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The next level

It’s time to take this blog to the next Next Level! Again!

Back when I was a young sprig of 45, I wrote a post about Jamie’s adventures with swimming, with special emphasis on how, after his Terrible Experience in 1998 (the nature of which we still have not learned), he and I set about rebuilding his confidence in the water.  And I tried to describe his swimming style, developed in the course of his aquatic autodidacticism:

he’s developed an idiosyncratic swimming stroke that serves him well.  His arms rarely break the plane of the water; instead, he thrusts them under his chest while frog-kicking.  It’s like watching a human try to imitate a sea lion, as I’ve told him many times.  (His response is usually to rotate and flip in the water like a sea lion.  He’s good at it.) He can move surprisingly fast this way, however ungainly it looks.

Well, this year he finally got some instruction on How to Swim—from his coaches in the local Special Olympics program.  And that requires some explanation, too.

Of course, I’ve told of Jamie’s Special Olympics exploits before—his pair of aces at a volleyball tournament at Villanova, and of course his annual performances in the local State College games every April.  But the volleyball team doesn’t exist anymore.  On Sunday mornings Jamie plays basketball, but last year, he didn’t even want to show up for the statewide games in June (much to the surprise and dismay of his teammates and coaches).  So last fall, we had a talk.  Janet and I looked over the available Special Olympics sports, and we suggested to Jamie that he might consider joining the swimming and golf teams, since he seems to love those things and does well at them.  The problem was that swimming began in January and golf in late April, and I worried that we’d forget to make contact with the relevant coaches when the time came.  I also wasn’t sure if Jamie’s swimming skills were good enough for actual competition, but I decided not to worry about that right away.

Sure enough, in January, when I looked for the contact sheet in the Special Olympics newsletter, it had mysteriously disappeared.  Those of you familiar with the language of coupledom will know that “it mysteriously disappeared” really means “it used to be right here in the wicker basket but I think you threw it out not knowing what it was,” but never mind that.  (I lose quite enough stuff on my own, anyway.  And Janet keeps track of Jamie’s horse-riding appointments, because I can’t take him to those, being insanely allergic to horses.) The point is that Jamie and I missed the first practice at the Penn State natatorium (I thought it was Sundays at 5, but it was Sundays at 6), but that we’ve since managed to make all the other practices—even on April 19, when Jamie and I had to leave the State College High School hockey team’s end-of-year banquet ridiculously early in order to go to the final practice before the big Sectional meet last Sunday.

It turns out that Jamie is a pretty good swimmer by local standards—but the coaches weren’t having any of his idiosyncratic swimming style.  So finally, finally people who know what they’re doing gave Jamie some swimming instruction.  (I can swim, sure, but I swim ugly.) Indeed, they even taught him a proper backstroke, and back on the 19th I was amazed to see that they had him attempting a 25m butterfly as well. 

OK, one more thing before we get to the Next Level on this blog.  Last summer, while Janet was teaching in Ireland, I decided to do Everything In The World around the house.  Jamie and Nick were both with me, and even helped out sometimes.  We cleaned everything and went through everything and put away old pictures and videos and took tons of clothes and playthings to Goodwill and one of us even cleaned the garage and one of us even went through all the old family videotapes and 80s-bands audiotapes and took them to the Digital Conversion Place to have them all converted to DVDs and CDs.  And that’s how we learned that we used our first video camera from 1992 to 1995, our second from 1998 to 2003, and our analog camera until 2004.  After that, it’s all digital photos, some of which have turned up on this very blog.  But we have had no “moving” “pictures” of any kind since Nick graduated from high school, because we never bought a digital “moving” “pictures” device.  Jamie, who’s very invested in what he was like year by year, was mystified that there is no film of him during the years 1996-97 and 2004-, and had a very hard time believing that we simply didn’t take any.  Oh, and one more thing about those films.  When we played back all that stuff, Nick marveled at how much Jamie has grown since we moved to Pennsylvania: “he was a waif,” Nick said upon seeing the wispy 10-year-old, 4-foot-6, 65-pound Jamie on screen contrasted with the 16-1/2-year-old, 5-foot-6, 155-pound mesomorph by his side.  I agreed, but I pointed out that Jamie’s former waifitude is also apparent in the still-photo record.  What really amazed me was the audio part of the video—the squeaky little voices my kids used to have.  It was like hearing Nick and Jamie on helium.

I figured now was as good a time as any for buying a digital “moving” “pictures” device, and so, in preparation for Jamie’s first-ever swim meet, I got one of those Sony things that’s about the size of a pack of cigarettes (oh, all right, a pack of big cigarettes) and spent last Saturday night reading the operating guide.

So here’s what happened this past Sunday, at the Special Olympics Sectionals for central Pennsylvania, held at St. Francis University in Loretto, PA.  In his first heat, Jamie won the 25m freestyle; his qualifying time was 38 point something seconds, and his time in the race was 34 point something.  The first time his coaches timed him, back in February or March, Jamie’s time was 45 seconds.  Now, I understand that these are not world-class performances, and I gather from my last discussion of Special Olympics (and from the CT comment thread) that there are some people out there who think the whole enterprise is necessarily condescending insofar as it involves spectators applauding athletes for not-world-class performances.  (And check out the late-to-the-party comment-thread contributions of one “Augustine” in that first link!  As one of this blog’s regulars once said about such people: hey, 1993 called—it wants its shtick back.) But I have two things to say about this.  One, swimming is really really good for Jamie’s cardiovascular system, and he wouldn’t be swimming as-hard-as-he-possibly-can for any meters if not for Special Olympics.  Two, Jamie understands very well that this is a competition, and that he’s competing not only against other people but against his own previous personal bests.  And three, people who think that the applause at Special Olympics is condescending should go yell at clouds.  Oops, that’s three things.

OK, so here’s the thrilling 50m race.  Keep in mind that until this year, Jamie had never swum 50 consecutive m.

As I call the race, I seem to oscillate between the role of announcer and the role of partisan Jamie fan.  Perhaps it is time for a blogger/camcorder ethics panel.

And how did Jamie do?  A personal best!

Now for the 25m backstroke.  Minutes before the race, I learned that the Special Olympics officials had decided to combine two heats, pitting Jamie against a pair of swimmers with qualifying times 13 and 15 seconds faster than his.  So I decided to offer some between-races commentary, holding the camcorder at arm’s length and hoping to keep myself in the picture frame:

Until this year, Jamie’s “backstroke” consisted of him floating on his back and waving his arms as if he were making a snow angel.  So his form here is a substantial improvement on that—and his push at the 15m mark surprises even me: 

I wasn’t sure if he had won the gold.  A few weeks ago, the coaches were working with the swimmers to make sure they didn’t turn around and abandon the backstroke before finishing the race; Jamie, being new to the real backstroke, kept worrying that he was going to hit the edge of the pool with his head, and had to be convinced that if he simply kept his arms churning properly, his hand would reach the edge of the pool well before his head did.  So that’s why I urged Jamie to keep swimming “straight straight straight” toward the end: I saw him looking for the edge of the pool over his shoulder and was hoping he wouldn’t disqualify himself.

Well, he didn’t!  And so he collected his third gold medal in as many races:

We thought that was the end of his day (hence my “so long” signoff, and Jamie’s “for Channel 14 dot com"), and we had good reason to think that, because the meet schedule had him down for three races: 25m free, 50m free, 25m back.  Only when Jamie had gone to the locker room and changed completely into his street clothes did one of the coaches appear to inform us that Jamie was also scheduled to be the first leg of the 100m relay.  OMG!  A fourth race!  Jamie was pretty tired by this point, and at first he hung his head and refused to change back into his swimsuit.  The coach urged him to come on back out, adding that the entire team would be disqualified if Jamie didn’t swim.  I dutifully noted that there is no I in team, and no J either, but there is an A and an M and an E.  I don’t think that argument carried the day.  All I know is that after only a minute or two of hesitation and attitude-adjusting, Jamie got back into his swimsuit and put on his game face and got himself psyched for yet another heat.

And guess what?  The dang relay team almost broke the two-minute mark, and wound up on that top step of the platform:

Four events, four gold medals.  One new digital camcorder. One moment in time.  And one very happy Special Olympian.

Posted by on 04/30 at 08:30 AM
  1. Damn, that’s awesome.

    captcha: effort

    Posted by  on  04/30  at  10:26 AM
  2. Thank you, Michael.  Congratulations Jamie.  Both of you should be very proud.

    Posted by  on  04/30  at  10:37 AM
  3. Outstanding, especially the backstroke race; I watched it a second time because it was hard to even see what transpired to have him go from lagging in the first half to suddenly surging to the lead (a warp in space-time?). With ogged gone from Unfogged, I wondered where I could satisfy my craving for swimming* blogging. Another demonstration that in Chávezistan all of our needs will be met.

    swimming is really really good for Jamie’s cardiovascular system,

    And Loretto up on the Allegheny Plateau at ~2,000 feet approaches bringing in the altitude factor (well not really, 3,000-5,000 feet is when it really kicks in).

    *My competitive sport back in the day. Sadly, now in the past as the effect of the chlorine on my sinuses, always a problem, has become pretty intolerable in recent years.

    Posted by  on  04/30  at  10:47 AM
  4. Congratulations to Jamie!

    Those of you familiar with the language of coupledom will know that “it mysteriously disappeared” really means “it used to be right here in the wicker basket but I think you threw it out not knowing what it was,” but never mind that. 

    Geez, that sounds familiar.  Have you been engaging in covert surveillance of our happy marital abode?

    Posted by  on  04/30  at  10:50 AM
  5. BOOYEAH!!!  Go, Jamie Bérubé, go!

    Have you been engaging in covert surveillance of our happy marital abode?

    He’s the guy with the pack of big cigarettes*, crouching next to Michele Bachmann.

    [Steps back outside to continue whispering at clouds]

    *Too easy

    Posted by  on  04/30  at  11:29 AM
  6. Four cheers for Jamie!

    Posted by Orange  on  04/30  at  11:40 AM
  7. mds, little do you know (or maybe you DO know) that a few years back Bachmann was found hiding behind a row of bushes, trying to spy on a gay-rights rally outside the Minnesota State Capitol.

    Posted by  on  04/30  at  12:06 PM
  8. Um, yes, Mr. the mad shirt grinder, that incident is actually the basis for my comment.  Nothing rarifies like obliquity, I guess.

    Also: Yay, Jamie!

    Posted by  on  04/30  at  12:31 PM
  9. Yay for Jamie!  Very cool.

    Recent computer problems have disabled the sound on my computer.  So I show up here today, thinking, I can read Chavezian Airspace without sound, right?  It’s on the blog level just below sound.  But then you go and take it to the Next Level, forcing me to block out the rest of the afternoon to work on fixing the sound so I can hear the commentary on the races.  I’ll get back to you when I can properly hear this blog on the right Level.

    Posted by  on  04/30  at  12:42 PM
  10. that is one awesome kid. i couldn’t finish “adventures with swimming”, i got too emotional.

    good onya and good on jamie1

    Posted by brendancalling  on  04/30  at  12:57 PM
  11. Alright! First hogging, and now swogging*! Can golf-blogging = gogging** be far behind?

    *I am praying that this is not a practice so horribly gross that even Urban Dictionary won’t list it.

    **This *is* listed in Urban Dictionary, but it’s relatively benign*** by their standards, so I hope we can claim it.

    ***I’m not going anywhere near this possibility.

    Posted by John Protevi  on  04/30  at  12:59 PM
  12. Yay Jamie! That’s terrific.

    Posted by  on  04/30  at  01:19 PM
  13. Major congrats to Jamie!

    On the political front, I hope Jamie’s overwhelming domination helps endear us to the New Overlord. Jamie is clearly emblematic of our undeniable superiority over...?

    Actually, I’m not sure who our new enemy is now that all the Americas are joined under one Chavezian banner. Are We All Catholics Now? Do we still hate the Muslim, or will there be a more enlightened approach trying to turn the Middle Eastern working class against their corrupt tyrannical rulers? I’ll be away from the computer the rest of the day. I’ll check back tonight for news and the further instructions.

    captcha - evening (hey - get out of my HEAD!)

    Posted by  on  04/30  at  01:39 PM
  14. Outstanding, especially the backstroke race; I watched it a second time because it was hard to even see what transpired to have him go from lagging in the first half to suddenly surging to the lead (a warp in space-time?).

    I’ve now watched it about twenty times, and I think it’s a combination of brief letdowns in lanes 3, 5, and 6 (Jamie’s in 4) and Jamie taking it to the Next Level at the 0:31-0:40 mark, where he really gets into a rhythm and his arm strokes do some serious propellin’.  But yeah, as of the halfway point I had him pegged for fourth.

    But then you go and take it to the Next Level, forcing me to block out the rest of the afternoon to work on fixing the sound so I can hear the commentary on the races.

    Just wait til I figure out how to get my squeaky helium-voiced kids up onto YouTube! 

    Oh, and I forgot to note the obvious, namely, that Jamie’s the youngest member of the relay team by almost 20 years.  Their time was 2:02.03, just over 30 seconds per lap.  I don’t think Jamie beat his time of :34 in the earlier 25m—he was pretty gassed by that point.  But he left it out all there.

    Hmmmm.  Someday we should have a thread consisting of nothing but sports clichés.  No fear!  Jamie brought it, and made them play his game.  He stayed within himself, but, you know, he can’t be stopped—only contained.

    Posted by  on  04/30  at  01:59 PM
  15. After watching all four videos through weepy-watery eyes, I played the first race again for our son Jack, almost six, also a swimmer, also possessing that extra 21st.  He got caught up in shouting “Go Jamie” toward the dramatic finish and, as the video ended, asked matter-of-factly “I go swimming too?” which only further made me get all weepy in a happy way.  Back-story: during her pregnancy my wife had polyhydramnios, e.g. she filled up with amniotic fluid because Jack had duodenal atresia and could not process amniotic fluid in utero.  The way we reframed everything during three months of her being on bed rest was that Jack had a big swimming pool—this paradigm was suggested by her amazing OB-GYN.  At birth (c-section), when the OB tried to lure Jack out, she said that he literally “swam” away from her.  He was born swimming, and we are rooting for Jamie and Jack to have long, flourishing Special Olympics swimming careers.  Thanks for the videos and congratulations Jamie!


    Posted by  on  04/30  at  02:23 PM
  16. It is what it is.

    Still working on the sound.  I promise to give 110% for the rest of the afternoon.

    captcha--"trade," as in I demand one.

    Posted by  on  04/30  at  02:23 PM
  17. Jamie taking it to the Next Level at the 0:31-0:40 mark

    You could literally feel the momentum changing; apparently he just wanted it more. It was good to see his work ethic paying off; you can’t teach heart. Oops, gotta run, the wheels are falling off here at work.

    Posted by  on  04/30  at  03:17 PM
  18. Jamie really stepped up.  He played his game and kept doing the things that got him there.  You can’t teach heart.  He knew there was no tomorrow.  The crowd was like an extra player on the floor/ice/in the water.  He knew this was what he was training for and he did what he had to do.

    Posted by  on  04/30  at  03:25 PM
  19. It’s a sight for sore eyes in this day and age to see a young man really complement the underlying metaphor, despite briefly pining for the fjords.

    Sorry, I don’t really follow sports.

    Posted by  on  04/30  at  03:47 PM
  20. despite briefly pining for the fjords

    I didn’t know the owners of the Detroit football franchise didn’t allow Jamie off the bench! He’ll be much better off following the advice of his agent and father, Michael “Drew Rosenhaus” Bérubé, and testing the waters of free agency. The owners will say it’s a sport when you ask for more money, and then say it’s a business when they cut you. So you’ve got to make hay while the sun shines.

    Posted by John Protevi  on  04/30  at  04:00 PM
  21. Well, clearly he gave 110%, and left it all out there in the pool.  Swimming’s a game of ounces, and Jaime brought a full bucket today.  That plucky kid really bobbed to the top of the pack, and took control of his own destiny.  He’s got the heart of a champion, and the flukes of a porpoise.

    Posted by  on  04/30  at  04:14 PM
  22. That is the best thing I have seen since my daughter won 2nd place in the tennis ball throw at Special Olympics last weekend. Way to go, Jaime!

    Posted by  on  04/30  at  05:06 PM
  23. Geez, I’ve been feeling pretty low since the Rangers were knocked out of the playoffs. I was considering giving up watching sports and spend all my extra time in deep meditation. But I have been granted a reprieve: That was just great!!! I was so happy to see Jamie really hang on and swim well from beginning to end in all his filmed races. And Michael, you look utterly buff. Have you been hitting the steroids again?

    Posted by  on  04/30  at  07:01 PM
  24. Jamie, you rock! And, Michael, you aren’t too shabby either.

    “I wanna take you higher”—Sly & the Family

    Posted by  on  04/30  at  07:39 PM
  25. I’m with John in comment #15--I got weepy watching these videos.  The thought of my daughter (now 8 months) trying so hard and doing so well is really exciting, but I fear when she is in Special Olympics competition I will be standing on the sidelines cheering through my tears.

    Posted by Alison  on  04/30  at  08:00 PM
  26. Ahh, c’mon Chris, the Rangers lost to a better team after stealing games 2 and 4.  When Brashear cold-cocked Blair Betts and just about broke his head on that late blindside forearm to the jaw, I got angrier than Lou Dobbs with a case of the swine flu contracted from an illegal immigrant.  (And of course there was the insult-to-injury, literally, later in the game when Dubinsky got a 10-minute misconduct for trying to point out to a referee that a Capitals player had bitten him.  They’re a hungry bunch, those Capitals.) But otherwise, I’m not terribly unhappy.  We went out in game 7 by outplaying that better team for 40 minutes—they tied it at 1 only by getting Ye Olde Flukey Goal off of Ye Dubinsky’s Head—before we ran out of gas.

    But yeah, I think these races were a reprieve from hockey madness.  Reasons to be cheerful, part three.

    And John @ 15, tell Jack Jamie says thanks for the encouragement!  Yes, he can go swimming too—he’s clearly been practicing since before he was born!  Hey, wait a minute -- that gives him an edge!

    No, seriously, John, Kristin @ 22, and Alison @ 25—good luck to all your Special Olympians.  The whole event, the whole day, really was great fun for everyone, no matter where or when they finished.  The point, as I tried to explain to the weird S.O. skeptics in the previous thread, is that our kids get to compete as athletes, push themselves physically, and take pride in their accomplishments.  I’m just not seeing the downside.

    Oh, and speaking of competing:  on the twenty-first viewing I finally realized why Jamie stepped it up in the 25m backstroke.  If you look very very closely at the 29-30 second mark, you can see him look over to his right and realize that he’s trailing.  That’s when he decides to take it to . . . The Next Level.

    Posted by Michael  on  04/30  at  09:25 PM
  27. So it’s Bay-Ru-BAY, is it?  And all this time I’ve been telling my friends and colleagues about this blogger Buh-ROO-bee.  It’s like talking about the great Yeets or that Nichee fellow.  Ah, well.  Congratulations to Jamie, for the medals, of course, but mostly for the extraordinary foresight he’s displayed in the selection of a father.

    And how about them Caps?  Even I could see, during that sixth game, that they’d figured Lundqvist out.  It took them four games, but they got his number and there wasn’t anything he could do about it.

    Posted by  on  04/30  at  09:52 PM
  28. I dutifully noted that there is no I in team, and no J either, but there is an A and an M and an E.

    Wonder how many of your readers watch as much NHL Network as it takes to know that bit by heart…

    Speaking of which, condolences on yr NY Rangers (or are they dead to you?) It’s wrong of me, but I don’t think I’ve enjoyed anything this season quite as much as I enjoyed Sergei smashing Sean Avery into the boards while protecting his winning-goal 1-goal lead in the last two minutes.

    Posted by Nell  on  05/01  at  12:15 AM
  29. One tough kid, I have got to say. Inspiring.

    Posted by Hattie  on  05/01  at  12:46 AM
  30. as much as I enjoyed Sergei smashing Sean Avery into the boards while protecting his winning-goal 1-goal lead in the last two minutes.

    It certainly was one moment in time to savor. (And it probably was everywhere around the league.)

    1 metropolis, 2 games, 3 goals, 6 minutes of hockey hell.

    Posted by  on  05/01  at  01:52 AM
  31. Beautiful and inspiring!  Let’s keep on fighting ‘til the end, champs.

    Posted by  on  05/01  at  01:58 AM
  32. pining for the fjords

    Well, that beats being nailed to the starting blocks, dunnit?

    (Must learn to carefully read all foregoing comments before chipping in impulsively).

    Posted by  on  05/01  at  02:43 AM
  33. It was pretty cool the other day when I read about Jamie’s triumphs, but it was even cooler, now that I have sound, to hear him speak for himself.

    Posted by Jason B.  on  05/01  at  10:49 AM
  34. That really was inspiring and also helped me think about what Special Olympicses do.  The President shoulda been there.

    Posted by  on  05/01  at  01:10 PM
  35. Sound works now!  Watched it all again, on the Next Level.  Thanks for the chance to see and hear it--truly an inspiring performance.  I can’t wait to show it to the swimmers in my household when they get home from school.

    Posted by  on  05/01  at  03:13 PM
  36. I have to say, your “moving pictures” commentary is wonderful--my dad did the same when I was little, so it struck a chord and had me chuckling. very inspiring, and loved your comment about cheering and clouds. Went back to the Augustine comment you mentioned and it was...interesting. That’s about all I can muster in a response right now besides noting that anyone who constructs the following sentence “Reject the tyranny of political correctness and your servitude to its dictatorship of relativism.” probably does “feel quite smug” and “self-satisfied”. Oy. I love it when people yell “censorship!” in an effort to salvage derogatory terms. Really.

    Posted by Annie  on  05/03  at  04:06 PM
  37. I think this may actually be the first time I’ve heard Sir Hon. Bérubé. He sounds much less French than I expected.

    Captcha: Yay for Jamie!

    Posted by Aaron Swartz  on  05/08  at  10:16 PM
  38. Wow! good job guys. I am sure you had a great time.

    Posted by Portable Tap Dance Floor  on  08/27  at  02:15 AM
  39. coaching makes all the difference in the world

    Posted by budget van lines  on  01/22  at  03:25 PM





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