CHbLog – Inside Edge

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!

Thinkin’ Too Much

If you’re the impatient sort, skip to BLOG PART. (Nooo! C’mon! Spoil me!)

I need to make something clear. I haven’t blogged regularly in a few years and even in the beginning, it wasn’t more than monthly. Most experts say that’s not enough. But I want you to know I think about it all the time. I tell you things in my head almost daily. (I don’t hear voices; I am the voice.) It’s just, I want perfection. I want quality content. I’m am a dinosaur. I mean to change. I want to eschew perfection. But it may take time and a concerted effort.

I also have my priorities and lately, it’s my book. I was already pitching agents – one even reviewed the full manuscript – when some sh*t went down that necessitated the revision of a couple chapters. Plus I skipped the country for three weeks. (It was amazing. I held a koala and it didn’t even claw my face off.) So now I really really need to focus on getting the book updated and pitched and published. But it’s the holiday season. You need entertainment. I’ve got your back.

And with a significant sports event like the World Series going down in October, I feel motivated to share the good stuff. For example, the Cubs beat Cleveland, ending a combined championship drought for the two teams of 176 years. That’s the longest in American sports – ever.

So there may be a typo. I may get a detail wrong. It’s gonna kill me and I’m scared the haters gonna hate and, well, f*ck ‘em because we’re all human and it’s so enriching to talk about that – about being human – instead.

Okay here’s the BLOG PART:

World Series commentator Joe Buck (seriously? That’s his real name or is he a retired porn star who kept the name?) said this during Game One of the World Series:

Sometimes a pitcher can be so NASTY, the hitter looks good taking it.

Does anyone else think that sounds sorta filthy? It sounds like a comment someone might say while watching porn (do people talk while they watch porn? Say, a bunch of drunk college boys watching? Surely they wouldn’t be that analytical.).

Obviously, the word NASTY is making a huge comeback. It’s so fun to say, isn’t it? I’m all for it.

Moving right along. How can I have watched [read: “talked my face off through so many baseball games”] baseball for over three decades and not have noticed until now that some catchers wear nail polish? I noticed Cubs catcher Willson Contreras was wearing Alien Green for Games Two and Six. They say it helps the pitcher see the catcher’s signals.

One of the umpires on the World Series staff, John Hirschbeck, has survived back surgery, cancer twice, and two of his sons dying. How does a person even get through all that? Here’s how.

On to football.

NOT. Football is bad for you. It’s really bad for your head. This is one of the more unlikely reactions to a concussion. Even if you know it as soccer. Those headers can do damage. On that note….

How jelly are you of this prickly pear tuna (“fruit” in Spanish, not fish) harvest? Who has two thumbs and a bottle of tequila to add to the syrup you make from these gems? (Me. Duh.) Tequila is bad for your head, too, but prickly pear is a super fruit, so you break even.

I know they’re long over, but I still have a few segments on the DVR and I gotta tell you, it’s SO worth your while (is that an old-timey phrase? Right, it’s “time.” I just looked it up.) to set some sort of reminder for the Summer 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. The Paralympics are like the Olympics with a few extra dynamics to make it that much more complex and fascinating. The athletes are just as athletically talented but with that extra major challenge, like one leg or no sight or whatever, so the training and the striving and the journey are that much more complex. The commentators, many of them retired Paralympic athletes, explain all the stuff buzzing around in your head that you’re not sure is appropriate to ask. Truly wonderful.

The Paralympic Opening Ceremonies were way more interesting then the Olympic ones – no offense to the creative team. They challenged stereotypes and ideas of what beautiful, amazing, strong bodies are and believe me, there were plenty of all three. Like, check out this awesome photo of Viktoria Modesta in WIRED. See what I mean?

If you’re reading this and have ties to New Mexico, Tharon Drake from Hobbs (NM, population 36,000+) swam himself into a couple silver medals in his first Paralympics, in the 400m free and 100m breaststroke races.

I gotta get out before all this is even older news and I decide not to post, again. So In light of the election, I’ll leave you with this semi-relevant quote from Serena Williams:

I’m not asking you to like my body. I’m just asking you to let me be me.

Peace, y’all.

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.

Baby, It’s Cold

Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2, 2014 will take place in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Brrrrr. It might be too cold to tailgate, but it’d be nice to have the option. Oh well.

BRAIN FREEZE: It seems 2013 will be known as the year head trauma was the hot topic in sports. Major League Baseball is the latest big story. Pending approval by the Player’s Association, effective 2014, catcher/runner home-plate collisions will be banned and punishable, meaning the runner must slide into home plate.

The National Football League recently settled a major lawsuit with former players on the issue of concussions, and NFL players like retired quarterback Bret Favre are going public with their opinions about the potential dangers and consequences of head trauma.

In the National Hockey League, ten former players (none of whom the standard hockey enthusiast would recognize) have filed a class action suit against the NHL, claiming the league concealed information about the risks of brain trauma, and hasn’t banned fighting. In addition to monetary compensation, the players are seeking medical monitoring of their brain trauma – a great idea for both them and science.

What’s interesting is, the NHL has had a group of smart folks like Ken Dryden who indeed try to ensure players’ safety is considered. This is what Dryden himself has to say about the League and concussions, and he would know. Still, one complaint about that initial group, established in 1997, is that it didn’t instigate any action until 2010, with a penalty for head checks.

In fairness to the NHL, not many people understood the consequences of head trauma and multiple concussions in the 1970s. But these days, new cases of possible evidence sprout almost daily. And this article rightfully points out that it’s often hockey players themselves who battle against new requirements addressing their safety, for the sake of comfort and tradition.

Players in the NHL who play the role of “enforcers” typically do so because they aren’t good enough to make a significant difference otherwise. Their other option is a different career, but who wants to sell Lady Kenmores when you can be a high-level professional athlete? The glamor factor is off opposite ends of the chart. Some players say they understand what they’re getting into when they sign the contract. Others say, “If only I’d known….”

While pro football players (now) know what they’re in for, I’m guessing significant changes need to be instated by the NFL to protect not only its players, but the very sport.

I’ve read enough articles and conducted enough research to know that a life of suffering from the emotional and physical pain of head trauma is sometimes deemed a life not worth living. For the NHL, I’m thinking they need to take a couple minor measures (everything feels major initially) to allow the sport to evolve, as it has over the decades, so cash cows like Sydney Crosby have a better chance of developing to their full potential.

Unfortunately, our society has only begun to dabble in the strategy of prevention. As one documentary about U.S. presidents and major disasters  stated, there’s no glory in prevention. There’s no hero.

GREEN: By now you know I live in search of entertaining sports news and events. If I can attend, even better.

In Scotland, I got lucky.

Interested in rugby? Have you heard of the Melrose Sevens? Melrose is in Scotland and famous as the birthplace of seven-a-side rugby. I caught the Melrose team in action and yep, they won.

Next to the Abbey in Arbroath is a nice little space for lawn bowling. In Glasgow, they were holding the International Lawn Bowling Championship, including teams from Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and Scotland of course.

You’ve heard about that little ACL issue I had? How I caused it mountain biking? Hadn’t mountain biked since? In the Peebles region of Scotland there are groomed mountain biking trails. It looked just like this. The trails are one-way and designated like a ski area with green for easy trails, blue for intermediate and black for advanced. They even had an XS bike to rent me. Get Out!

I can’t believe NASCAR has come up in two consecutive posts, but since we’re talking GREEN, get this:

NASCAR owns the largest recycling, tree planting and renewable energy programs in all of sports.


TIMBITS: You know that song – the one touted as this past summer’s best dance hit, called Blurred Lines? Turns out when he was 11 years old, singer Robin Thicke had none other than the Wayne Gretzky as his babysitter. Thicke was with Gretzky in 1988, as Gretzky was house and kid-sitting, when the call came through that he’d been traded to the Los Angeles Kings from Edmonton.

There’s tough and there’s crazy. In athlete-speak, Lindsey Vonn says, “It’s a really fine line between glory and disaster.”

Unfortunately, Vonn is a little closer to disaster. She’s had another good spill since surgery, 10 months into recovery, on November 19. The diagnosis was a partial tear to that same ACL. After a few days’ rest and some “aggressive physical therapy,” she returned to competition, placing 5th in her best effort.

Nothing like a little pressure to quickly fine-tune that fine line. The Sochi Olympics are less than 50 days away.

UPDATE: With less than 30 days until Sochi, Vonn has announced she won’t compete.

Lastly, the Cerveceros might be moving from Arizona to Florida for Spring Training. Is it less of a party without the Brewers? (Yes.)

Happy Holidays and New Year! Let’s all get through 2014 head trauma-free, ya?!

Summer Sleeper

Winning!Rafa Nadal is celebrating fall with a phat $3.6 million check since winning his second US Open tennis championship, beating Novak Djokovic. As the announcers said, last year he watched the championship from his couch, nursing bum knees and wondering if he could ever return to the high level he’d accomplished.

Wonder no more, my friend.

And American cyclist Chris Horner won the Vuelta a Espana this month, making him the oldest dude ever – by five years – to win a Grand Tour (he’s 41).

He must have been keeping tabs on Diana Nyad, who said, “Never ever give up” and “You’re never too old to chase your dream.” She also walks the walk. The 64-year old swam from Cuba to Miami in 54 hours, vomiting much of the way due to the high volume of salt water ingested as a complication with the mask she wore to avoid jellyfish stings to her face.

It took five tries to succeed. Nyad’s first attempt was 35 years ago.

What now?SCAB: Alex Rodriguez will compete in this year’s World Series if the Yankees qualify (news flash – they didn’t), despite his suspension. Some say he was the one to save his sport after its last major doping scandal. These days, he’s appealing a suspension for the 2014 season (211 games). A-Rod is currently baseball’s highest-paid player – his salary exceeds the team payroll of the Houston Astros – and yes, he’s one of the latest to be caught in a doping scandal.

This whole, “First he saved the sport and later drove a dagger into its soul via doping scandal” thing sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I’m not the only one to think, “[Sigh.] Another Lance Armstrong” (though I did think it before hearing anyone else say it. Yay me).

ALLEZ! 138 miles of cycling, 67 hours of television, 6.5 bottles (35 glasses) of wine, 6 glasses of champagne, and 19 nights of sleep deprivation was the 100th edition of the Tour de France – and that’s just me. Thank god it’s almost 300 days until the 2014 Tour begins in Yorkshire, UK.

Wait – you’re not excited, though? What the heck?! How can you not be excited to see images like this? Okay, how ‘bout this one? They say Marcel Kittell looks like Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, or maybe Vanilla Ice. He’s the latest sprinter to give Mark Cavendish a hair-raising challenge. Must’ve watched Cavendish’s sprinting tips.

Seriously, the Tour de France was one of the top highlights of my summer and I’ll tell you why. First, I’ll tell you why it wasn’t one of yours (with the exception of the five of you – you know who you are).

Visualize the finish lineI teach indoor cycling classes, aka spin. I get excited each July, when I incorporate Tour de France references into my classes. I ask who’s been watching. I tell clients to imagine the scenery of France. I add the song Tour de France by Kraftwerk to my playlist. I tell clients I’m their soigneur when I refill their water bottles.

[Insert crickets chirping.]

This year, no one said they were watching. Not ONE SINGLE PERSON. One client caustically snorted, “Is Lance winning?” Another told me it was all Lance Armstrong’s fault.

[Insert record scratch.]

Lance’s fault? That bastard! How ironic that we sang his praises as the person who “did so much” for American cycling and now that he’s admitted to doping, he’s all but gassed American’s enthusiasm for cycling – not that there aren’t any American pros, but former fans slinked off to the bleachers of their kids’ summer intermural games.

Lance giveth and Lance taketh away.

Oh no he didn’t! Lance made the Tour worth watching! Trust me. Sure, he was high-end entertainment value. He made America feel the dominating badass we so crave to believe it is. Now that he’s admitted he cheated, we feel duped and don’t want to be seen near any reminder of such.

No no NO! Now that Lance is gone, the Tour isn’t so predictable! And cyclists like American Andrew Talansky give us hope for another, cleaner star of the near future. (I heard that snicker. Don’t be such a pessimist.)

MULTIFARIOUS: For funsies, put yourself in Chris Froome’s cleats for a moment. He won the Tour de France this year (he’s the guy who came in second last year, helping teammate Bradley Wiggins win). You gotta feel for him. What a thrill to win the Tour de France. What luck to win the 100th edition. What gawdawful timing to win the first Tour since Lance admitted to doping, meaning Froome had to answer endless questions about himself and whether he, too, was doping. Buzz. Kill.

In his defense, Froome said, “This is one yellow jersey that will stand the test of time.” And that’s exactly what it’s come to. A test of time.

AUSTRALOPITHECUS: Seriously, we’ve been faced with cheaters since the beginning of human existence (I was there). In the Tour de France, it struck early. The very first edition of the Tour was won by a cyclist who was banned from competing the following year – for cheating. You can’t blame the man. He apparently won by three hours despite being a chain smoker.

The sign was there, people.

Still, there are very good reasons I’ve spent a hearty chunk of my summer watching the Tour de France the past 14 odd years:

– Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen and Bob Roll are a multi-talented commentating team capable of making several hours of cycling coverage a day, for three straight weeks, addicting.

– The scenery in HD could be a National Geographic special with French countryside, the Alps covered in snow, this year’s Corsica coastline, and wildlife caught from a bird’s-eye view (race helicopters).

– The unique brand of fan and their passion makes for nail-biting entertainment. More or less clothed and inebriated, thousands of international fans spend several intimate nights camping on the side of a mountain. They wait days for one of the most interactive and exciting minutes in sports. It becomes about trust, when the pros whiz by close enough to smell, in groups of “winning,” “chasing,” “hanging tough” and “bargaining with a higher power to survive,” that the fans won’t interfere with history.

– It’s sprint finishes, like NASCAR with half the wheels and twice the odds of a massive human pileup.

– And characters like Peter Sagan, who loads his bike by riding it onto the roof of his car; Jens Voigt and his six kids; and Tony Martin, the toughest man in cycling – if not sports. He apparently has no pain receptors.

[The Tour de France and NBC Sports Network can mail my publicity plug check now.]

TIMBITS: Lindsey Vonn was on skis this past Labor Day – the first time in seven months, since a skiing accident left her with a fractured tibia and ACL/MCL tears. Sounds like she’s in a good frame of mind, too.

Voigt says he’s ridden his last Tour de France. The sport is soon losing one of the most entertaining, authentic characters of the modern era (he plans to participate in a few more non-Grand Tour races). Respect.

Surprise! The Patriots released Tebow. But he turned down an offer to play football in Russia, which is weird, because American Football Championship of Russia rules allow players to reference Bible verses on their eye black.