NO LONGER SIMPLY A MAN’S WORLD

“This is a man’s world,” James Brown sang, as sweat poured down and his voice cut with a plaintive soul that only he and maybe Otis Redding seemed capable of. But the Godfather of Soul wasn’t through, concluding,  “but it would be nothing, nothing, notthhiiinnnng without a woman or a girl!”

This is the way that it once was. Less we forget.

I was watching an old Groucho Marx “You Bet Your Life” TV show on YouTube recently while churning away on the elliptical cross trainer. The episode was from 1954 sponsored by “De Soto-Plymouth from your Chrysler dealer”.

The half-hour game show featured a series of three couples who spun a wheel and won some money, but the real entertainment was watching Groucho interact with the couples who were little more than foils for his legendary ad libs.

But in each separate case when it came time to actually play the game, it was the man who took complete control, whether in determining the value of the question, or in giving the answer, rarely even conferring with his female partner, even when you could tell he didn’t know the answer and she did.

On each occasion the woman stood meekly by as Groucho asked the questions with the same patronizing tone that the man then answered. That’s just how the world was, and still is in many places. The strong will take and assume their right to do so.

This was the attitude that formed the world-view of generation after generation of women, know your place, it’s a man’s world.

Alice Schneider, RIP

Alice Schneider, RIP

But for quiet but dignified women like Michigan native Alice Schneider, a pioneering contributor to the New York Road Runners who passed away September 24th, that attitude was never a comfortable fit, nor one to be blindly perpetuated.  The country was changing as Alice was coming of age. And so was the sport of running. Continue reading

ON WOBBLING PLATES AND HAIL MARYS

Donald v HillaryThe real questions in this election are 1) who are we? And 2) just as importantly, who does the international community think we are?

The world is a beautiful, complex, yet, at times, dangerous place.  Choosing a president to lead in such times is fraught. Problems have numerous competing points of view, which lends a plate-spinner’s quality to building consensus. As such, except in those very rare moments like December 8, 1941, or 9/12/01, the nation never really achieves universal accord. There is always a plate or two that is wobbling.

Keeping it together

Keeping it together

But that was the framer’s vision, fearful as they were of arbitrary royal power. So the art of politics is not to produce one side with perfectly spinning plates while the other side’s crash to the floor, which was essentially the old feudal system. Instead, it is in managing to keep all the plates spinning as best you can so the set remains whole.

Though we are a nation of individuals, there is a shared ethic undergirding the American experience. So did the Founding Fathers “mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor” in signing the Declaration of Independence.

That pledge and declaration gave birth not only to the nation, but to the concept of American Exceptionalism whose legacy has brought the country through the depths of a Civil War and the world through the cataclysm of two world wars. It is not just the nation, herself, but the world at large that has been guided by the great even keel of this ship of state.

The danger, then, is not only what a particular candidate will say or might do once in office, but also what others may say or do in response. Continue reading

MONDAY NIGHT RAW

Two titans in Berlin

Two titans in Berlin

What were they thinking — or not thinking, as the case may be? In a race that close, the stakes so high, I mean why didn’t Wilson Kipsang invite Keninise Bekele’s goat-getter (maybe Mo Farah) onto the Berlin Marathon press truck just to needle him a little in the final kilometers? In a marathon 10-seconds is a blink. It wouldn’t have taken very much to throw him off his game. Didn’t these guys follow news reports between training sessions?

The BMW Berlin Marathon might have kicked off the 2016 Abbott World Marathon Majors fall campaign in real style (Bekele in 2:03:03 to Kipsang’s 2:03:13), but there’s no doubt which is the major race of the season. Continue reading

KNOWING WHEN TO SAY WHEN

The Fancy Bear hackers have been at it again, releasing their fifth batch of Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) records. Included in the latest dump of 41 athletes from 13 countries are the TUEs of American distance running stars Shalane Flanagan and Galen Rupp. A shorthand analysis of the release, however, shows nothing of note to report.

But it continues to strike me how Gotcha! the search for guilt in the world of sport is on the one hand  — there is a TMZ quality to it — while at the same time society at large turns a blind eye to widespread, even institutional drug use/abuse on the other.

Perhaps sports is the last of the perceived innocents in a world of increasing cynicism, still falling into the “is nothing held sacred anymore?” category.

Len Johnson penned an excellent column today on the Runner’s Tribe website, We Need To Talk About Drugs.  Among his observations was:  “Sport has never quite managed to get to grips with PEDs from the time the IOC and individual federations first took the issue seriously. The first testing was done at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968 and the first tests for anabolic steroids at the Montreal 1976 Games. Both measures were playing “catch up” on what was already occurring.”

When you look at the larger world around, it makes you wonder why athletes wouldn’t give in to the drug culture that exists. After all,  “Ask your doctor if (insert any one of a hundred brand name drugs here) is right for you.”  And consider how much of popular culture, our music, art, books and movies, has been created via thought enhancement.

In literary circles one easily recalls the list of boozy writers: Hemingway, Faulkner, Bukowski, Fitzgerald,  Raymond Chandler, etc. Yes, alcohol is a legal product, but the only question is whether it enhanced their writing, or just made the writer’s life tolerable.  In either case, the pattern is clear. And there’s no secret that the kaleidoscopic words of Hunter S. Thompson were informed by heavy drug and alcohol use.

How much music from the 20th century alone, from blues to jazz to rock to hip-hop, was created free from drugs or alcohol? And when did the Beatles fully expand into true pop music greatness? After they began experimenting with pot and LSD.

Today, students and parents alike look to “study drugs” to enhance their children’s concentration and focus, hoping to better their chances at getting into college. And once in college, about 1 in 5 students reports using study drugs to get them through those punishing all-nighters.

It makes you wonder if this widespread tolerance of drug use in the wider society will finally do in the prohibition against it in sport, when enough people just can’t prop up the hypocrisy any longer. Continue reading

TAKING IT TO THE STREETS

There’s something about road racing that makes you feel like a kid again, don’t you think? It’s one of the sport’s major attractions. And with each passing news cycle it seems to be more necessary than ever to find such a sanctuary of innocence.

Last night’s protests in Charlotte, another black man shot dead by police in Tulsa, a divisive presidential campaign, yes, we live in a very complicated, even dangerous time, the horrors of which are presented to us on a never-ending loop on more and more devices 24-7.

We need a place to get away, to decompress and consider all that is going on around us. In the old days it used to be barrooms and street corners.  Today, for the fortunate it is out on the streets at speeds of varying degree. Continue reading

MOCKING MATTERS

How often did your parents freeze you with, “Don’t take that tone with me!”?

In that same vein, mocking the two current major party presidential candidates is so easy Hasbro should attach a “For ages 10 & under” sticker to the practice. But though it provides hours of family fun, it isn’t a game (or a tone) that should be so readily indulged. 

Tone Matters

Tone Matters

Here’s why. We The People. See, there are many, many Americans, the number is in the tens of millions, who believe in what the Orange Crush and Hill The Pill are  saying, whether it’s right, wrong, or simply Looney Tunes. So when you mock Mookie, you mock his or her followers as well. And all that does is push both sides farther and farther apart to the point where after the election when healing is needed for governing to begin, the wound remains open and infected. Then nobody wins and everybody loses.

We have already seen its beginnings through Obama’s two terms, but it’s a wound we can’t allow to keep festering. 

Therefore, if you say you love the country at all, then all your mocking is doing is hurting the thing that you say you love. Because, no matter what the candidates say – and it’s funny how tricky truth is depending on where you are standing – America is her people bound by the ideals that formed her.  Continue reading

HOW TO GO METRIC

2 1/2 months years old

2 1/2 months years old

Ever notice how when you ask new moms how old their babies are they always say 2 1/2 months, or six months, or 13 months, whatever? Until kids reach two years we always refer to their age in months.

Well, why did we get away from that? In the Bible Methuselah was said to be 969 years old. But like so many things that get a little lost in translation over time, they might have been using months back then, but you know how that works.  As time went on the story got built up in barrooms and herding conventions, and next thing you know people started believing the guy had actually lived to nearly a thousand years when in fact he was really about 80 (12 months X 80 = 960).

When you consider that life expectancy in north America in 1776 was 37 years, what do you think it was in biblical times? You were lucky to get out of your teens. So back then 80 might as well have been a thousand far as they saw it.

So getting back to using months for age in today’s world means you could drive at 200 (give or take, since 192 months is 16 years). You’d vote at 250, reach Social Security age at 800, you get the idea.

Let’s not stop there, though.  We ought to weigh ourselves in ounces and say our height in inches. Obesity wouldn’t seem so bad if even 150 pounds would turn into 2400 ounces.  Or just maybe, let’s go all the way to metric once and for all. In fact, that might be how to get track & field popular again, or at least make it a useful tool. Continue reading