The Olympic Library, Part 2

Wow, it's been a minute since part one, hasn't it? I'm still reading, I promise, just slowly. I took some time "off" to read some Miracle on Ice books, but now we're back and ready for another round-up of Olympic books!

Off Balance by Dominique Moceanu: Truthfully, I didn't know much about Dominique before reading her book. I knew her name just by virtue of her being a pretty central figure in American gymnastics, so finding out what was going on behind the scenes was… pretty harrowing, honestly. I had no idea she was such a tragic figure. It's almost hard to label her "tragic" because of the incredible amount of success she had, but between her borderline-abusive father and very abusive coaches, you have to wonder what else she could've achieved had her circumstances been different. And that's saying nothing of the fact that she discovered she had another sister well into adulthood! Truly, with everything she had to deal with, it's pretty remarkable that she turned out as normal as she is. I have so much respect for her! This book is definitely worth a read!

Focused by Noelle Pikus-Pace: This is such a quick and easy read; you could knock it out in a single afternoon, no problem. Interestingly, I thought that was the book's biggest downfall. Noelle didn't go into much detail about anything, so the whole thing felt like, "I had this problem, and it sucked for a little while, but then I changed my attitude and it was fine!" I'm so inspired by Noelle's perseverance and perpetually happy attitude, so I really wish she'd given more in-depth insight into her struggles and her journey. I mean, she was hit by a bobsled, and condensed that whole experience into a handful of paragraphs. Really? There was also a bit too much religion for my taste; Noelle is really big into her Mormon faith so it wasn't much of a surprise that god played a large role in her retellings, it's just not my cup of tea. Nonetheless, this book is a hit of inspiration and happiness. It's super uplifting and I definitely enjoyed it.

Misty by Misty May-Treanor: This was a perfect book to read right before volleyball season started! I adore Misty, so getting to dig (pun totally intended) into her life a bit more was really cool. This might actually be my favorite athlete autobiography I've read since I started writing these posts. She's incredibly detail-oriented, from the exact menu at her wedding to the exact medical terminology describing some of her injuries, and all of these details makes me feel like I got a really in-depth idea of what her life was like. She didn't hold much back (bikini waxes! Sexual assault! Alcoholism! Kerri Walsh's gold-medal baby!), and some of her writing about her mom's death made me legitimately weepy. I loved learning more about her partnership with Kerri, especially since this book was written in 2010, before they decided to go for a third Olympics together in 2012. The power of hindsight is incredibly cool! Sometimes Misty is a little hard to relate to (she was a legitimate star in four or five sports, and I'm just like "...I did a few push-ups the other day?"), but she's so likable and worked so damn hard that I was okay with it. :)

A Mother for All Seasons by Debbie Phelps: Did you know that Michael Phelps's mom wrote an autobiography? Because I sure didn't. And now that I've read it, I'm still not sure why she wrote it. I probably would've gotten more out of it if I myself were a mom, but I'm not, so any parenting wisdom fell on deaf ears. It wasn't a bad book, per se, but the whole time I was reading I found myself wondering... well, why? She's a regular person writing a book about her life; it's her son that's special. She's also a little naive for my taste. Everything to her was "like a storybook." Literally, everything. It apparently took her until Michael was 19 and committed his first (at the time the book was written, only) DUI for her to realize that everyone, even herself, was human. I mean, those are some serious rose-colored glasses. Wow. So, like I said, it's not a bad book. It kept me entertained and I finished it fairly quickly. But I can't necessarily say I'd recommend it.

Now, let's work on getting part three finished in less time it took for me to get around to part two. ;)

post signature

Miracle Monday: The Captain + the Captains That Could've Been

Guys, this is the first Miracle Monday for which I can take no credit for the topic! I got a prompt! Is that a weird thing to be excited about? Either way, shout out to my lovely friend Mary for giving me an incredibly interesting question to think about! :)

The original idea is as follows: "In the movie, Al Michaels says something along the lines of, “Mike Eruzione, newly named captain of this US team, for what Herb Brooks says is his leadership, ‘on and off the ice’.” What made Rizzo such a good captain? Was he the obvious choice? If not, who else could have filled the C roles? Dissect that!. :)"

Now, if you know me at all, you know that I love me some character analysis. So this is right up my alley, and I'm pretty pumped. Let's get to it!

In case you've been living under a rock or aren't an American, Mike Eruzione is the captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. (Shocker, right?) It's a pretty well-known fact that he wasn't the most talented player on the team -- he'd be the first to tell you -- but as a player he was more characterized by his heart than his skill. He was always eager to be on the ice during those critical moments, and it's probably important to note that all of his goals during the Olympics came at important times: we all know about his game-winner against the Soviets, but his goals against Czechoslovakia and Norway were both the first of those games and kick-started the scoring rallies that would ultimately lead to victories. He came through when his team needed him to!

Off the ice, he was outgoing and not afraid to talk to anybody, including Herb Brooks. He was the second oldest on this team full of children, so his leadership role came pretty naturally. Herb knew about Rizzo's previous experiences on U.S. national teams (when he didn't play much but was always positive and pumping up his teammates) and had him tapped as his captain almost from the get-go.

Honestly, it's almost hard to even imagine anyone else filling this role. (I mean, 35 years of being the most visible face of the team speaks for itself!) But let's take a look at some other quality candidates.

Including Bill here almost seems like a cop-out, but I can't not include the alternate captain, right? ;) It's truly a tragedy that he (metaphorically) wore the A and nobody really knows about it, because Bill truly deserves that recognition. In college he was named an All-American in 1979 while serving as the Gophers team captain -- so, clearly, he had that leadership thing down pat. He was an incredibly skilled defenseman and ranked third on the Olympic team in penalty minutes because he wasn't afraid to mix it up to defend his teammates. And let's not forget his goal to tie Sweden, potentially the most important goal of the whole Olympic tournament. The dude came through in the clutch! Bill also happened to be a very uniting figure in the locker room: he grew up on the Iron Range, became a Gopher, and was so likable that he quickly earned the respect of the Bostonians. So basically, he managed to relate to everybody, and everyone wanted to be his friend. Throw in his soft-spoken nature, and he's really the perfect alternate to Rizzo's captain.

Also? At the 35th anniversary reunion, Bill was wearing a jersey with the A on it!
I didn't notice this until I saw video and photos several weeks after the reunion, and I'm not ashamed to say I yelled a little bit when I did notice. I'm so here for Bill wearing the A!

Fun story: Buzz was very nearly voted team captain over Rizzo. It's been speculated that he may have won if the vote was truly democratic. It was, technically, a fair vote, but Herb had been giving captain-like duties to Rizzo beforehand to try and subtly sway opinions in his favor. That's not to say Rizzo wouldn't have won otherwise, but it speaks to just how beloved Buzz was. It's impossible not to like this guy (or maybe that's my own personal experience talking?). Herb loved him because he never got ruffled and always managed to be pleasant and positive. Like Bill, he's an Iron Ranger that became a Gopher and played on years of national teams with Rizzo (a Bostonian), so he was able to bridge all of those gaps. He was another that was all heart when he played, and he could basically score at will on Vladislav Tretiak, potentially the greatest goalie of all time. And he's the oldest on the team, and the only returning Olympian from the 1976 team, so it was only natural that his experience made him a leader. I mean, tell me Buzz wouldn't have made an amazing captain, I dare you!

Poke around the interwebz long enough and you'll find a source that lists OC as alternate captain. I don't know where that false factoid came from, but whoever originated it shares my belief that OC was a hell of a leader on this team. I mean, he blew out his knee a few days before the Olympics and Herb kept him on the roster; he was willing to absorb the loss of an able-bodied player because OC's personality and off-ice presence was that valuable. That could really speak for itself, but have some more! He was captain during his senior year at Boston University, where coach Jack Parker praised him for his poise and determination. He was the highest-scoring defenseman on the Olympic team while leading the team in penalty minutes. He's one of those guys that has no fear, be it of a bloody nose or of sharing his opinions, and it's been said that he can get along with absolutely anybody from any walk of life. I'd certainly follow this guy into battle!

Mark is kind of my sleeper pick on this list, simply because of how softspoken he was (and is). He doesn't really seem like the take-charge leader type... but he was a captain in the NHL and has been the head coach of the University of Wisconsin women's hockey team for over a decade. So, y'know, never underestimate the power of a quiet man! Mark has that low-key sort of confidence that just makes you trust him, and it certainly didn't hurt that he was the best college hockey player in the country and the best player on the Olympic team. Any time an opponent got a little too rough with Mark, without fail there'd be someone there in the blink of an eye to defend him. Seriously, his troops would instantly rally around him, and if that doesn't speak to his value and leadership I don't know what does!

Well, this was super fun! And I'm still looking for a few more post ideas, so if anyone has a subject to suggest, send it my way! ;)

post signature

Guaranteed to Have a Heck of a Day

Whenever I read sports journalism, I feel like 90% of the time there's a paragraph dedicated to the "sports home" of someone's childhood. Be it the writer or an athlete or whoever, there's at least a brief focus on how this person became who they are, and that always includes growing up attending games at [insert stadium here], eating [insert food here], gazing wide-eyed at [insert favorite athlete/idol here]. They'll go into detail about the stadium, the atmosphere, the food, and how all of this formed the basis of this person's childhood memories.

Well, I didn't really have that.

I read all these stories and think wistfully about going to so many games that security knew me by name, about having "my seat," about having more ticket stubs than I know what to do with. But that just wasn't my life. I grew up on Long Island so I certainly got to see my fair share of games; Mets, Yankees, Islanders, Knicks. I've been to all four Major League Baseball stadiums that have existed in New York in my lifetime, Madison Square Garden, Nassau Coliseum, and even MetLife Stadium (for a Bon Jovi concert back when it was still the New Meadowlands).

 Yankee Stadium
Citi Field

My parents want to see a game in every MLB stadium, and when I was younger I reaped the benefits of this goal. I've been to ballparks in Baltimore, Toronto, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Boston, Tampa and Washington, D.C. With the exception of Tampa (lol, sorry), they're all beautiful (though most of them were visited before my picture-taking days).

Nationals Park

I lived in Miami for four years, so I went to games in both Marlins Park and SunLife Stadium (before Marlins Park existed). The new stadium is top notch, while SunLife is... not so much.

Marlins Park
SunLife Stadium

Now that I'm in Colorado I've been to two games at Coors Field, and I'm actually shocked at how nice it is. There's also a brewery there, because... well, Coors Field.

Coors Field

But funnily enough, though I didn't spend my childhood growing up in a stadium, I still feel as though my "sports home" was Shea Stadium. It was where the Mets played before Citi Field came to be and it was, quite honestly, a dump. It was literally known for being a terrible ballpark. It was closed for good in 2008, and I've probably now been to more games at Citi than I ever went to at Shea. But I don't know, man, there's just something about those formative years. It's where I saw the giant Mets apple for the first time, where a red, white and blue ribbon was laid over the Twin Towers in the light-up skyline after 9/11, where Mike Piazza became my first real baseball hero. And Shea had these giant ramps between the seating levels all around the outside of the stadium; if you were a kid, you ran down them when you were leaving a game. You probably ran up them when you arrived, too, but when gravity was working in your favor it was all too easy to break into a sprint (and then wait for your slow parents when you reached the landing, obviously).

Look at the ramps! Ah, good times. (source)

It's so dumb. But that's why Shea has to be my favorite ballpark; running down those ramps with my brother, looking over our shoulders to make sure we didn't stray too far from mom and dad. That could've happened once in my life. Literally, I don't have any specific memories of doing this. I just know we did it, and I'll always remember it fondly as that one-of-a-kind sports experience. Shea had character, and for that I'll always be grateful.

(Also, if you're wondering about the title of this post, it's a reference to this jingle that's actually horribly embarrassing, please don't judge me for the franchise I root for. Thanks. )

7th Inning Stretch Link Up
post signature

London's Natural History Museum

I love good architecture. I don't think I really realized it until I took an Architecture of London class for fun when I studied abroad, but just in the last few years I've really begun to enjoy appreciating buildings. That class was quite the experience; it was really hard, as architecture is basically this whole subset of art that I knew very little about, but it was equally as fascinating. Every other week we met up at a different spot in the city and our professor would walk us around to various landmarks and describe them architecturally. It was SUCH a cool way to learn more about London!

We also had to write two papers for that class. Again, incredibly hard but incredibly fascinating. One of mine was on Brutalist architecture, which I chose because of how much I loathe that style. (Seriously, I hate it so much that I almost love it for the hulking eyesores it left us.) For my other paper, we could choose from a list of buildings around London to write about. I chose the Natural History Museum, figuring I could make an afternoon of it when I went to see the building.

Guys. This building. THIS. BUILDING.

Is it possible to fall in love with a building? I know there's a woman that married the Eiffel Tower. Can I marry the Natural History Museum? Because holy cow. I went there to browse the museum and spent most of the time gazing open-mouthed at the walls and ceilings.

Not only is it a gorgeous building without knowing a single other thing about it -- those staircases. I swoon! -- but knowing all the little details makes you appreciate how it was built exactly for its purpose. It's covered in terracotta tiles; now that only serves to look pretty, but it was initially chosen because it could resist the acid smogs of Victorian London. Inside, the ceiling panels are covered in intricate paintings of plants and animals. But my favorite part is that there are also plants and animals carved into the walls. Everywhere you look, there they are. Wall panels. Columns. Random details. Interior. Exterior. Everywhere. It's the coolest thing. This building is honestly a work of art.

Oh man, I miss it. I miss a building. Never in my life did I think I'd say that, but here we are.

Anyway, the museum's website has a whole section on the history and architecture of the building, and you can even take a virtual tour of sorts to see and learn more about it! But if you happen to be in London, please swing by and see it in person. Admission is free, so you can go and ogle to your heart's content. I most certainly did! :)

Travel Tuesday

post signature

Miracle Monday: Who Played With Who?

I've recently been re-watching my DVDs of the 1980 Olympic tournament, and I've found myself fascinated (and greatly entertained) by the line combinations. Herb Brooks was known for for constantly shuffling the players on his lines rather than keeping them consistent, and this completely held true during the Olympics. As Phil Verchota put it, "Herbie's lines were like those Chinese sticks. Throw 'em up in the air and see how they come down."

By the time the Olympics rolled around, there was at least a touch more consistency than that; the left wings and centers stayed constant, but there was an almost never-ending cycle of right wings depending on who was doing well on any given day. It's kind of exhausting to keep track of, but I (almost inadvertently) attempted to. I think I caught all the combinations. I hope I caught all the combinations! Let's take a look, shall we?

(Also, keep in mind that the order of lines wasn't set in stone either. The fourth line was pretty solidly fourth, but two and three were pretty fluid, and one was pretty solidly one, but there was at least one game that line two started and therefore became line one. So basically, these numbers are my interpretation for ease of comprehension. Herb made nothing easy!)

Mark Johnson and Rob McClanahan held it down at left wing and center for the first line, but right wing was a COMPLETE toss-up. They started out with Eric Strobel, but when he wasn't scoring and Dave Silk was, they switched lines. Steve Christoff was in there for a game in an attempt to jump-start his scoring, and it worked -- he scored his first goal of the Olympics with this line! Ultimately, though, Silky kept the spot for the medal round, and when books list each line's scoring breakdown, he's counted as the right wing on the first line.
Well, we go from the most complicated line situation to the most simple! Buzz Schneider, Mark Pavelich and John Harrington were the Coneheads and they went completely untouched. Why? Because they were weird. Or, more specifically, nobody else could figure out how to play with them (mostly Pav). So Herb left them alone for a few months and didn't touch them during the Olympics, and they ended up being the highest-scoring line during the tournament. And ultimately, Bah made the team largely because of this line's chemistry; Herb thought he was a very average player, but he needed him to fill this particular right wing spot. How 'bout that? :)

Mike Eruzione and Neal Broten played the whole Olympic tournament together, and thankfully only had two right wings rotate through. (I think. I could've missed something. This is Herb Brooks we're talking about.) For the most part, Steve Christoff played here. But when he was bumped to the first line, Eric Strobel took his place. That ended up being an incredibly good move, because in that game, not only did Steve score his first goal of the Olympics, but so did both Eric and Neal. So Herb's juggling clearly had some success!
Guys, the fourth line may be my low-key favorite. In hockey, the fourth line is generally the least purely talented and fills more of a grinding, defensive role. But Herb was never afraid to play his fourth line in any situation because they were so solid and never gave anything up; these guys were super reliable and successful as a unit. Phil Verchota and Mark Wells were the stalwarts, joined by Dave Silk while he wasn't on the first line. When Silky was elsewhere, Eric Strobel rounded out his tour through the line-up and filled his spot. (No wonder Eric told Herb he couldn't figure out his niche! If I played on three different lines in seven games, I'd feel pretty adrift too!)

Now, what what going on on defense? Thankfully there was much less juggling going on back there; the only juggling that did happen was due to injuries to Jack O'Callahan and Bob Suter. But they each played with just about everyone else to fill those holes in the ranks, so let's just talk about the regular pairings. Because even I have a threshold!
Ken Morrow and Mike Ramsey seemed to start games pretty often, so even if they're not technically the "first" pair, that's what I'm calling them. These two had such polar opposite playing styles that made them a completely flawlessly complementary pair. Ken was the by-the-book stay-at-home defenseman, while Rammer was constantly making end-to-end rushes and chasing opponents into corners and just flattening people. And just think about what these two each ended up doing in their NHL careers. Unreal!
Dave Christian played his entire career as a center, but when Herb needed another defenseman he decided take two months to adapt Dave to suit his needs. And who better to put him with to teach him a new position than Bill Baker, 1979 All-American defenseman and Minnesota Gopher team captain? At the Olympics, Dave led the team with eight assists and Bill scored what was potentially the most important goal of the whole tournament. So basically, these two were a match made in defense heaven.
Both Jack O'Callahan and Bob Suter were hampered by injuries during the Olympics -- OC didn't play during the first three games and Bob didn't play during the last two, and both of them got limited ice time when they did play -- so we only got incredibly brief glimpses about what these guys could do. But Herb valued their abilities to rush the zone as well as their volatile personalities. These two contributed so much heart to the team that they were invaluable even when they couldn't play very much. Also? These two led the team in penalty minutes and relished pissing people off. Pair them up together and I'm a little bit terrified.

One more fun fact before I leave you: these headshots were taken while the guys were in colored jerseys according to their original line combinations (or position, for the defenders). I'm missing OC and Eric, yes, but it's easy enough to see what they would've been wearing. This is probably extremely obvious when you're looking at them all next to each other, but it took me several years before I matched up the lines and realized what the colors meant. Don't make my mistake and remain oblivious. ;)

post signature