“Excuse me sir, but before I can let you in, I need to know that you possess the multi-tasking capacity necessary to fully assimilate this meet.”
Then again, I’m glad they don’t test. Because based upon my early performance at the USA Indoor Track & Field Championships, I would flunk.
Walking in the door at the Albuquerque Convention Center, I was reminded of opening weekend of the fantasy football season, when each year without fail, I would freeze immediately upon entering my local sports bar – and then meander around aimlessly in search of the ideal seat for simultaneous viewing of every game in which one of “my guys” was playing. An aerial shot of me would look like one of those Family Circus cartoons with the big dotted line showing where Jeffy or P.J. had scampered off to that day, bless their annoying little hearts.
Click and Clack won’t take my calls on their Car Talk radio show. They think my lack of mechanical know-how has to be an act. Nobody knows that little about cars.
When I was growing up, my Dad introduced me to two of his passions: sports and engines. Guess which one stuck.
Of course there’s always been an intersection of the two, and motor sports have been wildly popular ever since the first guy said to his buddy, “I’ll bet my Model T can get to the end of that road faster than yours.” But until the advent of the “It’s Game Time Somewhere” Tour, I had never really ventured outside of the stick and ball world to check it out.
As far as I know, never in the annals of misguided sports odysseys has this been done before. I refer, of course, to chronicling two sporting events at once.
Not two events in one day. That’s child’s play. Not two events in one day in two separate cities. Yawn…did it.
I’m talking two separate events in two different states. Simultaneously. You tell me one other person doing a sports walkabout that has pulled that off. I’ll wait…
The alert reader may wonder why, given that when the thermometer displays 10 degrees, the description of the weather is never just “cold” – there’s always an adjective in front of it.
My motivation was simple: At the time it was 0 degrees, and I was going to be spending the bulk of the next day outdoors at the Winter Dew Tour’s Killington, Vermont stop. By comparison, 10 degrees would be a huge improvement. At 10, we’d be talking “excruciatingly painful” as opposed to the “potentially rushed to the hospital” I normally associate with 0.
I really needn’t have worried though. I had the Ski Diva on my side.
The Ski Diva started out as a self-professed Ski Chick, but her years of working in the ski business have undoubtedly earned her a promotion. And for her efforts on my behalf she’s now up for Ski Sainthood (assuming there is such a designation).
In preparation for the “It’s Game Time Somewhere” Winter Swing, she had given me a checklist of clothing articles that I needed to think seriously about bringing along. None of which I actually owned, of course.
Given that I’m a semi-trained, quasi-professional sports-watcher, this is a bit embarrassing to admit. But I have a plausible defense – nobody at the USC vs. UC Santa Barbara dual swim meet I attended recently ever made mention of a winning team. I wasn’t even positive they were keeping score.
Let me tell you about my day, and let you decide if I am guilty of Negligent Spectating…
First of all, I know I’ve previously gone on record proclaiming that ALL aquatic events should be conducted outside – but I was young and foolish then. It was the sunshine and 75 degrees talking. It was now January however, and I was wearing layers to an outdoor aquatic event. Be careful what you ask for.
It was as if the good folks at the U.S. Table Tennis Association had been reading my blog and knew I was coming. They’d thought of everything in preparation for the arrival of the IGTS Tour. I walked into a dream scenario.
Admission to the U.S. Nationals cost just $5, and included a substantial program full of all kinds of handy information – including a full roster of players listed alphabetically and by bib number. It was delivered with a smile and an eager “Be sure to come back this weekend for the finals!”
They dispensed with the obligatory search of my backpack and person. I had all the tools of my trade at my disposal, with no posted restrictions on camera or video use. I suppressed the urge to hug the woman at the door.
Maybe it was a case of Sports Lag. After all, I was on the back end of a day-night doubleheader involving two different events in two different towns. Maybe it was the dark and rainy film noir-esque night outside. And maybe it was because I was inside a professional sports arena and there was no discernible buzz.
Whatever it was, it was all a bit odd…
I had come to the Rose Garden Arena, the centerpiece of Portland’s Rose Quarter entertainment district, to see Skate America, a stop on the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating tour. But as I made my way around an eerily quiet concourse it almost felt as if I’d wandered into the wrong building.
The concourse didn’t appear to be fully lit, and only a handful of concession stands were open. And in a horrific sight that I hope to never again encounter, all of the beer taps at all of the beer stands had been removed! I still shudder at the visual image.
In 1959, British writer Alan Sillitoe published a short story entitled The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. It was made into a movie in 1962, and ultimately received enough acclaim to land it on the British Film Institute’s list of the greatest British films of the 20th century.
I never read the story nor saw the movie. In fact the only thing I’ve ever known about the plot line is that it revolved around cross country running. And that one small nugget of knowledge has always framed my perception of the sport. Cross country = lonely.
Hey, I never said it was a rational perception.
…Continued from the previous post.
Granted, the people in this final wave were running the half-marathon distance of 13.2 miles, instead of the 26.2 mile course laid out for the marathoners. But most of them were “first-timers”, taking part in their maiden distance-running event. To do it in just 45 minutes!? This is historic!!
No…hang on…wait a sec…OK, this is a little embarrassing. A closer read of my scribbling seems to indicate that it took 45 minutes to get every last athlete across the starting line. My bad.
See, everything gets all out of proportion when you’re talking about the kinds of numbers that the producers of the LBM dealt with. Once you stop and consider that almost 17,000 runners took part in this race, 45 minutes to get everybody off and running is a comparative heartbeat. And I can’t even fathom how long it would have taken to simply start the race if it hadn’t been run like a top.
Most of my time at sporting events is spent solidly underground. I go incognito, posing as a simple-minded sports fan – which come to think of it, hasn’t been too hard to get into character for. Recently though, I chose to blow my cover and accept an invitation to go behind the scenes and into the domain of the athletes.
When Steve Mackel, the co-founder of SOLE Runners, an L.A.-based running club, offered me the opportunity to observe his group as they prepared for and took part in the Long Beach Marathon, I was intrigued. When I received the special wristband that got me into the private Runners Club area of the event’s sprawling build-out, I was pleased. And when I found out that there would be a generous post-race spread of free food…need I go on?
SOLE stands for Seeking Out Life Experiences, and this particular running club focuses a good deal of its energy on introducing beginners to both the physical and psychic benefits of long-distance running. Steve and fellow coaching guru Gary Smith conduct step-by-step training programs designed to gradually prepare even the most novice of runners for conquering marathons and half-marathons.