EXERCISE SHMEXERCISE

We in the running world contain variants of every political persuasion, making the sport the true Big Tent, an open flap for everyone. One reason the sport is so inclusive is because it is so honest and pure (at least in heart, if not always in practice).  Anybody can do it, yes, but you can’t talk your way into a good performance, it’s all there in the training log, hard work and perseverance, the most basic lesson of the sport, you get out what you put in. And based on that metric alone I think we can see a new way to evaluate the Big Bopper in Washington D.C.

Those of a certain vintage will remember the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, a prophetic program that encouraged kids to get out and exercise at a time when there was a near universal introduction of television sets into American homes.  Though begun by President Eisenhower in 1956, the council was re-invigorated by President Kennedy in 1963.  The Presidential Champions Award was given to students who achieved the top fifteenth percentile across a series of events: 50-yard dash, 600-yard dash, Standing broad jump, Pull-ups (boys), Flexed-arm hang (girls), Sit-ups in 60-seconds, and the shuttle run.

Now if you ever wondered how to tell if times really do change… Continue reading

PUTIN V. TRUMP: WHO’S PLAYING WHOM?

Former FBI agent Clint Watts testifies before Senate Intelligence Committee

In yesterday’s first Senate Intelligence Committee hearings into Russian meddling during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, Senator James Langford (R-Okla.) asked former FBI agent Clint Watts, “Why did he (Putin) think he could get away with it this time?  This isn’t new for the Russians, they’ve done this for a long time across Europe. But it was much more engaging this time in our election. Why now?”

Why now?  Because it worked!  Why else?  That’s essentially what the ex-FBI guy said. Trump and his people actually picked up Russian conspiracy stories like ‘the election was rigged’ and passed it along to the American public during the campaign like it was a relay baton.

Now, that may cause some to think Mr. Trump to be an unwitting stooge, or even Putin’s puppet. But let’s gives our president more benefit than doubt.  Perhaps there is another way to see it, nothing any less unsavory, mind you, just different.

All we have to do is go back and look at patterns.  We all fall into them, racers do, and we rely on them as long as they keep working to our advantage. And just as election meddling falls into a Putin pattern, so does ‘the false promise’ indicate to Trump. The examples are legion, especially among tradesmen working his building sites, but you might remember this story from before the election as well. Continue reading

BY THE LIGHT OF A NEW DAY

stars-in-night-skyAstronomers believe there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe, and between 100 and 300 billion stars in our own Milky Way alone.  The sheer immensity is both humbling and beyond our modest comprehension.  Yet increasingly, people can’t even take in the vast spray of stars cast across the night sky anymore, as that display has been veiled by the light pollution enveloping our cities. Thus, while much has been gained in our relentless technological trek, much too has been lost along the way, too.

With even the majesty of the night sky taken we tend to shrink in the dim light of man’s own making.  By that weak light many people remain shaded in the darkness of fact-aversion, beyond the light of acquired knowledge and accepted science.  And though all science is amenable to challenge, there is no light strong enough to penetrate blind denial or unquestioning allegiance.  Accordingly, many see only right-wrong, light-dark, win-lose, here-there, yes-no, ME-YOU, a very  brittle outlook, indeed. Even our political framework has been constructed into cartoonish either-or choices.

Continue reading

RETURNS FOR PEACE

WARNING: POLITICS

The long knives are out, of that there is no doubt. Which is why for President Trump to have any chance at all to fulfill his campaign promises and deliver on his upset election win, he will need to get in front of the nagging Russian election hacking scandal that continues to hobble his administration’s early agenda.

As we know, President Trump is a man sensitive to bad press. But simply complaining about the criticism his administration is receiving – “total witch hunt!” – won’t scabbard the blades he faces. For him there is only one way to put this behind him, and it is that most awful of solutions from his standpoint, the full release of his tax returns.

It has been the pebble in his shoe since that first ‘Rude Descending Escalator’ moment in June 2015 when he announced his candidacy.  Yes, he won the Republican nomination and the general election without tax transparency, but as he is finding out running is one thing,  governing in a tripartite system quite another – think three-legged race.

Questions of a Russian connection linger due in part to the opacity of his business dealings in conjunction with the rather genteel nature of his Putin pronouncements in the face of the Russian election meddling.  And his stubborn non-disclosure will only increase the drag on his administrative goals, even with both houses of congress in hand. Continue reading

RUNNING IN OFFICE

While most people take up running to improve their physical well being, perhaps shed a few pounds, the real revelation comes when their mental and psychological state also improves markedly as running releases its warm bath of brain chemicals bringing a deep sense of calm and equanimity.

“The Runners High is one of my favorite parts of this sport,” tweeted U.S. Olympic steeplechase medalist Evan Jager. “Cruising at the end of a long run but feeling effortless…”

The feeling running engenders is another reason runners tend to bond across a wide spectrum of age and speed. It’s not just the camaraderie of effort, but the fact that the sport seems to be about 99% a-hole free. Not sure if that is chicken or egg, whether such people are drawn to the activity, or the activity itself helps create that quality in its practitioners over time.

But for anyone who has gone through the long struggle from first training days to final exultant step of a goal achieved – like the thousands who completed yesterday’s Austin Marathon and Half-Marathon – there is an attendant grace and humility from champion to final finisher, because they know it could have gone off the rails any number of times along the way.

So when we think RUNNER we may think self-control, or self-possession, but we don’t generally think self-centered, much less narcissist, because at its core narcissism reflects a very low self-esteem, and running has been shown to contribute to a healthy, balanced psyche. Continue reading

CAMPUS UNREST – CHALLENGING SELF-BELIEF

Campus unrest in Berkeley (Deseret News)

Campus unrest in Berkeley (Deseret News)

Protests, at times violent, have broken out in recent days against provocative right-wing speakers at U.C. Berkeley and NYU.  The initial reaction has been to lay blame on the radical left who remain frustrated with their loss in last November’s election and what they consider the travesty of a Donald Trump presidency.  On the other side, left-leaning conspiracy theorists have posited that the real ring-leaders behind the campus unrest are elements of the far right looking to gin up anti-left sentiment.

There are the two America’s we have heard so much about right there.  One side revels in the Trump swagger in the face of what they see as America’s reduced standing in the world, while the other is frightened by the new administration’s impetuous unpredictability and lack of experience.  But given that these campus protests actually reflect student beliefs, is it possible that what we are seeing isn’t simply a mirror held up to the nation’s political polarity, but more evidence of how overly catered to children now coming of age are, believing any challenge to their sensibilities is beyond the pale, regardless of which side of the political divide they may stand? Continue reading

WHO HAS TO FIGHT THE LAW?

i_fought_the_law_by_norealityallowedWhile the clock tells no lies, neither does it ask any questions. Instead it merely records our passing in cold indifference. And so in athletics’ ongoing fight to rid itself of the scourge of fraudulent performance the question arises, where does the responsibility for actually giving a damn lie? And, is drug testing in and of itself enough to achieve the goal?

I ask because based on the evidence of continued PED use, and the institutional corruption that allowed and benefited from it, one might conclude that the intended deterrence has not been achieved, and that some other stick or carrot may be required.

That thought was brought to mind yesterday while watching Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions appear at his confirmation hearing before Congress as Attorney General designate.  During one exchange Senator Sessions said the following in response to whether fraudulent speech is protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution:

“Fraudulent speech, if it amounts to an attempt to obtain a thing of value for the person making the fraudulent speech, is absolutely fraud, and can be prosecuted.”

In the case of performance-enhancing drug use the intent is specifically ‘to obtain a thing of value’, i.e. race prize money. Therefore, when a WADA doping control officer goes over the doping control official record at time of testing, a negative declaration by the tested athlete becomes, in fact, a form of speech, and therefore should be considered a prosecutable offense if subsequent testing produces a positive finding of drug use. The same ask-and-answer should be required of appropriate coaches, managers, and federation officials, as each category has been found complicit in past PED distribution. No accusations, mind you, simply covering bases. Continue reading