Thursday, July 28, 2011

Media Mayhem

The NFL Lockout is over. Today and tomorrow NFL players will be reporting to training camp and breathing a sigh of relief that their arduous time spent away from their team's facilities is now done.

The NFL Lockout is over. In the next few days owners are selling tickets for meaningless preseason games that had been on the brink of cancellation only a few weeks ago. Sponsors are once again making their pitches to get their signage on various billboards, car doors, and bathroom stalls featuring their team's logo and a sign that says "Official partner of the Houston Texans and the NFL."

The NFL Lockout is over. Today fans are calling into their local radio stations and freely discussing the impact that Matt Hasselbeck will have with Tennessee or how many games Hines Ward will be suspended due to his DUI charge or whether Nnamdi Asomugha will even consider their team in his quest to get more money than he really needs.

The NFL Lockout is over. Today the media smugly sits on the back two legs of their chairs and says, "Our work here is done."

We can arguably say that the players or the owners are to blame for this lockout. But for me, my blame rests on the media. The media that needs to break in to its regularly scheduled programming to let you know that "The owners are meeting at an undisclosed location!" and then interrupt again with "We found out where the undisclosed location is: New York!"

When two sides are refusing to meet on the basis that the other side is full of "jerks," then that may be news. But when each side is trying valiantly to resolve their problem - that is not news. That's just unnecessary.

I understand that the NFL is the most revered sport in all the land. Any NFL news trumps all. But the media turned this lockout into a giant waste of my time. Whenever people talked about it, I was done - I changed the channel or turned it off. The only news I desired to hear from the media was that the lockout was over.

I was reading the newspaper yesterday, and a sportswriter's quote really made me think. He wrote: "The intense fan frustration over the lockout was misplaced because, in the end, nothing of importance was missed."*

Why was there fan frustration in the first place? If the media hadn't jumped on the story when they realized the CBA was expiring, then the fans wouldn't have thought any differently. They still had a draft. There wasn't meant to be football between February and July. But because the media feels it needs to have its finger on every menial "Drew Brees said ______!" story, we as fans feel a responsibility to react. If this had been done behind closed doors, 1) it may have been done faster, and 2) we as fans would feel less like idiots for being strung out for 130+ days obsessing over nothing.

So thanks, media. Because you crave the ratings, you are, in fact, the losers of this lockout. Don't warn us that this thing "may take a while" and that it "may cost us up to half the season" when you probably knew full well that a deal was going to get done this summer. Your hyperactivity makes us respect you even less than before.

We're not that stupid.

*Wisconsin State Journal's Tom Oates: "Biggest Winner? The Fans" Tuesday, July 26, 2011 edition

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Exercise My Freedom To Run!

Posted amongst this blog post is my playlist for my race run. These songs are very inspiring to run a good race! If you’ve been following since the last race, you’ll notice that there aren’t many repeat songs between the two. This is some great music!

Young Blood – The Naked and Famous
After the success of the Jingle Bell 5KRun in December, I felt a surge of energy for running. Although I wasn’t pushing myself for pace and time anymore, I was still getting out and running for 30 minutes or more.

This was especially good for winter, since usually many runners decide to hibernate. I bundled up my warm weather clothes and tried to find the routes that were shoveled. To prevent running in the dark, I would bring my running clothes to school and change at 4, then run around that area instead of around home. 

Moth’s Wings – Passion Pit

I took advantage of the warmer days and also ran more during the weekends, when I could run in the warmest part of the day. 

The first time I actually ran after the Jingle Bell was in January, and to my shock I ran four miles straight! Some days I was feeling great, and other times the cold couldn’t allow me to breathe. But I was proud of my winter running accomplishments.

Little Lion Man – Mumford & Sons

Once the weather started to warm up, it was a wonderful change of pace. I didn’t have to fear slipping in unshoveled snow. I could still feel my face at the end of a run. And the bulky clothes (shorts, tights, sweatpants, t-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, sweatshirt, hat, gloves) started to be shed, and it felt like I had thrown off five pounds and could really move again.

Of course, that meant I could really challenge myself again in distance. I wasn’t really caring about time as much as before; I knew my pace was average (not stellar in the slightest, but good enough for me). My ultimate goal is to run the Princess Half-Marathon at Walt Disney World, and in order to complete that 13.1 mile race you need to keep a 15-minute pace. When I am having a good day I can run a 13-minute mile, so I’m trying to keep that pace right now. The idea of increasing my pace isn’t really on my radar at the moment; perhaps when I am able to run that Half-Marathon I will try increasing my pace. 

You Are A Tourist – Death Cab for Cutie

I was just going about my normal running business a few weeks ago when my friend asked me about my Fourth of July plans. I didn’t have any, and she said she was doing a parade and fireworks on Sunday evening, followed by a 4-mile race on Monday morning. Did I want to come and run?

Usually I’m able to weasel my way out of these races she runs, stating that “I like to run my own pace” and “it costs less to run by myself” and “I really don’t need another t-shirt.” But this race only cost $18 and was early enough in the morning that the heat of the day wouldn’t be a big problem – especially since the forecast for that day was low to mid 80s. So I agreed.

1901 - Phoenix

Now I was stuck figuring out if I was physically ready to run four miles – in the heat! The last time I did a race, the temperature was 20 degrees. This was going to be about a 55 degree difference! I would need some new equipment.

One of the first things I looked for was a good pair of running shorts…okay, that wasn’t what I was looking for. I was actually looking for a pair of black Spandex shorts to wear under a skirt I’d be wearing for a fancy dinner. I did find a pair at Kohl’s, and they were really great. Then I realized I’d be able to wear them running, too! 

Light and Day – The Polyphonic Spree

I also was interested in how to stay hydrated during my longer runs. I did some research on water bottles with my friends, and found that the little ones on belts were too bulky. But a larger handheld one seemed to fit pretty well. I managed to find one on relatively cheap, and aside from minor leaking, it does the job. Plus it has a pocket for my keys!

The days before the race I decided to run 4 miles and get myself mentally ready for it. I’d go out early in the morning to avoid the excessive heat that was coming (the temperature was going to hit 95 degrees in the afternoon). The problem was, as soon as I got outside, I saw black clouds to the northwest. Great – storms were going to ruin my long run. 

Time to Pretend - MGMT

Instead of doing the route I intended, I started out doing a smaller loop – while listening to thunder off in the distance and praying that the thunderstorm would stay out of town – and then got back to my house. I decided to just run the block around my house until the weather came. Then I’d be close enough to home to just run inside. Who knew? Maybe I’d be lucky enough to fit my 4 miles in.

I do not own a GPS watch, so I just kept running. I ran and ran until I thought I’d gotten in enough mileage. I was exhausted, and when I went inside I realized I’d been out for over an hour. The rain had stayed away – actually, the severe weather that I’d seen in the distance had broken up before it hit my town! We barely got any rain. Usually this would irk me, but in this case I was grateful.

Crawling in the Dark - Hoobastank

How many miles did I ran? Actually, I ran over 5 miles – almost enough for a 10k! I was impressed. I felt ready for the race on Monday.

The night before I got six hours of sleep and felt pretty exhausted in the morning. I only had one drink early in the evening, and then nursed a bottle of water for the rest of the night. The parade and fireworks were a lot of fun!

Welcome to the Black Parade – My Chemical Romance

We arrived at the race a little close – we grabbed our packets, and didn’t have that much time to take them back to the car. I’d filled up my water bottle with ice, and my iTunes playlist was ready. We settled in the back of the pack and I got ready to run!

There were over 1100 runners for this race. I made sure most of them were in front of me. As we began to run I just told myself, “Run your pace. Don’t be fooled by the other runners. Don’t try to keep pace with someone else!” So I got into my trot and watched people pass me by – including my friends, who are much more experienced runners than I am.

Poker Face – Lady GaGa

We raced through very nice neighborhoods, and there were many people in their lawn chairs cheering us on. Many were dressed in their red, white, and blue finest, watching the sweaty runners go past their house. A few kids had squirt guns and hoses and would spray the runners. (Of course, only if the runners indicted they wanted to get wet.) I made sure to say thank you, even though I think it’s not a good idea to get wet for a run (something to do with the humidity or your body temp or something). There were also many sprinklers set up around the course. 

This had been advertised as a “mainly flat course,” and I’d have to agree. Compared to the Jingle Bell in December, this was nothing. I could sense the inclines and declines, but it wasn’t anything too bad. 

This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race – Fall Out Boy

There were three water stops, and I didn’t stop running. My motto is “Slow and steady wins the race.” Emphasis on steady. I am not big into stopping to walk, and sometimes it annoys me when people do it around me. There was a lady in a green shirt who’d run ahead of me, then walk so I’d catch up or pass her, and then she’d run past me again, and we did that about five times. It got annoying. 

My water bottle was a huge help at the water stops – I’d open the top, dump the cup of water onto the ice, and keep going. The ice stayed in my bottle for half the race, so the first two water stops I had cold water! I finally figured out how to open it with my teeth too.

Club Can’t Handle Me – Flo Rida

After two miles I was feeling good. I’d been running with the same group of people, so I decided to pick up my pace a little bit. So I increased my speed, and started passing the people in my group…and not seeing them again. Then I started catching up to the people that started out too fast and were now walking to the finish. Then I started passing a few runners who were taking a walking break! I was passing people! It felt very odd. But because I’d kept my slow pace at the beginning, I was benefitting at the end! 

When I hit the last quarter mile, which took place in the park, I really turned on the jets. I was determined not to wipe out on the trail or on the grass the finish line was on. 

California Love – 2Pac

Right before the final stretch, I saw a dad with his 2-year old son ahead of me. The dad let the kid start running toward the finish, and that kid was fast for being two years old! In my head I was going Oh no! This kid is going to cross the finish line before me and ruin my great race! But then he stopped and turned around and headed back for his dad, so I had the final 100 meters ahead of me to sprint to the finish!

I didn’t feel as dead at the finish as I had in December, and that was great. I immediately went over to the snack table and grabbed three cookies and apple slices and found my friends. We sat on the grass and ate and talked until the results were posted. I hadn’t kept track of my time, but the chip timer on my shoe recorded that I’d finished in 49 minutes and 25 seconds – 4 miles in less than 50 minutes! My pace was an astounding 12.22 minutes per mile, which was great for the heat!

Shiny Happy People – R.E.M.

I was very excited for my race, and felt I’d done it well. I know now that I can push my pace a little more and still have enough at the end. I don’t know when my next race will be, but I’ll keep you posted!

Friday, July 1, 2011

My New Favorite Sport

In my personal opinion, a sport is something that gets you moving and makes you sweat. Dancing? That is a sport. Sitting on the couch? Not a sport. Cheerleading? Yes - I believe that is a sport. Playing an instrument? Well, it depends. If you're in a chair in an orchestra hall, no, that is not a sport.

What I saw last night involving instruments definitely would be included as a sport in my book. Last night my friend took my to my first Drum Corp competition. And wow! I think I'll be going to more of those shows!

Drum corps are a summer sport involving teens and college students, roughly ages 13-22 (they "age out" if they are 21 that summer). The "drum AND bugle corps" consist of brass, percussion, and color guard. But if I were to say that was it, I would be missing out on the majority of the corp. There is brass of all shapes and sizes - trumpets, euphoniums, tubas, baritones, and probably more. The percussion section is huge, too. Not only do they have the marching drums - snare drums, quads, and cymbals - but they have a "front percussion" with electronic instruments and a variety of orchestral instruments like vibes and marimbas and other smaller percussion (my area of "expertise"!). Finally, the color guard has various types of dancing, but they also have to learn flag spinning, and working with/throwing in the air and catching mock rifles and sabers.

When you put all these elements together, it's hard to watch. Hard, in fact, because so much AWESOME stuff is going on and your eyes can't keep track of it all! First the color guard is dancing crazily, and then the front percussion is going nuts with their mallets, then the brass suddenly breaks out into a giant chord of amazing, and then the flags appear, then this guy throws a mock rifle 20 feet into the air and catches it on the beat! How do they do that?

Most of these performers are full-time high school and college students who join a drum corp in their area and train like crazy for days on end. They compete against other corps in competitions like I was able to see in Whitewater, Wisconsin last night. It was the Whitewater Classic, brought to you by the local drum corp, the Madison Scouts (who, ironically weren't there last night - they are on tour on the East Coast right now). But the eight participating corps were wonderful to watch - especially the last two: the Blue Stars (from LaCrosse) and the Cavaliers (from Rosemont, IL).

For the inexperienced viewer, you could say that watching a Drum Corp competition is basically watching a three-hour halftime show. But once you start getting into it, you realize that there's so much more to it. Firstly, everything gets judged. The Cavaliers won last night's competition with a score of 81 out of 100 possible points. I don't know the exact judging requirements, but I'm guessing it gets pretty crazy trying to keep track of formations and saber throwing drops.

Secondly, the drum corps don't have any woodwinds (clarinets and flutes). It really allows for the brass to really shine. (Sorry, clarinet and flute players.)

Thirdly, this isn't a retro trip to the best of the Beatles that you're watching. This is artistry! Some of the pieces picked ("Nature Boy" by Eden Ahbez, or "Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, Op 47" by Shostakovich) wouldn't be found in a football halftime show. And the color guard has to help the drum and bugle sections convey the storyline of the songs, through costumes and acting.

I haven't mentioned the uniforms yet! Those were some of the coolest band uniforms I'll probably ever see. Some look like standard marching band uniforms, but the Troopers' (from Casper, Wyoming) uniforms are actually modeled after the Union Army's 11th Ohio Cavalry during the Civil War. Plus the Drum Major (who directs the whole show - and also is in the age range of the other performers, which is awesome) of the Troopers has a sword strapped to his belt! I am a conductor too - can I get a sword?

I really got a kick out of watching this competition, and I look forward to seeing more. I'm a little sad that I didn't hear about this until I was in college, and one of my close friends alerted me to it. But now I can anticipate each summer with thoughts of seeing another Drum Corp show.

(By the way the World Championships are going to be a movie theater near you on Thursday, August 11. Plus there are a ton of Drum Corp shows before then. You can go to to find out more! Please do - you won't regret it!)