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October 05, 2008

Cubs lose

The Cubs, true to form, got swept out of the playoffs again.

To the LA Dodgers: you're welcome.

I suppose I'm lucky this year. Living in Chicago, it was impossible not to notice the buzz around the Cubs, and many times I was tempted to get on the bandwagon and pour my heart into the team like I did back in 1984. I was thirteen then, and the Cubs were up 2-0 in their best-of-five series with the Padres. Only one more game, and the Cubs were in the Series. But the Cubs lost three straight and I learned what it was like to be a Cubs fan. It was painful. And the pain wasn't worth it. Why did I have to feel so bad about a stupid baseball team that I wasn't playing for or employed by in any capacity? Stupid Cubs.

I've been a very distant Cubs fan ever since. Because of that, I haven't felt the pain of 1984 again -- the agony of 2003 and the five outs was visited on the hard-core fans, and not on me. I didn't need to spend a month recovering, all because of the stupid Cubs. And again this year, it's not me that's writing paragraphs like this:

Pathetic. Nothing short of pathetic. I hate this team. I hate every player. Every single goddamn one. I have never in my life been this disgusted with a Cubs team. This is not the lovable losers-they’re just a bunch of fucking losers. I’m tired of this wait until next year crap. All of you on this team can shove it.

Now, I know that I'm running a risk by being a very distant and lukewarm fan. When the Cubs finally win the World Series, I won't share in the ecstatic joy that the hardcore fans will bathe in. I'll miss all that. But hey, I'll probably grow old and die before the Cubs ever win the Series. Heh, heh.

You can't hurt me, stupid Cubs.

June 05, 2008

Why Chicago wants the Olympics

Chicago Stays in Running After Early Vote to Decide Host of 2016 Olympics

. . . .

The transportation along Lake Michigan, where some of the Olympic sites would be located, needs to be improved because there is no link to rail lines, the evaluation said.

“We are going to study the report and we’re going to learn from that and correct all the deficiencies,” The Associated Press quoted Chicago’s bid leader, Patrick Ryan, as saying.


This, folks, is why Chicago's fight for the Olympics is a good thing.

July 25, 2007

Chaos at the Tour de France

I'm starting to wonder whether we'll ever see a straight-up Tour de France again. The yellow jersey has been pulled from the race by his own team:

Rasmussen's exit was unprecedented. No yellow jersey wearer has been withdrawn from the race by his team over doping offences. The last race leader to leave the event in similar circumstances was the Belgian Michel Pollentier, caught trying to defraud a doping control in 1978.

Did "The Chicken" dope? Stay tuned for more....

May 03, 2007

Intervals

Competitive cyclists, swimmers, and runners are almost universally enthusiastic about "interval training" -- alternating periods of mellow activity with shorter bursts of intense effort -- because in their experience, it improves performance better than any other single kind of workout. This article from the New York Times reports on some new studies that confirm this common wisdom. Interestingly, the benefits of interval training don't seem to be limited to elite athletes. If you want to get in shape, do intervals. Even if the "intense" part for you means shambling down the sidewalk fast enough to make you gasp for breath.

The explanations given in the article for why intervals are so effective for aerobic performance should make intuitive sense to anyone who regularly goes to the gym to lift weights. A muscle won't get bigger or stronger unless you regularly demand more from it than it can give (unless you "go to failure"). Apparently the same thing is true for running or riding really fast. The muscles/mitochondria/waste disposal systems that are needed for the intense stuff make the less intense stuff easier.

All of this makes me miss the mountains even more than usual. Running or riding in the hills is the easiest way I've found to get a good interval workout. When I run Gregory Canyon or Cheyenne Canyon or Palmer Park, the terrain dictates an interval workout. You don't have to waste valuable willpower telling yourself "now I'm going to go really fast." Just tell yourself not to stop, and the terrain will make you hurt without thinking about it!

(Gulp. Looking at all those pictures, now I'm *really* homesick...)

December 27, 2006

Good advice... but I'm not so sure about the sleep thing

If you're going to explore the boundaries of human endurance, you'll have to learn to adapt to more and more pain.

Be sure to read the rest.

July 22, 2006

Way to go, Floyd Landis

If you want to be proud of the USA in spite of the shameful "GWOT" that the far-right is peddling, look to the Tour de France.

Le Mond, Armstrong, and probably now Floyd Landis. The USA is kicking ass.

June 30, 2006

Tour de France riders suspended

The big news in the cycling world is the suspension today of top Tour de France contenders Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso.

Were they caught with drugs in their system? Steroids in their suitcases? Common sense would suggest that a top rider would need to be caught red-handed in order to get kicked out of the Tour just days before it starts. But cycling apparently works differently.

Basso and Ullrich are being suspended because of evidence that they've been "in contact" with Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. Since Fuentes is tainted by "being at the center of a massive doping ring," merely being in contact with him is enough to get a rider booted out of the Tour. To which I reply: you've gotta be shitting me.

I've been looking forward to this Tour for years. I like Lance Armstrong, but quite frankly he'd made the Tour a bit boring. He was such a machine that he sucked all the suspense out of the race (except for years like 2003 when Ullrich almost beat him). This year, with Armstrong in retirement, I couldn't wait to see who'd step up. Basso and Ullrich were two of the top contenders -- but now they're out. Sorry. Tune in again next year.

Adding insult to injury is the withdrawal of Alexander Vinokourov's team, spurred by the suspensions of Francisco Mancebo and Joseba Beloki for the same "associations" that tainted Ullrich and Basso. Vinokourov was possibly the most audacious and aggressive rider in the race, and now he's probably out too. We Tour fans might have to start scraping the bottom of the barrel to find a guy we can root for, and even if he does well, we'll never know how he would have done had the big dogs been in the race.

This is ridiculous. I'd like to see a higher standard of proof before a rider is suspended. If it's just too hard to prove that a rider is doping, race organizers ought to allow it. Then at least everyone will have access to the same advantages as everyone else, even if some of those advantages involve extraction and reinjection of your own blood.

You can follow the story at the Tour de France blog.

May 30, 2006

I'm a YouTube fan now

I heard about YouTube for the first time yesterday in an article from I forget where. Today, I went to the YouTube site and found this wonderful introduction: the Matt Hughes vs. Royce Gracie fight from UFC 60.

Spoilers below the fold.

Continue reading "I'm a YouTube fan now" »

February 19, 2006

Trails getting crowded?

If trail running makes the L.A. Times, does that mean that running in the hills is trendy?

January 15, 2006

A football post

Oy! Da Bears!

As the Nac Mac Feegle might say, "Those Bears are hurtin me heid!"

Brian Urlacher, by himself, can't win a playoff game, but at least he's trying.

October 27, 2005

Good news, bad news

The world is going to hell in a handbasket. The Arctic oil drillers keep trying, and they only have to win once. The Vice-President is openly supporting torture. The drug companies are trying to scare us with written-to-order novels about poisoned Canadian drugs.

On the other hand, the Chicago White Sox have won the World Series for the first time in 88 years. Things are still OK.

October 17, 2005

Soxtober

The Chicago White Sox have won the ALCS!

I'm not an American League guy, but for the first time in a really long time, I actually care about the outcome of the World Series. Go White Sox!

September 10, 2005

Go Blue

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Ok, so I do have a streak of disdain for college football in me. There's just something about enormous herds of fans all wearing the same clothes and drinking a lot of beer that turns me off.

(Why these same things don't seem repulsive in the context of a Colorado Avalanche game is still a mystery to me.)

Ordinarily I couldn't give two shakes about the Michigan football team. Win or lose, I don't care. But this week is slightly different. This week, the Wolverines are playing Notre Dame in the Big House.

I care about this game, but not because Notre Dame is a big Michigan rival. The rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State is even bigger, and I don't give a rat's ass about that -- two enormous midwestern Big Ten schools squaring off against each other on the football field is right up there with the Scott Peterson trial on my list of overhyped "events" that I'd rather ignore. No, the reason I care about the Notre Dame game is that I just can't stand Notre Dame.

When I was a kid, I remember that there were only a few football teams that were always on TV each week. The local teams like the Colorado Buffaloes and the Air Force Falcons were almost always televised, as was the nation's number-one team in the AP poll that week. All of that made sense to me, but I remember being a bit confused about why we in Colorado Springs would always get the Notre Dame game. I mean, they're a school in northern Indiana, for crying out loud. Why should they get national TV coverage when they were ranked number 17? I asked my parents about this, and they told me that maybe it was because so many people across the country identified with Notre Dame -- anyone with Irish ancestors, or anyone who was Catholic.

That's not fair, I thought. Why should the Irish and the Catholics get special treatment? Besides, what kind of a mascot was a "Fighting Irish" anyway? When I was eleven, it was obvious to me that that Notre Dame had one of the lamest mascots out there. Buffaloes were better, but so were Bears, so why couldn't we get the Baylor games or even the UC Berkeley games? I didn't know what a "Crimson Tide" was (still don't), but that sounded a hell of a lot better to me than "Fighting Irish." Ditto for "Huskies," "Seminoles," or even (gulp) "Cornhuskers."

Some childhood prejudices stay with you. I still think there's no good reason to give Notre Dame a national TV contract unless and until they finish the previous season ranked in the top five. I still think their mascot is lame. Especially compared with one of the fiercest mammals, pound-for-pound, in the entire world -- the wolverine. So this week, I'm rooting for Michigan's football team to kick the stuffing out of Notre Dame.

Go Blue!

August 23, 2005

The Legendary Matt Carpenter

Some of you may have heard of Lance Armstrong. In fact, most of you have probably heard of him, which is kind of surprising given the fact that Armstrong's sport, road cycling, is so unpopular in this country that most of you probably haven't heard of Eddy Merckx. (Don't worry; he's only the most legendary cyclist who ever lived.)

There are other obscure sports with legends that you may not have heard of. For example, mountain trail running.

In Colorado, they run an ascent and a marathon every year on the trail that climbs 14,110 ft. Pikes Peak. A runner named Matt Carpenter has dominated these races, winning the marathon six times, the ascent five times, and setting the course records for the ascent (2:01:06) and the marathon (3:16:39). Carpenter is the only runner ever to win both the ascent and the marathon on consecutive days in the same year (2001).

This year was the 50th anniversary of the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon. Carpenter didn't win, but that's only because he didn't enter. Instead, Carpenter had set his sights on a new challenge. He was in Leadville for a 100-mile trail race appropriately called the Leadville Trail 100. When he first ran the race last year, he was way ahead of everyone after 75 miles when he got leg cramps and ended up finishing 14th.

Now, no legend is ever going to be satisfied with 14th place, even if he's a really nice guy like Matt Carpenter. Sure, he had an excuse -- he wasn't used to competing at that distance. But excuses are not for legends.

So this year, Matt Carpenter went back to Leadville and did this.

For those of us who like to make analogies to athletes in other sports: is Carpenter a legend in the mold of Armstrong (dominating one major race like no one else), or is he more in the mold of Merckx (capable of winning every kind of event, at every kind of distance)? The only thing that isn't in any doubt is that Carpenter is trail running's fastest legend of all.

April 19, 2005

Happy, and sad

Lance Armstrong is going to wrap up his career after this year's Tour de France. Regardless of whether he wins his seventh straight or not, he'll go out on top, by a wide margin.

That's the happy story.

The sad story is Tyler Hamilton's fall from grace. Unless something unexpected happens, i.e. Hamilton is somehow able to prove he didn't dope up, his inspiring ride with a broken collarbone in the 2003 Tour will be eclipsed by his decidedly un-gritty decision to artificially enhance his abilities.

December 20, 2004

No European hockey for Bertuzzi

Todd Bertuzzi, the Vancouver Canucks forward who was suspended by the NHL for much of last season, has now been barred from playing in Europe as well.

Bertuzzi sent Colorado Avalanche player Steve Moore to the hospital with a sucker punch from behind. Criminal charges have been lodged against Bertuzzi in Canada; his trial is scheduled for January.

December 04, 2004

Winning

As Ralph McInerny writes in his NYT op-ed about Notre Dame football: "The sad thing about the Willingham firing is that winning at all costs now seems paramount." One could say the same about the drug scandals in cycling, baseball, and track.

Winning is kind of a catch-22. Very often, the sweetest victories follow an effort that we remember as being somehow "all-out, whatever it takes." We speak of the "sacrifice" of other goals and pleasures that we make in order to grab victory by the throat, and not let go. "Cheap victories" somehow don't feel as good--the glory of winning depends upon the single-minded sacrifice that comes before.

On the other hand, we often say that winning "at all costs" somehow tarnishes the achievement. We recognize that victory can come at too high a price. Cheating may be one example--when the price of victory is playing the game differently, we're less eager to respect the "winner."

The drug scandals seem to be a kind of cheating. But what about Notre Dame football? McInerny points out that victory in big-time college football these days might require that the athletes be treated like highly-paid gladiators, that we give them every athletic advantage possible, but at the cost of dropping all expectations of them as students, or even as dignified citizens (something that schools like Colorado and Nebraska seem so willing to do when their players are accused of rape). This isn't the same kind of thing as "cheating" at football, but it still seems to tarnish the glory of victory.

Where is the right balance? How much sacrifice for the sake of winning is too much? How much is too little? Though this question might not be easy to answer, it's clear that winning isn't valuable in itself. The sweetness of victory depends crucially on how you play the game.