Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

The Tour de France is over for another year, although professional bike racing continues.  When it’s Tour time, the subject of Lance Armstrong is never far away, at least for now, in these years close to his tumble from grace.  I have some random thoughts about Lance.

If you believed he wasn’t doping, you were living in cloud cuckoo land.  If the next best riders in the world were having wins taken from them for doping, there’s no way Lance could have been that much better just naturally.  But therein lies my title.  He WAS the best.

He was the best at doping and winning, the best at doping and not being found out.

He was the best at bringing the sport to prominence…before he was the best at bringing it down in the eyes of many.

He was ultimately the best, but not the only, to steal the joy of winning from others.  It doesn’t feel the same to win the Tour de France, or any other race, when the person in first is disqualified.  Sadly, the ultimate winner was often someone far down the list, as doping was quite prevalent.

He was the best at not only despising but crushing people, big and small, and at destroying lives while pushing himself up on the pyres of those lives.  He’s still the best at not apologizing for it.  Maybe he’s the best at defining the word “amoral.”

In sport where cheating has ranged from, in the old, quaint days, taking a bus or train rather than riding, to sophisticated blood doping, he is unique in combining so many negative things.  He did start LiveStrong which I hope will survive and has done so much for people with cancer.  But one right doesn’t mitigate a lifetime of wrong and, in many cases, what I would be tempted to call evil, at least in his personal dealings.

But perhaps Lance might, totally inadvertently, be the best thing that’s happened to cycling for a long time.  Last year, the winner of the Tour, Chris Froome, stated that he, his team and many other riders were vowing to ride clean and so far, nothing has disproved that.  This year’s winner, Vincenzo Nibali, viewed as a clean rider, said,

Steps have been taken and great progress has been made, and with it so my results have arrived.
and
I have to thank them (doping controllers) because without these iron controls maybe I wouldn’t be here today.

I know that as long as there are sports, there will be those seeking an illegal way to be better than others.  But in the world of professional cycling, maybe the best cheater will turn out to be the best thing for a sport where doping was getting out of control.

Some days are rougher than others and although I’m generally upbeat, last night things caught up with me.  It started when I accidentally knocked over the quart can (about 2/3 full) of wood stain and inadvertently stained not only a section of floor I wasn’t ready to stain, but parts of the TV table and DVD cases as well and some drops managed to get around or under all that onto the newly-painted walls.  It’s the sort of night when I realize that not only is my husband on his own six hours away, but I’m on my own, too.  Then this morning, I read I shouldn’t slide anything across refinished floors until they’re thoroughly dry–three to four months!!  Since my time frame is more like three to four days at most, how do I safely get the furniture back into its original location when there are pieces I can’t lift by myself?  (One possible answer is to get our realtor to help when he stops over to look at the house tonight–and I did.)

Enough whining.  You get the idea.  Into the midst of my pity party, the following video arrived and made me feel a lot better (as did a phone call from a friend).  This is the sort of thing I love to hear about sports and the people in them, juxtaposed against scandals of various sorts that grab the headlines.  Please take just a minute and watch.  This seven-year-old boy struggling against brain cancer is a huge fan of the Nebraska Cornhuskers (as am I–full disclosure) and here’s what the Huskers did for him during their intra-squad game.  It will give you goosebumps and possibly bring tears to your eyes.

It also put my “problems” in perspective.  Maybe it will yours, too.

If you watched the recent college football national title game (or just read headlines), you know that  during the game, Brent Musburger praised the beauty of the girlfriend of the Alabama quarterback when the camera focused on her.  From an article by Dean Obeidallah at http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/09/opinion/obeidallah-musburger-comments/index.html: (more…)

I love hockey!!  Love it!!  I’ve loved it almost my entire life.  In fact, when I began watching hockey, there were only six teams: the Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs.  (You can all now oooh and aaaah at how old I am!)  🙂  I didn’t live in one of these cities.  I lived in Omaha, Nebraska,  an unlikely hockey town. (more…)

The first time I saw a rugby game in grad school, courtesy of an invitation by a British friend who was playing, I didn’t think there were many (perhaps any) rules. It appeared to me to be closely akin to throwing a ball out at recess in the middle of a bunch of first or second graders and saying, “Get it”, although hopefully at that level, the ensuing mayhem would be on a much milder level and sans the blood streaming down a face or two. Eventually I realized there were rules…but that the mayhem not only remained, but was rejoiced in, even when the “old boys” got together, creaking and groaning, to commiserate about the good old days and good old plays. (And believe you me, they remember every single one of those plays.)

Last year, our younger daughter and I gathered with other rugby fans at a nearby Irish pub, and with a draft or two of Guinness for me, to watch New Zealand’s All-Blacks defeat France 8-7, in New Zealand. We had a great time and there’s absolutely nothing in sports like watching the All Black’s perform the haka before a game:

However, the real reason I’m thankful for rugby is that years ago, I attended a game on a day where I had nothing else to do, in response to an invitation from a couple of friends who’d been helping me coach the boys’ soccer team at the high school at which I was teaching. And not too many post-games later at the local roadhouse, (now a much more upscale restaurant with glass-topped tables but no panache), a player looking for a spot to sit and eat his hamburgers in a room so filled that only a few seats were left at already-occupied tables, asked if he could sit with me, and that player eventually became my husband.

He doesn’t play rugby anymore (although he still remembers every play, injury and concussion), but today’s his birthday and I want to acknowledge that if it weren’t for rugby, I’d have missed out on the best person in my life! So here’s to rugby and happy birthday to my husband!  Ruck on.

One year my bicycling husband came home armed with a complete set of DVD’s of the just-past Tour de France and announced with great excitement that we were going to watch them…all. The whole Tour. The girls and I looked at one another and I swear I could see the words, “No way. Booooring!” forming above our heads like captions in a cartoon. However, he persisted and we watched. And watched. And watched.

I’m not sure the girls ever got it, but somewhere along the way, as the strategies were explained, the views passed by, the sprinters sprinted and the mountain bikers toiled, I was hooked. Phil, Paul, Bobkie and the rest were great: part announcer, part tour guide (of the countryside, not le Tour), part raconteur. Even when saying something negative, they did it in a nice way. So when Tour time came around the a few years ago, I was thrilled because we now had cable. Yes, we’d given up our iconic status as one of the few families without cable because the package we got provided cable, internet and phone for less than we’d been paying for phone and internet alone. And it included Versus. Bring on le Tour!

Now I could record the day’s session and skip through commercials, though I really didn’t want to miss the commentary. This is the sort of sporting event you just can’t watch at the sports bar where they don’t have the sound on. First of all, you might be there for three hours and secondly, if you don’t have the commentary, quite a bit of that three hours is just a bunch of guys in spandex, riding bikes. Yeah, sometimes there are horrific spills, at the tops of the mountains there are some sprints and the end of each stage is generally thrilling, but still, the rest, without sound is, dare I say it…a bit boring. But with commentary and a remote in your hand, life is good. And I can even pause the action to get some lunch, then come back and watch it all. You just have to be careful each morning to avoid seeing the day’s result online or in the news or hear them on the radio before you’ve watch the stage. Spoilers like that are bad.

Being a fast-twitch person and a sprinter myself, I’m a big Mark Cavendish fan, so much so that my husband made an almost fatal faux pas when we were in Provence last fall, asking in a bike shop for a Mark Cavendish jersey. For those of you who don’t know, Cavendish is English and we were in France, proud home of the Tour and not home to Cavendish. My sister-in-law blenched, then hurried us out.
I’ve found myself on my feet at the end of many a stage, yelling as the sprinters kicked it into high gear and then Cavendish popped out from behind his leader and shot across the line. Last year, on the last day when the Tour comes down the Champs-Élysées and the race is over, save for the last sprint and, in this case, for the green jersey, I was in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming with internet the speed of molasses. It cut out on me and came back on just after the sprint was over and Cavendish had won the last stage. Horrific! I did get to watch it later, but it’s not the same.

I’ve also found myself leaning forward as the mountain bikers near the top of the last climb, straining with all their might. I’ve winced at terrible spills, bikers going over like dominos and been amazed as some got back up and kept riding. Last year there were some particularly incredible recoveries and men riding through pain. I’ve engaged in discussions of whether or not Lance doped, commiserated on those who’ve been caught doping, realized that now that Contador has been stripped of his 2010 title for doping that the gloss of that win won’t gleam as brightly for Andy Schleck all this time later, thrilled with the French as Thomas Voeckler held the yellow jersey stage after stage and marveled as the mighty Thor (an “old” rider) and his heir apparent (but perhaps not for a time yet), Edvald Boasson Hagen brought little Norway into world biking prominence. I know bikers’ names and team names and recognize some of the team jerseys. Yeah, I’m hooked.

So if you want to know where I’ll be between Saturday, June 30th and Sunday, July 22nd , you can bet it will be close to a TV or watching online somewhere, taking time from something I maybe should be doing instead. And loving it. Vive le Tour! And thank, hon!

Since the Packers lost in the playoffs, I don’t have a favorite in this year’s Super Bowl, but I do watch the game. Many of my non-football friends watch only for the commercials and we’ve had Super Bowl parties when no one really watched either the game or commercials. So far, my favorites are the vampire-killing headlights (yes, I’m one of those people who believe vampires should only be out at night, should die in the light and should be evil) and the dog that works out to chase the VW. But the big problem with commercials that are funny or even the ones that aren’t (or the ones you just want to see so you can talk about them later), is that they leave no time to get snacks, pour my Guinness (brilliant, you know), or take a bathroom break. What’s a football and sometimes commercial fan to do?

Well, back to the regularly scheduled Super Bowl and my Guinness…and the commercials. And I’m not worried. I just realized I can do all that stuff during half time, always my least favorite part of the game. Enjoy!!