Track Broadcasting Needs Better Announcers

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I’m a track fan, so I really enjoyed watching the World Track and Field Championships over the past two weeks. Fortunately, I was able to watch three different versions of the meet: NBC, CBC and the live feed the live feed on the internet as provided by the CBC and Universal Sports websites.

And once again, it has become very clear why viewership for the sport is so poor in the U.S.  The television commentary provided by NBC was so horrible it detracted from the enjoyment of the event. Little technical information was provided – not enough to educate new fans or please aficionados. Lead play-by-play man, Tom Hammond sounded like a parody of an FM-radio announcer, and colour man, Ato Bolden, while certainly a knowledgeable sprinter and a huge step up from Carol Lewis, babbled incessantly at a volume so high it sounded like he was announcing professional wrestling. Dwight Stones and Lewis Johnson seemed to compete with each in making ridiculous comments, and trackside interviews were often inane and showed a lack of knowledge of the sport…for example, asking athletes, were still breathing hard after their events, what they thought about Jesse Owens.

The CBC team of Mark Lee and Michael Smith is much better and I enjoy listening to them. Smith has improved every year and with his decathlete’s background knows what he’s talking about.

However,  the Cadillac of track commentating was provided by the Brits who announced the live feed on the internet. They demonstrated a combination of expertise, authority, eloquence, passion and frequently amusing turns of phrase. They were able to convey excitement by raising their voices only when warranted. Here are some examples of commentary by the Brits:

“Away it goes, high and handsome. Splendid form for Thorkildsen!”
“He really did hit it through the point of the javelin.”

“When he’s good, he’s very, very good. When he’s bad, he’s very, very bad. Tactically inept at times, but sometimes he can be devastating.”

“Victory, yes, but for how long. Rodgrigues definitely tried to push her way through a space that just wasn’t there. The tragedy of this is, even if the Spaniard is disqualified, Burka will never get a medal.”

“Oh dear, it’s another no-jump. Three no-jumps in the final of a world championship. No wonder she’s distraught.”

“Beekele ran 2:24 over the last 1000m of the 5k – equivalent to running a 3:36 1500m over the last part of the race. That’s why Lagat didn’t have enough to hold him off at the end.”

Here’s a video example of exciting track commentary:
British Announcer – Usain Bolt’s 100m
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAPqQMCI9H4

Compare to the NBC coverage of the same race:

NBC Coverage
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qslbf8L9nl0

If Americans ever want to develop support for athletics in their country, they should hire a British coverage team.

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]track and field,IAAF Championships,World Track and Field Championships,track announcing,track announcers[/tags]

Women’s Teams, Bus Travel and Chick Flicks

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Laurentian University, where I coach the women’s track and cross-country teams, is four hours north of Toronto, and most of our competition venues are at least that far away. (I also coach a track club, but that’s for other blog posts).

So we  do a lot of driving. In the past, we travelled in vans, but this year our fortunes changed dramatically. We now use a 30 passenger coach,  It’s heaven! The difference in stress levels after a bus-trip versus a van trip is astronomical. In fact, I’m typing this blog while sipping tea in the front seat of the bus. We’re flying down the highway and I can see the fall colors flashing past, and rivers and lakes and other spectacular views. The bus has a bathroom, luggage compartment,  reclining seats and a professional driver.

It has one other feature that sounds wonderful, but is a double-edged sword – a DVD player with five screens and speaker system. Movies! What a great way to wile away the hours!

Or so I thought. On our first trip in the bus, I made a fatal mistake. Continue reading Women’s Teams, Bus Travel and Chick Flicks

Politicians! We Need a National Fitness Strategy and a New National Identity!

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It’s election time in both Canada and the United States.   Much has been discussed about the  election platforms of every political party on both sides of the border: Military spending and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan; unemployment, the deficit, and ways to stimulate the economy;  environmental initiatives; tax reduction; and health-care spending…

In the discussions on health care spending, I seldom hear anything mentioned about disease prevention and the incredible savings in our health-care spending that can result.  But in order to realize these savings, we need a national strategy for fitness.

The strategy must be comprehensive with the goal of establishing a national identity that includes fitness, health and physical competence. This identity must begin with our youngest of school children and sustain them throughout their adult years. National funds must be set aside to enable our states and provinces and local school boards to provide quality daily physical education led by competent instructors who will instill a love of physical activity and fitness and provide the knowledge and physical tools to enable every student to enjoy a lifelong, healthy lifestyle. Continue reading Politicians! We Need a National Fitness Strategy and a New National Identity!

Rocco’s Attitude Provided a Tremendous Lesson for Aspiring Athletes

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Imagine your sport. Imagine playing the all-time best player in that sport. Then imagine playing that athlete head-to-head in front of the world…and almost beating him/her.

That’s the situation that faced golfer Rocco Mediate in the U.S. Open last week.

Mediate is a 45-year old journeyman golfer – just recovered from back surgery and ranked only 145th on the tour – who found himself in an incredibly surprising and intimidating situation. Barely qualifying for the tournament, he had put together an incredible three days of golf and found himself facing Tiger Woods in an 18-hole playoff for the the U.S. Open championship.

Imagine the potential for disaster. This wasn’t a one-hole sudden-death playoff in which one or two bad shots would end the tournament. It was a full 18-hole extra round, toe-to-toe against the best player in history, with each hole televised for a huge international audience. It represented the potential for a crushing defeat and incredible humiliation.

How would YOU handle this situation? How did Rocco? In fact, he maintained an attitude that I wish every young athlete could replicate. Here are two quotes that demonstrated his approach, both delivered with a huge smile on his face:

“I’m up against the best in the world. Everyone is expecting me to not win, but I can’t wait to see how I do.”

And after Rocco played Tiger, and lost only after 19 holes of intense play.

“I got what I wanted. I got the chance to beat the best player in the world. I came up just a little bit short, but I think I had him scared for a while.”

That’s right. This playoff was a scenario he had dreamed about since he was a kid. It had finally become reality, so I know he felt doubt and anxiety. But he decided to relish the realization of his life’s dream, not fear it.  And this attitude showed on the course. He played loose and relaxed and had fun… and almost won the tournament. In fact, if not for an incredible putt by Woods on the 18th hole to once again tie the game, Rocco Mediate would have won the U.S. Open.

He provides a valuable lesson for aspiring athletes. If you finally get what you’ve been dreaming about, don’t dread it…embrace it!!

Want to see an interview with Rocco Mediate after the tournament. Check out this YouTube clip:   Rocco Interview

By the way – summer vacation is almost here for most of our physical education readership (at least, for those of you in the northern hemisphere), so I’m going to lighten the schedule for the PE Update blog. We’ll publish only every two or three weeks over the summer.  Heck – you’ll probably all be out trying to become the next Rocco Mediate and won’t have time to read blogs!

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]golf,sports,attitude,physical education,athletes,Rocco Mediate,Tiger Woods[/tags]

The Balco Performance-Enhancing Drug Regimen

In last week’s article, I described sport in its purest form and how it can reveal the best elements of an athlete’s character. Unfortunately, this week’s post digs into the darker side of athletic competition.

Victor Conte, of the Balco performance-enhancing drug scandal, is now cooperating with drug–testing agencies and has divulged the doping schedule he used with his former client, British sprinter Dwain Chambers.

It’s shocking. Chambers used not one, or two, but SEVEN different performance enhancers, including steroids, insulin and stimulants! And he passed numerous drug tests before finally being caught.

THE DWAINE CHAMBERS DRUG REGIMINE
Here are the drugs he took:

THG. This drug is otherwise known as the designer steroid, “The Clear.” It was used during the off-season on Mondays and Wednesdays – the most intense days for weight training. It was placed under the tongue on those mornings and helped repair muscle tissue damaged during the strength training sessions. The cycle was three weeks on and one week off.

Testosterone/epitestosterone. Applied as a cream in the off-season, its purpose was to replace the deficiency of natural testosterone caused by using THG.

EPO. Thought to be useful only for endurance athletes, it was used to increase red blood cell count, allowing sprinters to perform extra track repetitions. It was used during the first two weeks of every four-week cycle during the off-season. The EPO was injected and is undetectable only 24 hours after an intravenous injection.

Human Growth Hormone (HGH). Injected Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during the off-season. It speeds recovery from strength training sessions.

Insulin. Chambers injected it immediately after intense weight training sessions during the off-season, along with a drink containing dextrose, protein and creatine. It promoted muscle repair and growth in addition to packing glycogen into depleted muscles.

Modafinil. Chambers took a tablet an hour before competitions. Acted as a stimulant to reduce feelings of fatigue and improve reaction time.

Liothryonine. This stimulant, designed to improve quickness, was taken one hour before competitions. There is currently no test for this drug.

DRUG USE SUMMARY
So that’s it. Two drugs to promote muscle repair from weight training, one drug to counteract hormone depletion caused by one of these drugs; another drug to allow more training repetitions; one to speed glycogen restoration; and two more to get the athlete “up” for the competition and improve reaction times during block starts. These drugs help the athlete develop a base of strength and fitness that will carry them through the competitive season.

THE DANGERS OF USING THESE DRUGS

What are some of the dangers of using these drugs? Insulin can be overdosed and play havoc with blood sugar levels. HGH can produce cardiac hypertrophy, which eventually can prove fatal. EPO can thicken the blood to the point that athletes can die in their sleep, when their blood pressure drops. And who knows the long-term effects of combining this cocktail of potent drugs.

HOW ATHLETES BEAT THE DRUG TESTS

Is this just a “track and field” program? Of course not. Victor Conte worked with athletes from a number of different sports, including professional baseball.

In fact, track and field has long had the most comprehensive drug testing program of any competitive sport. That’s why it has such a bad reputation for drug use – unlike many of its professional counterparts, the sport has a history of actually catching drug cheats. But how did athletes like Chambers escape the testers?

According to Conte, they used the “Duck and Dodge” strategy. They called their own cell phone until its message capacity was filled. And they filled out incorrect information on their “whereabouts” form, so they couldn’t be contacted. After a cycle of drug use, when they knew they were clean, they would reappear, claiming that their unavailability was a mistake.

Under current rules, athletes are allowed two such mistakes in an 18-month period. Athletes would hope they wouldn’t be contacted for a drug test during their doping cycle, but if they were, they knew they would get two chances before being in danger of sanctions. If they were unfortunate enough to miss a second test “by mistake,” they would simply stop doping.

HOW TO IMPROVE DRUG TESTING

Conte did suggest a method for catching more doped athletes. He strongly advises that most testing be conducted in the fourth quarter of the year, when most drug use is occurring. However, at present only 15% of testing is conducted in this quarter.

Obviously, changes must be made – both in the timing of drug tests and in the penalties applied to those who miss random tests. And there is no doubt that Chambers, and those who follow similar performance-enhancing regimens, did not inadvertently “make a mistake.” Penalties in such a case must be severe and a lifetime ban is definitely appropriate.

Reference: “Victor Conte lays out Dwain Chambers’ doping/steroid protocol; Does Blue Cross/Blue Shield cover this?” Steroid Nation, 5/15/08.
Steroid Nation is an online journal that looks at the use of performance enhancing drugs in sports, youth and society. It is written by Dr. Gary Gaffney, M.D., of the University of Iowa College of Medicine.


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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

To subscribe to the free PE Tips of the Week Newsletter, Click Here!
To check out the PE Update.com website, Click Here!

[tags]performance enhancing drugs,steroids[/tags]

Masters Basketball Differences

I play in one or two old-men’s basketball tournaments a year (known by the more politically correct as masters basketball tournaments). They are a lot of fun, and are a great way for us over-50 codgers to get a competitive fitness hit.

I have, however, noticed several differences between masters basketball (at least, the way WE play it) and the competitive game from my younger days. For example:

  • You CAN play basketball without having to actually, run, jump or get back on defense.
  • Masters players pass the ball much better than young fellers. Mainly because it’s easier than running! Long fast break passes, however, are usually accompanied by an “ouch” or groaning sound of some sort.
  • Few masters players wear baggy shorts that come down below the knees. Takes too much energy to lift the knees…if we ever get into a situation in which knee-lifting is required.
  • The older the player, the less the feet move on defense, but the harder the hand-checks become. Driving the hoop against a really old player is like running through a threshing machine.
  • Unlike high school players, masters players often don’t WANT to get off the bench.
  • Pre-game nutrition is a different animal. For example, the pre-game breakfast of one of our players this year comprised a plastic container of cold, leftover, hot-sauce chicken wings that had laid on his hotel room floor all night…washed down with some hotel-room coffee. A pre-game meal, by another teammate took place during our normal warmup period and consisted of a club sandwich, fries and a beer. For some reason, he felt sluggish during the game that started 20 minutes later.
  • Apparently, the lifespan of a masters players basketball shoes is 20-30 years. Those sissy high schoolers want a new pair every year!

Masters basketball can indeed be a different game. Ninety per cent of us have realized that we may not make the NBA, but the game keeps us fit and happy and provides a great reason to get together. Having the skills to play, even as we age, is one of the fruits of the physical education and school sports programs we experienced when we were young.

And providing the opportunity for such play for future masters “athletes” is definitely one of the goals of today’s physical educators. Keep up the great work, everybody!

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

To subscribe to the free PE Tips of the Week Newsletter, Click Here!
To check out the PE Update.com website, Click Here!

[tags]masters,basketball,physical education[/tags]