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Posts Tagged ‘sports

“It’s not a matter of ‘Did you break?’ It’s a matter of ‘How far can you make it before you break?'”*…

 

Day 1, 1:42 a.m.: Lazarus Lake, who designed the Barkley Marathons in 1986 (no one finished that year), lights a Camel, signaling the start of this year’s race.

Since 1986, the world’s top ultra-runners have fought to compete in the Barkley Marathon, 100 miles through hellish Appalachian Mountain terrain. So far, only 15 have completed it…

For most of us, the 26.2 miles of a marathon represent the epitome of athletic endurance. For others, there are the ultramarathons, races that stretch to fifty or one hundred miles or more through some of the world’s most inhospitable regions. The Badwater 135 winds through the middle of Death Valley in July. The Marathon des Sables is a six-day, 156-mile race across the Sahara Desert. The Hardrock 100 is a high-altitude hundred- miler amid lightning storms and avalanches.

And then there is the Barkley Marathons.

Officially, it consists of five loops through Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee, totaling one hundred miles, but most participants believe it to be closer to 130. Runners must ascend and descend about 120,000 feet of elevation—the equivalent of climbing up and down Mount Everest twice. And all this must be done in just sixty hours. As of race time this year, of the more than one thousand people who have run it, only fourteen have finished.

It costs only $1.60 to enter. An application must be sent to a closely guarded email address at precisely the right minute on precisely the right day. The email must include an essay titled “Why I Should Be Allowed to Run in the Barkley.”

You must then complete a written exam that asks, for instance, “Explain the excess positrons in the flux of cosmic rays” and “How much butter should you use to cook a pound of liver (with onions)?” New runners, known as “virgins,” must bring a license plate from their state or country. “Veterans”— returning runners who did not finish—must bring an item of clothing. One year it was a flannel shirt. Another year it was a white dress shirt. This year it’s a pack of white socks. The few who have finished the course and are crazy enough to return, known as “alumni,” need only bring a pack of Camel cigarettes…

“An ever-shifting race, designed by a madman,” the story of the Barkley: “The Masochist’s Marathon.”

* John Kelly, Barkley contestant

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As we hit the trail, we might recall that it was on this date in 1984 that Carl Lewis won the long jump at the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the second of the four gold medals he won at those Games.

In a career that ran from 1979 to 1996, Lewis won nine Olympic gold medals, one Olympic silver medal, and 10 World Championships medals (eight of them, gold). He is one of only three Olympic athletes who won a gold medal in the same event in four consecutive Olympic Games.  he was voted “World Athlete of the Century” by the International Association of Athletics Federations and “Sportsman of the Century” by the International Olympic Committee, and “Olympian of the Century” by Sports Illustrated.

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Written by LW

August 6, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The score never interested me, only the game”*…

 

All you need is a ball and a wall.

The mantra of handball players everywhere is also a manifesto on the sport’s accessibility. A deceptively simple game with a steep learning curve, handball — in one form or another — has been played since at least the 15th century, when its earliest recorded occurrence (1437) has King James I of Scotland ordering the blocking of a cellar window that was interfering with his courtyard play.

In 1884 the rules for modern handball — in short, you hit a ball against a wall with your hand until your opponent fails to return it — were made official by Ireland’s Gaelic Athletic Association, and the rest is history…

The perfect game?  “‘Tennis for savages’: A visual history of handball in America.”

* Mae West

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As we revel in the “twack,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1915 that Wilbert “Uncle Robbie” Robinson, a career major league catcher who had become the manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, decided to try to set a record of sorts by catching a baseball dropped from an airplane being flown 525 feet overhead.   The team was in Daytona Beach, Florida for spring training and in the market for a publicity stunt; they settled on the idea of a world-record catch.  And when all of his players demurred, Uncle Robbie agreed to do it.

The Dodgers recruited Ruth Law, an aviatrix in town to drop golf balls in another publicity stunt, to execute the “throw,” but at the suggestion of a member of her ground crew, Law substituted a grapefruit (from a mechanic’s lunch box) at the last minute and tossed that from her cockpit instead of the rawhide.

The grapefruit hit Robinson in the chest– and made such a mess that he thought he had lost his eye (because of the acid burn and the blood-like splatter that covered him).  But he twigged to the gag when he saw his teammates burst out in laughter.  Outfielder Casey Stengel, later a successful manager himself, claimed to have convinced Law to make the switch; but Law herself told the true story in a 1957 interview.  From this point on Robinson referred to airplanes as “fruit flies.”

Wilbert Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945.

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Written by LW

March 13, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The Olympic Games… purport to follow the traditions of an ancient athletics competition, but today it is the commercial aspect that is most apparent”*…

 

The above graphic from HowMuch.net, a cost information site, visualizes data from a recent study by Oxford University to compare the budgets of previous games.

The study found the average cost overruns for Olympic Games to be a whopping 156% from 1968 to 2016. This means that the Rio Games were a budgeting success, at least in relative terms, by ‘only’ running 51% overbudget.

It should be noted that the study accounts only for sports-related costs, such as those relating to operations or building venues. The study excludes indirect capital costs such as upgrading transport or hotel infrastructure, since data on these costs is harder to come by, and is often unreliable. Also, some Olympic Games were omitted from the study, as they did not have available public data on the costs involved.

The good news for organizers is that cost overruns, as a percentage, are generally going down.

The 1976 Summer Games in Montreal caught everyone off guard after going 720% overbudget, and the city was saddled with debt for 30 years. Lake Placid (1980), Barcelona (1992), and Lillehammer (1994) were all grossly overbudget as well with 324%, 266%, and 277% overruns respectively.

However, recent games – with the exception of Sochi (289%) – have all been pretty good as far as Olympics go. The average cost overrun since 1998 has been just 73%.

The bad news for organizers is that costs, in general, are still going way up. Organizers are just getting slightly “better” at budgeting for them.

Here are the total costs for all games in the study – note that costs are adjusted to be in 2015 terms.

More– and enlargeable/zoomable versions of the graphics– at “Rio Games a success at ‘only’ 51% over budget.”

* Ai Weiwei

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As we pass the torch, we might note that it was on this date in 1791 that the town of Pittsfield, Massachusetts voted to ban the game of baseball (and other activities that had disturbed many of the townspeople).

Until about a decade ago, it was widely believed that baseball was created by Abner Doubleday (or his contemporary Alexander Cartwright) in 1846; and indeed, the “modern” game– baseball as we know it– was. But historian Jim Thorn’s discovery of the Pittsfield Bylaw, fifty-five years older, is the earliest known reference to the game.

The relevant section: Be it ordained by the said Inhabitants that no person or Inhabitant of said Town‚ shall be permitted to play at any game called Wicket‚ Cricket‚ Baseball‚ Batball‚ Football‚ Cats‚ Fives or any other games played with Ball‚ within the Distance of eighty yards from said Meeting House – And every such Person who shall play at any of the said games or other games with Ball within the distance aforesaid‚ shall for every Instance thereof‚ forfeit the Sum of five shillings to be recovered by Action of Debt brought before any Justice of the Peace to the Person who shall and prosecute therefore And be it further ordained that in every Instance where any Minor shall be guilty of a Breach of this Law‚ his Parent‚ Master‚ Mistress or guardian shall forfeit the like Sum to be recovered in manner‚ and to the use aforesaid.

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Written by LW

September 5, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Juggling is sometimes called the art of controlling patterns, controlling patterns in time and space.”*…

 

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Part friendly circus act, part vicious duel: welcome to the world of combat juggling. Unlike the variety show clowns that would entertain you as a child, combat juggling is no joke; this is a competitive contact sport and there can only be one person left standing … er, juggling…

Great Big Story recently sat down with Denver, Colorado variety performer Sam Malcolm to learn more about the competitive and sometimes vicious sport of combat juggling.  [Via]

* Ronald Graham

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As we keep ’em in the air, we might recall that it was on this date in 1900 that Luther Haden “Dummy” Taylor made his Major League debut.  A deaf-mute right-handed pitcher, he was a key feature of the New York Giants’ National League championship teams of 1904 and 1905.

Taylor communicated on-field with his teammates– all of whom learned sign language– with his hands. He is credited with helping to expand and make universal the use of sign language throughout the modern baseball infield, for example, the use of pitching signs.   And Taylor contributed to signing’s repertoire of profanities, frequently cussing out umpires with his hands (and largely getting away with it…  except when, as with Hank O’Day, he encountered a ref who knew sign language).

Taylor was also a consummate showman, an accomplished juggler who would often put on “a grand juggling act” in front of the Giants’ dugout to amuse the fans.

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Written by LW

August 27, 2016 at 1:01 am

“A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule”*…

 

The American house is growing. These days, the average new home encompasses 2,500 square feet, about 50 percent more area than the average house in the late 1970s, according to Census data. Compared to the typical house of 40 years ago, today’s likely has another bathroom and an extra bedroom, making it about the same size as the Brady Bunch house, which famously fit two families.

This expansion has come at a cost: the American lawn…

As houses have gotten bigger, yard sizes have receded. What gives? “The Shrinking of the American Lawn.”

(Compare and contrast: “Who is the Tiny House revolution for?“)

* Michael Pollan

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As we eulogize our edgers, we might recall that it was on this date in 1894 that the first issue of The American Lawn Tennis Bulletin, the official organ of the American Lawn Tennis Association, was published.  Its name was subsequently changed to American Lawn Tennis Magazine, then to USTA Magazine, after its sponsoring organization– the sanctioning body for amateur tennis in the U.S. and host of the U.S. Open tournament–  dropped “Lawn” from its name.

1894 advertisement

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Written by LW

July 11, 2016 at 1:01 am

“The problem with winter sports is that — follow me closely here — they generally take place in winter”*…

 

Be that as it may, winter sports have long had the devotees… and with them, helpful instructors.  Consider Bror Myer, a Swedish figure skating champion, who produced an illustrated guide for hopefuls.

To facilitate an easy interpretation of the text, as well as to show more clearly the various movements, I decided, after great consideration, to illustrate the work by means of photographs taken with a Cinematograph.

Check them out at the Internet Archive.  And for a look at why his choice of photos was inspired, contrast his work tothis French ice-skating manual from 1813, one of the very first devoted entirely to the sport.

[Via Public Domain Review]

* Dave Barry

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As we sharpen our blades, we might recall that it was on this date in 1994 that figure skater Tonya Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, surrendered to authorities in Portland, Ore., after being charged with masterminding an attack on Harding’s rival, Nancy Kerrigan.

On January 6, 1994 [on the eve of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships], a man named Shane Stant delivered the blow itself—a single strike on the right knee with a police baton—and then fled the scene in such a panic that he ran right through a plexiglass door. Cameras captured the aftermath of the attack, with Kerrigan bellowing on the ground: “Why? Why? Why?”

The surreal quickly became the sensational. Implicated in the attack were Kerrigan’s rival, Tonya Harding; her ex-husband, Gillooly, and Gillooly’s band of hired goons—Stant, bodyguard Shawn Eckardt, and getaway driver Derrick Smith. Harding initially denied everything, while Gillooly, charged with conspiracy to commit assault, later pleaded down to one count of racketeering. Awkwardly, both Harding and Kerrigan competed in the ’94 Lillehammer Olympics. Harding finished eighth, and Kerrigan won the silver. A few months later, Gillooly and his associates went to prison while Harding got probation for conspiring to hinder their prosecution. (She maintains to this day that she knew nothing of the attack in advance.)

[source]

Gillooly and Harding in happier days

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Written by LW

January 19, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Sometimes I have chosen to see films just by their posters”*…

 

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Pablo Fernández Eyre‘s lovely video of movie one-sheets animated with the film footage that matches the image featured in the poster.

[via Laughing Squid]

* Jean Paul Gaultier

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As we take our seats, we might recall that it was on this date in 1898 that an American institution was born.

The University of Minnesota football team (for our non-American readers out there, I’m of course referring to the kind of football where you’ll get a penalty for using your feet) was playing their final game against Northwestern University. The U of M’s team had been having a lackluster year, and there was a general feeling on campus that this was due to lack of enthusiasm during the games. So several students, lead by Johnny Campbell on a megaphone, decided to lead the crowd of spectators in a chant: “Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-U-Mah! Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Minn-e-so-tah!” The crowd went bananas, as they say, and an energized Minnesota team won the game 17-6.

That day Johnny Campbell and his (presumably drunk) friends became the first cheerleader squad.

[source]

Johnny Campbell

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Written by LW

November 2, 2015 at 1:01 am

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