Leap of Faith
Today is the 29th of February. Leap Day. Of the Leap Year. I always wondered how they figured out the math to have all the other years have 365 days and the one year have 366. Each day is still 24 hours. Each day seems to have its X amount of hours of daylight and its X hours of night. How do they figure it will all add up just perfect by having ONE extra 24 hour day come into the equation every four years, and have THAT day make it all work out?
I don’t know the answer to that. Whoever figured it out should have the day named after him. Or her. Leaping Lena? Whatever the case, I think we should take the time during this Leap Day to look at the world of sports and a few of the things we can think of that are happening now and are connected to the word “leap.”
The NFL Draft
The budding young college athletes have just concluded their annual “combine” in Indianapolis and it has gotten a whole lot of football fans excited about their teams, even though the first game of 2016 isn’t until September of this year, a good six plus months away. They have run their forty yard dashes, lifted their weights, interviewed with their potential bosses and allowed themselves to be poked, prodded and practically penetrated by the pro football scouting community, all in the hopes of finding out if they can make the grade and be the next generation of highly paid football players in the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE.
And another thing they did at the combine, besides throwing and catching passes of course, was to LEAP a few carefully placed times. They would stand at the edge of a sand pit and, from a standing start, LEAP out into the pit like the standing broad jump, a track and field event last competed at the Olympics in 1912, over a hundred years ago, all to try to show the scouts how athletic they are. (12 feet, by the way, is a pretty good jump) And they would also LEAP from a standing position, straight up into the air and try to swat at the measuring device to see how high they could jump to show the scouts their vertical leap. (A player that could sky up there over 42 inches is a player these scouts fall in love with)
A great combine allows a player to show off his athletic skills so much that there’s a good chance with an exceptional showing that said player might LEAP frog ahead of his fellow competitors at the same position. Or, to get to play for the Green Bay Packers and to be able to some day do the “Lambeau Leap.”
Steph Curry, the son of former NBA player Dell Curry, is starting to do things that makes a sports fan shake their head in amazement and wonder if MAYBE they are seeing an absolute basketball playing wizard who just might be starting to make the case that HE is the greatest outside shooting guard in the history of basketball. Or the greatest outside shooter, period, at ANY position.
Just the other night, his Warrior team was playing a hotly contested game with fellow NBA power team the Oklahoma City Thunder. Curry had ONLY made 11 three-point shots during the earlier minutes of the game (tying the then NBA record), when the Warriors had the ball with just seconds left and the score tied at 118. Curry was guarded closely from 40 feet out, as the defender did NOT want him to get it anywhere close to 30 feet out.
As Curry dribbled just inside of the half court line to get himself closer to a point where he might maneuver his way into position for some kind of 25 or so foot last second shot, he instead just let loose from 35 feet out and the ball swished for a three-point bucket the same way it does for normal great shooters from 20 feet. Only Curry was dead on accurate from THIRTY FIVE FEET OUT. To score his 46th point of the game (and to break the three point record). To win the game for his team and move them to a record of 53 and 5. Where is the LEAP, you say? Oh, he did one of those jump up and chest bump leaps to his teammate to celebrate another of his amazing, special moments. One wonders where his limits might actually be. Or even, if there ARE any limits for this man.
The Summer Olympics
Being a leap year means that there will be a Summer Olympic Games this year. You always know that when its a leap year, there is a U.S. presidential election and an Olympics that year. There will be women’s gymnastics, where a bunch of incredibly athletic little girls will tumble, flip, vault and all around LEAP their way into your hearts. There will be track and field long jumpers and triple jumpers, who will make these gigantic LEAPS that will make them look like (for about 28 feet) like they are flying through the air.
And then there will be the high jumpers. I find it absolutely fascinating what happened in 1968 in the high jump event. Everyone in the world who competed in that event used to jump over the bar face first in a technique that combined a scissors type of LEAP, with the jumper’s face aiming over the bar, in a rolling motion to help them kick their legs and body up and over the bar. I mean, EVERYONE did it that way.
And then a truly innovative athlete named Dick Fosbury invented a high jumping style where he ran towards the bar, jumped up, but instead of rolling over forwards, he turned his back to the bar and LEAPED over the bar, back of his head first and with the rest of his body flipping over the bar backwards. While the rest of the sport jumped over the bar forwards, he LEAPED and he flopped over the bar BACKWARDS. No one had EVER done it like that before Fosbury did it. He won the 1968 gold medal in the high jump. He revolutionized the sport. After he did it his way, EVERYBODY changed their style to the backwards flop style. That’s all you ever see today. But once upon a time, it was only HIM who did it that way.
There is nothing in the sports world more impressive to me than a true innovator, a true original. The world goes out and establishes a way that they do things. Everybody tends to do it the same way as what happened before them. Nothing in the world changes until or unless a person like Fosbury innovates and comes up with a new way of doing something that is completely DIFFERENT (and of course, more successful) than all that preceded him.
On this LEAP DAY, I say we all hail a man like Dick Fosbury for revolutionizing his sport, the high jump. For being so original, that all things that came before him became obsolete. For doing things his own, non-conformist way against the grain of all of the rest of conformity. For taking that incredible LEAP of faith in his own self.