Archive for category Olympics
This column runs in the Summer 2020 issue of Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country
No one saw it coming. Wednesday, March 11th, 2020. Fans at Chesapeake Arena were excitedly waiting for their Oklahoma City Thunder to tipoff against the Utah Jazz. It was an important game with playoffs just weeks away; especially for the Thunder who were on a three-game winning streak, nipping at the heels of fourth place Utah. Twenty-thousand fans in the stands watched the warmups, then the gathering of the head coaches with the referees as the pump-the-team-up music blared throughout the arena. Thunder fans had a reason to be excited. The Jazz’s weapon, center Rudy Gobert was not in the line-up due to illness. Suddenly it became evident that the nationally televised matchup was on delay. Coaches were still conferring with the referees while the players shrugged at each other and TV broadcasters tried figure out what the holdup was. Finally, the head coaches returned to their benches and herded the players off the court and back to the locker room. Fans started to boo as the head referee donned headphones at the scoring table. The announcer leaned over the microphone. “Due to unforeseen circumstances, the game tonight has been postponed” followed by “You are all safe” twice.
Within minutes, breaking news came over TVs across the nation – Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19!! The NBA had already decided to start games minus fans the following night because of this strange virus which had recently surfaced in Washington state in a nursing home and was showing up in other states. But now an NBA player had tested positive and it just happened to be Gobert who just two days before had joked around with reporters touching every microphone and recorder in sight! By the end of the next day, every sport began shutting down!
Major League Baseball advised players to leave spring training facilities and return to their homes. The National Hockey League “paused” their season which was just a few weeks from the playoffs. Major League Soccer and the World Cup qualifying cancelled. The Players Championship golf tournament in Florida was stopped at the end of the first round. While college basketball’s “March Madness” was days away from their conference tournaments to be followed by the selection process, some conferences considered playing to an empty house; others cancelled theirs. The conference tourneys and selection process never happened. The Summer Olympics was postponed until 2021. Even NASCAR shut down when it was evident that support teams would be too close to each other while servicing the cars. Sports went on hiatus for sixty-six days!! Never had sports experienced such a disruption since World War II.
On Sunday May 17th, NASCAR paved the way for other sports to resume. They ran nine races in sixteen days at just two tracks in two states. Masked support crew numbers were cut in half, drivers wore masks when not in their cars, practices cancelled and the stands were empty of fans. Other sports began processing plans acceptable to states and health experts while fans crossed fingers and toes that all sports would be back soon!
This column ran in the fall issue of Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country.
This year’s Olympics in Rio had special meaning for me. How exciting to cheer for and see someone on the medal podium I knew! The last time I saw Katie Meili was the day after Christmas, 2014. We rang the doorbell and were greeted by Karen my friend from Delta, and Rio the chocolate lab rescue dog. Responding to Karen’s sweeping arm motion that the door was not for him, Rio retreated to a room with the lit tree and evidence of a family Christmas still under it. Karen’s daughter, Katie appeared — a slender, beautiful young woman with big brown eyes. She certainly wasn’t the little girl that I remembered from my airlines days with her mom.
It was her older sister’s fault that Katie got involved in swimming. Maureen broke her ankle on the trampoline she had for gymnastics. First came a cast and then the orthopedic specialist suggested joining a swimming team for her rehabilitation. Karen was relieved; swimming was a much safer sport. Typical of younger siblings, Katie tagged along – she wanted to do anything Maureen did! Katie proved to be a natural once she got the hang of swimming. And with her ability, came classes and lots of hours of practice. Karen chimed in, “Remember the place that wanted you there for 5:30am swim classes?!?!?” She quickly followed with, “Oh sorry, this is your interview…” Katie smiled at the woman she knew had made lots of monetary and career sacrifices to help her “Dream big… Execute well. “
The Columbia graduate who sat across the table from me was now a professional swimmer. Her goal was to be in Rio in 2016, but that was a year and half away and she knew from experience, things can happen to delay a goal. Fate had already stepped in right before the 2012 Olympic Trials. During warmups while pushing off the wall, her hand got caught on another swimmer. “I think I hurt my hand.” Sure enough, x-rays showed the bone had snapped. Katie displayed her right hand and described a piece inside. I held up my left arm with my Titanium rod showing through. I knew without asking — there had been no London Olympics for Katie.
Katie’s face lit up when I asked about her college years. “Columbia – I wanted East Coast. It was a small school in a big city! “ Ivy League, just like her dad who went to Dartmouth. She majored in Psychology and of course made her mark with swimming. After graduating in 2013, she was invited to North Carolina to train at SwimMAC with David Marsh. Once getting settled in, she worked part-time for Direct ChassisLink, Inc. who currently sponsors her.
The pool where she practices is also where NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson swims. “Really?!?” This racing enthusiast wanted more details. “He swims with us on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I am in awe of him,” she responded. NASCAR sharing the same turf as some of the most elite swimmers in the world! “You like any other sports?” I asked. “I like the Cowboys and Mavs…. and I’m a HUGE Red Sox fan.” Bingo! Sox are my team too. We shared high fives.
Fast forward to 2016. Katie has been travelling the world competing as a pro– winning titles and setting a record or two. I had lunch with Karen in July. Olympics Trials for Rio were coming up. “I think she has a shot to make it,” Karen whispered. Days later the text, “She made it!!” And boy did she ever!! I loved the media hype at Rio about the swimmer named Meili. “Where did she come from?” they were writing and saying. They found out soon with the 100m Breaststroke. In prelims, Katie tagged the wall right after Lilly King, also on the USA team. In the finals, Katie was edged out nineteenth hundreds of a second by silver medalist, Yulia Efimova. The Russian had previously failed two drug tests – don’t get me started!!
Yes … the family dog, a chocolate lab named Rio and Katie Meili with an Olympic Bronze medal draped around her neck in Rio. It’s only fitting.
As I write this column, I am recovering from a night of four hours of sleep. Why, you may ask? I stayed up until midnight-thirty watching the LA Clippers at the Houston Rockets for game six. Now if you are a fan of basketball and also watched that game, you will remember that at the end of the third quarter the Houston Rockets were behind 92-79. Most “normal” people would have just turned off the TV and waited until in the morning to hear or read about the results — especially if they had to work early the next morning.
There is a type that is not the “norm” who is a sports devotee such as me. I have superstitions like wearing the same “lucky” attire down to underwear. It is not usual to start yanking off clothes mid-game and substituting with might have been the “lucky” color or item. During a Super Bowl, my team was losing until I discovered after going through my checklist that I had the wrong hair holder on my pony tail. I know, it sounds certifiable, but the team made a turnaround and eventually won. There are also the rituals of “if I don’t get the dishwasher unloaded before a series of commercials ends” or “if my contact lens doesn’t get unstuck by the third try;” my favorite driver won’t get a top five in a race. How many wives would stay planted at a TV to watch the Super Bowl on their honeymoon instead of basking on the sands of the Waikiki? I also found myself setting my alarm for 325AM to watch the Medal run of the 4-Man Bobsled in the 2014 Olympics.
YES, I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to watch the fourth quarter of game six of the LA Clippers and Houston Rockets game as the fat lady was obviously tuning up. I even found myself having doubts there was any way they could muster a comeback. Then it happened!! The comeback of the year! I did not miss witnessing the Rockets unbelievable run of forty-nine points to LA’s eighteen in the last fourteen and a half minutes!! Sure I could have watched on the morning news four hours later, but there’s something about the instant euphoria of the win and then the adrenalin that doesn’t allow one to fall asleep. Was it worth it? Sure! Could I have watched it on a replay four hours later? Sure! Would I in the future? Nah…. That’s not part of being a sports aficionado — it’s just not allowed!
My article below appeared in the April issue of Hill Country Happenings..
The 2014 Winter Olympics is now behind us. To add to the complexity of the viewing, Russia was six hours ahead of us and some of the venues started as early as 3 AM my time! As some of you know, I am a passionate sports fanatic. For the weeks of the Olympics, my routine was to start with live events on NBCSN in the morning, squeeze in lunch, General Hospital, Dr. Oz and then switch over to the regular NBC channel for the afternoon and evening.
One of my favorite events was the Ice Dancing. Meryl Davis and Charlie White were way ahead of the competition and I had not seen such greatness and precision on the ice since Torvill and Dean thirty years ago. It was hard to believe that Charlie had a girlfriend as when the duo skated they appeared so much in love. One thing that didn’t thrill me was Johnny Weir’s addition to the skating commentators. Johnny appeared in makeup styles any woman would envy along with a wardrobe a little girl playing dress-up would wear. Was it just me that thought his get-ups were distracting from the ice skating? Fortunately, Weir only covered the live daytime NBCSN coverage while my favorite, Scott Hamilton, replaced him in Primetime replays. As far as the men’s and women’s figure skating, I was disappointed that the skaters added way too many complicated jumps. The result was many of them falling during the routines and I almost wanted to rename the competition “figure crashing.” I would much rather have watched a smooth, flawless routine than gymnastics on ice. The much anticipated Hockey rematch of the 1980 Miracle on Ice found the Russians losing to the Men’s Team USA in a 3-2 overtime shootout in pre-medal competition. However, that was the end of the excitement as the US team was shut out 5-0 by Finland for the medal round. The Women’s Team USA made it to the Gold Medal round, however they wasted a 2-0 lead going well into the 3rd period and lost to the Canadians in overtime play. I haven’t seen that many tears since my soap was cancelled.
I used to ski and I could only imagine the frustrations the skiers faced on the majority of the courses. At times, the runs were so slushy, skis got caught in the snow and speeds were much slower in competition. It was definitely an advantage to be one of the first down the course as the run deteriorated with each skier. I was jubilant when one of my favorites, Bode Miller, captured the Bronze medal for the Men’s Super-G, but the celebration was short-lived. He reinjured his knee in the Giant Slalom and the realization hit that might have been his last Olympics. Also disappointing was the lackluster performance by Shaun White in the Snowboarding Halfpipe leaving me to wonder if all the pre-competition media hype served as a distraction to some of the participants.
Towards the end of the Olympics was the Bobsled competition or as the British-sounding announcer referred to it, as Bobsleigh. This year, we were excited as Rick’s cousin’s son-in-law (Dallas Robinson) was on the USA Bobsled team. As if I didn’t already have enough vested time in ice skating, skiing and hockey, here was one more event to squeeze into my viewing. It was fascinating to watch as the athletes ran pushing the sled, and then quickly crammed in. There was neither rhyme nor reason as to how they loaded. Some teams loaded in order of the seating in the sled and some with the middle ones last. The sport showed its dangerous side when the Canada 3 sled turned over and did some of the course on its top and side. Thankfully, the sled finished and the riders all walked away from the damaged vehicle. It was then I wondered about Dallas’s sanity in partaking in this perilous sport. Despite that, I was so hooked on the event, I found myself setting my alarm for 325AM to watch Heat 3 and the Medal run of the 4-Man Bobsled. I know…. The replay was on later that day, but there’s something about seeing it live … at least that’s what I tried to convince myself. When the alarm went off, it was just like my old flight attendant days with the crazy get-ups. As Rick and my oldest Boxer snored at the other end of the house, poor Rex was a trooper and kept me company. Actually it worked where I was able to watch both USA sleds and nap for an hour before the medal run. It was exciting to see the other US sled capture the Bronze medal in both the 2-Man and 4-Man. Dallas was disappointed that his sled placed just out of the top 10. The competition is always tough with so many talented teams, I feel just being chosen to represent the US is a huge accomplishment. Because of the plausible threats, numerous families and friends of the athletes opted to forego the trip to Russia, including Dallas’s. How sad that so many missed being there sharing the experience with the Olympians. Thankfully, there were no terrorist activities during the Games.
If you’re interested in getting an ad supporting my Hill Country Happenings articles or even sponsoring the cover, contact Monica at 830-377-8707. It’s a happening magazine celebrating a decade of publication!
Last month was a pretty good month for me. It was very welcomed after a challenging recovery period following my accident last November. February started with the Super Bowl and I found myself among the few not rooting for Peyton Manning and the Broncos. The disappointment was still too fresh from Denver uprooting my New England Patriots two weeks prior. In addition, I still harbored a grudge against Denver for beating my other team, the Steelers, in a 2012 Wild-Card playoff game with one overtime play by Tim Tebow. However, wounded pride was not only the reason to be a Seattle fan. In my Fantasy Football league, I had the Seahawks Quarterback, Russell Wilson, and I needed a good game from him to possibly win in my league. For you regular readers of this column, you may remember back to last year’s October column when I discussed starting the season already stinking out the house by losing every game, most by five points or less. Many might have given up, but I didn’t as my last cellar season was in 2010 when I ended up winning the post-season with Aaron Rodgers as my Quarterback. Talk about the planets being aligned!!! I was going into the Super Bowl with a lead in our league and providing Wilson had a good game and Marshawn Lynch not having a monster game, it looked promising for me to win. The phone rang a few hours before game time. I’m playing Spades on the computer and half watching the pre-game. The caller is the Commish of our league. “Hey, did you see Russell Wilson hit his head getting off the team bus? It’s really bad,” he claims. Well, he had me going for several minutes until I saw Russell safely in the locker room area. Seattle won, Wilson had a good game and I waited on pins and needles for a week until my league win was confirmed.
Did you notice the commercials for the Super Bowl this year? The most talked about ones seemed to have patriotic or animal themes. My personal favorites were the ones from Budweiser. The first one was the puppy in a stable bonding with a Clydesdale, then getting adopted and therefore separated from the horse. The duo was later reunited when the pup escaped from its owner and returned to the horse farm. All this in one minute — sure moved along a lot faster than my soap opera! The second one was the town welcoming home the soldier. One couldn’t help but get teary-eyed as the community thanked their hero returning from the war. I also cracked up at the Subaru commercial with the retriever family. Papa dog was caught by mama dog ogling a poodle crossing the street and done in front of a puppy in the backseat with his puppy-sibling in the infant-seat. Mama dog growls! Loved it….. Then came an even better one by United Airlines during the Olympics. It had the US teams bobsledding, skating and skiing through the airport, jetway and airplane. As the athletes got situated, the curling stone jammed in the Captain’s foot and a female skater did a three-sixty as she stowed her bag in the overhead compartment. I just loved the creativity put into making those commercials.
Speaking of the Olympics, as of deadline time for this column, they were still in full swing. We’re very excited as Rick’s cousin’s son-in-law, Dallas Robinson, is on the US Bobsled team. We’re so proud of Dallas as well as all the Olympians who have spent years of training and hard work to represent their respective countries. So far, it has been a media frenzy with several non-games sagas unfurling. Unless one was a bobsled groupie, few had heard of Johnny Quinn — that is until he got locked in his bathroom and stuck in an elevator.
We also witnessed how nasty conjunctivitis can be as poor Bob Costas battled the disease as it spread to both eyes. Been there, done that. On a positive note, I loved his round spectacles. My heartstrings were tugged as I saw US slopestyle skier Gus Kenworthy trying to foster several puppies. Good thing I wasn’t over there. Those cuddly little fur balls are irresistible! While the hype built up over a rematch of USA and Russia in hockey, I fondly thought back to the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” at Lake Placid. I remembered it well, as I viewed it from my parents’ recliner with crutches at my side. I was recovering from a skiing accident. Here I was in 2014, again in rehabilitation of several body parts, watching the Olympics. The Olympics served as a catalyst for my determination to be fully functional again. So many of the participants had overcome surgeries and rehabilitations to be a part of the experience. My orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Lue, was happy with my progress rehabilitating my elbow, wrist, hand and shoulder. He was pleased that I was ahead of what he expected for that stage of my recovery. I was thrilled to see one of the skiers back racing after recovering from an accident less than a year ago. I commented that’s there’s hope for me after all! Rick was kind enough to point out that she is also forty-seven years younger than me. Minor details.
Kind of Relative
Good luck to our US Olympians especially to Dallas Robinson on the Bobsled Team. Dallas is the son-in-law of Rick’s cousin. So proud of Dallas!! Show Dallas your support and follow his Olympic Dream. Click here to “Like” Dallas on Facebook and click here to follow Dallas on Twitter.
USA Olympic Supporters
With this year’s focus on records, NBC has set their own with the “Live Coverage” sagas. Needless to say, since the US is several hours behind European time, there was the immediate challenge of the time change…. nothing new from previous ones except the years the games are in the US.
What I don’t understand is why NBC is charging for people to watch the events in “real time.” How disappointing for the ones who can’t afford the extra monies to watch it on the pay channels. So some peek at the Internet for instant results; some stay in isolation and then watch later that evening on delay.
Speaking of delays, a disconcerting moment was the infamous NBC promo of the “Today” Tuesday morning show featuring Gold Medal winner, Missy Franklin. Only one problem — the Monday promo was run minutes before the race spoiling it for those who were used to a “Spoiler Alert” given by the networks.
‘Lotta Sports on Facebook also shared that same faux pas when I highlighted that the US team only managed fifth in Gymnastics Monday afternoon. One reader immediately fired back reminding me that some were waiting until the NBC telecast that evening.
Personally have tried it both ways —- knowing the outcome and not. Which do I like better? Can’t say — what I can say is this has been an exciting Olympics so far with as many twists and turns as the best novels out there.
The long anticipated 2012 London Olympics has arrived. While I am proud to be an American, I am disappointed in the media hype over the importance of records and numbers of medals. While it’s great for the bank account to have bragging rights of the Wheaties Box, does it really matter in the big picture? Sure financial security is great but it has a way of leading some into the land of the obnoxious as well as trouble.
Let’s rewind to the year 2009 and a party at the University of South Carolina. The headlines which followed — Record Swimmer Caught with Marijuana Pipe. Shock and disappointment for his parents, teammates and fans as well as the US Olympic Committee. Fast-forward to 2012 two weeks before the Olympics and Hope Solo’s positive drug test followed by interviews fessing to drunken and behavior R-rated by herself and others four years ago.
Yesterday, the anticipated Phelps-Lochte 400-meter showdown turned into Michael Phelps watching the awards from the bleachers. Today Hope Solo was summoned to a meeting with Soccer Coach Sundhage about her derogatory Tweets on post-game coverage of the Colombia game. This is only day 2 of the competition.
Back in the 80s I visited Sagres, Portugal. It was an area of simple means. Residents looked at Americans as flashy and bold. I wonder what they think now when reading about Olympic behaviors.