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The chair seems the same... the desk is the same... and the keyboard on which my fingers dance right now, slightly greasy from freshly-delivered pizza, is the same one from which I've banged out so many articles. But no longer am I the troll broadcasting from under the staircase in Santa Clara. The move is complete, and now I stare out a window upon Fox Hollow. Outside the window is a yard which I have started to reclaim, painstakingly cutting back overgrown blackberry brambles and weeding the raised garden bed and assessing its potential future. I've already started to think about the equipment we need to purchase. I'm taking this on as though I am assaulting Everest, or planning another bike tour...


When we think about sports, we automatically think about teams and scoring and winners and losers. They are always organized in some manner -- a league, a race, a major event. But the essence of sports is the purely athletic. We test the limits of the human body with each tackle, with each pedal stroke, with each millisecond shaved offSo my ride home from work isn't QUITE this... a world record. The key, though, is testing the body. And already this move is making me feel changes which are inspiring greater action from within. I already loved riding my bicycle, but now I have a mile-long climb up a grade that I'd guess, after five rides up the thing, is an average of somewhere between six- and seven-percent grade... and I am in heaven. Now I just need to get a better bike...


Perhaps something like they've been riding in this year's Vuelta a Espana? The Astana team which currently occupies the top two spots on the general classification is riding Trek bikes, with 2008 Giro d'Italia and 2007 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador leading the Vuelta and his lieutenant, American Levi Leipheimer, holding second place seventy-seven seconds behind. Carlos Sastre, the winner of this year's Tour (albeit in Astana's absence) and leader of the powerhouse CSC team, holds third with a deficit nearing four minutes. The Kazakh-sponsored squad, resurrected from its dope-addled past as a mirror image of the Bruyneel-led management base which led Lance Armstrong to his seven Tour victories and Contador to his with Discovery Channel, powers toward its second grand-tour victory of the season in two starts...


Or maybe I'd rather have one of the Specialized machines that have been guided by Quick Step riders to five stage victories? With former world champion Tom Boonen and current two-time defending rainbow jersey Paolo Bettini having each taken two stages before bowing out in preparation for their separate preparations for the 2008 worlds, the Belgian-based squad turned its youngsters -- who promptly led 23-year-old rider Wouter Weylandt to a stage victory yesterday...


Then there's the sleek Cervelo frames underneath Sastre and the CSC team... or the Pinarellos or Orbeas or Looks or Times...


... and then the reality dawns that I have been managing for quite some time on this trusty old Peugeot, seventies technology in the new millennium, and I am probably stronger for the effort. The rear wheel may be bowing, but getting the guys down at the bike shop to bang it back into shape is far less costly than five-thousand dollars of carbon fiber -- despite the fact that it would be less than half the weight to push under me. But if our sports are about pushing the body to its limits and beyond, perhaps I should keep pushing this bike to its limits. I'll be in better shape for this assault on the landscaping and gardening which ensues...


That, too, will certainly test my body and mind in ways which it has never previously been pushed. I am a chef who has never raised as much as a single particle of food of his own to eat. Growing up in Wyoming we never had a garden, living on company property in the national park in a place where a "growing season" was both loosely based on the seasons and dubiously conducive to growth. This is my first chance to provide for my own stomach from start to finish. There's talk of building raised beds and erecting a fence as the neighbors have off their yard. While the house is a rental, there is leeway for improvement. This will be a new season, the campaign to get the yard in order before the spring planting begins. The journey will be bumpy at times, but victory is imminent...


That, indeed, is refreshing. Sports offer an uncertainty which belies strength. This uncertainty is the drama upon which spectacle is born. But it can be rewarding, too, to find certainty in a grounding influence. Unlike, say, the thirty-two teams vying for the Champions League trophy who kicked off play this week, I am guaranteed of victory if I keep my eyes on the goal. MoRomanian of the favorites kicked off their campaigns well on the first match day -- only Roma, 2-1 losers at home to unheralded Romanian side CFR Cluj, had a truly disastrous first group match of the favorites. This move has already fared better than the drama Tuesday at the Stadio Olimpico.


Christian Panucci put the home side up in the seventeenth minute, but they were not ready to acknowledge that this relatively-unknown squad, an upstart to European competition and currently mired midtable in their domestic league, could possibly defeat one of the traditional Serie A powers. Yet Argentinian midfielder Juan Culio struck for the visitors only ten minutes later to bring the match even. Then, coming out of the locker room for the second half, the midfielder did it again in the forty-ninth minute to put his team ahead. They would hold on to the lead until the final whistle, the biggest victory in the team's history. Culio, who moved to Romania in 2007, has never been known as a big scorer. Yet these unlikely strikes now have people in places high and low calling for Culio to be granted Romanian citizenship...


The thrill of victory for some, the agony of defeat for others... Rome won't crumble from the despair, but the road gets rougher for the Tiberian squad. Just like the potholes that pockmark the road I travel down every day, astutely swerving around each lest I end up on my head, Roma must navigate dangerous waters the rest of the way if they are to advance...


Advance we all must. New surroundings, new shelter, new beginnings pop up on our journey through life. New teams emerge on the scene. We find new employment, form new relationships, witness new seasons bring new joys and new despairs. Yet even as the address changes, the sentiments stay the same. A new home can change our focus but it cannot change who we are, just as a new bike could change our weight but cannot change the need to crank the legs over and over again...


So we take the old with the new, looking forward as life continually evolves. This non-traditional sports fan spins lightly on the weathered cranks, rivulets of sweat pooling in his collar as he pushes his body higher up the climb. Finding contentment in the physical exertion for its sake alone, whether on the asphalt or in the garden or on the softball diamond, the key is to take joy in the pursuit. And we don't need anything new to get ourselves there. Our legs might simply hurt a little more as we sit down to tap out the tomes... 





Bigalke is a freelance journalist who has been writing for FanNation since December 2007. An archive of Bigalke's writing for FanNation can be found here. He is also is a contributing writer at Helium. Got something to say to Bigalke -- questions, comments, suggestions, derision to sling, vengeance to exact, commendations to render, or contracts to offer? You can reach Bigalke through FanMail, the comments box below or here...


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