Monday, February 24, 2014

And the Stench from Albuquerque Is None Too Good

The big stink in Fort Myers aimed at a race that raises a ton of dough for sick kids by a selfish mom, is nothing compared to the shitfest delivered in Albuquerque by USATF.  I am mildly amused at the crazy crap that happened Saturday night during the women's 3000 meter.

Cancer survivor Gabe Grunewald steamrolled her way to victory, literally.  As I watched the race unfold live from the comfort of my couch, Grunewald first attempted to run up Jordan Hasay's backside on the final lap, and then nearly ran over Shannon Rowbury on the backstretch before finally sprinting to an easy victory.  I remember looking over to the Czarina and saying, she could be disqualified for all that nonsense.  She was, eventually, after a lot of monkey business, a lot of it by the 800 pound gorilla at the meet, NIKE.

The fact is an official did flag Grunewald for a foul.  The fact is the meet judge discussed it with the official and they agreed the bump didn't rise to the level of disqualification.  The fact is, a protest was filed, again and apparently again and the a jury decided to leave Grunewald as champion.  Then sometime in the murky minutes following the end of Saturday's session somebody, whether it was Alberto Salazar, or a big name at NIKE, someone obviously yanked the right chain at USATF and Grunewald was disqualified.

That meant Salazar's athletes, Shannon Rowbury who finished 2nd and Jordan Hasay who ended up in 4th, would go to the world championships.  The 3rd place finisher, Sara Vaughn, didn't have the necessary qualifying time for the trip to Poland.  Hasay remained remarkably mute about all that was unfolding through the weekend.  Rowbury didn't mention the controversy at the post race news conference.

By Saturday night social media was on fire and USATF was pulling up its drawbridge around the its shit-filled mote.  It got even more interesting during Sunday's final sessions.  After the women's 1500, a group of non-NIKE affiliated women joined hands and walked down the homestretch in a show of solidarity for Grunewald.  Then after the men's 1500, race runner-up Will Leer threw USATF back into the shit-filled mote and champion Lopez Lomong wholeheartedly agreed with Will's takedown right on national television. 

I give credit to Jordan Hasay.  She did the classy thing on Monday and withdrew her (Salazar's) protest.  All the while USATF hasn't explained the debacle of Saturday night.  Salazar has laid low, while the catcalls continue over his outrageous behavior at the meet.  I won't go into all of the BS but the women's 3000 disaster was only part of the outrage on parade. 

I think Salazar is a great coach.  But I think he's ego is out of control.  NIKE is out of control.  USATF needs to find financing that doesn't leave it so reliant on NIKE support to stay afloat.  You can smell the shit in the air, the athletes are ready to revolt.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sitting Atop BS Mountain

No matter how much good you can do in a community.  No matter how much money you raise for those in "need", there are always people who want to take a big shit all over it when they can't get their way.  It's happening right now in Fort Myers, where a mom is having a hissy fit about where she gets to start in a road race with her disabled daughter that she pushes along in the stroller.

Charyse Smith is a very fast runner.  She has a 7-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy.  Recently she's started pushing her little girl Kayla at area road races.  Charyse asked a few months back if she could push Kayla at the biggest half marathon in Fort Myers which goes off in a week.  She was told yes, but it sounds like there was mis-communication.  Charyse wants to start up front.  The race organizers told her she has to start in the back, as a safety precaution.

I've run a ton of races.  As most runners know, the wheelchair athletes usually get a head start, to avoid any dangerous situations.  That usually includes anyone pushing a competitive stroller.  I've caught up to wheelchairs and people pushing strollers that are normally start with the wheelchairs.  It can get pretty damn tricky.  I've seen wipe outs.  I've nearly been hit.  It's a huge liability issue.

One runner decided to go to the web and post some half truths about the situation on one of the local running clubs Facebook page.  The post started a slew of moronic responses from idiots who never take the time to think there are two sides to every story.  I love hobby joggers who don't have a clue about what it takes to put on a first class road race like Hooters to Hooters.

Regardless, the damage is done.  The Fort Myers Track Club has had its reputation damaged and I think it's largely because of folks like John Biffar and Rachel Lee in particular, don't like the stranglehold FMTC has on the top local running events.  You see Lee owns a running store and along with Biffar, they have worked with The Speedsters and a group called 3D Running to make inroads into the Fort Myers racing scene.

It's great to have a variety of road races to choose from over the course of a racing season but I've been racing for 40 plus years and the trouble is their races simply aren't at the level of the FMTC events.  They may get there and I say good for them.  But it's painfully obvious for anyone with a tiny bit knowledge, to know that this isn't so much about get Charyse Smith a fair shake, it's about throwing as much shit on FMTC as possible.

Charyse could have taken the high road and stopped it.  I would ask her, if it's so freaking safe for her to start at the front of the Hooter's race next weekend, why she didn't do it last week at the Edison 5K?  Charyse knows damn well why she didn't run in front of the tremendous crowds that line the Edison course, it wasn't safe.  What makes her think Hooter's would be any safer?  Yep, not as many runners, but you've got a course with a curb jump about a mile and a half in and then there's the up and down on the bridge. 

If she runs her normal pace of between 7 minute to 7:30 pace for the race she'll be surrounded by dozens of runners having to dodge her and her stroller.  Trust me, coming down that bridge it will be a nightmare.  I know because I've nearly been clipped by one before.

Look at me, look at me, I'm getting screwed.  Who cares that Hooters to Hooters raises money to help save ICU children, like the one you want to push through the streets of Fort Myers?  Life's not fair, and the damage you've done can't be undone.  You've set a fine example for your daughter.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bruce Live

One of my major gripes for the last 15 years is the reluctance of artists to provide live copies of their concerts to their fans.  The Internet removed any impediment from providing soundboard quality recordings of any band.  And given the spiraling costs of concerts in this day and age, a free soundboard download really should come with the show, but I digress.

I just wanted to praise Bruce Springsteen for finally dialing up the 21st century by offering downloads of his concerts at a reasonable price.  He started the practice a couple of weeks ago when the Boss launched his first ever tour of South Africa.  For $9.99 you can get a download of the concert through the soundboard that's been sweeten to the extent that it can be over the course of a day or so.

I've already downloaded a couple of shows, one from South Africa and one from his current swing through Australia and I must say, the results are satisfying.  You get the whole concert, complete with mistakes.  In the South Africa show Bruce's microphone cuts out after the first verse of "The Ghost of Tom Joad" and for a minute or so the band just vamps until the mic gets replaced.  Bruce's vocals could be mixed better, but I think a lot of the sound issues has to do the venue as much as the efforts to "fix" the soundboard recordings.

Now the challenge has been thrown down.  Bob Dylan has been touring non-stop since the late 1980's.  He's released a few nuggets from his live shows during that period, but never an entire concert.  You can find an endless supply of bootlegs and I have some pretty good ones, but nothing beats a soundboard recording.  Are you listening Bob?  And are you listening Neil Young? 

You can still see Bob and Neil for a reasonable amount of cash, we're talking less than $100.  But they need to give their fans more.  Bands like U2 and The Rolling Stones that charge major bucks for their shows, need to give their fans more.  You would think their managers would push artists to do what Springsteen has done and what Pearl Jam has done for years.

The Grateful Dead realized it years ago.  They started allowing tapers into their concerts in the 70's and it took off in the 80's.  You can download great shows from these tapers for free at  You can even listen to soundboard recordings of the Dead, but you can't download them.  That decision to give it away, was in large part a brilliant marketing idea, because when the taping started, the legion of Dead fans mushroomed.  By the mid-80's every show was sold out. 

I'm not holding my breath.  Yet with cash from the sale of recordings dwindling, even rich as God artists like Dylan and Young can't be so stupid as to turn away from a cash cow like concert downloads.  You can bet they're watching Springsteen's efforts with great interest.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Meet the Beatles

It's all a bit hazy, 50 years later.  I am vaguely aware of the television coverage of their arrival in New York City.  The fan frenzy shown by Walter Cronkite on February 7, 1964 is a faint imprint on my conscientiousness.  But what followed on February 9 will never leave my soul.

It's hard to imagine how The Ed Sullivan Show was must watch television for the vast majority of American families through most of the 1960's.  You were exposed to everything, from great pop music, to opera, to really bad magic acts and jugglers.  It's the great comedians that I remember the most, but on this particular winter night, the vibe in our family living room was completely different.

My older sisters were glued to the television.  My 8-year-old self sensed something big was about to happen because they never seemed to care much, one way or another, about any given performer on Sullivan.  The energy was astounding.  It pulsated through our old black and white television.  The Beatles hit the stage and it was incredible.  There was no lip-synching, there was only straight forward rock and roll.

You have to understand, American rock and roll was in a moribund place.  The Elvis period had died down.  I had been a big Elvis fan, at an early age.  But American rock had faded away.  Popular music seemed to be defined by Bobby Darin or Peter, Paul and Mary.  In fact, folk seemed to be the rising tide among young listeners with The New Christie Minstrels and The Kingston Trio.

The arrival of the Beatles was a course correction.  Whatever Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Buddy Holly had ignited back in the 50's, the Beatles re-lit the flames.  There was no turning back. 

After the show I remember my sisters going outside and holding a cold, dark, confab with the girl's who lived next door.  My sisters Dianne and Karen, poured over every moment that the Fab Four had spent on Sullivan's stage with Tammy and Candy Wehling.  It left quite an impression.

We lived in a small town in north-central Kansas.  Hearing a Beatles song on the radio was a rarity.  It was like forbidden fruit.  When we would visit family in Lawrence you could listen to the Kansas City radio stations, which played The Beatles non-stop.

My cousins who lived in KC even got to see The Beatles play Municipal Stadium.  Then they moved to Washington, DC and saw them again and again.  We were stuck in tiny Abilene.  And as the television appearances became rarer, we hoped for any concert movie to catch a glimpse of The Beatles.  It was cruel indeed to be so cut off from such great music.

I remember four years later as Beatlemania had ebbed, riding with my lucky cousin Mike who had seen the Fab Four in concert.  We were in his new Ford Mustang tooling along near tiny Enterprise, Kansas.  Mike excitedly described the latest great Beatles tune he had heard called, "Hey Jude."  Then as if by magic it suddenly crackled out of nowhere on the radio and I listened, rapt, shocked by the fact that such a long song, an incredibly poignant song, could get radio airplay. 

It's hard to describe how important their music was, how they changed the landscape.  How they changed the way we felt about music.  The Beatles changed everything. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Milk Carton Kids

I find it difficult to let new music into my life.  I'm very stubborn that way.  A few bands and artist creep into my musical vocabulary but it only happens every five years or so.  I know that it leaves me limited and stunted in my tastes, but so be it.  It's self-protective because I tend to buy everything in sight when I discover something new.  It saves me financially.
That brings me to The Milk Carton Kids.  They appeared magically in a documentary airing on Showtime called "Another Time/Another Day."  T Bone Burnett created it as a homage to the Coen Brothers movie, "Inside Llewyn Davis."  The Milk Carton Kids give a breathe taking performance of a song called "New York."  They sound like a 21st century version of Simon and Garfunkel but with a dash of Smothers Brothers.

You can catch a full flavor of their banter and repertoire on this week's Austin City Limits.  Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan form this duo out of California.  It's a folk based act with soaring harmonies and some tenacious picking by Pattengale.  Ryan is a jokster and it causes one to flash back to what a young Bob Dylan must have served up in the way of story telling back at The Gaslight. 

They are fan friendly.  If you check out their website you can download their music for free.  Check out their performance on Austin City Limits which features a short chuckle filled interview with the duo.  I promise, they won't disappoint.