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How to Throw Softball-Style 

... And other sporty tips for summer.

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DIY PROJECT

Fix a Flat Bike Tire

Don’t let that flat tire ruin your cruise along the Centennial Trail or your bomb through Farragut State Park.

Here’s what you’ll need: A spare tube, a pump (or CO2 cartridge), a patch kit, and at least one tire lever.

First, remove your wheel. Jam your tire lever in between the tire and rim, working your way around with the other levers until you’ve unseated the tire. (Don’t remove the tire entirely.) Now find the stem and pull the inner tube out. At this point, you can patch the tube, or just put in a new one.


Food

Build your own brick oven, vint your own fruit wine

Kids
Build forts and edible aquifers

Music
Learn the harmonica and play the summer festival circuit

Outdoors
Gut a fish, escape bees and get away to the Canadian Rockies

Sports
Master the knuckle ball, the bicycle kick and Irish road bowling

Theater
Fake your punches, put on a puppet show and road trip to Seattle

Urban
Raise your own chickens and grow an inner-city garden

Water
Jump off a cliff, slip on a slide and check out the Dukes of Hauser

Before you do that, though, work your fingers around the inside of the tire, looking for sharp objects. All clear? Pump up your tube just a little, push the stem through the hole and start to stuff the tube inside of the tire again, being careful to keep it straight so it doesn’t pinch and produce another hole.

Re-seat the tire on the rim, pump the tube and be on your way.

DIY PROJECT

Do a Bicycle Kick

Non-soccer fans bemoan the sport’s low, low scoring, but even they love the bicycle kick. (Even Pelé admits it’s difficult.)
Here’s how to do it. With your back to the goal, get a slight running start, then swing your non-kicking leg up towards your chest, followed by the same motion with your kicking leg. As you reverse-somersault, you should hit the ball at about where your head started out. Strike the ball on the sweet spot on the top of your foot, with your ankle at a right angle. (Obtuse angles will send the ball flying too high.) Kick through the ball for maximum momentum.

After you’ve sent the ball flying, you’re going to land hard on your back. Try to land on the spot between your shoulder blades — it’ll hurt less and shouldn’t knock the wind out of you. (You may be better off trying this over a mat.)

Now get up, tear your shirt off and run around pumping your fists. You’re the next Ronaldinho.

DIY PROJECT

Play Irish Road Bowling

Forget bocce and croquet. This summer, you need a game that’s a little more exotic. Enter Irish road bowling, a sport that’s been around for centuries in the Emerald Isle but is just now catching on in the United States.

It’s easy. Just get yourself a 28-ounce steel “bowl,” basically a palm-sized cannonball. (Visit wvirishroadbowling.com.) Now get yourself a straight-ish two or three miles of open highway. (We recommend Cheney-Spokane Road or anywhere off of Moran Prairie.) Then hurl the bowl with all your might.

While the action is like bowling, the rules are like golf: The player who takes the fewest shots in getting to the finish line wins. And while the sport can be played alone, it’s good to have a caddy-like friend to stand down the road a ways and advise you of bumps, potholes and oncoming police cruisers.


EXPERT ADVICE

How to Throw Softball-Style

Fuzzy Buckenberger
Spokane Amateur Softball Association Commissioner

I approached the Franklin Park complex of Clarence “Fuzzy” Buckenberger with the naïve thought that, within 30 minutes or so, I’d be able to pitch a proper knuckleball. I never stopped to think that it would take me the full 30 minutes just to get the ball across the plate, let alone make it dance like a drunken butterfly. I played Little League baseball. I know how to throw. How hard could a softball pitch be?

Buckenberger, a patient man with a soft and gravelly voice, who took the Whitworth University softball team on its first trip to the NCAA tournament during his three years as coach there, started me out on the rubber at the pitcher’s mound.

Your feet should face the plate, he said, your left toe (I’m a right-hander) just touching the back of the rubber, your right foot hanging over the lip. “Balance,” he said. That’s the key.

Now shift that balance back onto the left foot as you bring the ball up towards your ribs. As you shift your balance back to the right, bring your throwing arm high up by your head, keeping it near your body, not hanging out. Meanwhile, push hard off the front of the rubber with your right foot, while you step forward with your left, bring your arm all the way around and ffoom

You should release a softball in what Buckenberger calls “the kitchen.” That is, right as it brushes your right thigh. I didn’t. I released it somewhere out in front of me, around belt height, and I damn near beheaded our invisible batter.

“Hit him again,” said Fuzzy. “Remember, when you’re pitching, that plate’s yours, not his. Just pop him a little bit.”

It went on like this for 20 minutes. Good, now speed up your arm a little bit. Good, now don’t hesitate. Good, now I want you to explode! Bend your knees!

Eventually, we got to the knuckleball, a difficult pitch in which you grip the threads of the ball with your fingernails and release the ball by pushing it, rather than spinning it. The effect is a wobbly back-and-forth motion, followed by a precipitous downward sink. Few pitchers can throw it successfully. Even few hitters can handle it. I embarrassed myself trying.

“I’m telling you, you’re doing great. And I’m not just here to tell you you are,” said Fuzzy. “Because if you weren’t, I’d say OK, enough of that.”On my next pitch, I threw it at his shin. We finished it up shortly thereafter.


CAN'T MISS EVENTS

Sports

IRONMAN COEUR D’ALENE
The Inland Northwest loves Hoopfest and Bloomsday, in part, because anybody can participate, from toddlers to grannies. Ironman, on the other hand, is inherently inaccessible. It takes serious mettle to swim more than two miles, then bike 112 miles, then run over 26 under a brutal sun. So what makes it such a popular spectator sport, when it turns its muscled back on those who can’t even dream of participating? The answer might have something to do with those muscled backs themselves. Ironman is a fast-moving parade of beefcakes and gazelles, the likes of which those other Spokane events can’t approximate. Check them out on June 21.

LILAC CITY ROLLER GIRLS
Outsiders skeptical of Spokane’s bona fides as a diehard sports town (where are the pro teams, after all?) would do well to notice our obsession with arena football and minor league baseball. Even better, the attention the city has lavished on the Lilac City Roller Girls, a two-team league of marauding nurses, baristas and other day-job badasses who prowl the Spokane Convention Center (usually) in fishnets, tutus and knee pads. It may not be pro baseball, but we’d rather watch a bunch of lovely ladies beat each other down on the flat track than watch some steroided prima donna scratch his package in center field. Any day. (See the Lilac City All-Stars host Eugene’s Emerald City Skatesaphrenics on Saturday, June 13. The league’s two teams square off against each other on Aug. 15.)

HOOPFEST
In honor of its 20th anniversary, Hoopfest has invited basketball great Kareem Abdul Jabbar (he of the shiny head and infamous “sky hook”) and has designed a special Nike commemorative sneaker. As if you needed an excuse to join the pandemonium downtown (June 27-28), when tens of thousands of ballers and wannabes clog the streets in what the organization calls the “biggest 3-on-3 streetball tournament on the planet.”

NIC CHALLENGE
We’re still not really sure what the North Idaho College Challenge Sprint Adventure Race is, but we’re pretty sure we want to do it. On June 27, teams of two and four will descend on an as-yet-undisclosed location to race for three to six hours on foot, on mountain bikes and in canoes and kayaks. There may be obstacles and clues involved. We don’t really know. We do know each team member has to carry at least one energy bar and two liters of water with them, and that this year’s challenge will involve “water and elevation.” We hope it doesn’t involve major muscle breakdown or drowning. But we’ll take our chances. For more info, go here.


Further Afield

Boise

The more obvious summer getaway for sports lovers in the Inland Northwest would be a quick trip over to Seattle. The Mariners are — for once — not in the basement of the American League and, win or no win, there’s little more pleasant than a sunny afternoon at Safeco Field.

But look a little further afield and you’ll find lovely Boise, Idaho. Sure, it’s the city that Spokane loves to hate and, no, it doesn’t have the gleam of a professional sports team, but there’s more to the Tree City’s athletic reputation than just blue turf, including a few Spokane connections.

For starters there’s the Shock, and the Indians Northwest League baseball team. The latter will visit Boise’s Memorial Stadium for three days in August, before the HAWKS come back here to Avista Stadium for a six-game stretch the following week. Get to know the Hawks players in Boise so you can personalize your whoops and insults when they arrive in Spokane.

Boise will also host the last game of the regular season for the Spokane Shock, who are the only undefeated arenafootball2 team in the country right now. Of course, the BOISE BURN are no slouches, either. At 7-2, they’re second in the National West division (over an abysmal crowd that includes Stockton, Tri-Cities and the Central Valley). In the last match-up between these two teams, in May, Spokane eked out a mere two-point victory. The season-ender in Boise on July 25 could be the best game all year.

There’s also more than just baseball and football in Boise. The city boasts the TREASURE VALLEY ROLLERGIRLS derby league, there’s a half Ironman there this weekend, and FIREBIRD RACEWAY hosts several drag-racing events throughout the summer.

Spokane cyclists have a reason to visit Boise, too, as the city has become something of a bike mecca, with relatively plentiful infrastructure, interesting bike-related nonprofits, a velodrome in nearby Eagle and two big bike events this summer. The first is the annual TWILIGHT CRITERIUM (this year on July 18), in which the city shuts down the streets for a series of fast-paced, tight-cornered races along 10th and Ninth streets that draw riders from around the world (last year’s pro winner also won the first stage of that year’s televised Tour of California).

The city will also host the TOUR DE FAT, a combination bike ride and costumed freak show put on by New Belgium Brewing (makers of Fat Tire), who parade the event through a select number of bike-friendly cities in the West each summer. Show up on your trusty steed and try to convince them to bring the party to Spokane next year.

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