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    Olympic Reading

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 August 19日 Tuesday

    Some slightly off the beaten track Olympic reading material.

    Salon’s Gary Kamiya, a fellow Japanese half-blood and a writer that I usually enjoy, with Short people got no reason to live after Usain Bolt’s crazy 9.69 100m.

    Bolt’s race was one of the freakiest events in the history not just of the Olympics but of track and field. The 6’5″ Jamaican simply redefined speed. Not only did he destroy one of the fastest fields in Olympic history and shatter his own world record, he did it with a gut stuffed full of Chicken McNuggets, with one shoe untied and while signing autographs, blowing kisses and taking a nap during the last 20 meters of the race. As the great retired Trinidadian sprinter Ato Boldon, winner of four Olympic medals, said during NBC’s broadcast, “This has never been seen before in Olympic history.”

    The Telegraph takes a look at ex-Olympic sports like cricket (which may start lobbying for its reappearance in the form of the new baseballish Twenty20 form, fittingly enough, for the 2020 Olympics), polo, motorboat racing, rugby, tug o’ war (which lasted several Olympics amazingly enough), and how baseball is gaining membership in this exclusive club of sports.

    The tug’o war is a favourite of mine, simply for the stories involved. The USA had to withdraw from the 1900 event because three of its members were involved in the men’s hammer, while Danish journalist Edgar Aaybe went along to watch a combined Sweden and Denmark team against France in the final, was asked to stand in for an athlete who fell ill and duly won gold before filing his undeniably exclusive copy.

    There’s more. The 1908 event ended in uproar when the Liverpool Police side, one of Britain’s three representatives, were accused of foul play by the USA for wearing their regulation Police boots, which had cleats and allegedly offered extra grip. The Yanks were not happy and withdrew from the competition and rejected ‘Old Bill’s offer of a rematch in bear feet. Tug o’War was finally put to bed in 1920, when GB won, leaving them as technically the reigning Olympic champions.

    Slate’s keeping track of the Olympic Sap-o-Meter of the NBC coverage, and Michael Phelps helped set a new record.

    On Sunday, it was back to moms, moms, and additional moms, with 18 mentions of motherhood on the day—more than enough to vault mom ahead of front-runner dream to become the sappiest word of the 2008 Olympics to date. Also of note: a record four mentions of tears, several relating to American gymnast Sacramone’s waterworks. A bunch of heroes, hearts, and challenges pushed Sunday over the edge, setting a record of 64 Sap Points that will be hard to beat.

    A Slate ode to weightlifting and Salon’s King Kaufman lament over US men’s basketball team, two of many events not being covered here in Japan in mainstream media because of lack of Japanese entrants.

    Beyond the aesthetic and emotional pull of lifting, I suspect what really got me hooked is the strategy, discussed in detail in this recent New York Times piece. The key point is that the weightlifters (in fact, usually their coaches) choose how much they plan to hoist. Their “bids,” so to speak, are all displayed on a giant board, like a bizarre stock market that trades in kilograms instead of dollars.

    What I mean is the American men’s basketball failure was a fascinating soap opera. It was a Rorschach test for America. In 2004, we had kind of a hangover from the patriotic orgy that followed 9/11. We were in the middle of a vicious presidential campaign season. It was just dawning on a whole lot of us that the war on terror was a phantom, that Iraq — more than a year after “Mission Accomplished” — was a quagmire.

    We Americans told online pollsters that we were rooting in large numbers for our squads to lose. We deserved to be punished, to get ours.

    The men’s basketball team, a thrown-together second- or third-team All-Star squad — remember that many top players begged off because of security concerns — struggled in pre-Olympics exhibitions and kept struggling when the tournament started. Because they were the most famous American Olympians, the most famously failing American Olympians and, not incidentally, a bunch of black men, they became the exemplars for the ugly American. Arrogant. Boorish. Bullying.

    ESPN Page 2’s Jim Caple completed the golden pass decathlon by attending 10 events on Saturday.

    And that is what I hoped to see when I cashed in my golden ticket for its full value Saturday, attending as many events at as many venues in one day as possible. My day began with Michael Phelps tying Mark Spitz and ended with Usain Bolt blowing away the world; in between I saw mystic and marvelous surprises that astonished and perplexed.

    Like, who knew Iran had a basketball team?

    And finally, a couple of Globe and Mail blog entries about hockey and the medals table, wonder if the American media are going to stick with the total medals method even after their country catches up to China in the second week with all the athletics golds (won’t they?)

    Guys, guys: it’s field hockey, not the other kind.

    Two Canadians on our field hockey team, Bindi Kullar and Sukhwinder Singh, have just been banned one match for a bit of the old ultra-violence in a game versus Great Britain.

    In an explanation that deserves a gold medal for euphemism, an official said “Singh’s stick made contact with Kirkham’s forehead, causing bruising.” As for Kullar, he apparently stickhandled an opponent’s chin.

    This method – counting gold medals, not total medals – seems to be the established model across the world, including at this website, the website for the CBC, the BBC, British newspapers and other sundry sites we checked including Die Welt of Germany, The Australian and Le Figaro of France. Even China’s arch-rival Japan seems content with the method that shows China in the lead, at least on the site for Japan Times and the Kyodo news service. The China Daily and Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post also follow this model, though that’s probably because they know what’s good for them.

    Now turn your attention to the U.S. media to see who’s on top in the medals standings. Turns out the rest of the world is dead wrong and that what counts is not gold medals, but total medals. NBC, the official Olympics broadcaster, has the U.S. on top. So does the “paper of record” New Tork Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune and sports sites ESPN.com, Fox Sports and SI.com. We havent yet found one US-based site that is following the officially-sanctioned model which has China in the lead.

    Funnily enough, we did manage to find a very rare supporter of the U.S.-first method from outside the American media. Al-Jazeera’s website, we kid you not, has a medal table with the U.S. sitting proudly on top. Could a detente in the clash of civlizations be far behind?

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, hockey, olympics, opinion, random | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

    For you procrastinators

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 May 17日 Saturday

    Yeah, you know who you are.

    If you haven’t found it already, Slate did a special procrastination issue this past week. Good stuff. I found it while, what else, procrastinating. This isn’t even ironic.

    I especially liked the Procrastinators Anonymous piece:

    Procrastinators Anonymous had an announcement about its weekly phone-in meeting that came with this disclaimer: “This meeting was originally scheduled for every Wednesday, 9 a.m. ET. But people have not been showing up at this time.” I called in anyway and listened to the sound of Kenny G-style sax and my own breathing for 15 minutes before giving up.

    According to the small but annoyingly prolific band of scientists who study procrastination—serious research began in the 1980s—a lot of us aren’t making our meetings. They say the chronic inability to get things done, what they call “trait procrastination,” affects about 20 percent of the public, a number far greater than those who suffer from depression (about 10 percent) or phobias (about 9 percent).

    Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University (and the expert who says there’s no DNA for delay), divides us into two general behavior types: arousal procrastinators and avoidance procrastinators. Arousal procrastinators seek the excitement and pumping stress hormones of having to finish everything under duress. (I’m this type.) Avoidance procrastinators make their work the measure of their self-worth and so end up putting it off out of fear. (I’m this type, too.) I talked to Ferrari and discovered that after 20 years of studying us, his sympathy is wearing thin. “I don’t understand this, why they’re consistently like this. I don’t like cutting the grass, but I do it.”

    And the Letter to a young procrastinator piece:

    Stop resisting and embrace your procrastination. Don’t agonize in front of a blank computer screen. Don’t sit around for hours—intending to start your work any moment now—only to find that in the end you’ve accomplished zilch, save for ruining your own day.

    You could instead, for instance, work on a small, tangential aspect of the assignment. Some weird take on things—one that doesn’t make you miserable. This may be of little direct application, but there’s a chance it could also pay off, kick-starting a new line of thought or adding nuance to your final result.

    Or, better, take a walk outside. Read a book for pleasure. Roll a spliff and share it with a friend.

    You’re going to procrastinate anyway, so you may as well enjoy the time you’re stealing from your tasks. While that grind in your econ class is toiling, you’re becoming a more relaxed, quirkier, less-programmed person. You nurture the creative sprouts that take root only in long hours of idleness. You’re open to soulful experiences that lie only beyond the bounded worlds of work and study.

    Of course, this is all dependent on there being a deadline waiting at the end of your walkabout. For true procrastinators, nothing gets done without a deadline. As we say in journalism: The deadline is your friend. And when that deadline looms too near to procrastinate any longer, you need to take care of business. Crank it out, baby.

    Yeah, I’ve come to terms with mine, well sort of  😛

    Posted in 02_English, culture, opinion, random | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

    Diving stars

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 April 28日 Monday

    Sidney Crosby, NHL’s newest superstar, is a well known diver which his opposing fans often points out, and it’s currently causing some commotions among New York Ranger fans as Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins are up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals thanks to some controversial penalty calls involving Sid the Kid.

    I used to abhor the dive, or simulation as it’s known in football, but this great article on Slate changed my mind on the matter. It’s a rather valid form of self-protection for the smaller, more skilled players in these sports. And who would you rather see on the ice or the pitch, the hulking untalented brutes, or the uberskilled superstars?

    Consider the classic matchup between a skilled dribbler and a big, tough defender. The attacker must use his quickness and wit to get by. The bigger man, though, can always resort to a “professional foul”—an intentional foul in which there is no attempt to play the ball. The defender will give away a free kick, but that will hurt only in certain parts of the field. So, what is the attacker to do? If he finds a flailing leg in his way, he can do nothing except barge right into it. And maybe writhe around on the ground for a bit, encouraging the referee to hand out a card, thus discouraging the brutish defender from trying such rough tactics in the future.

    Far from being a sign of corruption, diving is, in certain ways, a civilizing influence. Divers are usually quicker, smaller players. As athletes get bigger and stronger, the little guy gets nudged aside. If professional fouls and brute force reign supreme, creative play and joyful improvisation will suffer.

    There is nothing more depressing than a player who goes to the ground when he might have scored. Ronaldinho and Thierry Henry, arguably the world’s best players, will stay on their feet at all cost for the sake of a beautiful pass or a brilliant run at the goal. But the next time you see an artful dribbler derailed by a clumsy oaf, take a minute to think about whose side you’re on. Doesn’t the dribbler deserve a somersault or two to remind the world that the only way to stop him is through violent and graceless means?

     

     

    Posted in 02_English, culture, football, hockey, information, International, NHL, opinion, soccer | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »