Saturday, July 20, 2013

Greased Grooves

            I can almost hear John Huston, The Narrator in 1982’s ‘Cannery Row’ intone: “Once again the World was spinning in greased grooves” now that the All-Star Break is over and Major League Baseball is being played in ballparks from coast to coast! #GoGiants

            The happy, warm all over feeling I got when Giants’ starting pitcher Chad Gaudin mowed down the Diamondbacks’ first three hitters, and the Giants’ leadoff man Gregor Blanco got to first on a walk, only to be knocked in by a big Buster Posey double in the  first inning…priceless! Our Week-Long National Nightmare is over! Hooray Baseball!

            Final Score- SF Giants 2 Arizona Diamondbacks 0 We gain a game on them too!

            In another greased groove across the Big Pond, Le Tour de France  reaches Paris Sunday… some champagne will be enjoyed by the maillot jaune’s  team as they wend their way around the Champs-Élysées, before the final field sprint, and the Podium Ceremony. After three weeks, it’s been a brilliant 100th Tour.

            This July, I didn’t really have a horse in the race…yeah, I was pulling for Andy Schleck who was still short of the form needed to win the Tour after a Spring of injuries and set-backs. As a dispassionate observer of Le Tour de France this year, I noticed a new, disturbing trend on the roads and byways of France (and Corsica, too.)

            “Traffic Furniture”, the quaint term the British Tour Commentators use to define Traffic Roundabouts, Median Strips, Curbs and Gutters, almost took out the winner of Thursday’s Iconic Stage 18 near the bottom of the second  L’Alpe d’Heuz climb. Christophe Riblon following Tejay Van Garderen had to “Bunny-Hop” a roundabout that came as a surprise as they snaked through the packed roadway. Luckily, Riblon escaped without crashing or suffering a flat tire, and went on to win the stage when Van Garderen “hit the wall” just 3KM from the finish line.

            It’s bad enough that roundabouts have multiplied like überfetid bunnies, infecting seemingly each and every scenic French village, town and city center…but what is the deal with the multitude of Speed Bumps? Do they come along post-roundabout infestation? Don’t the Tour de France Organizers have enough pull to have these motoring menaces removed for the Tour…if only on the Finishing Straights? I almost get Motion Sickness from the LIVE footage when the MotoCameras go over these outsized Traffic Furniture interlopers.

            Dear Readers, it’s not too late to take preventative action! Attend and speak at your City Council or Public Works Committee meetings! Stop this insipid virus before it infects your whereabouts! Roundabouts are the camel’s nose under our tents…once a populace surrenders to the tyranny of the roundabout fascists, the speed bumps will follow. Roundabouts are the first slippery step that removes some of the hard earned situational awareness that keeps American drivers on their toes, and off other drivers fenders!

            Look at the French speed bumps, they’re tall enough to need their own Elevation Signs! Freedom loving Americans will NEVER acquiesce to outsized traffic tyranny such as the outsized French bumps!  This rush to be more like Europe will hurt Americans, lower our productivity, and raise our insurance premiums!

            Perhaps I’m a little too sensitive on this subject because of something that happened a couple of weeks ago…I was driving over to the SturgeUrge Compound in the neighboring town. SturgeUrge’s place is on a little private road off a crooked,  major thoroughfare. The main drag is loaded with nearly blind corners, hidden driveways, overhanging shade trees, and speeding, inattentive drivers. SturgeUrge’s power goes off almost monthly when somebody takes out a telephone pole along this road. Stopped traffic in front of his road is common, just a one mile backup from downtown.

            So I was coming downhill and made the left onto SturgeUrge’s road and BAM! I ran over a new ‘curb’ along the major thoroughfare’s shoulder…coulda been trouble for my teeth or tongue…or wheels and tires! This new curb is six inches wide and a good four inches tall!  A triangle shape that really rocked me, and all but impossible to see coming out of a spot of bright sunlight into the shady intersection!

            Urge said he’s already called the City’s Public Works Guy, and they’ve been out and made a few ‘modifications’…yeah…big deal, it’s still a dangerous speed bump making said intersection more dangerous. This modification is not done to the usually specified  Workmanlike Standard of “Best Practices” If these roads were new construction, there’d be a swale on Urge’s road to keep rainwater from running across the main drag…What’s a swale? Think gutter, a nice soft gutter that doesn’t knock your fillings out!

            Get this! As the situation has been playing out, Urge found out that the City got some Federal Stimulus Money that they wanted to use to put in a roundabout somewhere that it isn’t needed downtown. Wiser heads prevailed and the roundabout was nixed, freeing up the cash for a myriad of little street “improvements”

            I had a bad feeling that these “Traffic Nanny” roundabouts have become a chic status symbol for the Municipality Set…I can’t wait to see “Chapter Three” of the Swale Saga unfold…

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Dopey - Thoughts On The Passing Scene

           Here we are on the 18th Stage of Le Tour de France, Gap to L'Alpe d'Huez. Team Sky’s Super Domestique from the 2012 Tour, who shepherded Brit Bradley Wiggins to victory, Chris Froome has been wearing the Yellow Jersey for 10 days now. 
           In honor of the 100th running of the Great French Spectacle, the Organizers decided to ‘Double the Pleasure’ of the Tour’s most Iconic Stage, so the riders will climb L'Alpe d'Huez…twice in a single day…Brutal

Throw in millions of party-hardened Tifosi clogging the roadside and you have a scary spectacle unlike any other. No other Pro Sport allows the fans onto the field of battle. I saw one bare ass mooning the motorcycle cam in this morning’s LIVE coverage. It went by so fast I couldn’t resolve whether it was a male or female moon…suffice it to say it wasn't the most "heavenly body"...                
It seems like there’s more schlughs in costume running alongside the bicyclists, patting them on the back and somehow staying upright every year.

“Schlugh” (pronounced schloog) is the derisive term coined by former TdF competitor and NBCSN TdF Commentator, Bob Roll for the common sense-challenged TdF Fans who get just a little too close to the action, given their blood alcohol levels and apparent sleep deprivation. Today one schlugh waving a Japanese flag nearly upended Ritchie Porte  who was pulling leader Chris Froome up L'Alpe the second time.

Stage 18 was won by Frenchman Christophe Riblon from Tejay Ven Garderen who broke away together at the bottom of the first climb of L'Alpe d'Huez. Tejay had a mechanical on the Über-Scary descent of the unknown (and un-raced until this June’s Critérium du Dauphiné) Col de Sarenne, the back way off L’Alpe.

Amongst the kaleidoscopic background of the SchlughFest, I saw a few homemade signs that said simply: “Froome ?” Since Froome first pulled on the yellow jersey, there have been questions…Is Chris Froome doping? Froome says no, but the signs are in the galleries, and the questions are asked daily.

Today, Team Sky released Froom’s Power stats from 2011, 2012, and 2013…same power output each year. Today the peloton is PED-Free, and that’s a good thing…it took 90+ years to rid the Tour of doping, yet the spectacle is no less thrilling.

Tuesday was the MLB All-Star Game at the New York Mets’ CitiField. Monday they held the Home Run Derby, won by the Oakland A’s Yoenis Céspedes, another slugger with a God-given swing that’s as pretty as it is devastating.

In the aftermath of the game and derby, the internet became heavy with steroid talk…again. Sportswriters, the self-appointed “Protectors Of Baseball” are harping on again about the Home Run Records since Henry ‘Hank’ Aaron’s record. In fact they’re bypassing Hammerin’ Hank for Roger Maris’ iconic 61 when talking about the “Next Big Thing”  who might give the HR Record a run, ignoring Mark McGuire’s and Barry Bonds’ records…yeah, the Royal Order Of The Asterisk is on point again to “save baseball”

Bonds and McGuire both came into the Big Leagues with awesome swings. Steroids won’t give a hitter a good swing. Steroids help build muscle mass and speed muscle recovery after heavy use damage…one could argue that steroids benefited the pitchers facing the sluggers more than it helped the hitters.

Baseball at the Major League level is an Entertainment that grosses billions of dollars annually. Players make millions once they’ve established themselves as stars. Who among us wouldn’t be tempted to take PEDs if they could keep the million dollar paychecks coming for a few more years…ball players have kids, mortgages, families, all that benefit from the game’s largess…

The last time I spent a week in Truckee, I read Tyler Hamilton’s Tour de France Tell-All tome, “The Secret Race” in two sittings.

Tyler’s book chronicles his fall into doping while a teammate of Lance Armstrong in the “Glory Years” where Armstrong won seven straight TdF Titles in as many years.

I remember the stages like they were yesterday…”The Look” that Armstrong gave fellow doper Jan Ulrich climbing L'Alpe d'Huez, the breakaways, the time trials, all dope-driven.

The midnight trips to obscure hotels away from the Tour for transfusions of their own blood (known today as ‘Blood Doping’) Dope schedules away from the big tours, all for an edge that calcs out at 1%...maybe 2%-3% at most…

I don’t support PEDs in sports, pro or amateur…but I understand the very human reasons why it’s so hard to rid sports of the scourge. This week, there’s several MLB ball players waiting to find out their fate after they were revealed to be doping recently…including some huge stars like A-Rod, Alex Rodriguez of the NY Yankees, once the highest paid baseball player in the world.

All their asterisk records were all products of their times. Armstrong never failed a drug test, ever. He’s in trouble now because newer standards and tests were unleashed on his blood samples from back in the day. Paula Dean has lost her livelihood because of a racial slur she admitted making 30 years ago, in the Deep South, because she’s been judged by today’s Politically Correct  standards.

How soon before we strip actresses of their long ago Oscars because they had a nose job or breast enhancement? Think about it…they’re the same thing. I believe that this is one arena where a “More Nuanced” outlook is long overdue.

The Grand Tours survived the early years of amphetamine abuse (if not all competitors did) Baseball will always be the most “Human” of sports….yes, sportswriters manning the battlements to “save baseball” are Human too…