Friday, August 22, 2008

Yes, but it's his pee, so it's "special." And other random thoughts on a Friday.

When it comes time for the opening ceremonies in London, I don't think I'd allow any of our track-and-field athletes to carry the torch, because they'd just drop it and burn down the stadium. If you've been watching the Olympics coverage, you know that yesterday, both of our 4-by-100 relay teamsmen's and women'sfumbled the baton exchange during their respective races, thereby resulting in a no-finish. No gold, no silver, no nothing. When such things happen, I'm reminded of what Kathy always says as she watches our gymnasts impale themselves on the pommel horses, or our divers bang their heads on the board: "They train for this their entire lives, every day. They give up everything else: boyfriends and girlfriends, leisure time, jobs. They neglect their schoolwork. And then the big moment comes and they go out there and fall off the equipment." Incidentally, I don't mind noting that both of our relay teams went into the Olympics feeling supremely confident about their chances; from what I heard, the attitude of the men's team in particular bordered on insufferable. Hmmm. I thought confidence always carries the day? Heck, apparently it can't even carry the baton.


I don't know why everyone suspects the Chinese Olympics team of rostering female gymnasts who might be too young to compete.* Just because their second teeth aren't in yet?? (NOTE: Yes, the photo is doctored. But there have actually been anecdotal reports of missing teeth noticed among the Chinese girls, one such observation from gymnastic coaching legend Bela Karolyi, who's serving as an NBC commentator this time around.)


Me, I might've started with the urinating part
.... Not sure why I'm getting a fair number of emails again regarding my book (and I'm certainly not complaining, because it suggests that people are buying my book), but I thought I'd share some feedback here in further/ongoing evidence of "SHAM in real life."

Kate, from Cleveland, writes of her experience in the Georgia school system, "I am in Chapter 10 of SHAM and I just had to share a story with you. I left teaching last year, in no small part due to some of the issues you raise in your book. One such incident really stands out. A young boy in my class was displaying some very troubling behavior. As in spitting on other students, urinating on the floors, and lying to me. When I confronted him about the lying part, I explained that if he continues to lie, I will not believe him when he is telling the truth. Didn't we all hear that in The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf? Well, his mother came up and chewed me out in front of half the school during dismissal: I should never talk to a child that way, maybe if I had children I would understand their feelings, I damaged her precious snowflake by calling him a liar. Really? I thought that perhaps instilling a sense of right and wrong in children was appropriate and even necessary, but it seems she would rather her child never develop a conscience or any remorse."

Not only that, Kate continues, but "you can imagine whose side the administration took. So on career day when a young girl told me she planned to 'steal cars and shoot police,' I was still so shocked by the previous encounter that all I could muster up was, 'that's not exactly a career choice.' I was afraid of pointing out that it's just plain wrong to steal cars and shoot police, lest her mother come to school and tell me I have damaged her child.

And critics say video games aren't educational....

Meantime, courtesy of John Guerrasio, an actor working in London, there's this, from an email he titles "Bravo for SHAM": “I'm an American ex-pat in the UK and all the nonsense you expose in SHAM is just as big here as stateside. [NOTE: That suggests a strong recent growth curve for this stuff overseas. When we sold the rights to the UK edition three years ago, my Brit editor cautioned, "[Self-help] isn't yet that big here, but it's catching on."] The latest buzz words (no doubt learned on training weekends) are at risk and vulnerable. I have heard these words used to describe rapists, murderers and pedophiles!"

During the 1980's, says Guerrasio, "I taught acting to junkies at one of America's leading drug rehabs. I know for a fact they cooked the books on their success rates in order to secure funding…. By the way, EST was all the rage in New York theater back in its heyday. Years after dating and dumping an actress/EST-pest I got a terrifying call from her: 'John, I have unfinished business with you.' Then she said what she had to say to clear her chakras or karma or kidneys, and slammed the phone down. My fellow thesps, especially actresses, are prone to all sorts of voodoo, quackery and hooey. That and cats. Lots and lots of cats...."

* The requisite age is 16. Younger girls are lighter and more limber than older girls, and thus in general are more easily capable of higher-flying routines and more dramatic mid-air movements.
** Which tells me that, if Guerrasio's observations are valid society-wide, the UK is following the "classic progressions," starting out back in the Victimization end of the spectrum. So there may be opportunities for any of you would-be Empowerment gurus to go over there and get your own TV show....


Anonymous said...


Have you noticed what happened to the American National Anthem at the Olympics? It's been neutered.

The rendition we are used to hearing was full of heavy brass and crashing cymbals - it let everybody know that an American just kicked their hinder. But the new version is softer and kinder - with wimpy woodwinds and a more flowing, melodic arrangement with no dramatic crescendo and nary a cymbal to be heard.
Glenn Miller is probably spinning in his grave. American medalists are now rewarded with a tepid arrangement as bland as anything by Kenny G or Yanni.

Was the old version of the anthem too aggressive? Who decided that a new-age, peaceful at-harmony-with-the-world approach was better?
I want the old anthem back!

Elizabeth said...

If all the female Chinese gymnasts are 16 and older, then I must be in my 80's.

Anonymous said...

What was China thinking? I now have no desire to visit China. It looks ugly and smoggy. The Olympics have not been what China expected. Be careful of what you ask for I say.

Anonymous said...

Ironic, isn't it? The Olympics are supposed to represent the ultimate in sportmanship, a true one-world event. And all you hear about is steroids and blood doping and lying on official documents and rigging the grades and/or the entire system of judging etc. etc. The Olympics Committee must be so proud.

As for the National Anthem I'm with you anonymous. It almost makes it sound like we should be sobbing it instead of singing it.

Steven Sashen said...

a) Assuming some of the Chinese gymnasts are under 16... I'm not sure which is worse: That the Chinese broke the rules, or that we got our butts kicked by some tweens!

(of course Nadia was 14 when she won.)

b) Regarding athletes screwing up at the Olympics... it's not like they WEREN'T screwing up at other meets and then mess up only at their "big moment."

Speaking as a former All-America gymnast, when you do moves that are at the edge of what's possible for you, you constantly run the risk of messing up. If you don't do those moves, you won't have the point value to win. If you do them, you need to hit to win. And, as we've seen, if you don't hit, you lose. That's the necessary gamble in any routine.

Oh, and then there's that weird random thing of missing a simple move that also happens, whether it's a big meet or a small meet.

c) Regarding the track teams... I'm just waiting to hear the New Wagers talk about the "unconscious beliefs" that caused the poor performance (and then offer a $997 workshop to eliminate those beliefs). CLEARLY, Tyson Gay *wanted* to lose, or he wouldn't have... or was he just reliving the past life when he dropped the Emperor's scroll?

Steve Salerno said...

Steven, thanks for weighing in here. First of all, I'm not sure that Kathy's comment is intended to be interpreted as, "They're perfect the rest of the time and they only screw up at the Olympics." I think it's just a general comment on the irony of it all--the fact that they devote their lives to the pursuit of perfection, giving up almost all else, and then come to the Olympics and are far from perfect anyway. So was it worth it?

However...having said that...I'm not sure I buy your rebuttal anyway, and I'll tell you why. (As you knew I would, wink.) Ever watch the touring events like Celebrities on Ice and what-not? They never fall. Never. OK, I'm sure someone now is going to go dig up a clip of Katarina Witt landing on that adorable derriere, but you know what I mean; for the most part they complete their routines without incident. And while it's true that you don't generally see skaters attempting the more complex and challenging triples during touring performances, I have seen many Olympic competitors fall while doing mere doubles. And even one of the expert commentators at Beijing was remarking at how thoroughly bizarre it was that an accomplished gymnast like Alicia Sacramone would land outside the boundary lines on a simple tumbling run.

Similarly, everyone in baseball is familiar with the lore of the "5 o'clock home run champ." That's a sly, derisive reference to a guy who smacks the ball all over the yard during BP--but never seems to come through in a clutch, game situation. Now, is that "pressure"? Is it just "one of those things"? Is it (God help us all) an argument for the relevance of "the mental game"? (I could give you a very long-winded rebuttal to that last possibility, but that's not on-point here.)

Just thought I'd throw that in.

Steven Sashen said...

I know some of the touring athletes. And, you're right, they're typically not doing the hardest moves they know, and they're doing the same routines more often, so they have more practice doing the same routines.

AND they actually *do* fall... and break things and tear things.

If, for example, you go to the same Cirque du Soleil show repeatedly (one of my favorite things to do, depending on the show), you'll see different acts -- or different athletes in the same act -- as a result of injuries sustained either during performance or during WARM UPS (I got my worst hamstring tear while just standing in a mildly straddled position and, out of nowhere -- SNAP!)

Steven Sashen said...

Of course, the question of "worth it?" is an interesting one.

Is it worth it even if they DO hit the routines and win golds? Does the gold automatically confer some benefit for the future? (I think not)

Or it is worth it to focus on *anything* to the exclusion of friends, family, etc.? I'm thinking not just of athletes, but also of musicians, some physicians, some business people.

the implications and value judgments inherent in "worth it?" seem vast and worthy of exploration.