Tag Archive | Olympics

Man overboard

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I’ve been reading biography/history The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans & Their  Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown.

So far my favorite bad sentence is:

The sport reeked of classiness.

Classiness. Wow.

The book is set in Depression Era Seattle and about UW’s mens’ rowing team. I chose it because it’s set in Seattle and about rowing, two things I like.  But even as true stories go,  it’s  not very original. It’s Seabiscuit meets Chariots of Fire.

I’m not sure why we’re reaching back 40-50- 60-70 years to find stories that fit the Dick Lit of America model.

It’s another poor, young, underdog, White male, who comes from an abusive / broken home, who works hard and triumphs over many obstacles to achieve success in sport while his patient adoring decorative young woman looks on.

It’s just all so dated. Oh and did I mention The Great Depression and the Nazis? Yep, the whole kitchen sink is in this one. No doubt this is why its option has been picked up by The Weinstein Company, which is working on a script adaptation as I write this. Sir Kenneth Branagh is set to direct.

While a story may be true and historical, for me that’s not enough to write it down (let alone film it). That story also needs to be really original or really interesting or both. The Boys in the Boat isn’t original, although it’s interesting to people interested in rowing or Seattle’s history.  For most people, this will be boilerplate Dick Lit. Men will like it way more than women, although I think women will feel sympathetic to the lives of those involved in the story.

I’m not trying to denigrate the incredible achievements or lives of the UW men who crewed by saying all this. Really, I’m simply asking why, in this modern age, publishers and movie studio execs choose to keep reaching ever further backwards in history to find this kind of dated “men accomplish, women adore” stories?

Because the truth is, women in those days could only adore because men forced them to stop participating in a sport they loved and excelled at. And nowhere is that more true that UW’s rowing program.

That's right, rowing in Gibson Girl hair do!

That’s right, it’s 1900 and female students at UW row!

For anyone that cares about rowing reality, women and men crewed at UW from 1900 – 1917. After that, the University of Washington was required to give their boathouses to the Navy (WWI). In 1920, UW revived men’s rowing but refused to bring back women’s rowing, despite it being the most popular women’s sport at the university.

The university’s “we can’t afford it” answer was ridiculous given it spent more money on men’s softball than ALL the women’s sports combined.

Women would not be allowed to row at UW again for 50 years (1969). UW Women’s rowing was not elevated to a varsity sport until 1975. And it wasn’t until 1977, after Title IX, that women were allowed to join the, till then all male,  Varsity Boat Club.

Find those men adorable? I didn’t think so.

Oh, please! When is an ass-landing medal worthy?

Gregory Bull/Associated Press
McKayla Maroney, the reigning world champion, ended up with the silver medal after landing on her rear on her second vault.

Okay, I’ll say it. The girl above was given a Silver medal and $10,000 for the above wipeout. The man below was disqualified from the competition.

Not be indelicate but, it is far more difficult for a living, breathing, moving  athlete in an ever-changing outdoor environment to fall off another living, breathing, moving athlete (don’t ask how I know this, please) than it is for a living, breathing, moving athlete in a controlled, indoor environment to fall off a stationary object.

When an athlete falls off a horse in the equestrian division, that athlete is disqualified.  When an athlete falls off a vault horse and lands on her ass in gymnastics, that’s a one point deduction. Does that sound like equal treatment to you?

Yoshiaki Oiwa, who had come into the event with little international expectation of a win, but achieved a stunning first place in the Dressage, falls in the Cross Country section of the 3-Day Event and is therefore disqualified from continuing the course to compete for Team Japan.

The Figures in My Head

In essence, every head of state is a mere figurehead. It’s why I care so little about the actual politics of candidates. Politicians, like gamblers and courtesans, achieve maximum efficacy only through appearing to be honest.

Effective heads of state lie effortless, even beautifully. To the degree a presidential candidate lies well, I’m afraid, being the pragmatist I am, he has my vote.

A general stammer can be nerves and easily played off by an everyman. But by a head of state?  Oh no. The King’s Speech is a testament to that. Any serious politician understands flaws must be corrected and “tells” must be ruthlessly weeded out or those he represents will suffer.

Obama, young and inexperienced as he was, was careful to rid himself of his flaws and tells by the end of his first year in office. Romney still has not overcome the stutter that flags a forthcoming lie.

I really expected more of an older, experienced ex-governor. It’s possibly a sign of arrogance, or vanity, or an inadequately suppressed moral conscience — all of which are unfortunate in a head of state.

Mitt should really have paid more attention to Rafalca. A bridled tongue, nimble footwork, and good grooming can take one very far. And I should know.