Joe’s Olympic Adventure: Day 3

February 28, 2010

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Our  hero Joe checks in again.

This was our most physically taxing day yet.  We got up early to catch a charter bus at the airport.  It took a lot longer to get out of the city than we had hoped for.  The bus had to stop downtown as well, and people were walking up to the bus to try to buy tickets.  We bought our tickets for hundreds of dollars last summer, and they were allowing people to walk up and buy tickets for the same price, delaying our departure.  Luckily, our hotel was first on the list of drop-offs.

Because the alpine events were going on behind our hotel at Whistler, the area was limited entry and we had to catch a van from a spot lower in town.  Arriving at the hotel, our room wasn’t ready, so we had to leave our bags.  We are doing a heliskiing trip tomorrow, so we had to take our ski boots and check in for it a day early at the bottom of the main hill.

From our hotel, we caught a shuttle bus to the main base of Whistler.  There we checked in for our helicopter trip and then waited in line for the gondola to the Whistler Sliding Centre.  Approaching the village, the line looked extremely long.  It stretched all the way through a queue and into the shops and restaurants at the base.  Despite the length, it only took about 30 minutes to get on.

After arriving at the top, we were greeted with another long line, this time snaking through the snow at the bottom of a ski run.  I was glad I brought my water-proof hiking boots.  We went through security after standing in the snow for 40 minutes, now becoming pros by putting all our metal in our jackets and sending those through on the x-ray belts.  We were immediately greeted by the electric crowd and rumbling of the sleds pounding down the track.  We first ventured into the last turns, dubbed Thunderbird by the Canadians and “50/50” by the Americans because “it’s 50% you crash, 50% you don’t.”  After taking a few shots, we realized just how fast they go.  RIDICULOUSLY FAST!  I mean, you blink, you miss it, even on a big turn like that.  You have less than a second to get a good shot of the racers.

We then headed up the track toward the top.  It took us all of the 3rd Heat (first of the day) to get to the top.  We took pics all along the way, and stopped and watched quite a bit.  We snapped pics where the Georgian luger was killed (at the very bottom) and the different starting points for luge and women’s events along the way.  There was even a camera in the ice to get the sleds as the go over.  After getting to the top, there was another queue for the grand stands at the starting line.  We decided it would be good to get a seat there to watch the start in person and the rest of the race on the big screen.  It took about 40 minutes to get through that line, but got to watch the race while waiting for the last 10 minutes.  There was a 45 minute break between heats.

It was so exciting to cheer on both USA teams, and even more so to see the good guys win the gold.  A very energetic crowd, all the way down the track.  We then headed back down the track, which took 20 minutes, waited in line in the snow for the gondola, which took 25 minutes, and then did some shopping to avoid the other line to get on the bus.  Olympic items were already on sale here in Whistler, so we got some good deals on official merchandise.

A stop to get beer and a short bus ride back to the hotel to get into our room concluded the day on the mountain.  We walked across the street from the lodge and grabbed some darn good BBQ at Bob’s.  They were already taking down fencing and banners around the mountain, and most of the crowd we battled were no where to be found.  A nice relaxing day.

We have now concluded the Olympic portion of our trip, and are going to check out the skiing for the next three days.  I am so excited since it’s been snowing for almost a week.  Should be EPIC!

Joe’s Olympic Adventure: Day 2

February 27, 2010

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Joe continues to bring us coverage from Vancouver.

Today was Canada’s day.  I went deeper into the sea of red found out how much these people truly love their country.

I was able to sleep in a little today, not having any events in the morning.  Since we are close to the Richmond Oval, we walked down a block to check it out.  We were surprised to find a chrome statue of Stalin’s head nearby.  The building was beautiful, having wood joists and paneling with traditional glass, steel, and siding.  From there it was a long walk to the train station to make it down to town.  We decided to get off at the Olympic Village and snap a few photos of where the athletes live.  It wasn’t much, just a few apartment buildings with flags hanging out the windows based on which country was staying there.  We then walked over one of the main bridges to the city center.

The package of tickets I bought included a hospitality center pass, so we spent the afternoon watching the USA vs. Finland hockey game while getting tipsy and fed for free.  The Sheraton hosted it, and there were spectacular dishes.  King crab legs, leg of lamb, sea bass kabobs, crème brule, and so much more.

After the good guys shellacked the Fins, we decided to get out before the Canadian curling and hockey crowd showed up.  From there we walked to the Olympic Cauldron to take some pictures.  We bought some pins along the way from a few of the many vendors on the street.  As the day went on, the crowds increased, it seemed, exponentially.  We quickly got on the train to the east part of the city where the Pacific Coliseum was hosting the short track speed skating finals.  We got there early and had no real problem getting in.

Once inside, I realized how small it was.  It probably held 9,000 guests when bulging, and it was not this evening.  Despite it being a final and lots of the home country skating, there were a few open seats.  It was a disappointing night for the USA, as Apolo was DQed in the 500m and had to come from behind to get the bronze in the 5000m relay.  Katherine Reutter did well in winning the silver in the 1000m and was ecstatic with her result.

The building was quite electric though, probably one of the most energetic crowds I have ever been a part of.  The Canadians took the gold and bronze in 500m and the gold in 5000m, sending the crowd into a frenzy.  It was very interesting watching the event in person, because you got to see a lot of things you don’t on TV.

There was a camera man in the middle of the ice for all the regular races, but not the relay.  The judges in suits wear track skates as well.  The gun they use is actually a red toy gun with a cord connected to it, like something you’d plug into your Wii.  The track is always the same length, but they can move the cones toward or away from the center based on how the judges think the ice condition is.  There are cone attendants, much like ball boys in tennis, who set each cone when knocked off or when the judges say.  They also go out with a bucket of water and pour it on liberally along the inside of the two corners.  There is often standing water along the cones during the race.

So much stuff you don’t pick up on when watching on TV.  Also, all during the event there is an announcer for not only the event you’re watching, but keeps you informed of other events going on, even putting it live on the jumbotron during breaks.  Very cool, considering the Canada vs. Slovakia game was on.

Leaving the venue we ran into our first travel delay.  Getting back to the train meant getting on a shuttle bus, and the line was about 20 min long.  We opted to take a regular bus route back to downtown.  I should mention that during the games, any event ticket holder can use any form of public transportation for free.  It took quite a while to get back, and when we got there, we found the place to be flooded with leaf-wearing loonies.

The hockey game had ended about 30 minutes before we got there, and people were already literally drunk with happiness that they’d be playing the USA on Sunday for a gold medal.  We got lots of dirty looks and “Go Canada!” chants in our face due to our American hockey jerseys and hats.  We decided to let them have it, since we are currently owning their podiums.  We ventured over to a Thai restaurant, and were promptly seated.  However, the service was incredibly slow due to just 2 or 3 servers.  We ended up spending over an hour there for just dinner.  We hurried over to the rail station, only to find another 20 minute line waiting to board.  We were able to return home, a little soaked by the day’s constant drizzle.

I picked up some interesting tidbits today.  Sochi, the next Winter Games host city, has their own building (“house”) and you can go inside and watch events and meet athletes.  It looks like Epcot Center from the outside.  They are expecting over 150,000 people to be downtown during the USA-Canada game on Sunday, not including the crowd attending.  This is a VERY conservative estimate.  There are over 39,000 people booked on flights leaving on Monday, and they expect the departure process to take about 4 hours for most people.  I also learned that Canada fans are very annoying when it comes to hockey.  However, unlike most fans, they are very emphatic only about their country, and still wish the best to whomever they’re playing next.

A truly spectacular day was had, and tomorrow I will be making the trip to Whistler to take on the Bobsleigh final.  Until then, Go USA!

Joe’s Olympic Adventure: Day 1

February 26, 2010

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Guest reporter Joe Neumann continues his adventures in Vancouver.

Vancouver Olympics – Day 1:
Wow, what a day.  I woke up in the Mile High City with the weather on the verge of snow, and ended the day in comfortable Vancouver after a very full day.  Upon arriving, I could tell this city was ready for a big party.  The airport had lots and lots of room for arrivals and customs checks.  Getting into the country was fairly simple.  I just filled out a declaration in Seattle before boarding our plane, and gave it to the agent at customs before getting my bag.  They had about 30 agents ready for us, and maybe 5 had visitors at them.  No wait at all.  The airport had been recently renovated, and was very ample for all arriving and departing passengers today.  I’d imagine it will be a zoo on Saturday and Sunday, though.

We checked into our rented apartment, and it is much better than anticipated.  Very close to the light rail, restaurants, the Richmond Oval, and the airport.  Very secure building and accessible owner.  We walked to the market and grabbed a Cranberry Turkey sandwich, which was pretty good and only C$4.  We got situated and headed downtown to pick up our tickets.  I was worried it would be very tough to find the ticket will call, and in fact it was pretty easy with knowing the vicinity of where it was supposed to be.  There were visitor booths all along the light rail and downtown area to help.  In addition, lots of tents and vendors were along all streets downtown, and two main streets were closed off, which made it easy to walk around.

Another thing I was initially concerned with was the security and general hospitality of the people in the city.  They were more than warming, welcoming “With Glowing Hearts” everywhere we went.  They were willing to help point us in the right direction, make small talk, and make us feel welcome.  Cops and security were plentiful on each street and venue, even in restaurants and shops.

After picking up our tickets, we checked out the city center around Robson street, which is fanfare central.  Not only were there lots of street performers and booths, but the city had entertainment venues set up around town.  They had hourly free shows at two stages, a zipline across the city center, and TV monitors all over the place showing live events.  Every spectator with a maple leaf on their shirt or sweater had their eyes glued to them during the Canada-USA Womens’ Hockey Final.

We migrated to the BC Place for our “Victory Ceremony” after wandering the city four a couple hours.  We were told to get there early, as it would take a while to get in.  There were over 20 security tents to handle the burden.  They did a full screen on each visitor just as if boarding a flight.  It didn’t take long since we were almost an hour early, and were able to make it to our seats about 30 minutes ahead of time.  Man, what a building!  This is the same venue where the opening ceremonies took place, and they only used 1/3 of it for the ceremony.

They had videos playing while people found their seats, then two emcees played trivia with the crowd.  They had a few live bands from Manitoba (it was Manitoba Celebration Night) perform before the official festivities.  Then the real production started.  There was a simulcast with the Victory Ceremony in Whistler.  They showed a presentation at Whistler, followed by one at our venue in Vancouver.  It was very exciting to have the American National Anthem played first, as we had a gold and silver medalist in Nordic Combined.  The final presentation was for Womens’ Two-man Bobsleigh, and of course the building went crazy because Canada won gold and silver in that event.

After all medals were presented, a total of 5 presentations, they had a full-fledged concert by yet another musician from Manitoba, former member of the Guess Who, Burton Cummings.  It was just like a regular rock concert, with fancy lasers and light choreography.  He played some good songs, but most were unheard of by my father and I.  We left a little early, and grabbed dinner at a local sports bar.  The food was more than decent for the price, around C$12-30 for most dishes.  Beer on tap was cold and local.  It was a nice refresher.

The day wasn’t without some interesting tidbits though.  I sort of got the vibe before arriving, but at the moment, Canada doesn’t like hearing USA cheers.  We are slaughtering them in the medal count after they spent lots of money on a program called “Own the Podium.”  Walking by some people, you could hear “so glad we kept Americans off the podium in Womens Figure Skating” and people chanting “USA sucks” during the Womens’ Hockey Final.  Talking with a local, he said it is interesting that Canadians often complained that USA was loud and boisterous in winning, and now Canada is doing it since the games are on their turf.  He went on to mention that it seems forced and they aren’t very good at the role.

We also searched all over for USA Olympic Gear, and the only thing we found was Ralph Lauren Polo gear at a department store that was way over priced.  We also waited 30 minutes to get in the store because it is the official Olympic store.  If you were a Canadian at these games, you would have plenty of cool designs to chose from to represent your country.  If not, you better hope you brought something from home.

My first impression of the city and games was very, very good.  This town seems incredibly prepared, and there weren’t any hang ups getting from airport to event, or anything imbetween.  I am so ready for bed now.  I can’t wait to enjoy our hospitality center pass tomorrow and see Apolo Ohno’s performance in Short Track!

Joe’s Olympic Adventure: Day 0

February 25, 2010

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The Soap Boxers was able to send beat reporter Joe Neumann to Vancouver to cover the Olympics. Well, either that, or we found out that Joe was headed to Vancouver and asked if we could hitch our wagon to his trip.  We are happy to announce that Joe will be sending us several installments of his Olympic journal to share with our readers.

Joe is an engineer in his mid 20s who works at a remote mine in Northwest Alaska and spends time off in Denver, CO. He was born and raised in Denver, migrated to Rolla, Missouri for four years of school and spent time in rural Arkansas and Salt Lake City doing summer work. He enjoys skiing, golfing, bowling, and traveling/road trips. You can follow Joe on Twitter.

Without further ado, I turn to floor over to Joe.


Vancouver Olympics – Day 0
Today I spent preparing for my trip to see the 21st Winter Olympiad. This is my first trip to Canada, and my first time out of the country since before 2001. I fly quite frequently (about every other week), so I am curious to see how much longer the process will be going out and coming back into our country. This is also my first Olympic Games, and although I’ve been to some other big sporting events (MLB All-Star Game, World Series, College World Series), I am very excited to be in that new atmosphere.

Preparation for these games has been a lot harder than I expected. For one, all tickets are attached to a name and require photo ID for pick-up, and their email claims holders are subject to a photo ID check at the games. I guess this is to restrict scalping, but it makes it tough for travelers like me. They don’t assign seats until pick-up, and although I’m in the “A” group seating for both my events and the medal ceremony, I am a little worried they will not be as close as we would like.

Finding a place to stay was a chore in itself. When I first decided I wanted to go, I read lots of advice on the Olympic websites, and it all said the toughest thing to get was tickets to events, so make sure to get those first. Then get lodging, airfare, and other accommodations. I followed their advice and bought tickets as soon as possible in Feb 2009.

Then I started looking for lodging, and found most places wouldn’t take reservations until 9 months before the games (June 2009). The reason is because they allow the IOC and officials to make reservations in the time leading up to June. Of course, when I called in June, everything was completely booked in Vancouver. Whistler was a different story. Not only were there lots of rooms available, they weren’t that expensive. So I went another route and found a condo in Richmond, close to the Vancouver airport, that was being rented by the owner for the entire games. At a reasonable $550 a night (!), I decide it would be best to limit the time we are in Vancouver.

I found a place in Whistler for about $300 a night during the games and $250 after that. Considering I love to ski and have never skied outside my home state of Colorado, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity. I decided to stay an extra 3 nights and do some skiing. And I should mention that this isn’t just any lodge in the vicinity, it is a 4 star ski-in/ski-out resort at the bottom of the Alpine course (Creekside). That just shows you how expensive things are in Vancouver.

Some might be thinking, why would you chose to go to these games? Well, I sort of have a business connection. I work for Teck Resources, which some of you might recognize because we are the company that is supplying the metals for all the medals in these games and the Paralympics. Not only are we providing the medals, but we held the contest for the design, so you can blame us for the big metal potato chips. We have also been under some scrutiny because it is the first time a portion of the medals has come from recycled scrap metals, specifically those from electronics. While I am proud of that fact, some “traditionalists” think they should be specially mined from ore deposits just for Olympic medals.

Our company has done a great job of using their status as “Official Supplier” to generate lots of interest in its workforce. We first learned of the agreement in 2007, and immediately Teck announced that we would be able to nominate co-workers in different areas of excellence to win trips to both the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 Vancouver Games. In addition, they’ve held raffle-style contests to win trips to both games, and even be a torch bearer.

The mine I work at in Alaska produces mostly zinc, about 20% lead, and less than 1% silver. A portion of that silver went into the gold (because gold metals are 98% silver with a pure gold coating) and silver medals. We produce way more than is needed for the medals, so it was no big deal for us. I should say, we don’t have any operating tin mines, so that metal was purchased on the open market and blended with copper from another one of our mines to make the bronze. Overall, I am very proud to be associated with these games, and be an employee of Teck.

So as I write this, my father and I are about 14 hours from landing in Vancouver. I will have another entry about my first impression of the city, how busy it is, how easy to find food, and how entertaining a medal ceremony really is tomorrow. Have a good evening, and go USA!

My Favorites – Winter Olympic Edition

February 22, 2010

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All I have to say about Luge is “Holy Crap”. Imagine going down an ice slope on a sled, on your back, feet first, reaching speeds of 90 miles per hour. You steer with your toes, lift your head just a bit to see where you are going. You stop by sitting up and lifting the front of the sled. Olympic Luge is safe, even considering the tragedy of February 12. The course is banked, with side barriers and straw bails in case of accident. There is an uphill run at the end to help the lugers stop. This year they moved the men’s start line down to the women’s start line. This actually reduced the top speed!

The luge should not be confused with the skeleton, which is a head first sled ride down the same ice slope. Still cool, but just not quite as cool as the luge. Maybe it is the name or just the fact that the skeleton positions is what I use when sledding.

I like the Luge on several levels. First, the athletes are not just kids. Their ages range from 18 to 40. Second, a little extra weight is a good thing. Momentum is the name of the game, the extra weight allows the luger to overcome any friction that the course provides. And third, you get more than one chance. There are at least 3 runs that are considered for the medals. The luger is all alone on the course, just man against hill. Spectators get just a split second of the race, like sitting on the shoulder of the interstate and watching a car go by.

I guess it is the speed that grabs my attention. I like bobsled and speed skating as well. The bobsled run looks a lot like the luge, but it is different. They share the same track, but two man and four man (and woman) bobsled are different from luge because they are team efforts.

Speed skating is just so elegant. With up to six skaters on the short track and two competitors on the long track, they seem to be dancing as they round the course. You are competing directly for advancement until the final run when medals are awarded. Skating you have to compete with other racers as well as the course. The slightest bump can be disastrous for you chances (the sides of the rink are padded to keep the skaters from getting hurt). The only danger of injury is the skates themselves. Speed skating skates are extremely sharp, to dig into the ice for turns. I have never seen an accident involving that kind of injury, and I hope I never do.

All of these sports epitomize the ideal of the Olympics. All can compete; men, women, young and old. They also help to break the monotony of winter as we move through February. Depending on where you live, February can be very depressing. In the north, it is the lack of sun, in the south, the dreary cold and rainy (this year snowy) days. The kids are in the middle of the school year, and the whole family is months away from a vacation. Yes, the Winter Olympics are a great thing.

Knee Jerk Reactions

February 16, 2010

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It is sometimes human nature to react impusively rather than logically. This happens quite often, but I’ll choose to focus on two recent occurences.

The first occurence are the changes to the luge competition in the aftermath of Nodar Kumaritashvili’s death. His death was most certainly a tragedy. The added retaining wall at the spot where he was ejected from the course is a good idea. Shortening the men’s run by moving their start to the position previously used by the women is not a terrible idea. Shortening the course by these 600 feet (with the accompanying loss of elevation) caused speeds to drop from 95+mph to 90 mph.

The point where I have a concern, however, is the shortening of the women’s course by 800 feet (by moving it to the start point of the Juniors). The women were already at less risk of such extreme accidents by the mere fact that they have a tendency to weigh less than the male competitors (luge is a sport heavily affected by gravity, such that athletes below certain weights are allowed to wear lead weights to boost their mass). Less weight = less speed.  The shortening of the women’s course seems to be an attempt to show that an attempt is being made to ensure safety, when in reality, it is unlikely to make a big difference.  I’m not the only person unhappy about the changes – the competitors themselves were less than thrilled.

The second occurence is probably more likely simply sloppy reporting than intentional exaggeration.   I recently read an article about future Hall of Fame NBA player Tim Duncan. In an effort to show how important Duncan is, the writer pointed to the huge improvement from the 20-62 record the Spurs had he year before he joined the team (1996-97) to the 56-26 record they achieved in Duncan’s first year with the team – implying that Duncan was largely responsible for the 36 win improvement.

Tim Duncan is a great player, and I have utmost respect for him.   However, in this case, the writer is wrong about his impact.  In 1996-97, Hall of Famer David Robinson – then in the prime of his career – played just six games due to injury and All Star guard Sean Elliott also missed substantial time due to injury.  In 1995-96, The Spurs won 59 games on the heels of a 62 win season and a 55 win season.  The 20 win season of 1996-97 was a severe aberration and did not reflect the true talent of the team.  Using this as a baseline for determining Duncan’s impact is, in a word, lazy.

And in other sports new …

In luge, the USA’s Erin Hamlin had a disappointing first day.  After a first run of 41.835 seconds that had her eight overall, she slipped to a time of 42.219 in the second run.  That time was twentieth best in the run, and dropped her combined standing to fifteenth – and a long shot to make a run at a medal.  To nobody’s surprise, three time reigning Luge Word Cup champion Tatjana Hüfner of Germany was in the lead after Monday’s runs.  Hüfner’s 41.760 was third best in the first run.  She then put put down a blistering 41.481 in the second run, setting a track record. The Luge will finish with two more runs this afternoon.

Jamie MacMurray won a marathon Daytona 500.  The race was red flagged a couple of times as officials worked to fix a hole in the track -(yep, the NASCAR folks fix potholes much faster than your local DOT.  Although it was unfortunate that my favorite driver – Tony Stewart – didn’t pick up the win, it’s hard to root against a guy like MacMurray.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are trying to acquire Amare Stoudamire.  Hopefully, LeBron James appreciates what the Cavs are doing and stays put.  Seriously, LeBron, you’re a god in Cleveland and you have a good team around you.  Why trade this in to go to the Knicks – a team in tatters – simply to be in the media spotlight more.  Seriously, you’re getting plenty of attention as it is.

The NFL could be heading toward an uncapped year in 2010.  If this happens, there could be some huge salaries for 2010.  The uncapped year would be the result of owners opting out of the current collective bargaining agreement early.  The labor agreement was originally slated to last through 2013; the owners exercised an option to opt out after the 2011 season.  The uncapped seasons of 2010 and 2011 (assuming that a new agreement is not reached) is a poison pill tied to the owners opting out.  The players’ share of revenues is a key sticking point.  The players currently received 60% of revenues.  The owners would like to see this number shrink.  One beef the players have is that the owners won’t show them financial records.  On this particular point, I am forced to side with the players.  In most cases, I would say that a business has the right to keep their financial records secret.  However, you can’t tie the players’ salary cap to a component of finances without allowing the other side to review the records for accuracy and completeness – this leaves the door wide open for fraudulent behavior.  Don’t want the players to be able to look at your records?  Fine – then don’t tie the salary cap to revenue.

Early Olympic Thoughts

February 14, 2010

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The start of the games were  marred by the tragic death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili during a practice run on Friday.  After viewing the video a few times, I came to a couple of conclusions:

  • When I first heard that Kumaritashvili had struck an unpadded steel pole, I wondered why the poles were unpadded and wondering how much this contributed to his death.  However, after viewing the video, I’m not sure that he would have fared any better with a padded pole.  The poor guy had already taken a fairly bad beating by the time he was propelled off the course.  Of course, padding the poles would still be a good idea.
  • It seems fairly apparent that pilot error was the major factor.  Compare Kumaritashvili’s crash to the crash of defending Olympic champion Armin Zoeggeler earlier in the day.  Zoeggeler is able to quickly gain control of his sled and escape injury.  Undoubtedly, there were other differing factors in the two crashes, but the way the athletes dealt with the crash is vastly different.  This isn’t to fault Kumaritashvili – he simply didn’t have the same amount of experience as some of the other lugers.
  • Is the track too dangerous?  That’s not an easy question to answer.  An Olympic venue should strive to challenge the abilities of the athletes, and luge is inherently dangerous.  Is the Whistler track too challenging?  Perhaps, perhaps not.

Officials looked into several options to reduce the chance of further tragedy on the course at the Whistler Sliding Centre, including the possibility of canceling the event entirely.  In the end, they constructed a retaining wall at the spot where Kumaritashvili left the course.  They also decided that the male competitors should start further down the track, at the starting location typically used by the women.  This served to cut speeds from 95 mph to 90 mph.

A few things jumped out at me during the opening ceremonies (and related NBC coverage):

  • The fact that 90% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the US is pretty amazing, considering how large Canada is.
  • When I heard the stat about the 5000 mile border between the US being the longest friendly border in the world, I had a mental hiccup wondering how on earth this could be 5000 miles, considering that it’s only about 3000-3500 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.  Oh, right.  Alaska has a sizable border with Canada.
  • The ovation for the Georgian delegation was great.  Not that I would have expected anything less from the fine citizens of Canada.
  • I enjoyed seeing the athletes from the warm weather countries.  I got a chuckle out of the contingent from Bermuda – wearing their Bermuda shorts.
  • Each time I see an Olympic flame lighted, I am reminded of my favorite Olympic memory – the ’92 games in Barcelona, when an archer shot a flaming arrow into the caldron to light it.  Although this wasn’t as difficult (for elite archers) as it appeared – in practice, a bunch of archers had shot thousands of arrows, and only a handful miss) – it was flat-out awesome.  18 years later, it still resonates with me.

The games are well under way.  Simon Ammann of Switzerland picked up the first gold medal of the games, in ski jumping.  Hannah Kearney picked up the first American gold in moguls.  Apolo Ohno nabbed a silver in a wild and crazy short track 1500 meter race – three skaters from South Korea were ahead of him, but two of them got tangled and crashed out of the race near the end.

American skier Lindsey Vonn gained a few extra days to recover from her shin injury as a result of weather-related delays in her events.

Men’s luge is halfway done, with young German phenom Felix Loch currently atop the standings.  The gold medal will be awarded today.  The female lugers will compete on Monday and Tuesday.  Happy sliding, guys and gals!

Luger Nodar Kumaritashvili Dies in Olympic Accident

February 12, 2010

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Olympic luger Nodar Kumaritashvili from the country of Georgia died when he crashed during a practice run, flew off the course, and hit an unpadded steel pole.

Since luge is my favorite Olympic sport, this news hits me hard.  My thoughts and prayers are with his family.  Rest in peace.

Battle of Olympus

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Today, as we celebrate the opening of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, I am proud to announce a contest of Olympic proportions.  Kosmo is going head-to-head with John from in a fantasy Olympic contest.

The basic rules are:

You can have 12 athletes on your team.  The following limitations apply:

  • No more than two athletes from any one discipline (the disciplines are in the left hand column below)
  • No more than six athletes from any continent
  • An athelete can consist of a single individual or a pair

Each person also selects two teams.  A team is defined as any group larger than a pair.

Scoring is as follows:

  • Gold medal = 10 points
  • Silver medal = 5 points
  • Bronze medal = 3 points

Check back during the Olympics for updates.  The Soap Boxers will be on the ground in Vancouver on the couch in Iowa bringing you coverage of the games as they unfold.

Without futher ado, the picks:


Super Bowl, NASCAR, Olympics, and Baseball

February 9, 2010

- See all 763 of my articles


Another Super Bowl is in the books. With a two year old and an infant in the house, I managed to catch a very small chunk of the game – including the critical interception. What a nice post-season by Tracy Porter, with the pick-6 in the Super Bowl as well as the pivotal interception against the Vikings. I was pulling slightly for the Colts, but didn’t mind having Drew Brees and the Saints nab the win.

Danica Patrick finished 6th in a stock car race over the weekend. Before getting too excited, it should be noted that this was not a NASCAR race, but an ARCA race. With absolutely no disrespect to the fine drivers in the ARCA series, ARCA is not at the same level as NASCAR. Having said that, it’s still a nice achievement for someone jumping from a light Indy car into a heavy stock car. That’s one factor that could work against Danica this year as she races in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (the second highest series, not to be confused with the Sprint Cup Series). She will be running a full Indy season and a partial NASCAR seasons – jumping back and forth between Indy cars and stock cars. These are types of cars that handle very differently, and the end result could be disappointing seasons in both series as her muscle memory gets all wonked up. (The true NASCAR fans out there are going to realize that this is hardly a unique assessment on my part).

I’m definitely pulling for Danica to make a successful transition. Really, there is no reason why a woman can’t succeed in NASCAR. Women have had success in several other racing series. If we look across to NHRA, Shirley Muldowney and Angelle Sampey have won championships, and Melanie Troxel is a contender in the Funny Car series.

Jimmie Johnson is trying for his fifth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup title this year. I’m hoping that Tony Stewart – who led the points race for much of last year – is able to knock him down a notch. The Gatorade Duels (qualifying races) take place on Thursday and the flag drops on the Daytona 500 at noon Eastern time on Sunday.

The Olympics are very nearly upon us. Fire up your DVRs. Coverage will be available NBC, CNBC, USA, MSNBC, and C-Span (OK, maybe not that last one). Go to for details. I’m very disappointed to see that women’s luge (featuring my favorite 2010 Olympian, Erin Hamlin) will be in the 11:30 PM to 1:00 AM time slot in my time zone. The current Sports Illustrated features a guide to the Olympics. USA Today also has a special edition on the new stands. The USA Today edition has some information that is a bit out of date, but it seems to be a good overall reference.

I got my new t-shirt from and will thus be stylin’ while watching the Olympics.

Next week, pitchers and catchers will report to Spring Training. Expect to see a LOT of baseball coverage this year – even more than last year, since Kosmo will have MLB Extra Innings this year (w00t!). 2010 should be an interesting year. Players like Matt Holiday, Jason Bay, John Lackey, Zach Greinke, Felix Hernandex, and Justin Verlander will be out to provde that they are worthy of their new contracts. Seventeen year old JUCO baseball player Bryce Harper will look to make the leap into the professional ranks – perhaps as the #1 overall pick. Will the McCourt divorce tear apart the Dodgers? Will Sheets and Bedard rebound from injuries and return to their previous levels?  Will the National League finally administer a well-deserved beatdown to their little brothers in the Junior Circuit?

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