Welcome to the second episode! We’ve got a theme for you this time: sports. The segments cover a range of topics, and there are some really fun stories in here. Give it a listen! And send in your ideas for future episodes.
This episode has four parts:
Part 1: Jose Drost-Lopez on tae kwon do
Part 2: Daniel Bolick on basketball
Part 3: Jessica Gaylord on bowling
Part 4: Ashley Fernandez on football
Thanks for Jose and Jessica for submitting their stories, and thanks to Ryan Bolick and Lydia Min for recording interviews and putting together the episode.
Intro and outro music: Cheese Steak, by Raleigh Moncrief
Transcript available after the break.
Hey everybody, welcome to the second episode of the Carolina Digital Story Lab podcast. This time around, we have a theme for you: Sports Stories. And we have four great stories for you. Part one: Jose Drost-Lopez tells his story about loving and leaving tae kwon do. Part two: Daniel Bolick talks about being a senior year walk-on on UNC’s basketball team. Part three: a story from Jessica Gaylord about the surprisingly intense world of a bowling team. And part four: Ashley Fernandez remembers an intense football moment. These are all really fun, there should be something here for everyone. So without any further ado, enjoy the show.
Tae kwon do has a near invisible but powerful presence in my memory and personality. For me it all started with the Power Rangers when I was six years old. In every episode, the Power Rangers would find some evil goons, transform into their powerful ranger personas, and kick some serious butt. The Power Rangers weren’t my only heroes either. I also loved the VR troopers and the warriors in Mortal Combat. What all these characters had in common was awesome fighting abilities. I must have said something to my mom. She looked around for martial arts classes and she found a new tae kwon do school or dojo. I was pumped to begin. Classes were tough to handle at first. I had a strict Korean grand master who led grueling workouts. I would train for two hours after every school day and sometimes Saturdays. For the first hour I was often the only one there so Grand Master Song made me do forms over and over. Forms are sequences of kicks, punches, and blocks in different stances, meant to practice technique and grace. Pretty boring, especially for a seven year old. Even for a patient one like me. All the boredom and hard work wasn’t quite as glamorous as Power Ranger fight scenes, so I asked my mom if I could quit. But instead of just letting me, she brought this up with Grand Master Song, who didn’t tolerate laziness or failure and was not about to let one of his first students leave. I think the embarrassment of having my doubts outed in front of a big authority figure like Grand Master Song was enough to keep me going. And soon I came to accept tae kwon do as a part of my normal daily life. So that’s how I got into tae kwon do—now I’m going to fast-forward a bit. I went to my first tournament where I beat a girl much bigger than me. I did a back flip kick and a flying side kick in front of my classmates at the fourth grade talent show. My grandma took me to my first Junior Olympics in Tampa where I got fourth in sparring. Then my family moved three times in five years. In Chesterfield, Missouri I went to the Junior Olympics again without winning anything. We spent two years in Mexico, where I mostly trained on my own. When we came back to Missouri, to a different part of Chesterfield, I trained more competitively and went to two Junior Olympics: one hosted by the US Tae Kwon Do Association, and one by the American Athletic Union or AAU. I medaled at both in sparring and got a gold medal in forms. At one tae kwon do class, during sparring practice, my left foot collided with an older teenager’s shin at high speed. I couldn’t put much weight on the foot after that without a strange feeling of numb tingling and slight pain. Yet I kept up going to soccer practice for my freshman team, as well as tae kwon do practice. I went to the AAU team trials, where I made it two spots away from the national team. During one of my soccer sprints the coach yelled to one of the guys behind me, “Cmon, Jose’s ahead of you and he has a broken foot!” A couple weeks later I had realized the irony of this joke. My mom got concerned that I was still hobbling around with my foot taped so she brought me to a doctor. The X-Ray showed a clear break in my fourth metatarsal. The metatarsals are the long foot bones connecting to your toes, and you can’t avoid stepping on them. So I got crutches and a small ankle-high boot. My athletic life stayed on hold for three or four months. Academics were becoming more important anyway, so when I healed I didn’t start training full force. At another tournament, I broke my fifth metatarsal. And half a year later, I did something to hurt my foot a third time. My body seemed to be asking me to slow down. I ramped down my training. At the age of sixteen, tae kwon do precipitously had fizzled out of my life. It wasn’t just the foot that threw me off. Since I was nine years old, my lower back, knees, and ankles had recurring flare-ups of pain. Pain that probably came from breaking wooden boards with my feet and doing jerky stretching exercises that were bad on my knees. At the boarding school I went to for junior and senior year, I started a martial arts club, but it wasn’t the same. Then in college I snuffed out martial arts almost completely as I shifted my aspirations. First of all, my role models weren’t fighters anymore. The Power Rangers and Bruce Lee, and even my favorite videogame figures were pretty much out. My new role models were intellectuals like Steven Pinker the psychologist and the smart kids in my boarding school. Second of all, I lost hope in being the fighter I had always wanted to be. I grew up thinking I might get big enough to be an imposing all around fighter, a buff super soldier fit for mixed martial arts cage brawls. But I fell behind my childhood friends in size. Don’t get me wrong, I’m five foot ten and I weight 140 pounds, that’s pretty normal. But normal is not good enough for the dreams of my younger self. So now I’m betting instead on my brain, which seems a lot more willing to reward my hard work, and a lot more capable of emulating my heroes. And you know, the Power Rangers almost never got hurt. And if they did, they fully recovered—not realistic. Plus they didn’t need to be that strong or big because they had magical suits that transformed them into awesome fighting machines. So I’m grateful for what tae kwon do gave me: the habit of working out, the grit to face tough challenges, and good stories for my college apps. But that’s in the past. I’m not going to wait around for my Power Rangers suit.
Hi, my name’s Daniel Bolick. I was a walk on of Blue Steel for the 2010-2011 UNC Basketball team. I played basketball my entire life but after high school I got some offers from some D2, D3 schools, but when I found out Carolina had a JV basketball team I decided that instead of going to play D2 or D3 I would try to go to Carolina because I had the grades to go, and then just try to play JV and my dream was to then try to walk on to the varsity team and actually play for Coach Williams. So I came in my freshman year and successfully made the team and played two years of JV my freshmen and sophomore year. And then my junior year rolled around and there were spots open on the team and so I worked out all summer in preparation to work out and, you know, make the team. But then two weeks before tryouts I sprained my ankle really really badly and, you know, I still tried out in try outs that year but needless to say I was, like, very affected by the injury. It affected, you know, the way I ran and the way I could play defense, and everything really basketball related. So I did not make the team. At that point, you know, it was the first time I had ever been cut from, you know, a basketball team and my parents congratulated me on a good run, they told me that they were really proud of me but it was time for me to move on to other endeavors, you know get a real job, start out in the real world and they were like, “Daniel, you can do lots of things other than basketball.” So while I took their advice to heart and went out and got internships, personally I never gave up the dream of walking on to the Carolina basketball team. So while I had internships that summer I still worked out with a personal trainer in Durham, I still was, you know, working out every day, playing basketball every day in hopes to make the team my senior year. So then November rolled around [it was] my senior year, 2010, and once again, I don’t know if I had bad luck, but it was again 2 to 3 weeks before tryouts, I separated my left shoulder. And, pretty much all that is is a shoulder sprain. And so I was like a little bit devastated because it definitely affected my running and like it hurt really bad. But luckily it was my non shooting shoulder. I ended up playing well in tryouts and I made the team as a walk on. Needless to say it was one of the best years of my life. You know, the group of guys was amazing to be around, a fun, laid back bunch and always joking around. Team chemistry was high. I mean even with Larry Drew on the team, we all got along with Larry. You know, his departure was sudden and unexpected but, you know, that really just brought the team closer together. And I think the year culminated in the last regular season home game when we played Duke and at the time we were tied in the ACC standings so the game had ACC championship implications on the line. Coach Williams decided to start all four seniors because that’s a tradition he had, even though three of the four seniors were walk on players, including myself. Starting the game I was very nervous, I started out guarding Nolan Smith, the ACC player of the year. But I held him scoreless for the two or three minutes I was in there and the walk ons performed very well, we got a lot of praise and we ended up winning the game, so that was definitely the highlight of my year, along with going to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament. But really it was just an experience that I will cherish the rest of my life and I have memories that I will have forever.
I’ve never been particularly athletic, I occasionally work out when I have time but that’s about it. This says a lot though since one of my cousins plays baseball for Maryland and the other is an avid basketball and lacrosse player. I guess I didn’t pick up the gene. I don’t really follow sports, my parents never encouraged it and we were ok with this, it didn’t bother us. I decided I was destined to participate in other extracurriculars for the rest of my academic years. However, in high school my friends and I fancied joining the bowling team. Why? Well, it was in walking distance from school and it seemed like a relaxed, slow paced activity that would look good for college applications, minus the work and sweat of another kind of team. We dreamed of French fries drenched in goopy cheese and warm chili that we could snack on during practice as we made strikes and spares with ease. It was obviously a win-win. Unfortunately our expectations were diminished quickly. We were disappointed to find out that we weren’t particularly good at bowling. My scores during tryouts were most in the double digits. Some people made 30s or lower. I gave up on my bowling dreams until my senior year of high school when I finally made the team. Most people, when I told them I was part of the bowling team, would be skeptical of its validity as a real sport. One girl asked me if we even ran laps during practice like they do in soccer. Obviously the inner workings of practice were much of a mystery to other student athletes. Our coach was a sophomore English teacher named Mr. Foster. He rarely got angry when we didn’t do well during games like an average coach would. But you could mostly see the disappointment etched in his face, and that was even worse. Of course he was ecstatic when anyone did well or made progress. When a player made a turkey, or three strikes in a row, he would gobble enthusiastically; he would literally gobble like a turkey. These instances of gobbling were very rare though so we bowlers always tried our best to achieve the elusive three strikes in a row. Sometimes the fun in bowling lies not in how you yourself are doing but rather watching other players and their progress. It’s interesting to see how differently everyone approaches the lane before they bowl, maybe they go away with large rough steps or cautious little patters, their faces scrunched in concentration and sometimes anxiety as they stare down the middle pin and intuitively swoop their arm back and then forth dramatically as they release the ball. Sometimes it flies down the lane, destroying any pins in its way. Or, it steadily rolls down creating a rippling effect as the pins slowly surrender their upright positions. Sometimes the player gives a whoop of victory or perhaps smirks in satisfaction. No matter what happens, all the players give each other high fives for reassurance or a job well done. It may have not been a traditional sport by any means but I loved bowling all the same and I still do. I wouldn’t trade my experience on the team for anything.
So my name is Ashley Fernandez, I work with the football team as a videographer so I go to the practices and the games, just pretty much whenever the team is on the field we’re recording. There’s a group of twelve of us that work on video staff so it’s a tight knit family, we see each other most every day. But last year we ended up making it to a bowl game, it was in Tennessee—the Franklin City Music Bowl. So for winter break we had to stay here a little bit longer to do practice and what not, went home for Christmas, and the day after Christmas, got up, flew to Tennesese, and we started practicing again for like a week before the bowl game. We stayed in a really cool hotel and just, you know, practiced every day and what not. So the game actually happened, you know it was pretty close the whole time, I believe we were winning. And then at the very end the biggest play was we had maybe twelve seconds left to play, nine seconds, and we had the ball and we were down by three points so we just needed to win, it was super close. And Tennessee had just scored, so we were winning you know the fourth quarter we thought was getting close. They just scored so we came back, you know, started rushing the ball, made up close to our end zone and all of a sudden, we had nine seconds left, the clock starts and we’re moving the ball for a minute and then all of a sudden Yates snaps it and we start playing but the refs call time out. They say the game is officially over, we didn’t snap the ball, we snapped the ball at zero seconds. But all of us on the Carolina side are like, “No, we snapped the ball at one second, we still had that time”, [because] that’s the way football works, if you snap the ball you can still have that play. So we’re all super cranky, like you’ve gotta be kidding me the game is not over, but the refs said “Game over”, came into the middle of the field, told us it was done, Tennesese fans are going crazy, and all throughout the game, you know, here are our little Carolina people, we were only one section in the stadium, we weren’t very exciting but we were cheering our hearts out. And here is Tennessee winning the game that they stole from us, because really we should have won the game. So you see the Music City people coming out with the trophies and all the stuff that they do for the celebration ceremony. The Tennessee fans are freaking out, going crazy, and then all of a sudden here comes one little ref, walking up to the middle and he goes, “the play is under review”, and all the Carolina fans go crazy, we start cheering super loud, the Tennessee fans look like they have no clue what just happened. And then all the Music City take out all their celebration stuff and push it back off, they wheel it back off to the end zone. So, we’re excited [that] they’re going to watch the play and see that we had one second left, and sure enough they watch the play and after review they did realize that we snapped the ball at one second, so we also found out that in the play we had too many people on the field, [because] our kicking team went out like they were going to score a field goal and our offensive team went out like they were going to score a touch down. [So] since we had too many people on the field, we had like a five yard penalty. But that was okay because now our team knew what we were going to do. We were going to have Casey [Barth] come in, kick a field goal, win the game, and that’s exactly what happened. So the team went out, they had however many seconds left on the clock, he kicked the ball, and Casey’s amazing, he kicks and scores all the time, I don’t know how he does it, and that was a lot of pressure because we had really no fans there. We had a really small amount of fans, and Tennesee, you know we were playing in Nashville, so they were all there. And [he] kicks a field goal, and we score, and we win the game, and everyone went crazy, and it was just so much fun. You see people on TV at the world series and the super bowl and it felt like that, like I was on the field. You just had the confetti going everywhere and the streamers, and people smiling, and you turn your head and see the Carolina fans going nuts and the Tennessee fans just flooding the stairway, leaving the game, they couldn’t believe it. They were in complete shock because the game they though they had won was now being taken from them, but you know it was a well deserved win for Carolina and I’m glad the refs realized they called the game too early, but it was so much fun, it was just really exciting that we won the game and had another championship bowl to bring back to Carolina.
All right, that’s the show for this time. Thanks to Jose and Jessica for submitting their stories. And big thanks to Ryan Bolick and Lydia Min for doing interviews and putting this episode together. We’re going to keep going with the themes, so if you have an idea for a future story, send it along to firstname.lastname@example.org. And keep looking out for more calls for stories, we want to hear you on the next episode. Thanks for listening!