Sports


The 100m Olympic event (won by the amazing Usain Bolt) is billed as the event to determine the Fastest man on the planet.  And sure looking at Bolt turn on the turbo boost a few seconds into the race, it is obvious why he is so. It truly felt exhilarating to watch the acceleration! His timing, a new world record of 9.69 is indeed phenomenal – looks and feels like the fastest 100m a human has run in competition.

I also enjoyed his 200m blast clocking at 19.30 seconds beating Michael Johnson‘s record of 19.32, which many thought was going to remain unsurpassed for a long time. 

The 4x100m relay performance by Jamaica propelled by Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell was another gem, with another world record time of 37.10 seconds.

But then I did some simple math, and I am confused.

The world record of 9.69 that that Bolt set is indeed fast, stunningly fast. Even knowledgeable observers of the sport say so, and to an lay observer, it is (and looked) unimaginably fast.

However,  he ran 200m in 19.30. That is an average of 9.65 seconds per 100m!  In fact, Michael Johnson’s previous 19.32, gives an average of 9.66, which is much better than the earlier 100m record 9.72. So that fast average of 9.66 was established twelve years ago in 1996!

So what is going on here?

I really am not sure. One explanation I can think of is that sprinters do not hit their top speeds until well into the 100m. And when running 200m, they are probably able to hold on to that speed for the rest of  the way. So the second 100m of a 200m is fast – real fast. So if we want to look at the fastest man on planet, perhaps we should look at 200m record holder rather than 100m record holder? So why even pump up the importance of 100m so much? Is it true that the true indicator of human speed is in the longer 200m?

But wait! The 4x100m relay is 400m run by 4 people in 37.10 seconds. That averages to just 9.275 seconds per 100m!  It looks like that except for the first leg, the sprinters accelerate before getting the baton – I am assuming this is before they hit the start of their 100m legs. So perhaps all 400m were run in entirety at close-to or full top-speed unlike the 100m or 200m where the initial acceleration from full stop is part of the race.

But then I read this:  Bolt ran his leg at 9.96 seconds. So he wasn’t near his best and so others probably did better – certain Asafa Powell.  But so much so that the overall average drops to 9.275? I am lost!

I must be missing something. And I expect to realize this in an embarrassing way soon 🙂 !!

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A few weeks ago, I had the rare (for me) and unique opportunity of attending two baseball games on two successive weekends at the two ballparks of the two Chicago teams – The Chicago Cubs and The Chicago White Sox.

Now, I am not exactly a big fan of baseball – but that does not mean I don’t watch it. I am really a shameless, opportunistic sports fan – more so when it comes to baseball. I do watch some playoff baseball as for some reason many aspects that I find boring in that sport all of a sudden become actually interesting. This is actually the remarkable thing about baseball. When the game is on the line and your team is rallying or even trying to put the final nail in the coffin you feel like screaming and cheering for so many things that in other situations would be quite “mundane”. You then go “YAAAA” for every strike, every ball, every out, every hit, every walk that favors your team. I did a lot of that in both games as both the Cubs and the Sox won their respective games.

Our (extended) family in Chicago has more enthusiastic White Sox fans than Cubs fans. We attend one White Sox game as a family outing every year. This year though, one of my old family friends visited us from Houston and he was nice enough to treat us to a Cubs game, a game in which they were playing the Houston Astros. Hence, my very first Cubs game outing.

First Weekend: Chicago Cubs vs. Houston Astros at Wrigley Field, Chicago

Cubs vs Astros

While usually both Chicago teams generally suck every year, this year the Cubs are doing well, while the Sox are down in the cellar. So the game at the Cubs was bound to be important and potentially interesting. For the first 5 innnings are so, the Cubs were down – and so it was a bit dull. But I had bigger concerns – I was afraid, afraid that I was going to seriously hurt before the game was over. I guess I did not know that my friend and his son were going to quite vociferous in their support for the Houston Astros. When Craig Biggio came on, they were two lone voices leading a B G O, B G O cheer. A huge guy in front us turned and gave us dirty looks many times. But to no avail as our guys either pretended to not notice or did not really notice. I cowered in my seat with my mind racing about possible excuses to use at the right time I don’t really know them – they just happened to sell us tickets at this Indian party (Or) They are Indians from Texas you know? (Or) They just now got off the plane from India and don’t know which team is which. They have never been to a baseball game

But then I counted my lucky stars as I realized that the T-Shirt I was wearing just happened to have the Cubs colors of blue and red, albeit a bit reversed i.e. more red and less blue rather than more blue and less red. The blue tone was even the right one! And it was not even a conscious choice! I knew that I will be safe and I could smile.

But anyway, soon the Cubs rallied and won. It turned out to be quite a good game. Some highlights/lowlights of the whole ballgame experience:

  • Very interesting game for the last 4 innings. I really got into the rally.
  • The houses/buildings around the ballpark which were tall enough that their owners have built proper stands in their terraces looking down into the stadium. Sort of like “mini galleries” all around.
  • Urinals at Wrigley field. Reminded me of the urinals at my high school in India. I usually think that if I handled that, I can handle anything. That resolve was tested well here.
  • 7 freaking bucks for a lousy beer! They know how to rip people off! I skipped the beer but went for slightly less expensive, watered-down, fake tropical fare.  Yeah – I still got screwed, but I chose how and I sure wasn’t going to get screwed on taste too 😉 Getting ripped off on drinks at a baseball game – ain’t that an American tradition?
  • Trying to eat “soft serve” ice-cream super-fast before it became like runny milk shake (hot day). This was in the middle of a cubs rally with everybody around us were standing up and screaming. My friend’s young son was so distraught that his Astros were losing their lead that he had two quick spoonfuls and decided he had enough ice cream (!?!). But I didn’t let him off – told him he had to finish enough that the rest will not “overflow”. He must have thought – what a strange dilemma!
  • Saw a guy whose T-Shirt read “White Sox” in the Sox black and white colors. I thought Is this guy dumb? Is he asking to get killed? But then I saw that that I missed one more word on the T-Shirt – a very bold SUCK. So of course he was quite safe, and also quite at home. BTW, if you are not familiar with the sports dynamics of US cities with more than one team playing the same sport – the simple concise rule is that the fans of each team loathe the fans of the other team. And actually the word loathe here is an understatement. I think there is no word in the English dictionary that can represent the level of hatred here.

Second Weekend: Chicago White Sox vs. Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago

Sox vs Twins

This game was a general yawner even though the Sox won. This is mainly because the game meant nothing – the Sox were dead in terms of contention for playoffs by that time. There was quite a bit of excitement in the form of home runs along with fireworks display after every Sox home run. One reason why the game felt like it lacked life in spite of all this could be because we were like 30,000 feet up on the upper-deck on a not-too-crowded stadium. You do get nice views from the upper deck, but you feel very detached from the game. But that did not mean all was lost as you could concentrate on Nachos, French Fries, Funnel Cakes and drinks, and other sights. After all even for baseball fans, these are as important if not more important than the game itself.

Highlights/Lowlights:

  • Like I said – the game was not that gripping. But I still yelled loudly as the Sox took the lead and closed it out. It is so easy to get into it when everyone else is into it. Something about the electricity of the crowd.
  • Listening to my daughter and her younger cousin sing “Take me out to the ball game” at least fifteen times during our ride to the park. I loved it every time.
  • Cool breeze (thanks to Lake Michigan) at the very top of the upper-deck on a hot day – it was heaven I tell ya!
  • Very good curly french fries and funnel cake.
  • $6.50 (i think) for a lousy beer! I again skipped it and went for equally expensive , watered-down, fake tropical fare.
  • Also once again saw what must the most favorite T-shirt of Sox fans. The White Sox won the US Major League Baseball Championship (“World” Series) couple of years ago and that means each player gets a ring – a big deal. In sports talk in the US “getting a ring” means winning it all. So anyway, this T-Shirt calls out “Hey Cubs Fan!” on one side. The other side has a hand “showing the finger” with the World Series ring on it – nice touch 😉

A few photos of the ballparks that I took are here on flickr.

When you are afraid to lose, you will almost never win since the best result you are looking for is not to lose.

Where is the fun in such attitude? But that is cricket for you – Indian style. I am of course referring to the anti-climactic finish to the last test match between India and England that just concluded. I am not an active fan of cricket nowadays but I do follow it fairly regularly. I have only one thought about the Indian team’s approach in the last match – What the @#%$ ?

Maybe it was just my imagination, but I thought Shastri said “India should go for the kill.” And this is how one goes for the kill? But maybe he was talking about killing the possibility of an exciting finish, killing the interest in test match cricket? You know the interest that was dead a few decades ago, but was rejuvenated by the Aussies via their fabulously successful, killer-instinct strategies. Other teams have also adopted this with good success, and I think this is a huge reason why test cricket has been very interesting during the last decade. Not a great fan of the Aussies – but the guys did make test match cricket much much more interesting for me.

Let’s face it – Indians were playing not too lose, and they did not lose. With so many balls being bowled, and batted, in the end they just didn’t have the balls.

Was their approach was safe? Yes. Smart? Hm…m ok yes. Was it wimpy? Yes! Was it downright, pathetically wimpy? Oh bloody yes!

Come on Team India! Live a little!

But why would they adopt such an approach? To make sure they won the freaking test series of course – a win guaranteed even by a draw! Oh, nothing uncommon in cricket – but how lame is that? I am sorry – but in a sport where a result is not guaranteed in every bout, the idea of a “best of” is a farce, a big joke and a big bore. It is a convenient excuse for the conservative to go into his shell. It justifies draws, and it is the root of big boredom. It makes way for the Gavaskars, the Mudassar Nazars, the Tolchards (ok that should tell you i am an old timer).

I started loathing test cricket because of these idiotic draws. And in those days, in a 5 match series in India, if India wins the first one – you know what to expect for the next four. Yes – India will play for draw in every subsequent match, even if there is the slightest risk of losing. Of course, Gavaskar would bore you to death with big knocks racking up records. Great concentration and application yaar – the fans and media would praise. Sure enough – but who cares when watching him is like watching a 3-day chess match? Many such innings made a match into a boring extremely long movie or television-series. Actually, worse – because the story doesn’t end in the last episode. There is no closure.

It is time we find a way to at least drastically reduce the possibility of the draw, if we cannot eliminate it completely from the test cricket vocabulary. But how? I have no idea. All I know is that I hate these kinds of draws. I hate that a sport I love allows for it, allows for you to justify it, feel good about it.

Maybe at the start of the test match, we should divide the # of sessions equally among the two teams. So you have an initial cap on an inning which will hopefully prevent those Gavaskar knocks of 100 runs in 1.5 days. You bat through those # of sessions – you declare whether you want to or not. However, if a team is bowled out for lesser that the allotted # of sessions, the other team can gain that session which can allow for building a good lead by going above the initial cap.

I have not obviously thought through this and I am sure it has many holes and it won’t work. But I loathe freaking draws in test cricket! Anything to reduce the possibility would be welcome. Maybe, if a match is drawn, all players should be required to give up their match bonus, which will be used to refund the audience. Yes – they will then tear each other apart to avoid a draw!

See – if it were not for a rain forced draw, match #1 would have gone to England and we would 1-1. Maybe India would have been more aggressive in the last match. But who am I kidding? The wimps would have been even more scared of losing the match and the series, and would have gone for the draw from the beginning!

Oh – if and only if they had enforced the follow-on! England would have batted and come with a nice response in their 2nd inning. And since they had more to lose, and absolutely needed to even the series, they would have setup up an interesting Indian 2nd inning – evenly poised, a fitting last bout.

Ah! That would have been quite a match ….

But – time to wake up. What am I thinking! Knowing India, they would have collapsed and lost. I would then be complaining – Why the needless risk? They had the series bagged – they should have forced the @#$% draw! Morons!

It is indeed nice to have your cake and eat it too …