, but tapered off in the end, and in the final frame hit only 6 pins to finish with 110. Caitlin didn’t finish very strong either, knocking just three down to finish with a 116. I came in last with a 99 (still 74 points over the final five frames was a nice improvement from the awful first five).

“I need to work on my approach,” said Levine. Levine continually joked that Caitlin, who claims “she never plays” was hustling us. I was almost inclined to agree…until I saw the second game.

Scott finished with a 99. I bowled a 114. Caitlin bowled an 80. Well so much for hustling, right?

While we were down there, we had the entire alley to ourselves. It made me think of a couple of random things.

1. Why is it called a bowling alley?

No one really needs to answer that.

2. Why is it so hard to be consistent?

This one I actually didn’t have a hard time answering. People who bowl for fun don’t do it every day for one, and that makes it harder to get good. Secondly, people who are bowling for fun are simply there too have fun and don’t really take the game too seriously. It almost gets to a point where you start rooting for the people you are playing against. It’s almost like golf, everybody’s bad. Because if you were good, you’d do it professionally.

It was an interesting experience. I hadn’t been down to the bowling alley in a couple of months, and it reminded me that this is one of those things that people do as a hobby–truly only for fun with absolutely no drawbacks.

So I’m sure all you readers out there have bowled for fun many a time? What’s your best score? And this week’s poll question…how many times do you throw a gutter ball per game (I would say I guttered at least seven or eight times in the first game)?

Hey guys! Here are this week’s pets available for immediate adoption at the Mon. County Animal Shelter!

Tebow

Tebow is a 10 month old male beagle/pit mix who is very playful and enjoys other dogs.

 

 

Kyser

Kyser is a 2 year old male beagle who is quiet but loves attention.

 

 

Diesel

Diesel is a 2 year old male boxer mix who is very sweet and energetic.

 

If you are interested in one of these dogs, or just in rescuing an animal, please contact Dana Johnson at (304) 291-7267. She’s the facilities manager at Mon. County Canine Adoption Center, and is eagerly trying to save these animals! You can also visit them on River Road, Morgantown, WV 26505.