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I’m Not A Serious Cyclist Since I Don’t Shave My Legs

Posted by sdrury on December 26, 2009

I am an amateur cyclist. Very amateur. I am mostly a weekend cyclist. Weather permitting I can get out a couple of times a week. My bike is about eight years old but it’s sturdy. I keep the seat, the tires and the brakes in good working condition. My bike is not quite a road bike, but it’s not a mountain bike either. In other words it’s just right. Now that I’ve moved to Greenville I can ride year round and the more I ride the more I’m becoming aware of the habits and practices of other, more accomplished bikers. There’s one phenomena in particular that has caught my attention. Well, calling it a phenomena is inaccurate, since that implies it’s a passing trend and it most certainly is not. It’s the practice of male cyclists shaving their legs.  Surely, I thought, there must be an aerodynamic benefit but that must only be felt by elite riders. Then I saw plenty of guys who probably aren’t elite cyclists, but they shaved their legs too. I didn’t dare ask another cyclist why he shaved his legs for it might reveal an ignorance on my part.oo. So, like any person with a computer, I Googled it.

My source here is I don’t know who Coach Levi is or what his qualifications are on such matters but he seems to be pretty knowledgeable about all things cycling. Here’s what he has to say about the leg shaving business:

Shaving Your Legs for All The Wrong Reasons

First, we’ll start with a few reasons people give for shaving their legs that are actually myths or just dumb reasons.

To ride faster (due to better aerodynamics.)

The first thing most people think of with smooth legs is better aerodynamics. Surely a smooth leg slices through the wind much, much faster than a leg covered in thin little hairs!

But guess what – this lack of leg hair does not make you more aerodynamic. While there are a variety of wind tunnel tests for time trial positioning, along with big studies about air turbulence for golf ball dimple designs, drag from leg hair has not been studied. Why? Because it is way too minimal to even matter.

If you are a triathlete or swimmer, though, you’re dealing with water, and that’s a different story. (One which doesn’t even matter these days, thanks to super fast suits that even smooth skin can’t compare to.)

For sheer joy and excitement.

You might be thinking “hey, that might be neat to shave my legs once.” Trust me, it’s not. Ask any cyclist (or any female, for that matter) that shaves their legs how fun and exciting it is, and you’ll get blank stares and confused looks.

The first time is alright, and smooth legs do make for a good conversation piece, but then you have to shave again at least twice a week. It’s a hassle, and if you don’t do it, well, the stubble is not fun. So then you are forced to keep shaving or deal with stubble for a couple weeks.

Good Reasons to Shave Your Legs

Now here are the real reasons to shave your legs that actually justify the time, expense, and possible ridicule you’ll experience once you begin shaving your legs.

Reason 1 – To look good.

This is what it’s all about right here. You can have a fancy kit, sleek helmet, and top-of-the-line bike, but if you pair hairy legs with tight spandex, the cycling fashion police will be forced to haul you away.

Best of all, hairless legs emphasize your muscles. With hair, your legs will still be big, but once they’re shaved, every little ripple in your muscles stands out for the world to see. 

Reason 2 – To feel like a pro.

All the pros shave their legs. Not once have I seen a professional racer (on the road, at least) that foregos shaving, and even the majority of recreational roadies and amateur racers shave their legs. If you shave yours, too, it makes you feel like part of the group.

You’ll feel faster, too, just like the pros. Heck, you might even get motivated enough that your mind is driven to ride faster. This is a placebo effect, not aerodynamics, but it could very well result in faster times!

And not only do you feel like a pro, you just feel good. That’s probably because hairless legs keep you cooler (think of hairy legs like wearing a cotton t-shirt.) Plus, you actually “feel” the air moving around your legs, which is very neat.

Reason 3 – To treat road rash easily.

The less you race or do group rides, the less you’ll have to worry about road rash, but it’s always a concern. But if you do a lot of group rides and races, there’s a good chance you’ll experience road rash first-hand.

The previous two reasons (looking good and feeling good) will help you on each ride, but the (hopefully) rare cases when you get road rash will be the most memorable “I’m so glad I shaved my legs!” moments. That’s because cleaning your raw skin is much easier if you don’t have hair in the way. Not to mention, the hair will likely trap more dust, dirt, bugs, and gravel in your wounds.

If you end up in the hospital to get your hairy road rash cleaned out, chances are a tired, unsympathetic nurse will bust out the wire brush to scrub your wounds. Ouch! So in this case, leg shaving is kind of like wearing a helmet – you hope you don’t need it, but it’s there just in case.

Smooth legs also come in handy if you’re a mountain biker and get scratched up or cut; then you can put a band-aid on your wounds without it pulling out your hair (which can sometimes be more painful than the cut itself!)

Reason 4 – For better massages.

Again, this probably doesn’t matter on a day-to-day basis (unless you’re a pro,) but getting a massage feels so much better if your legs are smooth. Part of the reason is that the hair gets sticky and creates friction, which makes it harder for the masseuse, which translates into a sub-par experience for you.

Try it yourself: rub some massage oil on a hairy leg, and then do a little self-massage. Then try the same thing on a smooth leg, and you’ll see a big difference. Your hands will glide easily, and it will feel oh so good!

Reason 5 – To deter ticks.

If you ride in the woods (or even on back roads,) ticks can jump off weeds and grab your leg hair, then make their way around your body until they decide to bite. Smooth legs don’t leave them much to grab onto, so it’s less likely that a tick will stay on your body.

It will also be easier to spot a tick if there isn’t a mass of hair obscuring your vision.

I’ve found five ticks on me so far this year, but with my smooth legs, most have been stuck hiding on my clothes. With hairy legs, I probably would have had at least twice as many ticks, some of which may have crawled through my leg hair and made a nice home somewhere on my upper thigh!

(One did stick itself into my hamstring, but that bugger got there one evening when I was sitting around in the grass. I don’t think he would have made it there had I been wearing lycra!)

So there you have it. Five solid reasons to shave your legs that have nothing to do with aerodynamics.


Alrighty.  So the best reason is to look good? I’m not pageant walking here, I’m riding a bike. None of the other reasons are particularly compelling either, as I think I’ve gotten two ticks in the entirety of my cycling experience. And I’ve never had road rash. And wouldn’t shaving just draw attention to the rash? And who wants to look at a rash? Massages? Please. I confess that I not only do I find the practice extremely time consuming (once you start shaving it never stops; remember that Seinfeld episode where Jerry shaves his chest?) it’s steeped in vanity. Basically, it’s for show, like a basketball player getting a tattoo. It just seems like an awful lot of trouble to through in order to make your commitment to a rather amorphous group. By comparison, the tattoo requires much less maintenance. You don’t have to re-colorize it every week or so. I’d much rather than have my commitment measured by my mileage rather than follicles. I don’t want to alienate myself and tell other weekend cyclists to get over themselves but…



Posted in Life in Greenville, Outdoors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Worst Football Play Ever

Posted by sdrury on December 22, 2009

If there was ever a hope that Jim Zorn might keep his job with the Redskins, it ended with this play.

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The Golf Channel Mourns Itself

Posted by sdrury on December 4, 2009

The tone at The Golf Channel lately is one of despondence. The channel is, nominally anyway, supposed to report the news of the golf world. Now, they need not chronicle every detail of the top players’ lives, but surely they had to hear whispers of what kind of guy Tiger Woods was off the course. Having worked with and in the media I can safely say that plenty of information is exchanged that never makes it to print or the airwaves. Most of it’s trivial yet potentially embarrassing, and despite the howls of right-to-know-ness, who Tiger Woods spends his evenings with probably fits nicely into that description–at least The Golf Channel thought so.

The on-air talent seems absolutely confounded by word of Tiger’s proclivity for “escorts” and waitresses. How could they be surprised? This was news, in the literal sense, to them? Have their anchors taken after ESPN’s and left the business of dirt-digging to the underlings. Think about it. When was the last time say, Stuart Scott or Scott Van Pelt (a Golf Channel alum) asked anyone some tough questions? There’s a reason for that. The greater the popularity of the people they talk about, the greater their own popularity. They owe their fame quite literally to other famous people and have zero journalistic credential. It’s a truly parasitic relationship. This relationship is amplified with The Golf Channel and Tiger Woods. It could be argued, pretty convincingly that the channel owes its existence to Tiger Woods. It was founded in 1995. Tiger turned pro the following year, although he was such an outstanding amateur he was already well-known in the sports landscape. Without his exploits, the studios Kelly Tilghman, Rich Lerner, Vince Cellini et al sit in could very well be occupied by housewives hawking quilts and cubic zirconia. The Golf Channel is a brand. It has name recognition. Many casual sports fans undoubtedly have come across The Golf Channel only to move on after a brief visit, because it dawned on them: It’s a…channel about golf. But Tiger made golf exciting and he probably will again. If anything, this episode will fan his already substantial competitive flames. This is a man who won the US Open on a broken leg. He doesn’t wilt in the face of a challenge.

While it’s an open question as to how much actual nose-to-the-grindstone reporting The Golf Channel does, anyone arguing that the network is little more than a mouthpiece for the PGA (do they even cover the LPGA?) need not protest again. Not that many people were doing that anyway. The Golf Channel and Tiger Woods–or at least the image Tiger had until before Thanksgiving–helped each other out immensely. Deep down, the executives, the on-air talent, everyone who works for The Golf Channel, must fear that Tiger’s fall from grace might be a precursor to their own.

Posted in Media, Sports | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Found on the Internet -Tiger’s Stripes Revealed-In 1997

Posted by sdrury on December 3, 2009

A leopard doesn’t change its spots and a tiger doesn’t change its stripes. Anybody who thought that Tiger Woods was anything other than the best golfer in the history of the world would have known better after reading this profile, written by Charles Pierce for GQ in 1997. Competitor? Yes. Sports icon? Yes. Family Man? Probably not.

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Tiger Talks-Not

Posted by sdrury on November 29, 2009

Hats off to Tiger Woods for not caving in to our TMZ society, which feels that we have a right to know the details of every scrap of a public person’s life. We don’t. We only have a right to know what public figures choose to disclose. Some (say, the Kardashians) thrive on such attention while other, saner, well-adjusted people do not (a group which has always included Tiger Woods). Here’s the statement from his website.

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Boycott the Blindside (go to

Posted by sdrury on November 21, 2009

Most Hollywood sports movies suck. They’re saccharine, pre-packaged and market-tested so as to be almost completely devoid of even the slightest thought. But some Hollywood movies are flat out offensive. The latest example is a movie called The Blindside. It’s based on a non-fiction book by the talented author Michael Lewis. Lewis has written winningly about baseball, the stock market, and the Internet boom. The Blindside is about football. Specifically, it refers to the blind side of the quarterback or the area beyond his vision while he waits in the pocket to throw a pass. Because of the quarterback’s importance (and the sizable contract he’s issued), the responsibility of protecting him has become only slightly less paramount than the job of the quarterback itself. This duty of protection falls on the sizable shoulders of very large but nimble men, who are paid handsomely, though not quite as well as the men they protect. In the book, Lewis ably details the relationships, developments, dangers and politics of The Blindside.

He also trains his eye on one Michael Oher. At the time of the book, Oher was still a teenager. He was born in Memphis to a crack-addicted mother. His absentee father was murdered. He attended at least nine different schools and repeated the first and second grade. No one had Michael’s blind side. Except Michael was well over six feet tall and tipped the scales in the neighborhood of three hundred pounds. A family friend, at the request of Oher’s dying grandmother, tried to get him enrolled at Briarcrest Christian School. He was denied at first, but after completing a home-study program of apparently dubious merits, he was eventually enrolled. While there he caught the attention of the children of Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, which given his girth was probably not hard to do. The Tuohys took Oher in. They fed him—no small task. They gave him a tutor. They paid his tuition. They basically were the parents that the young man desperately needed. He nudged his grade point average from 0.9 to 2.5. He eventually graduated from Briarcrest, accepted a scholarship to the University of Mississippi and last year was the first round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens. He signed a contract for $13.8 million.

But Oher’s is not a simple feel-good story. There were accusations that the Tuohys only took an interest in Oher because they saw dollar signs in their future. Not that they needed it because Sean Tuohy is the announcer for the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies. He’s also a graduate of Mississippi, which is where Oher ended up going after being recruited by dozens of schools. Then there’s the matter of Oher’s coach, who was given a job of little responsibility at Mississippi. Some thought this was a case of quid pro quo.

Oher’s story is hardly unique. High-level college athletics is filled with young black men who have been coddled, spoiled and sheltered by adults who do so, in the name of altruism and, often, God. Yet I can’t help but wonder if any of these adults would give so much as a fleeting glance to these kids if they weren’t such gifted athletes and, therefore, potential pots of gold at the end of a rainbow. Actually I don’t wonder that at all, I know they wouldn’t. I was a high school basketball coach for nine years and saw several instances of minority athletes given a chance only because of their physical exploits while other needier students were ignored.

I have not seen the movie and won’t because it focuses only on the kindness and “tough love” of the Tuohys, played by Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw. What was so special about Michael Oher? How many other kids did they take an interest in? Were those kids athletes?

The story of Michael Oher is the perfect vehicle to raise the issue of how people involved in big-time college sports exploit young people for financial gain while nominally invoking academics and fairness. I don’t think for a minute that Tinseltown would address such a complex, controversial issue. Yet, not only is this given the kid gloves treatment in The Blindside, the movie perpetuates a niche within the sports genre: the black man who can only be saved through the benevolence and decency of white people. A short list:

Finding ForresterRadioBlue Chips, The Hurricane.

These are example of what are commonly referred to as institutional racism. Only slightly less insulting are the movies where white people hold black people in awe for the simple reason that they seem to be people of color who are (gasp!) smart, competent or determined. Examples: Remember the Titans, The Green Mile, The Legend of Bagger Vance and any recent movie starring Morgan Freeman.

For an honest tale of the complexities of race, athletics and corruption rent, the sweeping Hoop Dreams. It’s a documentary. It might be the best documentary, on any subject, that I’ve seen (And I’ve seen hundreds.) In the meantime, boycott The Blindside.

Posted in Movies, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Found on the Internet – Mighty Mite Hockey Trick Shot

Posted by sdrury on November 21, 2009

It takes a second to load but this little guy’s trick shot would make Alex Ovechkin proud. While the other kids in the neighborhood were sitting in front of their TVs and computers this kid was practicing. I’m sure his parents are mighty proud–and negotating with an agent.

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Sammy Sosa’s Sudden Skin

Posted by sdrury on November 9, 2009

Sammy Sosa looks different. Really, he does. Sammy has always been a little off. He put cork in his bat. He probably used steroids even though he didn’t need to. Or maybe he did, who knows. He seemed not to understand the waves he created. His command of the English language seemed to fluctuate depending on the situation. He tried to maintain something of a schoolboy innocence thoughout his career. And then he showed at a Latino awards show liking like this. Maybe it’s a tribute to Michael Jackson in a Sammy Sosa kind of way. Maybe it really is a skin rejuvenation process. But it’s unlike any skin rejuvenation process I’ve seen, not that I’m an expert in the area. But isn’t an awards show an odd place to unveil a new look. Not only is his complexion changed but but he’s sporting a matted look up top and colored contact lenses. Wouldn’t he know that showing up looking so different would create something of a stir? Maybe that was the point, to somehow stay relevant. But that’s kind of vain. And pathetic. And nonsensical. And definitely something Sammy sosa would do.

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If You’re A Yankee Fan You Must Be a Republican

Posted by sdrury on November 5, 2009

Picking a sports team is a lot like choosing political parties. Both allegiances will test your loyalty and tempt you into abandoning them forever, but ultimately you stick with them because this is the group with which you’ve cast your lot, and for better or worse, they reflect your ideals. It’s an alchemy of the heart and head that makes disappointments and accomplishments especially acute. Democrats especially understand this. The party that roots for the underdog, challenges the status quo, demands a more just society, knows that change takes time. It was almost a century from the time slavery ended to the time of the first major civil rights legislation. They know the emptiness of the 1960s, having had their finest leaders vanish like a cloud of dust around second base. They have slogged through the politics of personal destruction of the last two decades. To be a baseball fan is to have suffered. To be a Democrat is to have suffered. It’s why if you’re a Democrat, you can’t possibly be a fan of the New York Yankees.

Baseball, at its leisurely pace magnifies our loyalties. Other team sports, with their time outs and quarters and huddles create their drama in clumps of spastic action; oversized bodies crash into each other on ice, gridirons and courts. Whereas baseball players are laid bare. When getting a hit 30% of the time make you an accomplished player, failure is the norm in baseball rather than rule. Democrats understand this. Ask a Yankee fan to recall a time when one of his heroes failed on a grand scale. They can’t. When the Yankees have lost it’s due to the heroics of an opposing player (like this ) rather than a mistake from one of their own. For every other team the opposite seems to be to be true, certainly for the Cubs and, my favorite team, the Red Sox

Rooting for the Yankees is not a struggle. They don’t require patience or persistence. They don’t break your heart. The longest gap between World Series championships is fifteen years (1962-1977). Think about that. The Red Sox went 86 years between rings. The Cubs? A full century. Proud franchises like Cleveland and the Giants have waited over half a century. The Tigers, Orioles and Pirates, all historic franchises, are on droughts of 25 years or more. And consider, there is not a Ranger or Padre fan alive who knows what it means to have been a champ. Would a Yankee fan have stuck by their club over a comparable drought? Being that many of them were apoplectic at their most recent spell, now broken, of eight years, I doubt it.

For as much as they might not like to admit it, Yankees fans, as with the owner of the team, George Steinbrenner, can be like petulant children at the grocery store, causing a scene and creating mayhem until they get their way, irrespective of the expense that may incurred, financial or emotional. The fans wear their boorishness like a badge of honor. Whenever a new player joins the team, the question that immediately follows, “Is he any good?” will be “Is he tough enough for New York?” Callers queue up on radio talk shows to boast how they “tell it like is” or “demand a winner” which are merely excuses for behaving like obnoxious simpletons.

Like many Republicans, they have no issue compromising their morals for the sake of victory. In the early 1990s Steinbrenner acquired Steve Howe, a relief pitcher who had been suspended seven, yes, seven times from baseball for drug use. In their most recent dynastic stretch, from 1996-2000, Steinbrenner brought in criminals like Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, if only to humiliate their former team, the cross-town Mets. They were cheered with a gusto later reproduced with the “Drill, Baby Drill” chant from the 2008 GOP convention. Yankee fans have that very same sense of entitlement. That somehow they deserve to be in every World Series and that the Fall Classic is diminished by their absence.

It’s never been enough for the Yankees to just win, they feel compelled to pummel any potential roadblocks into submission. In their three straight world championships from 1998-2000 they permitted the other teams to win a combine total of one game. Bloodlettings, in the truest sense of the word.

But Steinbrenner has never been much for equanimity. He’s the only owner to have been suspended twice by the commissioner of baseball. In 1974, Bowie Kuhn banned him for two years after he was convicted of making an illegal contribution to Richard Nixon. Then in 1990 he was barred for three more years by Fay Vincent after it was discovered that Steinbrenner, in a conceit that would make Karl Rove proud, paid a small-time gambler $40,000 to dig up dirt and embarrass on one of his players, the Hall of Famer Dave Winfield. The reason? Steinbrenner wanted to avoid paying Winfield’s charitable foundation the money it was contractually owed.

This came as little surprise to anyone, because Steinbrenner had made a habit of belittling his employees in a public forum. He even insulted the amiable Yogi Berra. Perhaps he felt he was justified in this sort of conduct since he so often overpaid his players after plucking them from anonymity and presenting them to the biggest stage in all of baseball.

Much as Republicans have long preyed on the gentility of Democrats, the Yankees history of preying on the haplessness of others is a long one. Prior to the free agent era, the Yankees raided other teams for the likes of Roger Maris, Johnny Mize and Enos Slaughter. And of course, in their early years, the Yankees took advantage of Harry Frazee, owner of the Boston Red Sox, to acquire Babe Ruth and launch their dynasty. Frazee, was a man in love at the time, who needed money to produce a musical starring his betrothed and the Yankees were more than happy to oblige. They felt that exploiting love was worth baseball championships.

And since they acquired the Babe, the Yankees have represented the status quo. They are the men in pinstripes, standing guard against hippies and minorities and agents of social change. Rooting for the Yankees was once compared to rooting for U.S. Steel, a polluting, anti-trust breaking, union-shattering monolith. The Yankees have never been a team of the people, for the people or by the people. They are the WASPs at the country clubbers who mock the working-class kids wiping off their golf clubs. They are the Matt Damon character in School Ties , they are Johnny Lawrence, and any other bully whoever prowled a schoolyard.

Recent years have only accentuated the Yankees belief in wealth and privilege over hard work and decency. In the middle of a recession, the Yankees constructed a $1.5 Billion Stadium/Monument to Self-Glory, much of which came courtesy of the tax dollars of the very fans they supposedly love. The fans overlook this detail, even as the best seats in the very stadium they helped pay for run as high as $5,000 per ticket, effectively pricing the overwhelming majority of them out.

Should we be surprised the Yankees ignore this manner of excessiveness? Of course not. The Yankees have retired fifteen different numbers (the Red Sox and the Cardinals combined have fourteen). One, Reggie Jackson’s 44, was only worn by him for five years. Others belonged to solid if unspectacular players like Ron Guidry, Elston Howard and Don Mattingly. There’s no such thing as too much in the Bronx, where the plushest seats are occupied by many of the Wall Street bankers, who, having had their houses in the Hamptons saved by taxpayers, giggled at the gullibility of the proletariat yet again to the tune of billions in bonuses.

This matters little, to average Yankees fans as they invoke tradition and excellence—in the same way Republicans call back to the glory days of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, when the rich got richer while the rest of the economy plummeted and the term “homeless” entered the vernacular. Yankee fans blindingly subscribe to the Yankees propaganda arm, the YES (Yankee Entertainment and Sports) Network because they it’s the only place to watch games on television. I’ll ignore the spectacular bias of the games’ broadcasters who often look at the opposing team as an inconvenience.

It’s impossible to discuss the New York Yankees without discussing their payroll. In 2009, their payroll was $201 million, a full 50 million ahead of their nearest competitor. The recently defeated Phillies, a formidable but undermanned squad, checked in at $113 million. Here I’ll admit to being squeamish about the Red Sox free-spending ($120 million). I find much of it redundant and their thrashing of the Colorado Rockies in the 2007 World Series in four straight was too Yankee-like for me. I confess to having missed the last out, because their victory, much like the Yankees’ this year was a fait accompli from the early summer. It’s true that spending money is no guarantee of success, but it helps. The Yankees occasional missteps in recent years were more a testament to the complexities and genius of baseball rather than a condemnation of an open market. I wonder what Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds fans must think as they struggle to simply have a winning record while they are outspent in triplicate and, as if that’s not demoralizing enough, many of the best teams’ best players use steroids.

Which brings us, finally, to the present team. They have three players who will certainly be inducted into the Hall of Fame (Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Alex Rodriguez) and two more (Mark Teixera, C.C. Sabathia) whose career path points in that direction. Not to mention Messrs. Pettitte, Posada, Burnett, Matsui, Damon and Cano who were or will be All-Star caliber players. It would be an upset if they hadn’t won the World Series. This doesn’t make their victory any more upsetting. What is disarming is the team’s resemblance to contemporary Republican figures.

Jeter, the Obama-like figure, at the center of the team is a red herring. His imperious manner and elegance is admirable bur one can’t help but wonder how this modern post-racial player ended up working for George Steinbrenner. Rivera is the Cheney figure–at least the in office version. He conveys an introspection that might be aloof at times. He appears out of nowhere at the end of a game to save the day without anyone being really sure how he does it. Teixera, the Mormon-ish first baseman, could pass as Mitt Romney. A.J. Burnett, the pitcher and Arkansas native, would undoubtedly have made Mike Huckabee proud when, upon signing an 82.5 million dollar contract, he added yet another trailer-trash tattoo (As did Sabathia). Then Damon, the Joe Lieberman of the team, having come over from the other side (the Red Sox) to return the team to glory. And the preening, strutting, narcissistic A-Rod makes the perfect male counterpart to Sarah Palin. Would it be a stretch to imagine him winking into a camera in a critical spot?

Lastly, I can’t help but look at Joe Girardi, the Yankees manager and see George W. Bush—they both fell into control of this powerful machine and are just trying not to screw it up. Indeed, the only thing that made presidency of George W. Bush tolerable was the fact that the Yankees were shut out of World Series rings during his reign of error. That said, I’ll trade eight years of Obama for eight years of Yankee victories. Some things are worth the sacrifice.

Posted in Essays, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Michael Jordan inducts himself

Posted by sdrury on September 12, 2009

Most hall of fame speeches tend to be filled with gratitude to the numerous people who helped the individual reach the pinnacle of the sport. Thanks to the family (especially Mom) childhood friends, high school coaches, teammates, repeat through college and then the pros. Add a story or two from your early years that defines you. It’s a tried and true format. 

Michael Jordan, in his Hall of Fame induction speech, followed this format, sort of. There’s not too much that can be said about Jordan that hasn’t been said before. He changed basketball. He changed the way sports is marketed. Jordan’s skill on the court was such that, in the final moments of a close game, when everyone watching knew he would get the ball, he delivered. Not only did he get the ball, he made the shot. Repeatedly. Off the court, his easy smile and confident manner, lifted several companies, notably Nike and Gatorade, to heights they could not have imagined. Jordan changed how corporations use sports to market their wares. Many have wondered whether or not this was a good thing.

In the event, Jordan arguably became the most admired person on the planet, certainly the most admired athlete. He was, and is, a living icon. I encountered Jordan (with Mario Lemieux at his side) at the 1999 Ryder Cup matches in Boston. He towered over the rest of the spectators. And if anyone needed any help locating him, the broomstick-sized cigar he was smoking made it a little easier. Even though his passion for golf was well known, it was a shock to see MJ (with ML and Dick Ebersole, the president of NBC at the time) standing quietly there in the gallery, with the little people. To Jordan, everyone must have seemed little. Consider that several people whispered “Hey, that’s Mario Lemieux, too.” There’s plenty of places that would come to a halt with the arrival of Lemieux. But next to Jordan, he was an afterthought.

Anyway, I walked up to Jordan and asked him what brand of cigar he was smoking. Who did he like in today’s matches?   Could the US right the ship and defeat a scrappy European squad? They would thanks  to this: ( We were standing behind the green of a hole (which one I can’t recall) watching and analyzing the approach shots and putts of players (which one’s I can’t recall). When they holed out, Jordan continued talking, now about his own golf game . So, I walked with him to the next hole. There was no posse and no handlers. Of course there was a throng around him and Lemieux. But, he talked softly, owing to his surroundings, about his own struggles with golf. I mentioned that I was going to be married in less than month. He wished me luck and talked about his kids and how he took his sons to the golf course once in a while. Near the green of the next hole Jordan, understandably, paid attention to his more famous cohorts. I am tempted to say that this was a Jordan that few people ever got to see; Dad and golfer- but I don’t think that’s true. What is true is that golf and fatherhood humbled Jordan, brought him down to earth, in a way that basketball never could.

And it was the soaring Jordan, looking down on the rest of us, who made the Hall of Fame speech. He admitted that there’s not much about him, that we, the soared upon, don’t know about him. No author as accomplished as David Halberstam ever wrote a book about Magic or Bird or Isiah. No book about an athlete included “The World They Made.” We know it all abot Michael. It must be hard to view yourself with any sort of distance when you’ve spent your entire adult life, not just being revered or respected, but deified, as Jordan was. When tears dripped from his eyes, as he took the dais at the Hall of Fame, it was hard to determine whether they were of gratitude for the honor or of sadness that the occasion marked an end to his iconic reign.

It was the latter. He proceeded to list all the people who challenged or doubted him. This list included many people, legends in their own right, who were sitting in the audience. The message was clear. Not only did I prove you wrong, but I beat you. It came off as childish, and beneath the man. He crossed the line when he adressed his own children, in front of the thousands on hand and millions in the television audience, “I wouldn’t want to be you.”

Jordan’s  mother, sitting in the front row, seemed to recognize that her son’s pride had got the best of him. She looked as though she wanted to tell him to go back to his original plan for a speech, which was to go to the stage and say, simply, “Thank you.” Mothers, even Michael Jordan’s, really do know best.

Jordan’s competitive streak is cited by many, as the fuel for his greatness. It’s embarrassed him at times on the baseball diamond, the card table and the golf course. But he was not being inducted to those Halls of Fame. It was basketball. Where he rarely felt failure or lost. He took the opportunity of his Hall of Fame induction to remind everyone of that. He even hinted at a comeback. It must be hard to say, “No, I must move on” when everyone around you is saying “Yes.” Another, equally famous MJ found this out earlier this summer. Let’s hope someone, (maybe his mother?) will tell him, No Michael. You must move on.

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