Weekend Assorted Links

1. Steve Spence’s legendary sub-5:00 mile streak comes to an end after 43 years.

2. Who do the Duke and Duchess of Sussex think they are? Afua Hirsch explains.

“If the media paid more attention to Britain’s communities of color, perhaps it would find the announcement far less surprising. With a new prime minister whose track record includes overtly racist statements, some of which would make even Donald Trump blush, a Brexit project linked to native nationalism and a desire to rid Britain of large numbers of immigrants, and an ever thickening loom of imperial nostalgia, many of us are also thinking about moving.

From the very first headline about her being “(almost) straight outta Compton” and having “exotic” DNA, the racist treatment of Meghan has been impossible to ignore. Princess Michael of Kent wore an overtly racist brooch in the duchess’s company. A BBC host compared the couple’s newborn baby to a chimpanzee. Then there was the sublimely ludicrous suggestion that Meghan’s avocado consumption is responsible for mass murder, while her charity cookbook was portrayed as somehow helping terrorists.

Those who claim frequent attacks against the duchess have nothing to do with her race have a hard time explaining these attempts to link her with particularly racialized forms of crime — terrorism and gang activity — as well as the fact that she has been most venomously attacked for acts that attracted praise when other royals did them. Her decision to guest-edit British Vogue, for example, was roundly condemned by large parts of the British media, in stark contrast to Prince Charles’s two-time guest editorship of Country Life magazine, Prince Harry’s of a BBC program and Kate Middleton’s at Huffington Post, all of which were quietly praised at the time.

Her treatment has proved what many of us have always known: No matter how beautiful you are, whom you marry, what palaces you occupy, charities you support, how faithful you are, how much money you accumulate or what good deeds you perform, in this society racism will still follow you.”

3. Trump takes credit for decline in cancer deaths. The American Cancer Society says he’s wrong. How long until their funding is cut further?

“The President has a history of proposing to cut funding from the National Institutes of Health’s budget, which includes funding for the National Cancer Institute, an agency that leads, conducts and supports cancer research. The final budgets that Congress approved ended up being more generous than Trump’s proposals.

Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz wrote on Twitter, in response to Trump, that ‘cancer rates dropped before you took office. Hopefully they keep dropping because Congress rejected your cruel research budgets, which sought billions in CUTS to @NIH and the National Cancer Institute. This is good news despite you – not because of you.'”

And so it goes, in these (dis)United States of America.

4. Why do people believe in hell?

“How can we be winners, after all, if there are no losers? . . . What success can there be that isn’t validated by another’s failure? What heaven can there be for us without an eternity in which to relish the impotent envy of those outside its walls?”

Monday Assorted Links

1. Deputy gangs in Los Angeles have survived decades of lawsuits and probes. Can the FBI stop them? Despite being from LA, granted West LA, I thought this read like fiction. Police gangs in the open for decades supported by chiefs despite continuous community opposition. Perception is reality. Reprehensible.

2. We’re entering the era of the Tiny Wedding. For $2,000 you get a short ceremony and a small cake.

“A Tiny Wedding is also incredibly easy to purchase: When I tried out the booking process, it took me 20 seconds to select a time and a kind of cake before I got to the credit card field.”

Guessing this is a tad more popular among grooms. What is it with me and marriage/weddings lately?

3. Three Things You Can Learn From Norwegian Packed Lunch About Minimalism.

“Norwegians follow a step-by-step guide ingrained in their DNA to prepare their lunches.”

Agreed, Norwegians are lunch role models extraordinaire. But where are the pistachios?

4. Cyclists are dying in New York City.

“Across the city, 14 cyclists have been killed in crashes this year, four more than all of last year, according to city officials. New York’s streets have seen an increase in bicycling while also becoming more perilous, in part because of surging truck traffic fueled by the booming e-commerce industry. The mayor himself acknowledged on Monday that the city was facing an ’emergency.'”

Saturday afternoon I was driving down 36th Street NE, which as you know, is one of the rare Olympia streets without a legit bike lane. There’s only a fog line and then six to twelve inches of pavement. Two of my cycling brethren were riding side-by-side as other drivers and I came upon them, unnecessarily requiring us to move into the oncoming lane. This is a rural setting, so not life threatening, but there’s no reason to be riding side-by-side without a legit bike lane. My window was down, I thought about doing some consciousness raising, but chickened out. I had my speech all planned out, “Dudes, single-file.”

5. Matthew Boling has gone viral.

“‘The biggest worry is we just don’t want his personality to change. He’s a great kid. He’s humble.'”

How To Transform Sports Television

Some tech savvy person in sports television is going to make millions as a result of reading the following few paragraphs. My decision not to apply for the patents myself is just one more example of my amazing selflessness.

Here’s the problem with televised running, swimming, and cycling races. Let’s take running as our primary example, but remember the same phenomenon applies to swimming and cycling.

The camera zooms in on ten East Africans mid-marathon and their 4:45 per mile pace looks almost effortless. What’s needed is some sort of computer generated avatar of a recreational runner superimposed on the same course to begin appreciating how insanely fast the elite runners are going. With smart televisions of the near future, we should be able to program personal avatars, whether we’re watching running, swimming, or cycling. I’d program my runner to hold 8 minute miles; my swimmer, 1:30 per 100 yards; and my cyclist, 20mph. Once programmed, we can sit back and marvel at how quickly and often we get overtaken.

Case in point. Last week a 22-year-old Ethiopian star, Yomif Kejelcha, broke a 22-year-old indoor world record in the mile, running 3:47:01 at a meet in Boston.

When I’m rested and running with purpose I can hold 7:40 miles for an hour or two. If I set my avatar for a 7:35-7:40/mile pace on the same 400 meter track at the same time as Keljecha, in just four laps, he would pass me for the second time just before crossing the finish line. Twice as fast. I’m no burner, but probably less slow than 85-90% of recreational runners.

Long story short, if you watched Kejelcha run four laps in the time it takes me to run two, you’d have a much, much better appreciation for his freakish speed.

In Praise of Meghan Vogel

All the news isn’t bad. And maybe today’s youth aren’t a lost cause after all.

Sick and tired of big time college and professional sports? Knuckleheads running afoul of the law, the commercialism, the cheating, the excesses of competition. Then take a few minutes and read about how Ohio high school trackster Meghan Vogel (on the right below) recently stopped to help a fallen competitor across the finish line near the very end of the 3,200 meter final.

Maybe it’s an especially touching story because we mistakenly think competition is an elixir for all that ails us. Vogel’s decision highlights the power of cooperation. Her compassion and humble response to her fifteen minutes of fame inspire me. And the surprising decision by the meet officials not to apply the letter of the law and disqualify the two student-athletes warrants praise.

[But of course, all the news isn’t good on the adolescent front.]

Vogel, “I just did what I knew was right.” Credit: AP Photo/The Daily Call, Mike Ullery

Ephemeral Victory

A Sports Illustrated story. Synopsis. A South Pasadena High School pole vaulter thought she won a meet and league title for her team on her final vault until the Monrovia coach pointed out she had a string friendship bracelet on which is against the rules. The pole vaulter was disqualified on the technicality, giving Monrovia the victory and league title.

I’m going to guess this was what the Monrovia coach was thinking upon seeing the bracelet. “We got em’. Victory is ours.”

Here’s an alternative idea. Let’s assume that none of the South Pas or Monrovia girls are going to become professional tracksters. And let’s assume that in ten or twenty years few people will remember or care about who won the meet and league title. And let’s speculate on how the Monrovia coach might have processed things had he been thinking more like an educator.

Specifically, what if he had asked, “What’s the take-away for my athletes if we claim victory based on the technicality? What is it if we refuse to stake our claim to victory? Which is likelier to result in classy adults?”

Or what if he had quickly huddled up with the team and asked them what they thought they should do? “Coach,” I’m betting they would have said, “let’s go congratulate them on their victory.”

Excellence

Two events recently made me think about excellence, what it entails and how to cultivate it. Event one was Olympia High’s final orchestra concert of the school year. I’m always blown away by their individual and collective musicianship. Event two was Sunday’s Pre(fontaine) Classic track meet in Track Town, USA, Eugene, OR. In the mile, 12 people went sub 4, an American woman ran 3:59.9 in the 1500; a shot putter went over 71 feet; a long jumper 28’8″; the 100m winner, 9.94; and on and on. 

One thing musical and athletic excellence entail is beauty. There’s something mesmerizing about watching a gifted musician embrace and bring a piece alive just as there’s something almost mystical about watching an elite middle distance East African runner pull away in the last 400 meters.

Often there’s a knowledgeable, committed, demanding coach eliciting excellent performance. Chip Schooler, the Olympia High orchestra conductor is a case in point. I don’t want to put him on a pedestal even though he does stand on one, but those students are privileged to get to work with him day in and day out.

There also has to be an intrinsic love of the activity that translates into dedication to repetitive practice. Then there’s very careful preparation for the excellent performance. One of my favorite parts of the meet was watching the pole vaulters warm up an hour before their event started. Running drills, spraying the handle of their poles, taking practice runs and flopping into the mat, stretching, hydrating, narrowing their focus.

In excellence versus equity debates, I typically advocate for equity, but they don’t have to be mutually exclusive all the time. Maybe I’ve slighted excellence out of fear that it too often produces elitism.