Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘sports’

Photo: Janne Körkkö for the New York Times
A team from Vihti, Finland, competing in the country’s 20th annual Swamp Soccer World Championships. Their mascot, a badger doll, is the one in the cage.

Gotta love those Finns. They have possibly the best education system in the world and all those unusual contests like wife carrying and cellphone tossing. Long, dark winters must make for desperate ideas about how to have fun in summer.

Andrew Keh writes at the New York Times, “There’s something strange going on in Finland. Over the past few decades, as it has all but disappeared from the global sports stage, this humble Nordic nation has sort of lost its sports mind.

“More than 2,000 people ventured to the remote backwaters of central Finland recently for the 20th annual Swamp Soccer World Championships. If you and your spouse want to compete in the Wife Carrying World Championships, you must come to Finland. The Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships? Finland. The World Berry Picking Championship and the Air Guitar World Championships? Finland and Finland.

“ ‘We have some weird hobbies,’ said Paivi Kemppainen, 26, a staff member at the swamp soccer competition and master of the understatement.

“Just look at swamp soccer in Hyrynsalmi, a place where Jetta can achieve a small level of celebrity over the years. Jetta is a stuffed badger ensconced in a bird cage. She acts as a mascot of sorts for a team of 12 friends who make the seven-hour drive each year from Vihti, near Helsinki, for the competition. They bought the doll seven years ago from a junk store at a highway rest stop, and her fame around the swamp has grown ever since. A couple of years ago, she was interviewed by a local newspaper. …

“On Saturday morning … a bottle of vodka was being passed around (their preferred way, apparently, of warming up). It was about 10 o’clock. Soon it would be time for their first game of the day. They set Jetta aside and stripped off their outerwear, revealing skimpy blue wrestling singlets.

“Before they treaded into the mud, they were asked a question: Why?

“ ‘You can say you’re world champions of swamp soccer,’ said Matti Paulavaara, 34, one of the team members, after a contemplative pause. ‘How many can say that?’

“The genesis of swamp soccer was in 1998, when creative town officials in Hyrynsalmi cooked up a festival-like event that would make use of the area’s vast swamplands. Thirteen teams showed up for the first tournament. Since then, the competitive field has grown to about 200 teams. …

“People striding on seemingly firm ground would disappear suddenly into the soft earth, as if descending a stairway. Some tottered on their hands and knees, like babies. Others stood still, until they were waist-deep in muck. The scores were generally low. Many of the players were drunk. …

You play, you lose, you win — no one cares,’ said Sami Korhonen, 25, of Kajaani, who was playing in the tournament for the ninth time. ‘The whole game is so tough, you’re totally wiped out when you’re done.’ ”

More at the New York Times, here.

Read Full Post »

Get ready. National Bobblehead Day is just around the corner.

Bobbleheads? Karen Given at WBUR’s Only a Game can tell you more about the history of sports bobbleheads than you ever imagined.

She says that is 2015, the San Diego Padres were the only Major League Baseball team that didn’t offer fans a game where they handed out bobblehead figures of players. “For years, the Red Sox didn’t give away bobbleheads either.

“ ‘There was a long time actually when we felt like “maybe they’re not into bobbleheads,” ‘ says Red Sox Senior Vice President of Marketing Adam Grossman. ‘But even in Boston we know that the people love them and if they love them then we’ll provide them.’ …

“The Red Sox spend months getting the facial features and tattoos and the stance on their bobbleheads just right. …

“Bobbleheads even have, get this, their own Hall of Fame.

“ ‘We sort of thought of it this way–,’ says Phil Sklar, co-founder and CEO of the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, ‘if mustard deserves its own museum, bobbleheads definitely deserve their own shrine.’

“The museum doesn’t actually exist yet. Sklar and his partners are busy accumulating thousands of bobbleheads — many from private collections.”

For “the story of a business deal that would change the course of bobblehead history, [Given turns] to Todd Goldenberg of Alexander Global Promotions.  …

” ‘Malcolm Alexander, he’s our founder and former president. He’s retired now, kite skating around the world—’

“So, Alexander was trying to start a business selling promotions, and he got a meeting with the San Francisco Giants, who, you’ll remember, were trying to find a company to manufacture a promotional item that hadn’t really been made for 40 years.

“ ‘He just basically said, “What can I help you with?” and they said, “We need a bobblehead doll,” ‘ says Goldenberg. …

” ‘And Malcolm, being very cocky and very Australian said, “Yeah, sure, I’ll do it. How many do you need?” ‘ says Goldenberg. ‘And then he proceeded to leave the office and find out what a bobblehead doll was. Because even though he had just sold about a quarter of a million dollars worth of bobblehead dolls, he didn’t know what he had sold.’ ”

The rest of the story can be found at WBUR radio, here.

Photo: Karen Given/Only a Game
A Luis Tiant bobblehead doll.

Read Full Post »

I hardly need to remind readers of this blog that people are people. We are all just living our lives, with more or less the same daily concerns. And the differences are what make things interesting.

Sam Radwany at the radio show Only a Game recently described some youthful experiences in Minneapolis that sound both the same and different. The story is about a group of American Muslim girls who choose to cover themselves in keeping with their kind of Islam but who are also enthusiastic basketball players.

“The Twin Cities are home to one of the largest Somali populations in the world. The community is concentrated in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, where these pre-teen players go to school. … Balancing their cultural and religious standards of modesty with sports can be tricky.

“ ‘Sometimes our hijab, our scarves, got off, and we would have to time out, pause, to fix it,’ Samira said. ‘Our skirts were a problem — they were all the way down to our feet.’ …

“Last season, some of the girls opted to wear long pants instead of dresses. But that still put them at a disadvantage when playing other Minnesota teams. …

“And because the girls’ team didn’t have their own jerseys, they had to share with the boys. Ten-year-old Amal says the experience was unpleasant.

“ ‘Horrible! Very horrible,’ she said. ‘And the boys, their jerseys were all sweaty and yucky and nasty.’ …

“That’s where a local nonprofit dedicated to expanding sports and recreation opportunities for local Muslim girls stepped in. … [They] brought in researchers and designers from the university to help the young athletes find a new solution to the stinky jersey problem.

“Jennifer Weber, the girls’ coach, said the players did most of the work themselves, with guidance from the experts. …

“Chelsey Thul from the university’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport described some features of the new uniforms: ‘And so this sport uniform has black leggings. It’s longer, probably about to the knees …

“ ‘The biggest change to the hijab is that it’s not a pullover, so that instead, it fastens with Velcro at the neck,’ Weber said. ‘So it’s got some give to it, and it’s forgiving, and it moves as they move.’

“And of course, with the young girls’ input, there’s a bit of color. Samira and Amal said the team had a lot of ideas.” Read about their design ideas and their delight in the uniforms here.

Photo: Jim Mone/AP
Somali American girls in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis designed their own uniforms for greater freedom of movement.

 

Read Full Post »

Photo: Mark Andrew Boyer
Norm Burns, member of the U.S. CanAm Oldtimers 70-B team.

Trust Bill Littlefield at WBUR’s “Only a Game” to come up with the quirky sports stories.

In July, reporter Dan Brekke checked out the unusual legacy of a cartoonist who loved ice hockey and didn’t see why anyone should quit playing just because they got old.

Brekke writes, “Less than a year ago, 69-year-old Gary Powdrill was having a quintuple bypass open-heart surgery. But right now, he’s focused on a tight game between his hockey squad, the Central Massachusetts Rusty Blades, and the hometown Woodstock Flyers. And things aren’t going so well.

“The Rusty Blades are one of 68 teams playing in ‘Snoopy’s Senior World Hockey Tournament,’ an event created by ‘Peanuts’ cartoonist Charles Schulz – ‘Sparky’ to his family and hockey buddies – at the beautifully eccentric arena he and his first wife built.

“The tournament is for players from age 40 and up, with divisions set aside for 50, 60 and 70-year-olds.

“Steve Lang, one of the thousand or so players who has suited up this year, is skating for the Woodstock Flyers – the name refers to Charles Schulz’s little yellow bird character. The Flyers and Rusty Blades are fighting for third place in a division for players 60 and up. But unfortunately, according to Lang, the Flyers ‘don’t fly like the bird.’ …

“ ‘We’ve got ages from 76 down to 62,’ Lang said. ‘I’m 75. You know, we think like rabbits, skate like turtles.’ ”

New Yorker Bob Santini, 82, says, ” ‘I try to do the best I can, but the most important thing about a tournament like this is the camaraderie.’ …

“Jean Schulz, Sparky’s widow, says that’s just the way her husband wanted it.” More here.

Photo: Dan Brekke
Jean Schulz, widow of cartoonist Charles “Sparky” Schulz

Read Full Post »

Over at Bill Littlefield’s Only a Game on WBUR radio, Karen Given recently provided the background on athletic banners made in New England. The radio show is entertaining for all sorts of listeners as it covers anything remotely related to sports.

“The sewing room at New England Flag and Banner is humming with activity,” says Given. “It’s been that way for a while now — the company’s been around since 1892. The current owner, Ned Flynn, has only been in charge since 2006. …

“Among the photos on Flynn’s wall is one of Fenway Park, adorned with red, white, and blue bunting to celebrate the return of baseball after World War II.”

After a mini tour, Given describes the banner-making process: “Staples temporarily hold together full sheets of brightly colored fabric — usually nylon. The paper is used as a stencil to mark the pattern, but the design isn’t cut out. At least not yet.

“Skilled sewers, some of whom have been working here for 30 years, deftly zigzag around the stenciled marks. And finally, the extra fabric is cut off by hand, layer by layer, revealing the design.

“ ‘It’s counterintuitive,’ Flynn said. ‘People think we sew letters on and sew logos on. It’s actually the opposite. What we do is sew the image on and then we cut everything around it off.’ ” More here.

I like to read about longtime businesses like this chugging along in New England. I also like reading about start-up businesses. With three entrepreneurs in the family — including Suzanne (Luna&Stella), Erik (Nordic Technology Group), and John (Optics for Hire) — I am pretty sure the local economy is going to be OK.

Photo: Karen Given/Only a Game

Read Full Post »

Photo: Ken Shulman/OAG
Players for Naat’aanii, a team created for Navajo youth, practice in Farmington, New Mexico.

Now that Native Americans are playing major league baseball, it seemed like a good time for Bill Littlefield’s Only A Game radio show to do a story about Native American kids getting into the game. Ken Shulman traveled to New Mexico “to meet a Navajo team that uses tribal lore to train quality ballplayers.”

One of the people Shulman interviews is Dineh Benally, a youth baseball coach with teams in Farmington and Albuquerque.

“’Benally learned baseball as a kid on a reservation in Shiprock, where New Mexico borders with Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. The Four Corners was the Navajo ancestral home until 1864, when the tribe was forcibly marched to a desolate reservation 500 miles away.

“ ‘Baseball is about failure,’ Benally said. ‘And I think life is about failure. You’re gonna fail more than you succeed. …’

“Benally’s had his share of hardship. And failure. Growing up on the reservation was fun. But farm chores often kept him off the ball field. And when he did play, there wasn’t much in the way of coaching. Still, the tall right hander was MVP of his all-Navajo high school team. He pitched two years in junior college. Then he got a break: a chance to make the team at New Mexico State University — and to prove that a boy from the rez could play Division I ball. He threw well in tryouts but was cut on the final day. …

“It was tough not making the team. But Benally rallied. He thought about his ancestors on that long walk from Four Corners. And he thought about what he’d learned.

“A few years after graduation, in 1999, he started a youth team, to give Najavo kids the type of training he wishes he’d had growing up. He called the team ‘Naat’aanii,’ a word that … means leader. He scoured the state for native talent, boys born on and off the rez who he could shepherd toward college baseball and maybe even the pros. …

“Naat’aanii is no longer just for native players. Any kid can join if he has talent and desire. But the logo and rhythm and ethos are still Navajo. Dineh Benally wants his players to learn more than how to turn a double play. He wants them to tap into the tribal soul, to find the strength to stick it out when times get tough. Because they will get tough.

“ ‘That’s where they’ll show me if they’re really a true Naat’aanii,’ he said. …  They look at me. They know what I’m talking about.’ ”

More at Only a Game, here.

Read Full Post »

Who came up with the game of golf first? Wikipedia has so many answers that it amounts to no answer, but let’s give it a shot.

This entry is for my dentist, who loves golf and who was kind enough to say that Suzanne’s Mom’s Blog makes him think of floating down a peaceful stream after all the anxious hammering from the media.

“A golf-like game is recorded as taking place on 26 February 1297, in the Netherlands, in a city called Loenen aan de Vecht, where the Dutch played a game with a stick and leather ball. The winner was whoever hit the ball with the least number of strokes into a target several hundred yards away. Some scholars argue that this game of putting a small ball in a hole in the ground using golf clubs was also played in 17th-century Netherlands and that this predates the game in Scotland. There are also other reports of earlier accounts of a golf-like game from continental Europe.

“In April 2005, new evidence re-invigorated the debate concerning the origins of golf. Recent evidence unearthed by Prof. Ling Hongling of Lanzhou University suggests that a game similar to modern-day golf was played in China since Southern Tang Dynasty, 500 years before golf was first mentioned in Scotland.

Dōngxuān Records (Chinese: 東軒錄) from the Song Dynasty (960–1279) describes a game called chuíwán (捶丸) and also includes drawings of the game.It was played with 10 clubs including a cuanbang, pubang, and shaobang, which are comparable to a driver, two-wood, and three-wood. Clubs were inlaid with jade and gold, suggesting chuíwán was for the wealthy. Chinese archive includes references to a Southern Tang official who asked his daughter to dig holes as a target. Ling suggested chuíwán was exported to Europe and then Scotland by Mongolian travelers in the late Middle Ages.

“The modern game of golf is generally considered to be a Scottish invention. A spokesman for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, one of the oldest Scottish golf organizations, said ‘Stick and ball games have been around for many centuries, but golf as we know it today, played over 18 holes, clearly originated in Scotland.’ ” More.

The Ming emperor in the picture below seems more like he’s playing croquet. I’m not sure how today’s golfers would react to the idea that their game started as croquet.

Image:  Ming_Emperor_Xuande_playing_Golf.jpg

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: