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Friday, April 14, 2006

Sports roundup

Everyone wants to know how Jamie did yesterday.  A couple dozen people want to know how David Horowitz did yesterday.  And two people want to know what the hell is going on with the Rangers.  Well, you Jamie- Horowitz-Rangers people have come to the right place!  This blog is your one-stop Jamie-Horowitz-Rangers Information Center.

First, the important stuff.  Last year, Jamie finished second in his heat in the 50m dash, third in his heat in the standing broad jump, and sixth (that is, last) in his heat in the softball throw.  I missed the third event because I had to get back to my day job, and was puzzled by the outcome, since Jamie can hurl a ball like Vlad “The Impaler” Guerrero.  But on the whole, I was so proud of him I could hardly speak.  Jamie had never run 50m before.  In fact, before his Special Olympics debut last year, he didn’t like to run at all.  When he was younger, he didn’t like to walk for any significant distance, either.  In 1999, on our very first European vacation, I basically carried him around Rome on my back.  In 2002, when we briefly sublet an apartment in New York’s Peter Cooper Village, he complained about walking from Avenue B to First Avenue, and took it upon himself to go to the curb and hail a cab for a journey of a few hundred yards.  (I put the kabosh on that.) Quite apart from the fact that the physical aspects of his disability occasionally made him a difficult traveling companion in cities, Janet and I were (understandably) concerned that his aversion to ambulatin’ would have long-term implications for his cardiovascular health.

But once he got inside Penn State’s indoor track-and-field facility, it was, as they say, a Whole Nother Story.  We’d practiced running 50m with him in the weeks before the Special Olympics, because we wanted him to understand how far fifty meters is—and because we didn’t think he would voluntarily run the entire distance.  (A few years ago, when he had to complete a mile “run” for Phys Ed, he subjected his teacher’s aide to something like a four-hour mile, as he complained his way around the outdoor track for four excruciating laps.) Sometimes he was up for practice, sometimes he wasn’t.  But there’s nothing like the thrill of competition, apparently.  Once he saw that he was among a hundred kids with disabilities and that they were all kicking butt and being brave in the attempt, he put on his game face and adopted a new Jamie identity:  Jamie the Multi-Sport Athlete.

This year . . . well, this year they didn’t record runners’ times in the 50m, so I don’t know whether he improved on his 14.82 from last year.  But I do know where he placed in his heat:

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The next event was the standing broad jump.  I know, it’s not a great picture, but it does capture something kinetic about the event:

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His jump:  4 feet 4 inches.  Now, Jamie himself is 5’ 1”.  In other words, he jumped 85 percent of his height.  Go ahead, try it yourselves.

And the result?

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At this point my Jamie is seriously outperforming that Bode Miller guy.

And then we moved to the softball throw.  Still clueless as to what happened in last year’s competition, I advised Jamie not to throw the ball too high: “You have such a strong arm,” I said.  “You could throw it right out of the building, you know.” “I know,” Jamie replied.  His coach assured me that Jamie could reach distances of 50, maybe 55 feet, and I agreed.  But I wanted to stick around and see, despite the fact that the Special Olympics were now encroaching on my office hours.

Jamie’s competition, in heat 14 of the softball throw, consisted of three girls—each of whom could sling it.  The first girl posted a throw of 53 feet.  Yeesh!  The second broke 54.  The third tossed off a mighty 57.  And then Jamie toed the line, reared back, stepped well over the line, and threw 66.  “Jamie,” I yelled, “stay behind the line.” He stepped back, took his second ball, and hurled it 69’ 6”.  Well, you know what that meant:

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Three events.  Three gold medals.  And the funny thing is, it never gets old!  No one says, “aw, jeez, not the top step again?” as he or she stands atop the “1.”

So here’s to Jamie!  He’s still not over his cold, but he gave the local Special Olympics everything he had, and now he has a bunch of medals to show Janet’s family as we head off to Connecticut today.

As for that other person:  he didn’t do so well last night.  He won over surprisingly few hearts and minds when (as you can read on this fine website) he responded to a couple of students’ critical questions in a somewhat less than gracious manner:

To one student, Horowitz said “you are obviously deaf and brain-dead.” To another, “you don’t have the mental capacity to understand it.” Finally, in response to a question he didn’t care to answer, “what are the requirements for getting into this school!”

This might be a good time to ask why Horowitz doesn’t receive speaking invitations from professors.

My friend and colleague Aldon Lynn Nielsen has a pretty hilarious account of the talk as well.  In fact, Aldon has a blog!  The account is on his blog, you see.  As is a lot of other great stuff.  Check it out and say hello from me.

Finally, the Rangers.  When the Rangers clinched a playoff spot a little while ago, I foolishly thought it was safe to write about them.  I was wrong.  In the past week, they have lost to the Devils (OK, it happens), the Islanders (um, not good, guys) and—last night—the mother-lovin’ Penguins (WTF?  did the Rangers decide to play in street shoes?).  And remember when I noted that no Ranger had won a scoring title since 1942?  Yes, well, while the Rangers have been floundering, Joe Thornton picked up seven assists in two nights as the San Jose Sharks eliminated the Vancouver Canucks from the postseason.  (Real assists, too—the kind that set up goals.  It was Thornton’s coast-to-coast rush that set up the Sharks’ OT winner Tuesday night, and his dish to Cheechoo that sealed the Canucks’ fate last night.) Thornton is now tied with Jagr for the scoring lead.  So yes, Scott Lemieux, God does love you that much.  His love is boundless, and because all things are possible with Him, the team that cravenly made Todd Bertuzzi an assistant captain will be sitting at home and watching your Calgary Flames on TV next week.  But if God would just love my Rangers a teeny bit more, that would be cool, too.  Thanks, God!  Oh, and God, while I have you on the blog, I just want to say I liked a lot of Your early work, especially the funny stuff, but I really love the way You orchestrated that whole “evolution” thing just to find out which of Your creations was capable of intelligent thought.  That was quite clever of You.  Now, the Rangers travel to Philly this Saturday and then finish the season at home against Ottawa on Tuesday.  Please see what You can do.  Thanks again.

Posted by Michael on 04/14 at 07:46 AM
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