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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Conundrums For Sale

Situation: You’re in a big city and you don’t know anyone. You’re down to your last dollar, and you’re five miles from your hotel. It’s 3 o’clock in the morning, it’s raining, it’s 10 degrees below zero, and you have a recurring hernia. A doberman is chasing you, and your glasses start to fog up. You’re carrying a 70-pound suitcase in one hand and a bowling ball in the other. You trip over your shoelace and land face first into a mud puddle. As you attempt to stand up, you realize you’ve twisted your ankle. Just then, you get a call on your cell phone. The question is: do you answer it or let it go to voice mail? These are the dilemmas of life. Hypothetically, you may think you have the answer, but until you get in that situation, you just never know.

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In an unusual turn of events, hurricanes Opal and Pablo have somehow crossed paths and are furiously confronting one another off the coast of Florida. Opal insists that she was there first, and that Pablo must wait until she has died down, or at least gone into retirement as a tornado in the midwest. Pablo says Opal was hanging around too long, breaking the hurricane code of ethics by overstaying her 10-day time limit. He says Quincy is right behind him, even having asked to play through. So, what would you do if you were a climatologist involved in this case?

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One thing that would be great if the Olympics gymnastics announcers would do differently is not spoil the drama for us by telling us ahead of time to watch for this next great move that’s about to happen in a routine. For one thing, it’s annoying, and for another, it completely removes the spontaneity of the event. Tim Daggett is the resident expert, and he can’t seem to keep a secret. Throughout the course of a routine, he’ll spill out, “Now, watch this here coming up…” Tim, Tim, Tim. We are already watching it. Your cameras are pointed right at the gymnast in full felicity and we can’t help but be watching it. The figure skating commentators at the Winter Olympics have also been guilty of this. “Here comes a big move…” Thank you, but I think we can wait another three seconds and be pleasantly surprised.

Can you imagine sitting next to these people at the movie theater? If they’ve already seen the movie, then every time Clint Eastwood is about to beat up a guy, they’d have to butt in, “Here comes his big move… Yes! He landed it! Clint is going to get high marks for that one!” Tim, have a Jujube and calm down.

As of today, Michael Phelps has participated in five gold medals at the 2008 Olympics, which is half of the total number of U.S. gold medals so far. I’d say that’s pretty good. He should open up his own branch country. If you can be in half your country’s gold medals, it’s time to diversify.

Phelps is surely cool (though still not quite as cool as the speedskater Apolo Ohno). However, I have one problem with the sharing of gold medals for relay events. Mathematically, each of them should be worth no more than a fourth of a medal, if you think about it (which I tried to). Phelps has five gold medals at these Olympics, and two of those were from relays. He didn’t even compete in some of the preliminary heats leading up to the finals for those events. So when they say he gets seven or eight gold medals in one Olympics, I think it needs to be statistically tempered. Yes, he is great, but he did get some help in those relays. Likewise, Mark Spitz won four gold medals on his own in 1972, and then was part of three relays. So really, he won 4¾ gold medals at that Olympics.

There’s also a ponderous discrepancy between the value in women’s gymnastics for the vault and the beam. The vault consists of one quick jump that takes maybe two seconds — unless you include the run down the ramp, but they don’t get rated on the run. Meanwhile, the beam consists of about two minutes of a series of grueling moves on a tiny four-inch wide strip. The back flips on this apparatus are probably the most difficult maneuver in any Olympic sport. But in the all-around, the beam gets no more credit than the vault. If they were truly value-based, the beam would be worth at least three times that of the vault.

Suppose rodeo were an Olympic sport, the Chinese could ride the American bull, the Russians would ride the Japanese bull, the Americans would ride the Romanian bull, and then the bulls would get the medals according to which ones bucked the best. It would be especially fun to see a bull rider donning leotards. They would get style points for their dismount, as they’re being flung through the air. Bonus points if you land back on the bull again. And then the curtsy to the bull at the end would be a requirement, worth a .30 deduction if not executed properly.

The Olympics needs to keep expanding its horizons and spice things up a bit. The divers should have to get pennies off the bottom of the pool. It would add an element of suspense to the event. “Great dive! And they’re making their plunge… Still down there… OK, now they’re coming up… Looks like they’ve got 28 pennies! That’s going to really help them find favor with the judges, Al!” In fact, just have all the divers dive in at the same time, with a penny free-for-all. Let’s see who can really dive.

The pommel horse participants could come swinging down on a rope from up in the balcony to make their entrance. It would be so much more intriguing that way. Land on the horse, start your moves, and then after maybe 30 seconds, it starts bucking. And don’t forget your cowboy hat.


Anonymous said...

Did you see Mark Spitz's interview with Bob Costas and Michael Phelps at oh, probably midnight last night? Pretty inspiring. Besides being uplifted, I learned that Mark Spitz actually competed in 13 events the year he won 7 gold medals (but didn't do preliminary heats for those events). So if I got that right, Michael Phelps is actually performing (or just plain racing) just as much if not more than Mark Spitz, but has not lost a gold medal in the midst. He did come in 2nd in that one preliminary, but perhaps part of the strategy in some prelims is to just make it and not push the body to the extreme.

What else? Oh, am I the only one that thinks Michael Phelps could be in the Brough family? In the last Olympics, I thought he looked so much like Blake Brough (even his demeanor -- just not hair color). This year, he's 1/2 Blake, 1/2 Ryan Brough. I didn't see the Ryan resemblance until he (they) won that relay and he went crazy. Not that Ryan is crazy, but that more powerful look made him look more like Ryan and now I see that in him too.

Hope there's not a limit on how many words I can write. :) -- Renee

Renee said...

Whoops! Change all those "preliminaries" to "semi-finals" -- got my terms mixed up. I'm thinking now that preliminaries are to see who qualifies for the Olympics and the semi-finals are the heats to determine who races for the medals. You can edit my previous comment if things like that bother you (they do me! :)) -- Renee

Rusty Southwick said...

We were thinking the Brough-houses too when we saw Mr. Phelps. He's the long lost Brough.

No problem with the multiple comments. It keeps the comment total higher.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so you're not who I thought you were. You have a photo and other blogs and I'm just being paranoid. You have a twin writer who's a woman. I thought she started another blog under deep cover.

I didn't believe the visual thing so I DID copy it and use the eyedropper tool and could not believe it.

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