NEEDLES & NEEDLES

    I was at the doctor’s office this week to get some minor stitches in my arm.  As he approached with his hypodermic, the doctor and I got to talking.  He mentioned how surprised he was that young people who came into the office with tattoos or piercings all over their bodies were frightened at having to get a shot of local anesthetic.

     “They’ve had needles stuck into them for, at times, hours at the tattoo parlor,” he said in befuddlement.  “Why would they be afraid of my single needle?”

     “Because,” I countered, “when they go to the tattoo parlor, they are going by choice, maybe even under the influence of alcohol or drugs, to have a procedure done by someone they see as an artist, who is dressed much like they are.  Sure, there is pain, but it is braved in service of a ritualized enhancement. It’s simple cost-benefit analysis. The transitory pain leads to a worthwhile end. And they know that going in.

     “On the other hand, when they come to the doctor’s office, they see an authority figure clad in a white smock, speaking in a strange tongue, medicalese – who else would call a bruise an ecchymosis? – and the pain is associated with an injury or disease, the end of which is, to them, generally uncertain.  

     “So the fear stems from the vast difference in the psychological terrain between the edgy certainty of the tattoo parlor, and the sterile uncertainty of the doctor’s office.  Hey, they should’ve taught you such things in medical school besides that condescension they always stress in third year.”

     I winced as he stabbed me with assurance.

END

BLAME ENOUGH TO GO AROUND

     On Friday October 9, 2009 I awoke in Chicago to the news that President Barrack Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  Though he had only been in office nine months, so enamored was the Nobel committee with his diplomatic efforts to reintegrate the U.S. into the international community that they conferred the prize more to refute George W. Bush’s eight years of cowboy swagger than as a salute to any particular Obama achievement.

     The story buzzed through the Chicago Hilton that morning as we assembled for the 10:30 a.m. pre-race press conference for Sunday’s 32nd Bank of America Chicago Marathon.  Presiding over the presser was friend and British broadcaster Tim Hutchings, who would interview two panels of athletes on stage.  To his left sat the women, to his right the men.  The panel included 2008 Olympic Marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya who would be making his much anticipated American racing debut that Sunday morning in Chicago.

2009 Chicago Press Conference

     As Tim was interviewing the athletes, I noticed that Wanjiru was sitting slumped in his chair in a posture of utter disinterest, paying no attention whatsoever to what anyone else was saying.  Some may have viewed it as relaxed, but I recall thinking at the time, “we’re building the sport around guys like this, and this is how he presents himself?  He’s not even trying to mask his feelings.” Continue reading

CELEBRATING GRETE

     Oslo, Norway- Next Tuesday May 17th Norway will celebrate National Day, commemorating the signing of its constitution in 1814 which declared the country to be an independent nation free from Swedish rule.  All over Norway children’s parades will be the central expression of the celebration, with the longest parade here in Oslo where over 100,000 people will gather in the city center to participate in the festivities. Accordingly, Norwegian flags can be seen hanging prominently throughout the capital in preparation for the national holiday.

I arrived in Oslo yesterday to join in another national memorial service, this one to celebrate the life of Norway’s legendary runner Grete Waitz who died April 19th at age 57 after a long battle with cancer. The nine-time ING New York City Marathon champion and four-time world record holder in the marathon was buried in a private ceremony April 28th with government honor at state expense, only the sixth woman in Norwegian history to be accorded that distinction.

Tonight at 6 p.m. at Bislett Stadium leading Norwegian politicians, members of the Royal family, and thousands more touched by Grete’s short, but extraordinarily well-lived life will bid a public farewell to one of Norway’s most beloved international ambassadors.  A delegation from the New York Road Runners also arrived for today’s service, led by its chairman George Hirsch, president and CEO Mary Wittenberg,  marketing chief Ann Wells Crandall, and media director Richard Finn. Also on hand is 1984 Olympic Marathon champion Joan Samuelson, Grete’s great friend and athletic rival. Continue reading

The Value of a Hero

    

     We were broadcasting the National Scholastic Indoor Track & Field Championships for ESPN from the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.  It was Sunday, March 11, 1990.  Though we had known one another for many years as reporter – athlete, the 1990 National Scholastic meet was the first time I found myself working alongside Olympic Marathon gold medal winner Frank Shorter professionally.  

    During one of the breaks in our coverage we began to discus the news of the day, primarily how the Lithuanian parliament was poised to secede from the Soviet Union, which would mark the first break from Moscow by a Baltic state forcibly annexed in 1940, and be the first independence vote of any kind in the 68 year history of the Soviet state.  The questions we, and many others, had was how far would the 1989 revolution extend, how would America play it, and what shape would the world eventually take?

Continue reading