Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

There Is No Title For This Piece That I Would Want My Mother To Read

By now, you all must have heard about the issue of football inflation. It’s inevitable, given the Importance Of Professional Sports, and given the Things That American Media Will Obsess Over, and given the Rabid Fan Bases Of This And That Professional Sports Team.

You may not have heard nearly as much about Nigerian mass-murders or Congressional legislative proposals or oil spills in Montana rivers; but you have heard about the Shameful Doings Down In Foxborough.

I just listened to the podcast version of my favorite political talk radio show – political – and I swear to you, the average number of times per minute that the word for “spheroid projectile” was uttered, with more than a hint of Beavis and Butthead, had to have topped a dozen.

(Now, I’m going to put in some serious effort to see if I can avoid using the “spheroid projectile” synonym even once, here. So that no one will snicker during this Very Serious Discussion of an Important Ethical Concern. I mean it. Cut it out. Hey! STOP.)

So, the only two things I need to say in setting up the thought that just occurred to me: [1] there are some people in this Great Land Of Ours who really need to get their priorities straight; and [2] there are some moments where the existence of slang in our fine language just plain s–

(I hate you all.)

Full disclosure: I’ve been a New England Patriots fan since I learned how to watch television. Not that the Patriots were on television a whole lot, back then, owing to their Inability To Win Games, and the NFL blackout rule, and all. In fact, while the vast majority of citizens of the sports-viewing nation who live outside New England have cultivated an intense dislike of that team, I come from a background of remembering when we disliked them for a diametrically opposite reason than the current one. And what’s that reason?

Ya know what? For the past decade and a half, the Patriots have won. Not always, but a super lot more than many teams in their league. Envy and jealousy will inevitably set in, amongst the fan bases of teams that have not won so much. I am not saying this because I’m amongst the fan-base of the team that has found lots of success; this is just true. Talk to fans of, por ejamplo, the Montreal Canadiens hockey club, the Manchester United soccer (sorry; football!) club, the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics of the 1980s, the Dallas Cowboys of the 1960s and ’70s (really, who has the arrogance to call themselves “America’s Team”?) … and, much as this New Englander hates to admit it, … the New York Yankees.

Success breeds jealousy. Wish we could win like that (, say this year’s NBA Philadelphia 76ers, this year’s NFL Oakland Raiders, this past season’s Boston Red Sox, or Tiger Woods in the last few years).

But they cheeeeeeeeeeeated!

Sorry, and you think the New England NFL franchise is the only team that ever may have fine-tooth-combed the rule book in its quest for The Golden Loophole? You think there is a single sports team, professional or amateur, who hasn’t at least investigated little tiny ways to gain advantage, to get ahead, to prevail?

I have two words for all you fans of Upright Cosmic-Scale Overgrown Boy Scout Heroes Who Would Never Cheat: Kobayashi Maru.

I know, I know: it doesn’t make it right.

This all is by no means meant to suggest that I’m one of those “what-about-ers”, the people whose response to their team’s (political party’s) (denomination’s) misdeeds is to suggest that the other team (political party) (denomination) has done something equally bad. Both sides do it. Therefore my team isn’t so bad, really.

What they teach you in kindergarten is true: it’s best to play fair. Be honest, shoot straight, be honorable.

What you learn after kindergarten is equally true: humans are incapable of playing fair for their entire lives. Nobody can claim absolute purity. Even when millions, perhaps billions of dollars aren’t on the line.

The “both sides do it” argument is one with which I have grown increasingly weary in the last decade or so. That’s another post for another day.

But there are some moments when somebody takes that “both sides do it” wager and doubles down on it so hard it collapses the card table.

From today’s Dallas Morning News:

Pro Football Hall of Famer, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and Fox color analyst Troy Aikman didn’t mince words Thursday morning when discussing the Patriots, the NFL and Roger Goodell.

It’s obvious that Tom Brady had something to do with this,” Aikman said. “I know going back to when I played, they’ve loosened up the rules in terms of what each team is able to do with the footballs coming into the game. Used to, the home team provided all the balls. And now, each team brings their footballs the way they like them and break ’em in. Used to you couldn’t break them in. So for the balls to be deflated, that doesn’t happen unless the quarterback wants that to happen, I can assure you of that.”

So what should the penalty be? Aikman, who has adamantly contested the NFL’s ruling against the New Orleans Saints for allegedly issuing bounties on players, used them as an example to challenge the NFL. … Aikman noted the difference between the Saints’ charge and the Patriots’ offense, and says the NFL must take a significant stand.

Sean Payton did not cheat,” Aikman contended. “There was nothing that Sean Payton and the Saints did that was illegal. And they did not give themselves a competitive edge. I maintain, regardless of whatever was said in the locker room, and in that locker room, is not anything different than what’s been said in any other locker room around the league. There’s no proof on the field of what took place that guys were targeting players. You can always pull out a play here and there.

Now twice, under Bill Belichick and possibly a third time, they’ve cheated and given themselves an advantage,” Aikman said. “To me, the punishment for the Patriots and/or Bill Belichick has to be more severe than what the punishment was for the New Orleans Saints.”

(By the way, I apologize to readers of this blog. I have forced you to wade through Mr. Aikman’s questionable grip on English grammar. Hell … maybe the grammar isn’t properly inflated …)

While we wait for Mr. Aikman to rise from his fainting couch, let us admire these words from Wikipedia (because that’s where you go to get accurate information, of course!) – which, among other things, suggest that Mr. Aikman is exactly wrong when he asserts that “there was nothing that Sean Payton and the Saints did that was illegal” [italics mine, for emphasis]:

The New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, widely dubbed “Bountygate”, was an incident in which members of the New Orleans Saints franchise of the NFL were accused of paying out bonuses, or “bounties”, for injuring opposing team players. None of the hits in question were ever penalized or deemed illegal by in-game officials. The pool was alleged to have been in operation from 2009 (the year in which the Saints won Super Bowl) to 2011. …

The NFL has long frowned upon bounties, or “non-contract bonuses” as it officially calls them; but an underground culture of bounties is known to exist, with teams turning a blind eye to the practice. …

The league constitution specifically forbids payment of bonuses based on performances against an individual player or team, as well as bonuses for on-field misconduct; the NFL holds that such practices undermine the integrity of the game, and also would allow teams to use such payments to circumvent the salary cap. The collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association also forbids this practice, as does the standard NFL player contract. Every year, the NFL sends a memo reiterating this ban to every team before training camp opens.

On March 2, 2012, the NFL announced that it had evidence that [Saints] defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had created the program soon after his arrival in 2009, and alleged that “between 22 and 27 Saints players” were involved. Williams and the players pooled their own money to pay out performance bonuses. It also asserted that head coach Sean Payton tried to cover up the scheme, and that he and general manager Mickey Loomis failed to shut it down when ordered to do so by team owner Tom Benson. …

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responded with some of the most severe sanctions in the league’s 92-year history, and among the most severe punishments for in-game misconduct in North American professional sports history. Williams was suspended indefinitely, though this would be overturned the following year. Payton was suspended for the entire 2012 season — the first time in modern NFL history that a head coach has been suspended for any reason — and Loomis was suspended for the first eight games of the 2012 season. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt was suspended for the first six games of the 2012 season. The Saints organization was fined $500,000 [the maximum fine permitted under the league constitution], and forced to forfeit their second-round draft selections in 2012 and 2013. On May 2, 2012, four current and former Saints players were suspended after being named as ringleaders in the scandal, with linebacker Jonathan Vilma being suspended for the entire 2012 season — the longest suspension for an on-field incident in modern NFL history.

As much as Mr. Aikman is now an NFL analyst with the Fox television network, and is therefore a prominent member of the world of football journalism (…sorry, I just had to quell an attack of the giggles) … by way of his membership in the Dallas Cowboys football club during the 1990s, he is also a member of the NFL’s alumni association. Therefore he is somebody who ought to be able to express a hell of a lot greater sense of perspective about these two controversies, and the comparison betwixt and between, than he has.

In this corner: reportedly many more quarterbacks than Young Mr. Brady, Husband Of Gisele Bundchen, who have done the very thing that he’s has been accused of doing.

In the other corner: players whose reward for genuinely injuring other players might be measured in more than just loss of yardage. And a coaching staff which encouraged them to do it.

To coin a ferociously mixed metaphor … this is a slam dunk that ought to be easy to hit out of the park.

If it turns out that the Patriots broke the rules, sure, go ahead and fine ’em. Have at it.

But if the NFL were to take Troy Aikman’s advice and levy a penalty on the Patriots’ alleged inflation work that was in any way comparable to the penalty it assigned the Saints’ bounty program, it would constitute the final clinching proof that the National Football League’s priorities are screwed up beyond any hope of redemption.

What’s more important? Fewer pounds per square inch of pressure … or greater amounts of pressure on a quarterback because the pass-rusher might stand to literally profit from it?

Troy Aikman ought to know the answer to that. If he doesn’t, … I really don’t know what to say.

Other than: I think making the assertion that he did … probably takes an awful lot of testicular fortitude.

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January 23, 2015 Posted by | current events, Famous Persons, football, media, sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Have We Learned?: Sochi Edition

And so the 2014 Winter Olympiad has come to a close. Its latter half happened to coincide with my school vacation week … which meant that all those pie-in-the-sky thoughts about how productive I could be went straight out the window (in the manner of movie heroes, which is to say with a battle cry and a shattering of glass). “What’d you do on your week off?” Olympics, and naps. Period.

And, as many of my Facebookian friends noted (with varying degrees of sarcasm), I couldn’t seem to accomplish the sports-watching part of vacation without expressing myself on social media.

And now that the Fortnight is concluded … time to assess. Here I offer my badly incomplete list of answers to the question “What Have We Learned?”, using as circumstantial evidence a selection of my social-media contributions, snarky and otherwise…

[1] I am capable of holding to disparate ideas in my head at once. On the one hand, it’s yay sports! On the other hand … this set of Olympic Games had more baggage than a 767 cargo hold.

I hate that my Olympics-watching is going to have such constant and overwhelming subtext, this time ’round.”

NBC is walking the tightrope this fortnight… the Sports division needs these Olympics to get great ratings and so must sand down talk of controversy and stupidity that may occur… and the News division (if it’s still that) will have to report on it. All under one corporate roof. Hmm. Brown water or gold medals?”

I would hate to think that Bob Costas’ tantalizing open about spending air time on the controversies … might turn out to be a head fake.”

Here’s a weird one for you: given all the stories of brown water and roofless hotels, and even though so many of the Sochi photos I’ve seen appear to be in grayscale even when they’re color photos… I was relieved and weirdly comforted to hear John Williams’ and Leo Arnaud’s brass fanfares played correctly.”

[2] The Olympic community … or at least the community of Olympians … made effective commentary about the various Russian laws pertaining to our LGBT brothers and sisters. There was at least one American car commercial that contained small visual clues about just how much the world may be shifting in this regard. (Cynically, one could suppose that the ads were done by rather large corporations that perhaps were seeing which way certain winds were blowing and decided it was in their best business interest to give those winds a nod. Hey, whatever works.)

Prior to the Opening Ceremonies: “Just thinking of the possible musical accompaniment choices ahead tonight. So many great Russian composers. I can’t help noting Mr. Tchaikovsky’s, um, orientation.”

During the Opening Ceremonies, the German team enters Fisht Stadium wearing undeniably rainbow-hued warmup suits. “Because,” I noted with a gentle air of snark, “all those colors are in the German flag somewhere.”

[3] And speaking of which … the Parade of Nations is still my favorite part of any Olympic Opening Ceremonies. I love the Parade of Nations. So much can go wrong, and right, and not just in terms of national-team clothing choices.

Parade of Nations wooooooooo! (Thumping Euro techno soundtrack not so much wooooooo.)”

“I do intend to be something other than snarky, during this Olympic fortnight. So let me put it this way: I’ve discovered a circumstance in which I will appreciate NBC’s choice of background music. #EuroTechnoRave #makeitstop”

Bermuda! … … … shorts.”

Get me a closer look at the outfit of the Kazakhstan flagbearer. Intricate stuff. Neat.”

“All the Olympic Christmas sweater jokes have been done.” But, not long after that post … “I’m going to go right ahead and give the Ugliest Opening Ceremony Outfit Award to Team USA, even before seeing the remainder of the nations. Now that I’ve seen everybody who came in beforehand, it’s fair to wonder ‘who greenlit that project?’”

I would hate it if the country of my heritage marched in while NBC was in commercial. Especially if the whole Ceremony was *on tape delay anyway*. (Turkeys.)”

[4] My opinion of Russian president Vladimir Putin did not start out especially high, and over the course of the opening evening it did not improve. The longer the Opening Ceremonies went on, the more often the cameras cut to him, and the less I liked him.

Mr. Putin’s applause for athletes of Ukraine was … tepid. Compared wth, oh, everyone else in the joint. Hmm.” And then, shortly thereafter: “Oh. My mistake. Putin applauds for everyone like that. (‘Ho hum; you’re not ME.’)” … “With every new view of Vladimir Putin on the TV this evening, my admiration for him diminishes further. Sorry, all.”

Here’s the thing about all the protests against Russian policies about LGBT folks (uniform choices, sign waving, clever TV commercials, government leader absences, etc.): ultimately they have a chance to make a difference everywhere except the actual Russia… because *Putin doesn’t give a wet slap what you think.* That is his real ‘schtick’.”

[5] NBC, by merely covering these Games, opened itself up to Media Criticism. Inevitably, whatever they did was going to be admired by some and detested by others.

I suspect NBC hired the same color commentator for cross-country skiing as it did for track and field. No need to shout and bellow, guy, no matter how hard a charge that racer is making. You have a microphone to help make it seem like *we’re right here next to you.*”

My only beef with Mike Emrick as a hockey play-by-play guy? Every shot, *every* one, is a potential overtime game winner.”

Biathlon (featuring staggered starts, therefore staggered finishes) announcer: ‘Garanichev is first across the line and he has the lead!!’ … I can well imagine.”

Maybe I’ve been watching at the wrong moments… but I have yet to see an actual medal ceremony. Is it just bad luck here?”

Today’s curling announcer is a more secure person than last night’s: he’s willing to suggest that some shots are good shots. Last night everything was a disaster and Announcer Guy wouldn’t have made *that* decision.”

Pretty high GE points for the NBC announcers Emrick, Milbury and Mlescko (sp?). They’re a hoot together.”

Different announcers for ice dancing tonight than earlier today. Lipinski and Weir were oddball fun, but whoever this is … is actually informative.” … “When Sandra Bezic is announcing the ice dancing… I feel like I’m *learning something* about the sport.” … “It’s not often– no, I take that back. I have never before agreed with every single thing a skating commentator says, all night long. Sandra Bezic makes total sense to me.”

Oh … yes … the actual athletic competitions.

[6] Some winter sports will not end well if I try them myself.

I just discovered another Winter Olympics sport that I would have zero aptitude for: slopestyle. Zero zilch nada.”

I don’t think I’d like to be *either one* of a luge doubles team.”

If I want to do seventy miles an hour on a downhill grade… I will also want a car around me. Have to admire these lunatic skiers.”

When I spin around and around and around, I get dizzy. Figure skaters and freestyle skiers and snowboarders appear not to. How IS that?”

[7] I renewed my attraction for ice dancing. (Not since Torvill and Dean, etc.)

Full disclosure: my dad was an ice dancer for a while.”

Why I like watching ice dancing but not so much regular figure skating: if figure skaters fall, it’s no wonder. If ice dancers fall, the world has ended.”

Goodness. The US ice dancing Shibutanis, cuurently (via tape delay) look Very Very Young.”

Maybe this is wishful thinking. But it looks as if these Olympic ice dancers actually, y’know, *like* each other.”

I know I’m supposed to be rooting for Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and I am. Go USA and all that. But Virtue and Moir are just too cute. Hee hee.”

So tonight we’re up to about ’47th Street’ and ‘Sing Sing Sing Sing Sing Sing Sing Sing Sing’, I think. Makes you appreciate [Davis and White’s short-program musical choice] ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ that much more.”

Virtue and Moir ice-dance *close to each other* (i.e. how it’s supposed to be done) better than almost anybody. Bravo.”

Meryl Davis and Charlie White appear to be (gasp) actually having fun out there. Yay kids.”

‘Their temperament is a bit more… artistic,’ says Sandra Bezic of Virtue and Moir. What’s that a euphemism for, I wonder?”

[8] I still have what for many of my friends is an inexplicably dogged interest in the sport of curling. Which, admittedly, is a little like chess on ice.

Norway men’s curling: PANTS.”

US men’s curling captain John Shuster wasn’t exactly the Charlie Brown of the Vancouver Games four years ago… but he wasn’t far off it. Today… he got a win. And so begins the winning streak, yes?…”

US vs. Russia in men’s curling. The Russians are wearing these *pink paisley* disaster-area pants. C’mon, guys, you’re a lot of things but Norway you ain’t.”

One of the US curling women is this year’s oldest US Olympian. Age 45. Younger than I. #hadtohappensometime”

I never want to give any nice lady cause to yell at me with the force [with which] those curling women give each other advice.”

[9] Short-track speed-skating is just as nuts as I thought.

Small but crucial suggestion for next Olympics’ US speed skating suits. Aerodynamics aside… can we not have contrasting-color crotch panels? Looks like something important gave way.”

Oh yes, I remember now: the 5000-meter short-track relay race is the one that looks utterly, irretrievably *insane*.”

Short track speed skating seems an exciting but exceptionally cruel sport: train for four or eight years, and have it all taken away in half a second by the yahoo next to you who can’t keep *his* balance.”

[10] I already opined in this space about Bode Miller’s post-bronze-medal-winning-race interview experience. Later in the week, I had occasion to acquire a bit of perspective.

For the record, you gotta hear Christin Cooper comment on the *actual skiing*. She knows her business and can point out details that’ll teach you something new.”

[11] The earning of a silver medal, in certain Olympic activities, requires an individual or more often a team to be great for most of two weeks, and then to have their final act be a defeat. With regard to the US women’s hockey team, yes, you will see an equally dejected bunch of athletes – every time anyone loses the gold-medal match in anything. Whether that match featured controversy or not.

Give credit to Canada… down 2 goals with 3:30 to go, and they didn’t give up. Also be honest… that was two separate [Canadian] 5-on-3 power plays in the same *overtime* period… in the *gold medal* game. Words may indeed fail me.”

[12] Not long after that, I found myself watching medal-round matches and pulling for (in no special order) the US hockey women and men, the Great Britain curling men, and the Swedish curling women. And I began to sense a pattern. They all lost. To Canada.

Advisory to all participants in Winter Olympic team sports: if I root for you, you … are … doomed. (Just so we’re clear.)”

[13] Apparently, nothing happened during the Sochi Games, in spite of my early worries about security and geopolitical matters (read: terrorists) and such, to disrupt the competitions and other events. Certainly nothing that rose remotely to the level of the horrible days of the Munich summer games in 1972. Assuredly the NBC coverage showed none of the protests that were reportedly occurring in and near Sochi. But …

This has nothing (at this time) to do with political leanings. Just a question: I wonder what it would be like to be a Ukrainian athlete at the Olympics right now?”

NBC did not follow through on its promise to spend significant air time on the various controversies that surrounded the Sochi games. But they did take one moment, late in the Fortnight, to note that while the Games had gone on as planned, security-wise, they wondered whether the competition had really fully rid itself of the spectre of the still-repressive nature of the Russian government and its laws and policies: “Interesting to listen to Bob Costas ‘poke the bear’ a little bit there.”

[14] But through all the political controversy, and all the speechifying full of platitudes about international sportsmanship and cooperation that are set to rest by even one silver-medal-winning skater grousing about the judging or the coaching or the ice conditions or something, … I find that Olympic competition is great for at least one reason: with the not-insignificant help of the home-country media, one can discover (or be helped to discover) athletes whom one otherwise would never have heard of, whom one may find admirable. During the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, China, for me it was US crew coxswain Mary Whipple. In Sochi last week, it was unquestionably the US’ youngest gold-medal-winning skier, Mikaela Shiffrin – a stable and humble head on her shoulders, and two very slippery skis beneath her.

Glad to see that puff piece about Ms. Shiffrin, before she rocketed her way down the hill just now. Seems like a decent kid.” … “And in a post-race interview she makes a *funny*. Dang.”

Two years to Rio. In the wake of which we will probably not see all the “low-income housing” areas of town on the teevee coverage, but we’ll probably end up watching the whole thing anyway. I want to say something like, “and that’s okay,” … but it certainly won’t be.

This world is no more or less complex or controversial than it was in 1972 Munich, or 1968 Mexico City, or 1936 Berlin. But this much is true nonetheless, I think: Games like this can create opportunities for athletic people to parlay years of training (often accompanied by great personal and financial sacrifice) into Great Moments in their lives, whether they win gold or just skate in the rink.

[15] That, at least, is enjoyable to see.

February 25, 2014 Posted by | blogging, civil rights, current events, entertainment, Facebook, Famous Persons, government, Internet, media, politics, social media, sports, television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Faster, Higher, Stronger… Louder… More Anxious…

When I was a little guy, the people who ran the Olympics hadn’t yet shifted the Winter Games’ schedule by two years; so this international sporting event truly was something I waited a long time for. Only once every four years could we experience Olympic competition, the World Cup, or US presidential elections. When four years is a third or a half of your life, it’s a long time to wait.

At first I was a little miffed that the Winter Games were moved to split the difference with the Summer Games. I was sure it’d been done for completely craven reasons (sell more advertising!!). Nothing to do with quaint concepts like tradition, never mind that the Winter Games didn’t date back to the ancient Greeks, but rather to just before the Great Depression. I got over it when I figured out that, Summer or Winter, they were the Olympics, and it was a different set of sports each time, so it still preserved the feeling somewhat.

Setting aside the remarkable history of mismanagement, corruption, and political bloodsport that goes into awarding, planning and executing the Games … not to mention the various times at which various nations clandestinely sent professional athletes into competition, before the Olympic Committee just threw its hands up and said, “to heck with it, shelve the whole amateurism idea, send whomever you want, we give” …

I like the Olympics. I’m one of those people who defaults to cheery idealism, and plans his life around two weeks of televised sports … no matter how he may rail (as a Purveyor and Supporter of the Arts) against the worldwide economic and cultural dominance of Athletics Uber Alles!! People work hard to get there, and for many of them, just getting there is the achievement.

In the winter, I revel in bobsledding, curling, speed-skating, ice dancing, ski jumping, and biathlon. In the summer, it’s crew, handball, the hammer throw, water polo and rhythmic gymnastics. Because for forty-seven and a half months afterward, I won’t see them again.

And the opening and closing ceremonies – even before the onset of social media and the live-blogging urge – have always been two of my favorite TV evenings. The opening ceremonies are full of pageantry … they’re full of madly grinning and waving athletes from little tiny countries who have very low medal-winning expectations and are just pleased to be on the grounds … and they’re full of some really genuinely awful-looking national-team outfits. The closing ceremonies are full of the same, but I watch them with a distinct sense of melancholy. Looked forward to it; had a great time with it; wish it could go on longer. (And I wasn’t even there.) Kinda like the end of school vacations, no matter how lengthy.

So shortly, the next edition of the Winter Olympiad will arrive, and while I’m just as ready to watch sporting events that are truly events …

I’m really worried.

 

The Games are never without controversy, in part because there’s no such thing as a neutral site on Earth in which to stage them. During World War II and the Cold War, some host-nation choices turned out not exactly to be everyone’s cup of tea. Various countries found opportunities for generating nationalistic propaganda via the Games. In 1980, the US boycotted the Moscow games; in 1984, the Soviet Union boycotted Los Angeles. Sportsmanship so often has lost out to political and nationalistic fervor; and that’s not to mention Berlin in 1936, and Hitler.

I was only six years old when terrorists invaded the Munich games, and held hostage and then killed Israeli athletes. I’ve watched documentaries about those events, and felt vaguely relieved that, as I was watching them, they were not actually happening live in front of me. People who did see the Munich games via ABC television in 1972 have described for me how much they never want to see anything like that again.

So within the last week, I’ve read a number of online articles detailing all the challenges that face Sochi. It’s in a part of the world whose population faces economic challenges the likes of which we American 99-percenters can hardly imagine. Sochi is in Russia, a country that was the subject of a curious New York Times article that compared Americans’ knee-jerk answer to “how are you?” – “fine, good, all right” – with our Russian counterparts’ immediate response – essentially “not very good at all, and let me tell you all about it”. Smile for the tourists! … please? …

Sochi is in a country which does not exactly have a progressive and welcoming legal attitude toward the LGBT community – all the while hosting a sporting event which, like the rest of humanity, does feature a certain percentage of LGBT people. Sochi is in a country with a reputation for corruption and crime that makes Al Capone’s “Chicago Outfit” look like a bunch of Cub Scouts.

Sochi is in a country that throughout history has so irritated its neighbor countries (Chechnya and Georgia, just to begin the list) that it is statistically unlikely that none of those countries will not wish to seize this opportunity to stick it to the Russians, by sign-waving or verbal outbursts or, almost inevitably, violence.

Within the last week or so, news stories have noted that local and international law enforcement is on the lookout for fetchingly-named “Black Widow terrorists” who are probably already in Sochi. (I only want people with those nicknames to be characters in James Bond films.) Security concerns are on people’s minds enough that several NHL teams have expressed concern about sending their athletes to play with their respective national teams. And the US Navy has stationed warships in international waters nearby … just, you know, … in case.

Frankly, I’d rather the US Navy not have to come and help with any problem more dire than the rescue of a skater who is drowning in a suddenly-melted ice rink. (You do know that the average high temperature for a February day in Sochi is about 50 degrees, don’t you?)

So unfortunately, while I’m looking forward to the actual sports … the back of my mind will be wondering what’s going to go wrong first. True, this could all be the product of the mighty Internet and its ability to amplify the thoughts of naysayers and worriers and alarmists and extremists all out of proportion.

Or, maybe it couldn’t.

 

Two weeks till the flame is lit. And then another two weeks till the flame is extinguished.

It’s a long time to hold one’s breath.

January 24, 2014 Posted by | current events, news, sports | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment