Archive for the ‘Competition’ Category

Service of Pick Yourself Up & Dust Yourself Off: Olympic Figure Skaters Rule

Monday, February 19th, 2018

Photo: twitter

Facebook and our email boxes are filled with posters, famous sayings and real life examples to encourage us, foment hope and inspire us with a spirit of never giving up. One of my favorite sayings, attributed to Winston Churchill, is “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Photo: kxan.com

There are few more vivid instances of “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” than the Olympic figure skaters. With the world watching, if they fall in the middle of a routine, after thousands if not millions of hours of practice, whether alone or with a partner, they pick themselves up and keep going as though nothing happened—or so it seems on the outside. They are marvels.

My father, for years an avid Olympics watcher and supporter, reminded us during each winter and summer game that even the “worst” of the participants are outstanding athletes. It’s easy to forget sometimes when listening to the coverage of the announcers, often past athletes themselves, criticizing a tiny twitch of a knee or microscopic landing quiver.

Photo: Goldenskate.com

Erica Martell described a nail-biting competition for gold during the Olympic Pairs Figure Skating finale that I’d missed. It involved many falls and a juggling for the three spots on the podium. Going into the competition in fourth place were the eventual gold winners, Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot. It was Savchenko’s fifth Olympics and first gold medal. She’d previously won two bronze. Born in the Ukraine and competing for that country until, with her German partner, in 2003, they competed under his native flag, the 34 year old won for Germany. Her partner is from France.

In the men’s figure skating competition a few days later, Shoma Uno, who received the silver medal for Japan, fell right out of the box in the final round. He picked himself up and proceeded to astonish with the rest of his performance.

Do you watch the Olympics? Do the commentators add or detract from the coverage? What other vivid examples of pick yourself up and keep going, athletic or otherwise, can you share? Are there more athletes than before who compete for one country when they are citizens of another or has this always been the case?

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Service of Spelling Bees and Videos

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

Spelling bee winners. Photo: businessinsider.com

Spelling bee winners. Photo: businessinsider.com

 

Two seemingly disparate events taking place at the same time seemed related to me.

The buzz

The winning words were “scherenschnitte” and “nunatak” and the last names of the spelling bee winners, who are13 and 14 years old respectively were Shivashankar and Venkatachalam. My first irrational reaction when I saw the TV news brief was, “Whew! Vanya  Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalam have an advantage over many if they have spelled their last names since they were little.” 

Spellcheck 2The judges called a tie for first place because they ran out of words to give the two students, from Olathe, Texas and Chesterfield, Mo., in the annual Scripps Spelling Bee in which 283 other children competed. Maxwell Tani wrote in Business Insider, on Yahoo Finance: “Loeffler has been EPSN’s go-to television analyst for the bee for a decade.” Paul Loeffler told Tani: “It’s a challenge to comment on the bee because the show is essentially split between hardcore fans and viewers who aren’t very familiar with the whole spelling bee process.” Loeffler himself competed in the contest in 1990 and his sister, who works for Scripps, was a contender three times.

All the news that’s fit to film

Millbrook literary festivalWhile these students competed for the almost $40,000 prize, a copy of Webster’s Dictionary [an example of coals to Newcastle?], and international fame, I heard last Saturday how newspaper editors in the Hudson Valley, like those around the country, are increasingly turning to video to enhance their online coverage and motivate subscribers. [I started to write “motivate readers”–them, too.] The panelists at the Millbrook Free Library, Whitney Joseph, The Millerton News, Jim Langan, Hudson Valley News, Curtis Schmidt, Northern Dutchess News, Stuart Shinske, Poughkeepsie Journal and Rex Smith, Albany Times Union, didn’t argue with someone in the audience who thought that what’s effortless is essential to win customers these days. The panel was part of the annual Millbrook Literary Festival in Dutchess County, N.Y. 

Photo: Pinterest.com

Photo: Pinterest.com

Only one person in the room admitted to never reading news on the Internet when the moderator asked for a show of hands.

A high school instructor said he has a dickens of a time getting his charges to write a news story because they seem only to be able to share their opinions. The panelists empathized. Nevertheless Joseph takes on interns at the Millerton News.

Responding to a young man in the 12-15 age range who asked panelists what it took to be a news reporter Smith, from the Albany Times Union, said he looks for a person who is curious and energetic—with the stamina and imagination to run down all leads–and that writing ability is last on his list of priorities. He said he can teach someone to write.

Is there inconsistency in the public’s fervor to watch kids who spell amazingly well—enough to warrant network TV and news coverage—when at the same time video increasingly gathers pride of place over words in  newspaperland?

iPhone and video

Service of Sticking to the Rules

Monday, May 4th, 2015

camera 1

I read about an Italian photographer–Giovanni Troilo–whose first prize in the Contemporary Issues category was revoked by the organizers of the World Press Photo competition because he’d staged the winning images in his “The Dark Heart of Europe” series. Staging was against the competition’s rules.

First PrizeHenri Neuendorf reported in “World Press Photo Winner Giovanni Troilo Busted for Faking and Stripped of Prize,” on artnet.com: “In a statement Lars Boering, the managing director of the Amsterdam-based organization, said ‘We now have a clear case of misleading information and this changes the way the story is perceived. A rule has now been broken, and a line has been crossed.’” Neuendorf credited The New York Times with breaking the story.

What did he do? Troilo lit the back seat of a car in one of the photos of a couple supposedly making love. Turns out the man was his cousin. Another was staged in a Brussels photo studio, not in the town supposedly featured: Charleroi, Belgium. How was he discovered? Because the Charleroi Mayor saw his photo essay and objected to the negative portrayal of his town and observed that some of the photos weren’t even taken there.

styling photo shootWhat interested me was that other photojournalists felt he should have nevertheless been awarded his first prize. Neuendorf wrote: “New York-based photographer Yunghi Kim conceded ‘I don’t fault the photographer, it just seems World Press is having an identity crisis.’”

Do you agree with Kim–that there was wiggle room to let Troilo keep his first prize and that the competition’s judges were too harsh? Or was World Press Photo competition management correct in awarding the prize to the second place photographer?

no big deal

Service of Envy and Facebook’s Place in It

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

I’ve been asked countless times by my husband and/or friends “Why do you believe so-and-so?” when I share improbable news of an imbecile’s stratospheric salary, bonus or new client with astronomical fee.

Pinnocchio 2That’s why I was surprised that there are so many people like me: They believe what they read and see on Facebook about friends’ magical trips, happy families, awards and tournaments won, four-star meals enjoyed and so forth. According to Jennifer Breheny Wallace, a University of Michigan study last summer found that “the more people used Facebook, the less satisfied they were with their lives.”

This fact was the angle for her Wall Street Journal article “Put that Resentment to Good Use,” where we read that benign envy can be the motivation to earn a better salary, get a fabulous bonus or add a munificent client to your roster. Researchers in the Netherlands found that with students, admiration didn’t rank as high as benign envy when it comes to best test results. Students who felt the latter emotion showed increased creativity and imagination in their responses earning better grades.

Benign envy improved attention and memory according to another study.

Pack of dogs waiting for foodMalicious envy, where a person tries to challenge another’s success, is another story about which Wallace devotes only a few lines so I’ll share an example of my own. I worked for a PR agency where the owner threw clients i.e. work up in the air for the account people to grab as though he was tossing steak to a pack of hungry dogs. This technique to generate rampant competition and envy among employees didn’t work for me. I left after the prerequisite year.

What’s your experience and or observation about envy as a motivator?

You can do it

Service of Gotcha Journalism

Monday, June 21st, 2010

gotcha

BP’s Tony Hayward spoke about the “little people” and how he looked forward to getting “back his life,” two quotes that will no doubt appear in his obituary if not on his tombstone. And he was recently seen yachting while his oil is polluting the Gulf water affecting millions.

Helen Thomas said that the Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and go where? To Poland and Germany. Then she resigned-or was forced to.

These are facts. Hayward and Thomas said/did these things and before and long after them hundreds of others will be caught saying/doing whatever the press-or competitors-dig up from a college paper, a speech or Facebook entry early in a career, hear at a cocktail party–captured on a smartphone–or over a live mic that the speaker thought was turned off.

off-trackGotcha journalism garners headlines, but often steers us off the track. Reminds me of the final days of my Dad’s battle with cancer when friends and family called to see how things were. We railed against the hospital because housekeeping consistently ran out of clean towels and washcloths. Tossing energy and voice at this extreme inconvenience allowed us not to face what really was wrong: We were losing Dad. Grousing about towels served a psychological purpose, helping us ease into the inevitable.

So Hayward misspeaks and headlines blare which puts in the background the fact that millions of gallons of oil continue to contaminate our shores and thousands of people are put out of work. But aren’t we missing something? Where are the headlines that address the progress toward stopping the leak?

The front page headline in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal while more to the point–“BP Relied on Cheaper Wells“–is significant for regulations regarding future drilling, if there is ever to be offshore drilling in this country again. But isn’t the bigger issue what we will do, and soon, to reduce the demand for oil so we no longer need to jeopardize our shores, livelihood and health?

sweetdrinksSpeaking of health, New York State is considering a tax on sweet drinks, both to generate revenue and to make people aware of the empty calories and negative health ramifications of these drinks [that I love]. A hefty tax on gas and increased government subsidies for public transportation might have the same affect on our use of oil.

As for Helen Thomas, her outburst illustrates how close to the top violent feelings remain even for a journalist whose lifetime goal has been to be objective. She is not alone on either side of the war in the Middle East. Her resignation also brings up the question of what issues break a camel’s back in our country and which a camel can continue to carry without breaking stride. We may never know whether Thomas’s employer had been praying for an excuse to fire her for years. No doubt, if anyone cares by then, the truth will eventually leak out.

What service do you see that gotcha journalism plays in our lives? Do you think it has always been in play or that technology catches more of it today and spreads it farther and faster than ever before?

dogcatcher

Service of Cheating

Monday, June 14th, 2010

cheating

When I think of students cheating in school, my mind skips to the person about to take out a child’s appendix, give a cousin root canal, remove an aunt’s gallbladder or clear away a friend’s cataracts. Did these doctors, or the anesthesiologists in each case, cheat in school?

Then I think of a vendor, stock advisor, client, political representative, landlord or banker… If they cheated in school, will they think nothing of cheating me and/or will they know how to do their jobs?

cheating21In April, Primetime on ABC covered “A Cheating Crisis in America’s Schools,” which along with tests included plagiarism-made-easy through the Internet. They referred to a 2002 statistic–that 74 percent of 12 thousand high school students admitted cheating on an exam. ABC couldn’t find more recent statistics-nobody interested to gauge this situation?

A month later, a press release highlighted a University of Nebraska, Lincoln study of 100 juniors at a large Midwestern high school. According to the release, the researchers found “Most high-school students participating in a new study on academic honesty say they have cheated on tests and homework — and, in some alarming cases, say they don’t consider certain types of cheating out of line.”

rubberbandsWhile some of the techniques ABC News reported are new thanks to technology–photos of notes on cell phones, mini iPAQ computers, two-way pagers or graphing calculators–the report noted some vintage methods as well: The rubber band trick-stretch it and write answers which nobody can see once it snaps back and using a term paper from a handy fraternity or sorority file.

Reasons for cheating remain the same: Pressure to make high grades to get into colleges and grad schools or to win high paying jobs and in some cases, not wanting to appear nerdy by studying long hours-freeing up plenty of time to look cool and to play.

The students aren’t alone, according to Friday’s New York Times in “Cheat Sheet: Under Pressure, Teachers Tamper with Tests.” The pressure word, which Trip Gabriel used in his title, is the same excuse teachers use. They need to cheat to keep their jobs, in some cases, and win bonuses in others because student test scores must improve year to year.

Students and teachers have always felt pressure. In either case, it’s a person’s focus at the time, either what a student does for 12, 16 or 18+ years or what a teacher does to pay the bills. I wonder whether cheating to this extent has always been the rule and we turned a blind eye before?

How come hard work doesn’t occur to all these people?

The title of this post is obviously facetious. I see no long-term service in cheating, unless you manufacture or sell anti-acids to soothe the stomachs of those who do.

What solutions do you propose to turnaround this situation or do you see this as business-as-usual, no biggie?

hardwork1

Service of Sports

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

sports

I was an athletic kid and while I hardly sit still these days, I’m no longer athletic. In middle and high school, we started off each game cheering for the opposite team. So maybe that’s what’s wrong with me—I’m a sports dyslexic.

 

Apart from listening on Sunday mornings to Rick Wolff and his “Sports Edge” program on WFAN radio—I’m fascinated by the psychology of his discussions about youth sports—and with the exception of watching the Olympics, I was never a fan or spectator though family members were and are.

 

I know how important sports are to millions, so I asked 11 people to share their passion and put the spotlight on the service of sports as clearly sports serve a huge role in mental and physical health, as well as a critical place in people’s lives in intangible ways.

 

Judy Schuster, retired PR executive: I like the excitement that college sports on TV brings to my living room and the extra excitement that I get from attending an occasional game.  I watch some professional sports, but really prefer college.  I look at the college athlete as playing for the “fun” of the game, while the professional athlete plays for the money (witness Joe Mauer’s recent signing of an eight-year $184 million contract, although he may be an exception, he plays for the money and the fun!) 

 

footballCollege sports let me “support” my college team (Michigan) and I follow it regularly, even subscribing to a monthly newsletter on Michigan sports (my spouse gets the Iowa one).  We both support any sports in which the Big Ten is involved, and we enjoy the competition that Iowa-Michigan games bring to our lives. A lot of yelling and screaming, and sometimes foul language, occurs in our living room during exciting games. My spouse and I both like to “coach” the teams, and we sometimes don’t agree with the plays the real coaches have called.  

 

Our granddaughter, Jordan, already knows and sings the Michigan fight song (I got to her before Bill, so she is a Michigan fan!)  

 

I prefer football, with basketball a close second, but am interested in most sports, with the exception of wrestling and baseball (the latter is too slow for me).   I don’t participate in any sports, although I enjoyed swimming when I was younger.   In my era, girls didn’t play basketball or baseball or hockey, all of which are open to girls now.  Personally, I think that is wonderful. Although she’s only six I pay for Jordan to take lessons in basketball, soccer, T-ball and swimming.  Down the road, she can choose which ones have the most appeal.   I think she is already leaning toward basketball because of her cousin Tyler’s interest and the fact that she, too, is going to be tall.

 

DB, political activist and interior designer. I grew up in the Province of Newfoundland, Canada so I do follow hockey ( which I played in my youth on the pond across from my home and school), all ice skating events from speed, figure or ice dance,  and Curling curling(just because every Newfie has an interest in Curling).

 

An avid swimmer—I swam competitively in my youth–my day begins with one hour in the pool.  My first half mile of freestyle is both therapeutic and relaxing as I ease into bilateral and erythematic breathing. Any tension in my body disappears with each long stoke.  I continue my swim with breast stroke and really begin to stretch out with my favorite – backstroke. I conclude my final 10 minutes in the pool on a kick board doing a dolphin kick. Mentally without interruption I plan my day and work out details of a project that I may undertake that day.

I swam with a Masters group into my fifties but found I needed to swim at my own pace in my sixties. My best swims are from May though September in an outdoor long course pool (50 meters). I swim short course (25 meters) from October through April.  I also take a Pilates class twice a week which enables me to engage my core muscles more effectively as I swim. I love belonging to a sub-culture that requires a skill and discipline.

This year my lifeguard, Mike, lost 30 pounds walking the pool circumference while guarding which has made me ponder the value of walking versus swimming.

 

Matt Mecs, media account exec: Now that I am out of high school, not as much opportunity to play sports, but one HUGE reason to do so – running on a treadmill or whatever is so BORING.  Playing sports is fun, and you are exercising without even dwelling on it. I wrestled in high school though, and it totally built character.  Not just a cliche!

 

basketballMMF, retired school teacher: March Madness is my favorite time of year for sports.  I do not follow basketball at any other time but love the excitement and high energy of the college players.  It shows so clearly what practice, perseverance and, yes, a bit of luck, can accomplish.  To see the joy and elation of the Cinderella teams when they win has to make you smile (at least!).  The only other sport I watch is golf but usually only the big tournaments.

 

baseballHomer Byington, retired international banker: In 1942, when I was a lonely little boy having just moved to America for the first time, I discovered on the radio a baseball broadcaster, Arch MacDonald, who did the Washington Senators baseball games, not “live” from the stadium, but from a ticker tape, like they used to use on Wall Street. He was wonderful–a friend.

 

Ever since, I’ve been hooked on sports broadcasts. They are familiar and keep me company, besides I like all the statistics. I used to listen to baseball games, but the team I followed folded — twice. I now mostly listen to professional football broadcasts on TV. I’d prefer to hear the broadcasts on radio, but the games of the team I follow are not broadcast in the NYC area. 

 

Football is often great theatre but horribly brutal. I also enjoy watching golf, far more before Tiger came on the scene with his boorish, rude, selfish antics, which are much more distasteful to me than his stupid womanizing. Golf used to be elegant because the players were sportsmen, gracious, honest and self-disciplined and self-policing.

 

I have seen in person over the last 50 years one golf tournament, two football games, one hockey game and two baseball games. I never played any sport with even the remotest competence, but I used to enjoy playing golf very badly, in part because of the betting.

 

golfKF, retired magazine editorMy sister and I play golf at the Lake, because it’s a short, 9-hole, par-3 course. It’s a way to socialize for us and we love it. Because of that, we watch golf on TV, we volunteered for LPGA tournaments, and have gone to the US Open years ago when it was at Westchester Country Club. By dabbling in the game, we can so appreciate the proficiency of the golfers in tournaments. Even though Tiger Woods’ reputation is in the toilet, no one can take away from his ability as a golfer. He is incredible.

 

Patty Raddock, publishing professional–I began following professional sports as a young girl because I didn’t have much choice in the matter. Dad dominated the television dial. The whole family got into the spirit, and that continues to this day for me. horseracing

I enjoy rooting for the Yankees; I know all of the player’s stats and I watch or listen to as many games as I can. I love the Jets and the Giants, and I watch each and every game. I can’t wait for the major tennis tournaments; I know most of the players (I especially adore Rafael Nadal), and love to see the up-and-comers emerge. I look forward to horse racing’s Triple Crown races and TiVo them so I can watch them over and over again. And every two plus years, I am captivated by the Olympics, although I swear each time that I won’t waste my time watching. I used to love to attend any and all games; today I prefer to watch sporting events on my HD television from the comfort of my couch. And I wear out my TiVo with my own slow motion replays.

 

Why do I continue to watch and root for my teams or favored players? I used to enjoy discussing and dissecting every game/match/race/event with my father on the phone at their conclusion. Those conversations ended a couple of years ago, but I continue to be an observer. Why? Habit, to begin with. Loyalty for sure. But I still enjoy the strategy, the impossible plays, the come-from-behind excitement, the thrill of a pennant race. It’s just a part of me now.

I played softball, soccer, basketball and tennis as a young girl, but today all I am able to do is watch.

 

Tom Stier, commercial mortgage banker: Sports are, have always been and will likely always be a big part of my life.  I have been and am a willing participant as well as an ardent fan.  Football, basketball and baseball were the staples of my youth and I could not play or watch enough games to get my fill.  

 

Participation at my age and skeletal condition is more limited.  I’m more suited to a round of golf or a friendly tennis match these days.  However, I continue to be a big time fan with an expanding menu of sports and players to root for.  

 

Sports inspire me to set goals, put forth my best effort, face challenges and become a better team player.  They remind me that a little bit of talent supported by commitment, focus and perseverance can lead to great achievement.  Sports are not life…but they sure add to the spice of it. 

 

Jason Wang, college senior: Participating in sports really changed my life.

 

Sports not only motivates me to compete in every aspects of my life, but also teaches me to improve, mature and grow as an individual and surprisingly, alleviates my stress.

 

In high school, I was the captain of the Brooklyn Tech Handball Team, and my goal was to win the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) Championship before I graduated. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as I planned, but I was able to inspire and build a solid team with great players. The next year, our team captured the championship. In addition, I gained some invaluable lessons: Building a strong foundation is the key to success and patience is a virtue.

 

I currently swim and play handball. I enjoy swimming leisurely because it clears my mind and allows me to think of literally nothing. I continue to play handball competitively where I observe and learn from others to reach to the top.

 

Hank Goldman, owner of a small NYC ad agency: If one participates in sports, it’s healthy, and exhilarating, and aids body and soul.

 

I used to play in a “dads” softball game every week, and it was just plain fun. If you do the best you can, the “guys” are your buddies–win or lose!!

 

fansIf one cheers and roots for sports teams locally, it establishes territory and bragging rights, and in this day and age–using the U-Conn women’s Huskies Basketball team as an example (they have won 73 + games in a row!)— it shows how gender-transparent sports can be!!

 

Sports fans can be vicious, as soccer fans in Europe seem to battle each other at major events. Or it can be good natured “ribbing” as in the USA. 

 

Take Boston Red Sox fans, vs. NY Yankees fans. (Not that there can be much discussion about just WHO WON more “world championships!) But the norm seems to be to just root, root, root for the home team. —-It gives one a sense of pride!

I still do not understand OLYMPIC sports. Jim Thorpe was stripped of his Olympic medals in his lifetime, for getting paid [in meals] at summer baseball games and yet today the major teams consist of ALL PROS in the line ups!   —– Why?

 

Lauren Dreyling Konicky college senior: Sports is a form of entertainment.  What contributes toward the entertainment?  The competitiveness, spending time with friends, eating good food, watching attractive players, being able to watch people exceed their body’s typical capabilities.

 

Which sports? The simple answer for me is any sport which involves a team– college football and baseball–rather than an individually played sport. 

 

fieldhockeyI enjoy watching NCAA sports because they are all about competition, bettering the individual player and team and having fun.  You could say this is the same thing with pro but it’s not. Playing pro sports is a way to earn a living while entertaining others.  There is so much heart and pride in NCAA sports that is beyond the level of pro sports.  Furthermore, NCAA sports contribute to the athletic reputation of an entire university and college- an institution where students are there to exceed academically, yet rally behind a sports team for enjoyment, pride and bragging rights.  Both football and baseball are fast-moving sports that allow players to individually shine but also contribute to an entire team.  I also like that these sports are played outdoors and that people typically camp out and barbeque before a big game. It’s about the entire experience, not just the game.

 

I like to participate—- competitively- in softball and field hockey.  Entertainment- any team-oriented sport that is outdoors.  Why? They are physical, they require a strict amount of training, (the average person can’t just dive in and throw a softball at 40pmh accurately). These sports are about 75% mental and 25% physical-  they are a complete mental challenge that push you beyond the limits you think possible.

 

How does sports—being a fan or participant–serve you?

 

cheerleading1

 

 

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