CHbLog – Inside Edge

Icelandic April


You only have to say the name of the country, and everyone oohs and aahs. Iceland is amazing. It’s exotic4J0A8395, progressive, ingenious, electric: Iceland uses 100-percent renewable energy for its electricity, tapping into geothermal and hydropower sources.

It has a similar temperament to Hawaii – no joke. They’re both islands, and maybe that has something to do with their less-frantic lifestyles. There was no clock in either room of the two hotels I stayed in. Even the horses in Iceland are docile. It’s no wonder the country is ranked No. 1 on the Global Peace Index.

So, crime isn’t much of a thing in Iceland:

A total of three people were killed in 2017, and in addition Police investigated eight attempted murders, more than at any time since the 2001, when the Police began collecting statistics on attempted murders.

Violent crime is extremely rare in Iceland. In 2016 only one murder was reported….

It hardly seems fair to compare the entire country to the mid-sized city of Albuquerque – granted, twice the population size – where there were 75 killings in 2017, but there you have it.

Gender equality is definitely a thing. The country has been No. 1 in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index for nine years running. In leadership, the current President is male and the Prime Minister is a woman.

ReykjavikIceland has just under 340,000 people (the capital city of Reykjavik has around 123,000), but no indigenous population. Iceland and Hawaii are both smothered in soul-cradling beauty in landscape, waterfalls, rainbows, and majestic wildlife. It’s 1,000 stairs to the top of Oahu’s Koko Crater Trail, and while it’s only 370 steps to the top of Skógafoss waterfall, climbing them felt like déjà vu. Both places share the volatility of imminent volcanic eruption. When Iceland’s Katla volcano erupts, water from the glacier perched on it will flood the valley and the town of Vik. Its 300 residents and 3,000 tourists will have 20 minutes to evacuate. Luckily, there’s a tested plan, because Katla is long overdue.

Living in the high desert of Albuquerque, I look up a lot. The ground has rocks and snakes and such to watch out for but otherwise, it’s a lot of dust and gravel. In contrast, the vast skies host dynamic clouds, fluffy or 4J0A8659foreboding or both side-by-side, thunderstorms in the distance, flocks of geese, hot air balloons, the Sandia Mountains and stunning sunsets. I assumed that in Iceland, the skies would be gray and so I’d be looking down for beauty. I was mistaken. The clouds are magnificent, barnacle geese are prevalent, and while not as high as the Sandias, there are snow-capped mountains and there is skiing in Iceland. The Mt. Hlídarfjall/Akureyri area is popular, and of course there’s Nordic skiing, too – all can be done under the Northern Lights. (Yes, please.)

Iceland is greatly dependent on tourism, and Americans always make a good story. There’s this one from 2016, of a guy who arrived in Iceland and typed the address of his hotel into his GPS, mistakenly adding an extra R to Laugavegur. An errant letter amounted to five-ish hours (270 miles) on remote roads heading deep into northern Iceland. The Siglufjörður (say that four times fast) town woman on whose doorstep he arrived, thoughtfully arranged a room for him at a local hotel.

If you don’t follow certain rules in Iceland, you die. Americans aren’t generally fond of rules. Riding in a shuttle, I was behind a husband and wife from Alabama who’d had a couple boat tours cancelled due to high winds, and were getting impatient. “Give me a waiver or whatever and I’ll sign it. Just let me go on a tour,” the wife said with apparent disregard for the fragility of human life and the force of nature. I was telling an Albuquerque waiter about Katla and the evacuation plan, and he said, “I used to live in Tacoma, so we were always in danger of the [Mt. Rainier] volcano. I don’t think we had an evacuation plan, though. There are plenty of us. We can just make more,” he laughed.

Though exhausting, my Iceland adventure was refreshing, much like climbing a glacier and stopping for a slurp of pure Sólheimajökull water. “Brace yourself on the glacial walls and lean in; stick your lips out to get a sip, seriously,” our guide suggested, and I did. Glacier water and a couple 4J0A8637of specks of volcanic dust – the cure for all ills.

I was lured to the island by the annual Iceland Writers Retreat, a spectacular opportunity to convene with non-fiction, fiction, and poetry writers along with published authors from around the globe for workshops and readings. The swag bag alone, packed with volcanic salt, Omnom chocolate, an Icelandic mystery novel, a day planner, hand lotion, etc. was almost enough to make it worth the fee. Iceland’s President, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, and (Canadian) First Lady, Eliza Reid, hosted a Retreat reception at the Residence (with wine and delicate hors d’oeuvres – no fast food), and were gracious enough to pose for selfies. Side note from this awesome and informative blog: Jóhannesson is “the first president anywhere in the world to participate in Gay Pride festivities.”

More on the glacier walk – at the high point, our guide asked us to put away our cameras and phones and listen to the sound of the wind, a trickle of water, blue sky. He asked how long it had been since we’d heard that sound. He explained that researchers have revised how long it will be for the massive glacier to disappear, to 150 years. He implored us to do one small thing to delay climate change. I pass along to you what came to mind: when you order coffee to stay and socialize or read and work, ask for a ceramic mug. (Maybe you have to be middle-aged to notice, so trust me, ceramic maintains authentic coffee flavor rather than infusing it with paper, and prevents the mountains of cups spilling from the trash bins of every coffee establishment. Win-win.)

Cycling is huge in Iceland. (Kidding.) National road and cyclocross champion, Ingvar Ómarsson, is the first and only full-time pro cyclist from Iceland and has been the country’s Cyclist of the Year the past five years, since he’s the only one. (Kidding again. He’s earned it.) “I focus on mountain biking but when I race in Iceland, I do everything I can get my hands on,” he told me in an email. Ómarsson is sponsored by Novator, an investment company owned by billionaire Thor Bjorgolfsson, the richest man in Iceland.  Agusta Edda Bjornsdottir was Iceland’s champion in women’s mountain biking and Individual Time Trial in 2017. 

The Iceland Men’s National Football (soccer) Team qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 2018, which is a big deal, since Iceland is the smallest nation to reach the finals. Here’s how it happened. The President and multi-talented First Lady starred in this ad encouraging team support. (FYI, Rúrik Gíslason is way hotter than Ronaldo.)  The women’s team was ranked 22nd in March 2019 by FIFA, ahead of Mexico and Argentina.

On my second morning home in Albuquerque, having brought back bronchial crud and waking from a nightmare (WTH? I almost never have them), feeling jetlagged and a bit solitary, I fretted over whether I need to work on self-confidence, if I should visit my dad, if I should move to Minneapolis, how I can be more proactive about ridding the world of discrimination, and how I can become more kind and considerate. That’s what an Iceland retreat can do for a person.

I skim hope from this quote by Sveinn Ásgeirsson, pulled from an ESPN soccer article because, in a sense, we are each individual fricking islands in an ocean:

You have to believe anything is possible. We’re Iceland. We live in a small fricking island in the middle Solfar (Sun Voyager)of the ocean.

I’m always hoping I’ll dream of places I’ve been. I wanted to dream of my time in Hawaii and the schools of fish I swam with, the sea turtle I saw. But I didn’t.

I have been dreaming of Ísland.

A Year of Balancing Excess

Snow path: Make one while you still can

*Rated PG for language*

If you’re like me, 2018 concluded with a solid resolution not to use plastic straws. It was quickly followed by curiosity as to why straws are getting all the attention when there are so many other things to choose from, like liquid soap bottles, and soap pumps that can’t be recycled. (There are these things called bars of soap, often packaged in recyclable paper.) And what about all the bags businesses pressure purchases into, including a gift bag, which is a bag? Why do I need a bag for a bag?

About those plastic straws, I looked into how it has become the latest eco movement (#SkipTheStraw) and here’s what’s up: NFL Patriots quarterback Tom Brady doesn’t use them. If Brady doesn’t use straws, I sure as heck don’t want to be caught sucking on one. According to the article:

Plastic has become so common in oceans that it’s being found in large quantities in the bellies of sea birds, whales, and even fish sold at supermarkets.Sea Otter

The link above includes graphic, heart-wrenching footage of a straw being pulled out of the nostril of a sea turtle.

Heavy: As often as I remind myself to give good odds to a positive outcome, reflecting on the past year is like reflecting on all of humanity, and much of it feels like a staggering slug to the soul….

It took a couple days of dedicated reading (seriously, like, five days), but I made it through the dense, 30,000-word piece in the New York Times, Losing Earth. Browsing reactions to the article, I found this comment by Richard Yates:

The broad story of our evolution, as it will be explained in the Intergalactic Museum, may be that an oddly intelligent primate discovered technology far to[sic] soon to be able to avoid self-extinction by its very use.

A similar concept to an Intergalactic Museum (It’s a thing. I googled it.) has been flipping around in my mind, though I hadn’t thought to label it as such. I sense that this experiment – if you will – of humans on Earth in a Galaxy is coming to the cosmic equivalent of an end. While it might still be a while away, on a scale of cosmic time in which our existence is less than a blink, yeah, we’re nearly done.

A criticism of the article is its declaration that we are all at fault for global warming. Of course, we all are. We willingly inject poison into our bodies in the form of hotdogs, Botox, and e-cigarettes. Why would we treat our Earth better? Mighty powerful players had a disproportionate share of influence through politics and policy, but if you’ve bought the new, “biggest ever” Subaru or anything less fuel-efficient, you’re at fault. If you have a non-native green grass lawn in the Desert Vegetationdesert, you’re at fault. If you buy groceries on Amazon, you’re suffocating the Earth with a horrifyingly excessive shit-ton of packaging, so yeah, you’re at fault. I know this comes off as finger wagging, but I’m looking in the mirror, too.

Curious again, this time about how Amazon founder, chairman, CEO, and president Jeff Bezos, who has four children who will live through the consequences of their father’s actions, could offer such a service, I found some interesting details about him. He is also the founder of Blue Origin, which states on its website:

…we believe that in order to preserve Earth, our home, for our grandchildren’s grandchildren, we must go to space to tap its unlimited resources and energy.

Bezos is apparently hustling to accumulate as much wealth as he can on this planet so he can travel off it. Maybe he’s trying to save us all. Maybe he’s been listening to the cli-fi (think sci-fi, but climate-themed fiction) collection of seven short Kindle books on Amazon, titled Warmer. Katy Waldman gives a thought-provoking review of the collection in which she mentions something about “chart[ing] a path between hope and hopelessness.” Which pretty much sums up my daily challenge. How about you?

Another Sports Reference: New Year’s resolutions have me pondering whether assholes can change. An interview segment with Lance Armstrong on a morning show in December has me figuring maybe, but Armstrong hasn’t. I’m curious if, after surviving cancer, he thought, “I can survive anything!” and if he felt that way when he was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. Clearly, surviving cancer didn’t make him a better person, though. It made him devise a plan to cheat like hell and make a bunch of people miserable. It was clear in the recent interview that he continues to view himself a victim. Meanwhile, many people still consider themselves his victims.

Heart-wrenching News in Cycling: Just before the New Year, Paul Sherwen passed away in his sleep due to heart failure. If you’re addicted to pro cycling, you watch an insane number of hours of broadcasting during which very little happens in terms of what the average person considers “action.” Consequently, viewers get to know the commentators especially well, and Sherwen was exceptional. There are two or three other commentators who will do well in his place, but what will the broadcast of the Tour of California and especially the Tour de France, along with the rest of the season, be without him?

Drumroll Please: My vote for 2018 Athlete with the Most Class is Serena Williams. Please check out this article. Damn. (If you want to know more, check out Roxane Gay and if you want to read a more pop culture/sports-referencing style, read Gabrielle Union’s book, We’re Going to Need More Wine. Gay is a professor and Union is an actor married to NBA superstar Dwyane Wade. Get woke.)

About the US Open: Fans literally booed winner Naomi Osaka after she defeated Serena. On the podium, Serena consoled Osaka and on her behalf, pleaded with fans, “No more booing!” (Osaka, the first Japanese person – male or female – to win the Open, said she had always dreamed of playing Serena in the US Open finals. When her dream became reality, she found herself apologizing to fans that it didn’t turn out the way they wanted.)

Serena recently played Roger Federer in a doubles match. In a courtside interview afterward, she and Federer were both all class – a refreshing contrast to the gender-related muck the country has been trudging through.

While 2018 has been called everything from a real dick of a year to pure shit, there is one guy who’s happy as all hell about it: 2018 is when Tiger Woods won a tournament for the first time in five years. God I love sports for the stories of athletes who don’t have the good sense to give up, and eventually succeed.

If you still need one, claim this New Stretching is good!Year’s resolution: First-time Slam winner of the French Open, Romanian Simona Halep, told American Sloan Stephens, Take care of your body. It sounded atypical coming from one elite pro athlete to another elite pro athlete on such a public stage, during a podium speech, but it was obviously inspired.

May your path in 2019 inspire more hope than hopelessness. Take care of your body; take care of your home.

Winning, Women, and Withdrawal

[Banner photo courtesy of Travis Dulany]

If you’re a fan of gambling, you’d relate to the experience of chasing a professional cycling race. At the risk of encouraging compulsive behavior, I suggest following the Amgen Tour of California next year. While the withdrawal is real, the payout is, too.

Like most years, the 2018 AToC flew by at the speed of a peloton – literally. It involved intriguing little towns like Folsom, the beauty of South Lake Tahoe, and the madness that is SacTown. Regardless of the year, days typically start early with short road trips to the middle of nowhere or the downtown of a city, jumping out of a car and walking fast, jogging some, then waiting two minutes or two hours – just enough time to form a small community and make new friends before pro cyclists whiz by at +/-20 mph on a climb, +/-30 mph on a flat-ish road, or about 45 mph in a sprint finish. Like a junky needing that next fix, fans jump back into cars and drive faster than safety recommendations, hoping the roads stay open long enough to make it to the next point of action and catch another race moment.

DAY 1 (Stage 4 – 21.6-mile Individual Time Trial): If you weren’t able to follow the week-long race in its entirety, you might have arrived mid-week for the individual time trial, a stage that significantly reshuffled race standings. This year, the high point of the stage was near Morgan Hill. Maybe you parked your car at the Chesbro Reservoir and walked 3+ miles and when you arrived, it was appropriately marked by a tent for Floyd’s of Leadville, its motto being “Relax and Recover.” Yes, that Floyd, and that sort of relax.

The Tour of the Gila cycling race takes place in New Mexico about a month before the AToC and each year, my husband and I lament the year he went to photograph the event and passed Floyd Landis walking down the road, alone, after the race (2009?). Uncertain of Landis’ state of mind – why wasn’t he in his team bus? – my husband did not offer a ride. This year, that image drove me to google Landis, and I found a recent article that succinctly details his fall from grace and what he’s up to these days, i.e. that tent and inflatable furniture bearing the business name and motto. Neil, a personable man who works for Floyd, got more than his fair share of honks and waves from team cars with men hanging out their windows, yelling, “Is Floyd here?!” This year, in April, Floyd received news that Lance agreed to pay $1.1 million to Landis and $1.65 million to cover Landis’ legal fees in a $5 million total settlement with the federal government.

Standing at a lower point of the high point community, antler guy, or RackMan, I’ve decided to call him (the joke goes he has a good rack on him. Haha), was getting his Slovakian flag ready for three-time reigning world champion Peter Sagan to ride by. If you’ve watched an AToC broadcast in any given year, you’ve seen RackMan wearing a football helmet with racks of assorted animals attached, running alongside cyclists.

If you’ve made a sign that reads: It’s All Downhill from Here (it wasn’t, but it could have been a lot worse), you’d notice several cyclists are mildly entertained. A point and smile from sprinter Mark Cavendish would be the best reaction.

American Tejay van Garderen raced by looking fast, smooth, and determined. Though capable, he was the largely unexpected winner of the time trial and overall race leader by day’s end. If you thought to get dinner close to the stage finish, you perhaps bumped into van Garderen boarding his team bus, but not before agreeing to pose for one more photo because he had that winning feeling. You felt like you’d just won the lottery.

DAY 2 (Stage 5 – Sprint Stage): Not unlike the addict who’s hit rock bottom, you spend the better part of this day shamelessly standing near a sign announcing Begin Waste Zone. Your own sign is bargaining: Will Cheer for Musette and Snacks. This is an effort when the wait is long and the show is short, but if shwag is what you want, shwag is what you get. Fix procured, you walk away with +/-10 team water bottles, three musette bags, a couple energy bars including a CLIF Kid Zbar, and several smooshed sticky rice blocks that may or may not be edible. (I’ve tasted the diluted liquid in water bottles, including Sagan’s. It’s not bad. Hydrating, surely. It’s a Hell No to the thicker, recovery “sludge” liquid, though. I’m not eating a smooshed rice block unless double dog dared, but the CLIF Kid bar was tasty.)

Initially, it seemed teams had figured that while the Critérium du Dauphiné is where to send their emaciated, mountain climbing General Classification (overall win in time) contenders, the Amgen Tour of California is where to send quad-blessed sprinters, all in preparation for the Tour de France. With 13 of the top world sprinters in the AToC this year, it promised to be one of the most exciting sprinting races leading up to the TdF, ever. Marcel Kittel, Cavendish, Sagan, new Aussie sprinting phenom, Caleb Ewan, Quick-Step sprinting phenom, Fernando Gaviria, along with Alexander Kristoff and a couple more with a good chance, raced. (André Greipel broke his collarbone in a crash in March.) Instead, the AToC shaped up to be the Gaviria/Ewan/Sagan show in that order. Perhaps some were recovering from early-season efforts like Paris-Roubaix, a cobblestone race so jarring, your knees are around your ankles by the finish, won this year by Sagan. Others were incrementally building for the TdF. If you were following Ewan for the first time, knowing nothing about him other than that he is your namesake, you were rewarded with the excitement of two second and one third place finishes. Ewan and Gaviria are the new names to listen for at the Tour de France.

Morning fixes wear off quickly, so you and other Trash Zone dwellers drive to the stage finish point, jam-packed with expectant fans. There’s space just after the finish line on a corner. By then, cyclists are coasting, and Sagan congratulates Gaviria on his second win of the week. It’s a short jog to team RVs to seek Cavendish’s autograph (he’s had a tough stage, though, flatting at a time when he needed to conserve energy for the sprint; a tough season, with injury; and the imminent birth of another son with wife Peta Todd on his mind – born the following Tuesday). Cav is moving around inside, but he won’t leave the RV. He agrees through a middle man to write a note in your copy of his book and when you yell, “Thanks, Mark,” he yells, “You’re welcome.” High again.

There were two Tejay/TJs in this AToC, both American. The second, Taylor “TJ” Eisenhart, was presumably plucked off his surfboard from the beaches of San Diego and made to peddle a bike, which he’s totes stoked about. Dude, like, watch his podcasts and you’ll totally understand and feel the love, man. Among favorite podcast quotes:

Friends don’t let friends get haircuts

He does not disappoint in person. Charming the next generation of cycling fans, he hands out turquoise bracelets to fans of all ages whose names he asks, poses for photos, and spreads general cheer – the sum of which only a youthful ray of sunshine such as himself might have the energy for.

DAY 3 (Stage 6 – Final Mountain Stage): There’s visible tension among the majority of the cyclists. It’s the earliest morning start of the week and a stage in which they face seven mountain summits. The GC contenders and their teams are set to battle for what is all but a guaranteed classification for the race overall.

Fans can gamble to upgrade the quality of their high by paying a chunk of change to get more physical proximity to the pros as they mosey toward the stage to sign in for the day. Whilst munching breakfast sandwiches and cinnamon rolls and sipping Peet’s coffee, reading the race program, and stashing mini AToC cowbells in their backpacks, lucky fans get autographs and posed photos.

After watching the race roll out, a glutton for failure, you jump in your car and speed to catch the first sprint point of the day, but miss it by five minutes, hence that amazing parking place…. It’s back to the car to drive up a mountain, park on the edge of a precipice, walk-jog on a closed road, stand for two minutes with a new, fast-formed community, hold a modified sign that reads, “It’s >NOT< All Downhill from Here (Sorry),” and catch the peloton as they ride by in two blinks of an eye (it’s uphill).

Late into the relentless stage, 21-year-old Egan Bernal pulls a "Sky Shred," riding the yellow jersey and ultimately the race win away from van Garderen (as Team Sky commonly does, with inevitable suspect).

DAY 4 (Stage 7, Sprint final): The men slowly roll by to sign in and hit the road for the final stage. The women sign in and tackle an 8-corner, 20-lap circuit race around the Capitol of SacTown.  It’s a spectacle to be shared with friends, including a cycling enthusiast at his first race, and his wife, partaking in the gateway race that hooks her to cycling. The overall race win goes to American Katie Hall.

It’s rare to see a podium snafu, but after the men finish, Ewan is ushered onstage and dressed in an oversized green jersey with a QuickStep logo on the front – an obvious mistake for the 5’5” sprinter on team Mitchelton-Scott. He’d worn the green points leader jersey until Gaviria won the final sprint and points that day. The jersey is removed from Ewan and he’s handed a bouquet of flowers, as a consolation, it appears. He fumbles with them in visible disappointment before being ushered offstage.

Fans get one last look at cyclists as they sign autographs and partake in post-race team picnics, women and men. The party is winding down. Perhaps strolling back along the race route toward a hotel, you recognize Ewan, likely just off the podium. “Oh! Can I please get a photo with you? We have the same last name, so I’ve been following you and you’ve done really well! It’s been fun to watch.” One can only hope it cheers the spirit to hear such a thing – having no idea of his podium experience (until 30 minutes later). “Sure, thanks. Here are some flowers for you,” he says. Podium flowers. One last fix. Flowers resistant enough to fly home and revive when dunked in water.  Here’s wishing the same resistance for Ewan, who will try his luck at the Tour de France this year.

The buzz wears off in the wee hours of the morning, the police announcing over a loud speaker heard from the 8th floor of a hotel, “Okay everyone, time to go home.”


If a year is too long to wait for the next dose, the Tour de France is in July. Following a race broadcast – yes – there will still be withdrawal.

TIMBITS: AToC podium women were not obliged to wear heels and kiss salty winners. Keep an eye out for changes in procedure at the Tour de France, as well.

Again, the AToC paid women and men equal prize money (as did the Australian Tour Down Under) ‘cause, you know, #TimesUp. And American women pro cyclists are currently succeeding on an international level at a greater rate than men (the Tour of California is an international race).

Here’s a comprehensive list of where you should send money if you’re a cyclist, mountain biker, or lover of one or both (no judgment).

It took a while to sleuth this, but the women’s team Hagens Berman Supermint has the word “Supermint” in its name because:

To my disappointment Supermint is purely our brand name, no free toothpaste and dental appointments. Initially Jono Coulter, the team owner and Director sportif (DS) wanted just mint as our team name. Jono comes from Brisbane Australia and is a true blue aussie, slang and all. Mint means awesome or rad. Unfortunately, mint was already taken so what’s one up from mint…SUPERMINT!

Cheers to a mint summer, y’all!

Ten Down, Two to Go

Hygge (pronounced hoo-guh) is a Danish word meaning, essentially, all things of comfort and happiness. Think of sipping spiked hot chocolate by the fire, sharing a batch of homemade  kale chips fresh from the oven with your best friend, or seeing Regina Spektor live in concert. I bring it up as a suggestion – that everyone make it their holiday season resolution. There are two months left in the year to pack as much hygge into your life as possible. How else can we thrive?

BLING: My soul cries out for good news, and a sports snippet back in August was that the Cubs organization gave Steve Bartman his very own 2016 World Series ring. Bartman is the fan who interfered with a catch by reaching for a fly ball during a playoff game back in 2003. A lot of people blamed him for the Cubs not winning the Championship that year. He made it home alive (covered in beer and spit), thanks to a police escort. But the poor guy never again attended a game at Wrigley Field, ‘cause people can be asshats who do and say stupid stuff, like threaten violence.

Now Bartman owns that World Series ring with all 108 diamonds, representing the Cubs’ 108-year championship drought, and says it’s symbolic of both a historic sports achievement, as well as “an important reminder for how we should treat each other in today’s society."

How the Military Invaded Sports (and Politics Invaded My Blog): Amid the debate about former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick protesting social injustice and police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem (in a gesture of respect, as opposed to sitting, on the advice of Nate Boyer, former NFL player and Green Beret), is another intriguing set of information.

Holy crap that was a run-on. (Did you keep up?)

By now you may have heard that before 2009, NFL players were not specifically required to stand on the field during the national anthem. And between 2012 and 2015, the Department of Defense distributed $10.4 million among several NFL teams in exchange for other staged, on-field ceremonies designed to boost military recruitment.

Turns out another $6.8 million in taxpayer funds was used for VIP perks such as suites and game tickets, autographed items, and cheerleader visits not just for potential recruits, but often DOD and National Guard personnel. Game-time displays of patriotism were contracted and funded for the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS, NASCAR, and the Alamo City Comic Con.

Man, that first sentence above was another pretty long one. (What the hell is going on with me?)

According to a joint oversight report by John McCain and Jeff Flake:

Unsuspecting audience members became the subjects of paid-marketing campaigns rather than simply bearing witness to teams’ authentic, voluntary shows of support for the brave men and women who wear our nation’s uniform.

And this!

In 2014, while the National Guard was spending millions on professional sports advertising, it was simultaneously requesting additional funds from Congress to cover a more than $100 million shortfall to pay its troops and conduct critical training.

Rather than spit, I’ll share a Kaepernick belief, paraphrased by his friend and American Cultural Studies lecturer Christopher Petrella, to, “Believe in the capacity of ordinary people to grow into leaders, to self-advocate and to lift as we climb.”

As for Kaepernick, no team has signed him since he become a free agent after last season. In October, he filed a grievance accusing NFL owners of collusion, then accepted a $1 million book deal. I’m betting the book will be an intriguing read.

POETRY IN MOTION: The 2018 route for the Tour de France has been announced. To pass the time until then, I challenge you to find a better example than this prose, by Master of cycling poetry, Bob Roll:

When you look at bike racers, they look incredibly narrow and skinny and frail, but they’re some of the toughest athletes on the planet, to crash like that, basically in your underwear with a styrofoam cup on your head, and then to bounce up and still have to race.

He was referring to Irish cyclist Dan Martin, hit by the airborne body of Richie Porte in a 45mph crash during the 2017 Tour de France.

Host cities and locations for the 2018 Tour of California have been released as well, and include Long Beach, Santa Barbara county (mountains), Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (Salinas), San Jose (time trial), and South Lake Tahoe. The race concludes in Sactown.

That reminds me, ToC fan favorite Peter Sagan and his wife just had a baby boy. Here’s how that announcement looks in Slovak, Sagan’s native language:

Naša rodina sa dnes rozrástla! S Katkou sme ve?mi š?astní, že vám môžeme oznámi? narodenie Marlona. Náš syn aj Katka sú v poriadku.

LIFEHACK: The 2017 Tour de France illustrated an item of ingenuity with Team Sunweb’s success in loading nine bikes on the roof of a Mini Cooper. I can’t seem to fit one child-sized mountain bike in the trunk (or “boot,” as it’s called) of my Mini.

I also found these cool hacks of pro cycling. Remember the photo of a bearded Geoffrey Soupe in June’s blog? A clean, close shave isn’t the hack you might assume it to be:

Speaking of aerodynamics: When I saw Geoffrey Soupe, left, I wondered if his beard possibly made him slower. Turns out a clean-shaven face will save less than 1 second over 40 kilometers….

SEARCHING WORLDS: I’ve spent far too much time googling Worlds and World Championships to figure out what the heck they encompass. Turns out it’s seriously complicated, leaving me no choice but to not care. You shouldn’t, either. (Just kidding. You should totally care. They can be awesome, like World Cup soccer and skiing. They just don’t seem to be under anything resembling a common umbrella.)

What was the question?What is worth caring about is NBC’s newish Olympic Channel, which I originally had written off assuming it would only cover qualifying events for gymnastics and figure skating. In fact, it also broadcasted enough men’s and women’s UCI Road, Mountain Bike, and Cyclo-cross World Championships to make me squeal in delight – again and again. Let’s just say you could put a glass of red wine and a bowl of Himalayan popcorn in my lap, turn on the women’s mountain bike World competition, and I’d ooze hygge.

That’s all for now. Off to see Battle of the Sexes. (Oh – it turns out my run-on sentence issue was just a politically-inspired tic.)

What’s the Word

Caffeine domestiqueI’m baaaaack.

From the Amgen Tour of California and Breakaway from Heart Disease pro cycling races, that is. The final day of the women’s 4-stage race and first day of the men’s 7-stage race both started and ended near the capitol building in Sacramento, CA. Good ol’ Sactown. Later that evening, I was solicited, “Dollar for a pill?” In the words of the late great Tupac Shakur, California knows how to party.

The women completed a 20-lap circuit race sandwiched between thForza Ragazze!e start and finish of the men’s first stage. Olympic gold medalist Anna van der Breggen won the race overall for the women, while German sprinter Marcel Kittel bested Peter Sagan at the finish line. We sorta learn which shoe van der Breggen puts on first in this interview she did with Race Ausgezeichnet!Reporter Ruby, a charming 9-year-old.

In my quest to entertain those of you who may not be cycling “enthusiasts” (in contrast to “groupies,” as I explained for a friend who mistakenly labeled me as such), I’ve pieced together a couple photos of hairstyle options on any given race day. Then there’s Geoffrey Soupe, who clearly escaped a Stanley Cup game with his hockey playoffs full beard to join the peloton.

Some hair; some don't

My aforementioned friend also asked if pro cyclists booze it up and seek out a hookup after the stage, the way some athletes in other sports are inclined to after a game. (She has a one-track mind.) Pretty much, No. During week-long races like the Amgen Tour and any of the 3-week grand tours, including the Tour de France, by necessity, cyclists give priority to a recovery massage, lots of food, and sleep. Pedaling bikes superfast for several hours nonstop day after day makes for exhausted bodies. There’s simply no time to prowl, plus there’s the logistical aspect of sharing a hotel room with a teammate….

The closest reference I could find to anything halfway related was this:

Back in the 1990s one American team would wrap the riders’ mid-race sandwiches in torn-out pages of Playboy to try to cheer them up.

Super classy, America/US Postal (just a guess). While plenty people might enjoy a small sandwich wrapped in breasts, surely there are those who don’t prefer women and shouldn’t have to endure it.

Corn fed chicken with topinamur flakes - Peter Sagan/BORAGiven the information on the lack of post-race hookup opportunities, you’re going to have to work harder if you want a cyclist as your live-in love interest. Pick a sprinter. Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan are spoken for, but they apparently both enjoy cooking. Bonus! Sagan has been filming fun little cooking segments for his new team sponsor, BORA, a “cooking systems” company. BORA is doing supercool events like this one coinciding with a couple locations of the Tour de France.

FOOD GONE WRONG: Sorry to spoil the appetite I just induced, but the 100th Giro d’Italia has just wrapped up and overall leader Tom Dumoulin was the first to speak so candidly about pooing during a race stage since Bob Roll, with this to say about his untimely predicament:

I just had some problems. I needed to take a dump. I started to feel it in the downhill of the Stelvio and I had to stop. Back on the bike I decided to fight and draw conclusions after the finish.

Headline options for the story were endless and several journalists channeled their inner 10-year-old boy to pen ones entertaining to, well, 10-year-old boys. (Dumoulin “dumped time,” for example. You’re welcome, 10-year-old reader. Who says I ignore my target audience?).

If you’re dying to know Bob Roll’s story, flip through a copy of his book, Bobke II. It’s a riot. His personal predicament in the 1986 Tour de France involved being constipated right up until it was urgent he relieve himself. He “ducked behind a tall hedge, and squatted down for a massive doo…. I look around for some leaves, and instead, find a family of absolutely horrified French people staring at me from the picnic they were having on their front lawn.”

Again, you’re welcome.

In one dreamy weekend, I attended a few Spring Training baseball games, anSkillz! (the goat) NHL game, and goat yoga. In the NHL, for the first time in years, playoff hopes were high for a Canadian hockey team or two (Canadians and Senators). But it boiled down to last year’s champion Penguins and the Nashville Predators, who advanced to the final playoff round for the first time in team history. Alas, Pittsburgh won the Cup a second consecutive year. With it being his third Stanley Cup championship, phenom Sidney Crosby would be wise to retire while he might still remember the good times. He turns only 30 this year, but during the recent playoffs, he suffered his no-less-than-fourth NHL-career concussion.

About that goat yoga, though. Just the thought of it gives me a fuzzy feeling and a spreading smile. Baby goats! The little buggers hop right on top of anyone doing downward dog or bridge or plank, for example.

YES YOU CAN: 2017 feels like the sort of year anything is possible. This defies everything you ever thought wasn’t possible on a bike.

This is the best seeming impossibility to come out of basketball this year. (If you know how “tall” I am, you know why I love it.)

This story from CBS Sunday Morning is the sort I crave to see in the news Every. Single. Day. At The Oregon Public House, all it takes to improve the world is you enjoying a pint. The owner said he gets calls every day about how the idea would work great in, say, Northeast Albuquerque. It’s totally true! The 505 has become a mecca of breweries and Albuquerque has been ranked among the more charitable cities, despite being otherwise cash-strapped.

And the word is… CAKE. If you need a little advice, just ask CAKE, as in the band. They’re dolling it out and it’s pretty good stuff.

Enjoy your 24 and summer!

Young at Heart

I might be getting older. I know! This past weekend I had this philosophical train of thought about the Tour de France and how of course it’s that time again, and how at some point, it would be time every year until I die, and each year it will come faster and faster. That’s just not the sort of revelation a young person has.

But seriously, I’m thinking old age won’t be so bad as long as the retirement community I live in has whatever version of race “coverage” exists in that era, and I can watch. If not, I’ll just squat and pee in the middle of the floor in protest. Ha! Like I’ll have any control over when I pee.

I’ve been catching broadcasts of spring and summer cycling races and perusing other sources of Tour de France Preview information. In case you haven’t, here’s what I’ve found:

The race is July 2-24 and if you’re still whining about how Lance ruined cycling for you, get over it. You’ve been recklessly depriving yourself of one of the greatest shows of the year (catch it on NBCSN). Last year, for example, wondrous aerial scenery of the Netherlands and Alps accompanied action shots of not one, but two yellow jersey wearers crashing out of the Tour in poetic fashion. And not even on one of several teeth-clenching, bug snuffing, toe curling descents. If I can cram “wondrous scenery” with “crashing” and “poetic” in a single sentence, surely it’s worth checking out, ya?

For their part, the women touched lycra to the rain-soaked cobbles of the Champs-Élysées, weathering several pileup crashes before Anna van der Breggen crossed the line first in the women’s stage of La Course.

But let’s jump to the Preview, broken down by jerseys.

YELLOW: In 2015, Chris Froome won his second Tour in three attempts and there isn’t much reason to doubt he will win this year. The usual competition will challenge him, most notably Nairo Quintana, who gave Froome a serious run for his money last year.

The caveat on Froome is his propensity to ride himself into the sprinters pack during the actual 45mph sprint finish, in the name of avoiding crashes in the peloton. It’s not safe, Man! Bulleting sprinters bump shoulders and throw elbows with a guy nick-named the Gorilla who will be battling his young German countryman, Marcel Kittel for bragging rights, along with the aging but nothing if not passionately driven ball of hate that is Mark Cavendish, along with other head butters (that’s a term, right?).

Chief head butter Nacer Bouhanni won’t be at the Tour though, ‘cause he got in a fight and had to have surgery on his hand. Seriously? You’re a cyclist, dude. As the joke goes, cyclists have the body type of a T. rex.

As for an American hopeful, In 2015, Tejay van Garderen was poised to podium before dropping out sick in the third week – a tortuous process TV viewers witnessed labored pedal stroke by stroke until he pulled to the side of the road and sobbed. If you’ve been following Tejay’s career, you know he can’t seem to align the forces in his Universe for a full three weeks and my guess is, his sports psychologist whispered in his team manager’s ear. This year, Richie Porte and van Garderen will essentially share the top spot on their GMC team. If any two people can share the top spot with a teammate, it’s van Garderen and Porte, who had the trial-by-fire experience as team leader after former teammate Froome crashed out of the 2014 Tour. As for van Garderen, knowing he carries half the weight on his shoulders might be just enough relief to his immune system to get him to the Champs-Élysées.

GREEN: In case you hadn’t heard, “Sprinter Etc.” Peter Sagan has been pulling tricks on a bike a lifetime, winning the Slovak Cup as a junior cyclist riding his sister’s recreational bike. I found a lengthy treatise on why, despite a race route not as suited to Sagan as it has been, Kittel is the only sprinter who will challenge Sagan for his fifth consecutive green jersey.

POLKADOT: African Daniel Teklehaimanot earned the polka-dot climbers jersey a second consecutive year in the Dauphine. In 2015, the Eritrean was the first Black man to wear a WorldTour jersey in the Tour de France, earning the polka-dots for a day. Do it again! Do it again! Win it all!

WHITE: This Preview is a bit long as it is (takes a Treatise to know a Treatise) so suffice it to say there are a few Best Young Rider candidates who’ve exhibited raw strength, confidence, and no fear this season.

TIMBITS: As if BREXIT wasn’t embarrassing enough, Iceland beat England to advance to the quarterfinals in the European championships in one of the biggest upsets in soccer history. With its population of 300,000 – a couple hundred thousand less than Albuquerque, New Mexico – Iceland is the smallest country to qualify for a major tournament.

If Wimbledon is your thing, get this: Marcus Willis, ranked #772, earned the chance to face Federer. Willis lost of course, but his story is a good one and he enjoyed the hell out of the experience, earning a standing ovation when he won a game. Otherwise, he’s been living with his mom – presumably in the basement – having won a grand total of $247 in 2016 until his spot against Federer earned him $63,000.

A month to Rio! Hopefully it gets that whole “washed up body parts on the beach” issue cleared in time. As Stephen Colbert tweeted:

In Rio, the only Olympic event that really matters is your body’s ability to fight off an infection.

Reality TV

If you call to mind the intro to my last post, you’ve deduced I indeed submerged once again into the land of Agent queries, bless my heart. But you were always on my mind, so I’m back to share with you the sports intrigue bits of late-ish.

Let us talk baseball, cycling, and ladies (oh yeah.)

#MYHERO: One of the more exciting events this time of year is Spring Training baseball. By exciting, I mean if you’ve been sitting indoors with an epic case of cabin fever, binge watching Mr. Robot, bundled in your coziest of throws and sipping hot cocoa because it’s too bone-chill cold and overcast (lookin’ at you, Colorado), the idea of tanning under the Arizona sun sipping a frosty microbrew and watching a slow baseball game with a slew of folks similarly chillaxing is h-e-a-v-e-n. And that’s exciting.

My hero for this year’s pre-season is KC Royals manager Ned Yost. Unwilling to allow a tragic history repeat, Yost prevented the mass murder of a priceless community of bees. He stalled the process, allowing for a retired bee keeper who noticed the distraction to emerge from the stands and, well, save the world in a way. Asked about his heroic deed, Yost said in a tone worthy of the superhero to bees he is, “There aren’t enough bees in the world, boys. We can’t be exterminating them.”

#KCROYALS: If you catch Royals pitcher Edinson Volquez in action at one of the few remaining Spring Training games or during the regular season, give a moment of silence for this heart-wrenching factor from the Royals’ 2015 championship game:

The final game featured a stunning extra-innings turnaround. It started as a pitchers’ duel: the Mets’ Matt Harvey against Kansas City’s Edinson Volquez. Volquez was back on the mound just a few days after a personal loss. His father died before Volquez started Game 1… and his family requested that Volquez not be told before he pitched; this weekend, he returned to his team after attending the funeral. And Volquez pitched strong. Through the first five innings, he allowed only a single hit.

#XMASINAPRIL: The pro cycling season is well underway, so I present to you this teaser of a 2016 Tour de France Preview. The first part is pretty cool and the last minute ain’t bad, either. Everything in between is relevant if you know France well or are a pro cyclist.

I’ll continue with the whirlwind life of Peter Sagan. In 2015 he got married, did this interview, and in July, earned the green jersey a fourth consecutive year in the Tour de France. In September, he became World Champion in men’s road racing and for Christmas, filmed this commercial. Boomin’!

If you have a problem hearing about Sagan, you have a problem with yourself. He makes me happy. He makes retired pro old school enforcer-type cyclist turned commentator Bob Roll happy. Roll says of Sagan:

It’s hard to understand where the bicycle leaves off and the man begins…. It’s beautiful to watch him ride his bike – the way he races his bike – how fluid he is, how much power he has, and his tactical nuance. This is a great bike racer and it’s been a real pleasure to watch him ride.

#LIVE2RUN: Props to 43-year-old Markelle Taylor of San Quentin – yes, that San Quentin – for crossing the line first in its annual marathon, according to this article in the March 2016 issue of GQ. After subtracting a minute and 20 seconds for an emergency drill alarm, during which runners are required to sit down and wait, Taylor completed the 26.2 miles in 3:16:00. And that’s on a prison diet.

#HEYLADIES: In an inspiring combination of women and cycling, Afghanistan’s National Women’s Cycling Team has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In an appealing combination of women and baseball, Jessica Mendoza was the first female MLB analyst to call a Major League playoff game: Yankees vs. Astros last season.

TIMBITS: Recently retired Peyton Manning was the oldest quarterback to compete in the Super Bowl. If you’re the sort who refuses to pay attention to the NFL, he won it. And it was SB50, so that’s kinda cool. Cheers, my old friend.

2015 Tour de France winner Chris Froome showed up for media sessions after certain stages wearing a nose ring. Linda Villumsen, winner of the UCI Road World Championships, Women’s Individual Time Trial in Virginia in September, wore one as well. In addition to adding a little race kit bling, it’s touted to increase airflow by 38 percent.

August 5 marks the start of the Summer Olympics in Rio. That’s four months to get the pesky Zika mosquito epidemic under control. Garlic, my friends. Eat lots and lots of garlic. At the very least, you’ll knock out the competition with your breath.

‘Bout Half

I’ve crawled out of the ocean that is my memoir project (query letter between my teeth, pitching agents any day now) to bring you up to speed on the sports entertainment (operative word!) stories of the first half of 2015 and prepare you for the second half, should I submerge once again.

I’m going backward first, then forward in time, ‘cause that’s how I’m rolling. Hopefully you aren’t on your fourth Mr. Pineapple, too fuzzy to take in all the news.

First, the US won the Women’s World Cup! They crushed Japan 5-2 and US player Carli Lloyd scored a hat-trick in arguably the most important game of her life, in a sport where the final score combined is often less than three goals.

JUNE: The Chicago Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup in six seasons. Apparently Blackhawks player Teuvo Teravainen told Finnish media that female Blackhawks fans are “quite horny.” Mr. Teravainen is all of 20 years old, so I’m going with the pot calling the kettle black.Eat your (Farmers Market) veggies!

Deadly food is the trend in baseball this summer. These items individually would fulfill your daily caloric needs (not including veggies).

MAY: Several top FIFA officials, including one who runs the US region, were arrested. FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, is facing corruption charges from the FBI. Suspicions were initially raised by the award of the World Cup 2018 to Russia. The Swiss are investigating that decision as well as the bid won by Qatar to host the 2022 Cup. Best related quote:

Awarding the World Cup to Qatar was like awarding [baseball’s] World Series to Martha’s Vineyard.

On the same day American Pharoah won the Triple Crown – the first in 37 years – the biggest boxing disappointment ever occurred. Despite the record-breakingly high viewing price tag, the Mayweather vs. Paciou fight was deemed Better Never Than Late.

Past and future Triple Crown winnersA view of the private jet traffic jam for the Derby proved even private jets get in traffic jams. It made me wonder how many high-profile millionaires managed to fly to both premier events. Confirmed was Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. He’s the NFL player who, as it turns out, definitely knew about his deflated balls in the AFC championship game preceding the Patriots’ Super Bowl win.

In cycling, sprinter Peter Sagan won the Tour of California. Yes way! We know Sagan isn’t any ol’ sprinter, though. And top contender Andrew Talansky had to drop out Day One due to respiratory complications. Still, winning a multi-stage race overall isn’t what sprinters do. He’ll be a highlight of the Tour de France frashizzle.

APRIL: A sports power couple has called it quits. I’m guessing Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn separated around the same week Vonn told Seth Meyers she, mmm, loves golf. “I just… [smirk]. I love golf [smirk].” Not two weeks later, Vonn and Woods announced they’d split.

REPRESENT! Caroline Rodich won the Boston Marathon this year. Pretty cool that she lives and trains in Santa Fe, NM, except that during her honorary parade there, some d-bag broke into her car and stole her purse.

At 21, pro golfer Jordan Spieth is the second-youngest winner of the Master’s, just months behind Tiger Woods when he first won. Spieth broke all sorts of records in the process, followed by winning the US Open in June, as did Tiger back in ‘02. And he’s really poised like Tiger was… for now.

MARCH BACK: Nothing happened in the world of sports at all whatsoever. I know the Super Bowl took place, but enough about balls already.


JULY: Tour de France! Tour de France! Day One was a time-trial on July 4 in the Netherlands, because it’s almost France. Then the race went through Belgium, because the fans there are cray cray. On the fourth day, the race will see France, where mountaintop fans are just kinky.

As far as I can tell, African Daniel Teklehaimanot of team MTN-Qhubeka is the first Black man to win a WorldTour jersey, earning the polka-dot climber’s jersey at the Dauphine in June. He’ll get a chance to earn the jersey again as the first from the country of Eritrea to compete in the Tour de France (the first Black cyclist in the Tour was Yohann Gène in 2011). This article in Esquire isn’t the only one to explain why a Black cyclist will win overall by 2020.

SEPTEMBER: With nearly 20 years’ experience and a 2013 tryout under her belt, Sarah Thomas has been hired as the first full-time female official in the NFL. She started officiating football after a pastor kicked her off the men’s church league basketball team she was – I’m guessing – a star player for. She’s known for her ability to stay cool. Well, yeah.

SERIOUSLY? Tim Tebow is back in the NFL. He’s the Christian quarterback who would pray on the sidelines and inspired the pose, “Tebowing.” After three years out of the NFL and some work as a college football analyst for ESPN, he’s been signed to a one-year deal as the fourth-string quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. In other words, it’ll take a miracle for him to get playing time.

See if you can come up with your own Tebow religious cliché (no offense intended). I’ll start: It’ll be a cold day in hell before Tebow plays! (Too easy?)

GOOD SENSE: We will not be seeing Chris Borland on the football field. He was the fourth NFL player in a week, under the age of 30, to leave the NFL after only one season. He’s put having a healthy brain ahead of a pro football career.

Consider yourself up to speed. I believe the only league I didn’t cover is the NBA. (LeBron didn’t win.) Happy Second Half!

Sit Back, Unwind (while it’s still summer!)

BREAKING NEWS: Becky Hammon has been hired by the Spurs as the NBA’s first full-time, paid (assistant) female coach. Lisa Boyer was almost first, “hired” back in 2001, but only worked part time and wasn’t paid. Like that really counts (no disrespect to Boyer).

CAN’T STAND THE RAIN: The toll this year’s Tour de France took on its riders was as much psychological as physical. The number of cyclists who finished was only a percent or two lower than the average the past five years (2012 was the significantly lower number, with 153 of 198 riders finishing to 2014’s 164). It was the weather that did it, meaning rain, of course. And the cobble stage, because riding cobblestones in. the. rain. is just nutty.

Sprinter Mark Cavendish crashed the very first day. It was just like last year, except this time, the race ended in his country, in his mom’s home town, with the fam all waiting at the finish line.

Even the Royals were there: Kate standing, yellow jersey in hand, ready to clothe the “Boy Racer.” She seemed a touch stumped to see the German specimen that is Marcel Kittel standing before her with arms outstretched. If you were watching closely, you noticed her turn to Prince William, mouthing, “Did this man eat Cavendish? Where’s Cavendish?”

This was a mental sports setup if ever there was one. Greater men would buckle under that sort of pressure, whether consciously or subconsciously. The question his sports psychologist asked is, “What made you choose to lean heavily into that other sprinter?” Cavendish, the most prolific Tour sprinter of all time, certainly remembered from last year that the younger Kittel could outgun him – did on opening day and otherwise in 2013 – and will in the future.

Cavendish was only the first of several very top contenders of the Tour to crash out. Next to exit was defending overall champion, Chris Froome, who was followed by his primary rival, Alberto Contador, crashing out the tenth day.

American Andrew Talansky, who finished Top 10 last year, crashed during several stages. In his final stage, he fought the pain at the back of the pack, at one point dismounting his bike to stop the suffering, tearfully listening to his coach’s breakdown of the situation. Talansky finished that stage, but didn’t start the next one.

So Italian Vincenzo Nibali finished first overall with a massive 7:37-minute lead over second place – a psychological tactic if ever there was one, to assert his win wasn’t dependent on the absence of Froome and Contador. Sprinter Peter Sagan did something similar, all but guaranteeing himself the green jersey long before the end of the race.

There was a women’s race! It took place during the final stage, just before the men’s, and was won by Dutch cyclist Marianne Vos. It’s not the first women’s Tour de France-ish, but it’s (another) start.

Moving on. World Cup – is it football, soccer or futbol? This explains it.

UNDER PRESSURE: Brazil knows exactly how Cavendish feels. In the semi-finals, overall winning team Germany scored five goals in 29 minutes against Brazil in Brazil: fastest ever five goals; first time since 1974 five goals were scored in the first half of a game; first time Brazil lost a competitive match in its country since 1975, and holy hell, did I mention the final score was 7-1?!

GOOAAALL!!! This was the rare soccer game during which viewers could play a drinking game for goals and actually need to call a cab ride home.

Brazil was the favorite right up until it faced Germany without its No. 1 star, who was kneed in the back the previous game and couldn’t feel his legs afterwards – at first he thought he might be paralyzed. Brazil’s captain was out as well, serving a suspension. No chance.

Algeria won it’s first Fifa World Cup game since 1982, against Korea. When an Algerian player cramped and fell over during the only injury not faked, a Korean player stopped playing mid-game to stretch his opponent’s leg for him on the field, while the game progressed. A+ for sportsmanship!

F- for sportsmanship to Luis Suarez of Uruguay, who needs to be banned to Kindergarten, where he should learn to keep his teeth off other people. Read this.

And he’s not the only one. Albuquerque Isotopes catcher Miguel Olivo brought ear biting back into play during an intrateam altercation. Yes – he bit a teammate. Again, people, Who gets past Kindergarten without kicking that nasty little biting habit?

In other baseball news, because the next major sports event not cycling is the World Series, Josh Reddick of the Oakland A’s was using Careless Whisper (yup – by Wham!) as his walk-up song. That, my friends, is just one reason the A’s might win the World Series. Sonny Gray is another. You heard it here (unless they don’t).

TIMBITS: The underlying implication of Kevin Durant’s speech to his mom as he accepted the NBA’s MVP award in May, is that the beauty of living into your 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond is that even if you have a really rough decade or three, they could be followed by times so unimaginably better.

Enjoy the rest of summer, my friends! If you haven’t already, sip a Moscow Mule served over ice. Note: If you’re crazy about ginger, I say skip the copper mug. It seems to dilute the flavor.

2 oz Tito’s Handmade Vodka

3.4 oz (half bottle) Fever Tree Ginger Beer (half bottle)

Juice of 1/2 lime (cut the juiced lime in half and toss in a quarter)

Bless You! (Happy Spring)

Grass never looked so good

Gretzky isn’t a name you associate with baseball unless you effectively go out of your way to avoid sports, yet you’ve inadvertently heard a big name or two. Seriously though, there’s a Gretzky in baseball:

Not only did the Angels trade manager Mike Scioscia’s son, but in return, they received Trevor Gretzky, son of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.

Trevor isn’t the only Gretzky in the news. Mz. Paulina Gretzky, Trevor’s sister, has created a buzz posing scantily clad for Golf Digest – she’s not a golfer (her fiancé is).

In fairness to the ladies, I present Vladimir Sobotka (back to hockey, right?).

Michael Sam was a college football player and he’s entering the NHL draft, held in late June. He’s also announced he’s gay. Dale Hansen had this redonkulously astute commentary about that (damn, he’s good).

I'll need four of those, pleaseHE’S GOT LEGS: Ever dreamed of cycling up Mont Venteaux like the pros in the Tour de France? This guy did it on a city rental “Boris Bike.” Those things weigh as much as a 6-year-old. Toss on a 50 lb. backpack and climb a long, steep neighborhood hill a few times on a three-speed bike with a rack on the front, if you’re not grasping the accomplishment.

In related news, Albuquerque is host to a future pro cyclist – I’m sure of it. Check out this story on my buddy Jonah Thompson, as multi-talented and athletic a kid as there ever was. Start saving that spare change now. Eventually, you’ll have a chance to put your money on him.

HE’S GOT TEETH (JUST A FEW, THOUGH): I’ve watched my share of videos of stunt people riding their bikes on some crazy stuff, meaning obstacles you’d be hard-pressed to walk on without risking life and limb. Of course, the stunt dudes are impossibly talented, good-natured folks who seemingly nail everything they try.

Then you watch the outtakes (these may look familiar). Okay, so they don’t nail everything. Still, it’s all in good-natured fun. I’ve been tempted to switch careers to be one of those happy-go-lucky guys.

On the Today Show earlier this year, we got the harsh reality. Matt Olsen is a pro BMX stuntman who recently rode his bike over the arches in Fort Worth, TX. He indeed succeeded on his first try (he might be in cuffs, otherwise). And he’s totally good-natured. But he’s missing his front teeth. Turns out, in fact, he has a cringe-worthy list of mishaps:

– 13 concussions

– 3 knee surgeries

– a ruptured spleen

– 7 incidences of teeth knocked out

Given the concussions and knee surgeries, I’m thinking Olsen might not be so good-natured should he make it to senior citizenhood. Surely most of those stunt guys have comparable lists of what happens the many times before success. Guess I’ll keep my desk job.

Ah, spring nightsTIMBITS: Remember back when South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius was my No. 4 of the Top Ten coolest things about 2012? He’d made history as the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics, followed by earning gold in the Paralympics.

As of late, Pistorius spends his time in a court room defending himself as the product of a high-crime, pervasively gun-toting culture, while his personal anxiety, insecurity and jealousy are questioned, as well. He’s charged with shooting and killing his girlfriend, who he says he believed to be an intruder.

Seattle’s Russell Wilson was paid the least of NFL quarterbacks and Peyton Manning, playing for Denver the 2013-14 season, was paid the most.

Q: Guess who won the 2014 Super Bowl?

A: Seattle

A leftie named Bubba (scroll down) won the Masters (golf). It’s the second time in three years for him. For his skill and mental stamina, he will receive a check for $1.62 million. I say he did rookie Jordan Spieth a favor. Nothing good comes of reaching your top goals so early in your athletic career. He’ll be back.

Michael Phelps is competing again for the first time since the 2012 Olympics.

As for those spring allergies, I hear bee pollen helps.