Friday, February 17, 2006

Ain't over yet!

For years, I've been watching sports, and one thing that is uniquely American that bugs me is showboating. OK, athletes in other countries may do it as well, especially soccer players, but nobody touches the Americans when it comes self-aggrandizement.

Americans are so good at it that they often start patting themselves on the back before anything has actually been accomplished. This is especially true in football, where you rarely watch a game without at least one player starting to celebrate a touchdown well before he gets to the end zone. I've always thought it would be great if one of those guys dropped the ball or otherwise messed it up while they were busy patting themselves on the back.

There was one famous incident in the Super Bowl years ago when Dallas DL Leon Lett started strutting his way into the end zone at around the 10-yard-line, only to have a Buffalo player strip the ball before he got there. Unfortunately, Dallas won anyway.

In the Olympics today, someone finally got indigestion from putting too much mustard on her hot dog. Leslie Jacobellis had the Snowboard Cross gold medal sewn up. She had a huge lead thanks to crashes behind her, so on the second-to-last jump on the course, she grabbed her board to do some silly x-games-style trick, they called it a “backside method grab", which sounds more like a dance move than an athletic one, and she landed wrong and crashed on her backside. By the time she got up, the only other competitor still standing had passed her and took the gold medal.

I will give her a little credit for how she handled her mistake. Immediately after the race, she gave some weak excuse about grabbing the board to "stabilize", but later dropped that. She didn't duck the media and didn't treat it like the end of her world.

However, she has earned herself a measure of immortality. Now, instead of seeing some poor guy go head-over-heels off the end of a ski jump ramp, we'll be watching her showing us the proper "method" for turning gold into silver.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Typical February weather

I'm sitting here watching the Olympics (which I am watching much less of than usual) and the warning sirens went off. The only time that happens is when we have a tornado warning or an air raid. Since it's mid-February, naturally I assumed we must have done something to annoy Canada, or perhaps Michigan, and were under attack. It turns out that was incorrect, but that we actually had a tornado warning. I've lived around here most of my 42 years and I don't ever remember a tornado in February. I guess that's more fodder for you global warming types.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Baby update

As many of you know, my wife is due to deliver child number four on or about March 1st. Obviously, I'm very good with numbers, but I seem to have trouble with a calendar, since that is the busiest time of the year for me with my work. I was very worried that this baby would be fashionably late and arrive on March 12th, which is selection Sunday.

For us, that kind of thing is very predictable. All of our major pregnancy events happen on or very close to special occasions.

Child #1 was due on Mother's Day, but my wife's water broke on April Fools' Day (which also happened to be the day after the national championship game that year) and he was born the next day.

My wife started going into labor two months before #2 was due, but she spent a day in the hospital and they were able to stop the labor before it really got going. That day was my birthday. #2 son ended up being born about four hours short of Groundhog Day.

Pregnancy #3 ended in a miscarriage on Halloween.

When they told us child #3 was due in late October, a Halloween baby never occurred to us. We were thinking more along the lines of Labor Day, or optimistically, Columbus Day. It turns out that this one was late. He was born on Election Day.

So, with a due date of March 1st (Ash Wednesday), we started planning for a new addition on New Year's Day, MLK Day, our anniversary (Jan 17), Groundhog Day, Presidents Day, Valentine's Day, selection Sunday, the Ides of March (which also happens to be my wife's birthday) and St. Patrick's Day.

My wife's doctor says we can cross the last few off the list though. He's leaving for vacation on March 3rd, so he wants to make sure that baby is out and my wife is well on her way to recovery before he takes off. That means that March 1st isn't just a due date, it's a maximum due date.

Maybe it'll be Fat Tuesday (Feb 28), which considering how skinny my first three kids are, would be quite ironic.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Super Bowl

I can't really put my finger on why, but I'm not all that excited about the Super Bowl this year. Maybe it's the teams involved. Maybe not. All in all, I'd rather see the Colts and/or Bears out there, but it's not like the Steelers and Seahawks are particularly boring.

Maybe it's a lack of anticipation over the ads. The last few years, the ads have generally been pretty mediocre, nowhere near living up to the hype.

Actually, it's probably that I'm already numb from the hype. News outlets ran out of things to talk about ten days ago, but that doesn't mean they stopped talking. I'm so sick of hearing about the game that it dulls my anticipation of it. Two weeks is way too long between the conference championships and the Super Bowl.

I'll watch anyway, of course, while I work on my bracket for tomorrow. I'm picking the Seahawks, primarily because they are being ignored. At least as much as possible for a Super Bowl team.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Pinewood Derby

We had our first experience with the Cub Scouts' Pinewood Derby last weekend and things went amazingly well. #1 Son is a Bear (3rd graders) and his car won three of his four heats and finished second in all four finals races for second place in the Bear group. The only car that beat his is the one that finished first. More on that in a minute.

#2 Son is a Tiger (1st graders) and his car did even better. He won all four of his heats to finish first in the preliminaries. The second place car was creatively designed. It was called "Fast Food" because it was a thin block of wood with a plastic cheeseburger, french fry box and shake cup glued on it. That was one of my favorites, along with the one that was an aquarium (no water, of course) done by one of the Webeloes (4th-5th grades). But, I digress.

In the heats, #2 son's car beat Fast Food twice by about a car length each time. His car also won the first race of the finals, but by a nose. Fast Food won the other three races in dead heats (too close to call without a computer, which it's a good thing they had), so Fast Food ended up being the winner of the Tiger class.

Fast Food then went on to be Grand Champion, winning the four finals races convincingly. That means #2 son probably had the second fastest car there, but only got second in class. That's racing, though!

Pinewood Derby is kind of funny to watch off the track. It's different from family to family, but it's really more about the dads than the kids. This is the kind of project that adults have to be involved in at some level because we’re not going to let the kids use power tools at age 8, but some cars clearly looked like the kids had nothing to do with them. There was one dad that was so anal that he brought the car to the race in a one-foot cube steel box which had been lined with foam that had a car-shaped cut-out in it.

When I kind of off-handedly suggested to our (Bear) den leader that it would be cool of one of our kids won, he said it wouldn’t happen. He told me who would win and said the same dad wins every year because he starts working on the car the day after the previous race ends. It shows too, because he has the most professional looking car there. I wonder if the kid even sees the car before race day.

The cars the kids in our den made looked like amateur hack-jobs by comparison, which they were, since they were mostly done by amateurs. The only thing the adults did for the kids in our den was cut the car and make sure the wheels were on straight. Our goal was for the cars to get all the way down the track without catching fire, blowing an engine or having a tire fall off.

As it turns out, our den leader was right and worked-on-it-for-a-year car won, but some of our den’s hack-jobs finished second, third and fourth. I’m sure the dad that spent a year making his car was shocked not only not to be Grand Champion, but to lose to a car that could have mostly been made by a six-year-old.

So, while there is a TON of information out there about how to make a winning Pinewood Derby car, what we learned is what #1 son already knew before we raced. In the car on the way to the race, he blurted out, “winning the race is mostly luck.” We more or less proved that.