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Saturday, 11 August 2012


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Well, Mike, regarding "entertaining idiocies", that's what's wrong with the mass media in a nutshell. No one is paying attention to the details, so the numbers don't really matter and a generalization is close enough. News and entertainment, it's all the same, right?

I bet the news anchors looked really good, though.....

I propose a combination of shot-put and ice-skating, results measured by the angle away from a target at one end of the rink. *That* I would watch. ;)

"I bet the news anchors looked really good, though....."

Actually, our weatherman wears an improbably bad toupee, but I can't complain. He's a better weatherman than the guy he replaced, and I think he does a good job.


For what it's worth, I think there's absolutely nothing wrong with rounding 0.20 to "a quarter". The measurement on the map probably has false precision anyway when considered over a wide area.

Mike, I take it you're watching live broadcast (either live-live or recorded)? Well, if you don't mind time travel, you can taper off instead of going cold turkey by catching up on what you missed via streaming video at nbcolympics.com. Fresh events are reserved for pay-tv subscribers for a couple of days, but everything older is available for free (in the US).

Best part: no ads, and if there is commentary, it's from BBC (which lacks NBC's annoying jingoism--though that's still available in the site's editorial material), nor any network's programming decisions. The cameras are on from scheduled start of event to completion, including downtime, giving one a better sense of the on-scene atmosphere (obviously one can skip ahead; or back, etc.).

Trying out sports yourself takes appreciation for the effort athletes do into an entirely different level.

There have been some positive surprises in this Olympics and I'm making the effort to familiarize myself with new sports.

I've tried to watch some, but NBC and Comcast seem to be colluding to exclude me from their audience, so I haven't watched much.

If I understood the news I heard on the radio today correctly, David Rudisha pulled the rest of his heat along so well that the last place finisher would have won gold in the previous Olympics. That's an impressive improvement! The kind usually associated with technological changes of some sort.

Maybe for a more local flair you could turn your attention to the Lumberjack World Championchips in the off Olympic seasons.


Don't turn off your TeeVee yet, Mike -- the Paralympics are up next. They certainly never get the media attention they deserve, but these games will offer more than their share of thrills. Finding coverage is always an Olympic-sized challenge but finding the Paralympics should -- no, make that maybe -- easier to find in today's varied online media.

Water Polo is nothing more than attempted mass drowning with a ball and funny hats. But how about Freestyle Dressage? Now that's exciting.

For sheer entertainment value, especially if you know the contestants well, you can't beat dizzy sticks. I shall explain.

The course for each contestant comprises of several big traffic cones or three foot high posts in a line about 50 feet long.
The contestants set off, running a slalom through the cones.
When they reach the last cone they place their forehead upon the last cone and run around it eight or ten times.
The contestants have to run back to the start, but they are now so dizzy that some of them don't make it. The first to crawl or fall across the line is the winner.

I've been a contestant in this sport, and did quite well. After I had run around the end cone an interminable eight times and stood up, my horizon was tilted at 30 degrees. I could dimly hear my team mates calling me back (this was the relay version) but I couldn't make myself run in the right direction, and started running/staggering 45 degrees out from the right heading. I ran almost a half circle before I could collapse across the line to ironic cheering from the crowd. There is no requirement for going through the slalom on the return leg, because if there were the game would never end.


Rudisha's accomplishments in the 800m are nothing short of astounding; to put it into the perspectives of digital cameras, it's about on the level of Canon introducing the first Rebel for under US$1000. Now, breaking 1:41 in the 800m doesn't have the nice round numbers of $1000 dollars or four minutes for the mile or even ten seconds for the 100m, but it is a level that few experts or commentators would have predicted at the beginning of the year. I would call it "Beamonesque", but there's every chance that Rudisha might well break the record again in the coming months.

To put it somewhat more into perspective, trained local high school runners have a tough time hitting :25 seconds for a 200m race, and Rudisha just ran four of them, back-to-back, with no rest... As you point out, the 800m is possibly the most exquisitely painful track event. It's a full-out sprint, as long as you can hold it -- then a little longer.

There have been some other wonderful stories as well in Track this olympics; for the Brits and the Americans, having Mo Farah and Galen Rupp run 1-2 in the 10,000m -- an event dominated by the Kenyans and Ethiopeans for decades -- was astounding. The fall by Morgan Uceny, ranked #1 in the world in the womens' 1500m, was heartbreaking. Leo Manzano's silver in the men's 1500m was thrilling. So many good stories, and the men's marathon is still to come.

Part of the excitement of an Olympics (for the spectator with no skin in it) is certainly marvelling at the odd sports that, for some unfathomable reason, are, for a spell of two weeks, placed up high and taken very seriously.

We love to curse those sports as well. I like to make lists of these:

Wrestling (two people pawing at each other for two minutes then drawing a ball does not make for good spectating)

Synchronized swimming (summer's answer to figure skating and remarkably there was solo synchronized swimming for a while)

Water polo (I don't like watching people who look they are trying to avoid drowning)

Any event with a horse (you know exactly why)

Tae Kwon Do and Judo (see wrestling above)

Sailing (an immensely boring spectacle)


Beach volleyball (hint - it's not the sand, it's that there are too few players to cover the court)

...sitting here with a pal and we're wondering: "...what's the deal with team handball?" It's like a game a few of us would make up to play while we were drunk at a picnic...

Please keep in mind that some of these extraordinary results are perhaps results of Doping.
But you can't tell before a couple of years have passed, because the Anti-Doping-Agencies need some time to keep up with the newest blood-processing stuff.
Do you really think that there's no Doping envolved when one guy is winning easily by far and everybody else is very close to each other?
Don't be naiive.

That 800 was amazing. Apart from Rudisha (!) all the rest ran a wonderful race - six of the other seven ran personal bests, five were under 1:43 and every man ran the fastst time ever for their placing. The Brit who came last, Andrew Osagie, ran a time that would have won the gold at the previous three games…

It was one hell of a race.
Rudisha does seem a nice guy but might have a sence of humour too - suggesting he an Bolt race each other over 400m for fun.
Considering they're talking about him getting under 100 seconds for 800 I wouldn't like to bet on that if it ever happened.

I wan't to see what Rudisha and Bolt will manage in Rio. I'll stay up for those races!

Innumeracy comes in many guises.
A few weeks ago, I was listening to an NPR-like station (though it could have been the BBC,) which, as a confirmed liberal, is the only kind of radio I listen to, when a woman did a story about Americans adopting African children. She said, in a somewhat disapproving tone, that Americans adopted 50,000 or 70,000 or something like that, African children last year, with the implication that they were being torn away from their Roots. Okay, I'll buy that number...but what does it mean? She never said. She never said how many children there are in Africa, how many are available for adoption (or how many desperately need adoption if they are to stay alive.) I mean, if there are 50,000,000 children in Africa, and there may well be (I didn't look it up) that'd be 1/10 of one percent being adopted. If there are 500,000,000,000 and there may well be, that would be 100th of 1 percent. That doesn't seem outrageous. But we never find out. Her first number may have been absolutely accurate, but it's like that old joke, "We have a partial score in the Wisconsin-Minnesota game: Wisconsin, 45."

(As I type this out, it somehow feels familiar. Did you do another column on innumeracy recently, on which I submitted a similar comment on the same radio broadcast?)

Pretty good article on hammer throwing here:

And a rather good photograph of the 1912 US bronze medal winner here:

"(As I type this out, it somehow feels familiar. Did you do another column on innumeracy recently, on which I submitted a similar comment on the same radio broadcast?)"

I don't think so, but I get that feeling a lot recently.

Re the "partial score" thing, I answered the doorbell today to find two boys asking if I wanted my yard mowed. I asked the price, and the larger boy said, "oh, five or ten dollars." I didn't laugh at him, but I did ask for a bit more specificity.


RE the "badminton scandal."

It wasn't that "two teams both trying their best to lose" , it was that two teams were trying their best to win medals in the over all competition, apparently read the rules better than the people who wrote them, and had the misfortune of playing against teams who also had read the rules.

The Japanese women's football team seems to have done the same thing with no repercussions.

No one ever complains that in cycling sprints the beginning of the race is a competition to see who can go the slowest since the winner of the race is usually the cyclist in second place until the very last part of the race. Being in second place until the last moment is common in many sports.

Whoever is responsible for making the rules then selling expensive tickets to an "amateur" event where the players are not only penalized for winning but could injure or tire themselves for subsequent matches is at fault. The players are there to win, not to entertain.

Even in professional baseball you have the sacrifice fly and bunt.

I can see where the ticket holders might be disappointed, but that's the nature of sports.

He looks like Rodney Dangerfield. Sheboygan just don't get no respect.

Many of the traditional events were originally military in basis, such as the ball on a chain event you mention. I think the BMX event is commemorating when the Spartans realized using kids bicycles could reduce the number of warriors needed to make a stand from 300 to about 30. Didn't catch on, though. No one liked, "The Thirty," as a title.

Couldn't laugh at this numerical error, that I heard this morning:

An interview with Theodore ‘Dutch’ Van Kirk, the last surviving crew member of the Enola Gay, was on BBC Radio 4 (the "Saturday Live" programme). He was very clear what he thought of a young teacher that had introduced him to a class, with mention of his part in the ending of, "World War 11." ...as in, "World War Eleven."

The original Olympics had an event called the pankration (roughly translated every-fighting) which was more or less like today's UFC, except more brutal. Literally the only way to win was to force the other guy to tap out, and once a fighter died in the ring and was adjudged the winner, because there would have been no way to force him to tap out.

The Olympics are always great, and this year is no exception. And we have as usual iconic heroes: Lolo Jones, Gabby Douglas, Misty May-Treanor, Micheal Phelps. But we should reserve a special place in history for Manteo Mitchell. He ran 200 yards of the semifinal men's 4x400 relay on a broken fibula. He kept our team in the hunt, and put us in the finals. His teammates won silver in the final, riding on the shoulders of his sacrifice. He is the Olympic spirit, and the American dream. Manteo Mitchell. Tell your children.

Story here: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/olympics/london/track/story/2012-08-09/London-Olympics-Manteo-Mitchell-broken-leg-Mike-Lopresti/56921220/1

I'm just waiting for the IOC to bring back the synchronized unibrow waxing for women competition.

My money is on East Germany :)

They had Hula Hoops on today. While it was amazing what they could do, I could not tell the difference between the performance of the first place winner and the last.

Hula Hoops?

I was a miler of modest means back in high school, and wholeheartedly agree with your take on the difficulty of the 800 meters. Tried it (actually the half mile) once in competition and it nearly killed me - even though I was about a half minute slower than these Olympians.
My take on the silliest Olympic sport: It's got to be those rhythmic gymnastics all decked out in their sequined outfits and little red balls and hula hoops.

Totally agree about the 800 being the worst of all worlds in running. I was a high school miler and two miler, but we trained doing 880 (yards, more or less the same suffering as the 800) splits with the 880 runners. Puke city. You can't sprint, but you can't settle into a pace either. Just run until it hurts, then do another lap.

Those Olympic athletes probably put more hurt, sweat and tears per week into developing their talents than do the best photographers over a decade. Kind of puts things into perspective for me and instills some humility despite the jingoism.


If you can find the August copy of Outside Magazine (yes it is still being published on real paper and may even be available at your local newsstand) there is a terrific article on Rudisha's coach in Kenya, Brother Colm O'Connell. Well worth reading.


Well, if you put 33-year-old me (over ten years back) and today's Rudisha on the same field for 800m, I would be only 38 seconds behind him when he hit the final :).


I was a complete b*stard (I hope that's not too strong - please edit down to B if it is) when training my troops. There was at the time in the British Army an annual fitness test called the Infantry Combat Fitness Test, which was 3 miles in full battle gear (about 50 pounds in weight), plus helmet and rifle, and you had 18 minutes to do it. Most western Armies have a similar test, same sort of weight / distance / time.

My rules however. We'd start off, about 35 of us, and the first five in would get to knock off for the day. The remaining 30 would do it again, first 5 in could also knock off. Then 25 of us would do it again, first 5 released, and so on.

I would normally be in the first 5, but I'd do it again and again with the boys, because that's what the Troop Leader should do - it goes with the territory.

You know when the boys are trying when you see the winners vomiting.

Beach volleyball:
serve - spike - hug.
serve - spike - hug.

It's interesting how the Winter and Summer X-Games have influenced recent Olympic events. And I could feel that face plant from my Living Room.

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