Thursday, June 12, 2008

Eric The Intern's tips for excellence in sports

I was recently reading that athletes (among them - Roger Clemens - go figure) in certain sports at elite levels are taking Viagra to boost their performance. Apparently the little blue pill has supplanted creatine at the top of the list of legal "supplements" that athletes (and baseball players) are taking on a regular basis. Apparently the stuff opens up the blood vessels in your body and allows you to breathe easier and...blah blah blah. Frankly, I don't buy it. Not only do I not trust big pharmaceutical companies, and I feel that Pfizer doesn't need this kind of boost in business. (Remember when it was discovered that Sudafed was being used by hockey players, and they would have to stop using it at the Olympics because Silken Laumann had a cold and used Sudafed and then got busted, and then kids across Canada started taking Sudafed before games without really having any idea why, but just because Joe Sakic once did or something? Ridiculous. Run-on sentence.) Also, I feel that it's more likely these athletes take Viagra to counteract the impotence that is a side-effect of steroid use, rather than simply on it's own merits for athletic enhancement. And anyone who writes a comment on this blog using the words "stiff competition" or "chicks dig the long ball" will make us all cringe. Got it?

So Viagra is out. This is all because yesterday, I tried my hand at tennis coaching. What people didn't understand was that my program takes a while to become effective. It isn't an overnight fix-all. And it isn't intuitive at all, since we have been taught that for peak athletic performance we ought to do the opposite of what I advise. But do my program for a year, and I think you will find that this is the new way to become amazing. My pupil yesterday, Ottawa's premier tennis player, the sweet and talented Petra Januskova, decided not to go with my training regimen. I wish her the best of luck anyway, and I harbor no bitterness. But I will post my plan here, so others can make use of my vast knowledge of physical fitness and sporting excellence.

Step One: Diet. You know how you see baseball hitters in the on-deck circle swinging three bats at once, or sometimes a bat with those big heavy rings on the end? That is so that when they get up to the plate, the one bat they have to swing there feels lighter in comparison. The same goes for food. If you eat, say, four hot dogs before working out, you will, as a person, feel heavier. Not only that, but you will feel sick, and nauseous, and you may well throw up. Now, initially this seems like a bad thing, it isn't! This is the same theory as the three bats. If you have an intensive practice after scarfing three Big Macs, and then come game time you don't eat several Big Macs, you yourself will feel lighter. I discovered this when I played in the Ottawa waterpolo all-star game in 1997. You see, we had just come from the Chinese Buffet, and we were stuffed. But my family showed up to see me play, and they had brought me food - a double quarter pounder meal with an extra cheeseburger from McDonalds. And I didn't want to be rude by not eating it. So I choked it down on top of the Chinese buffet. I had to swim underwater to the opposite side of the pool on the first play of the game, and when I cam up I could barely breathe. I got into a fight and was ejected on the first play. The next game - I hadn't eaten so much, and I was WAY better! I wasn't ejected until the seventh play! See? It works...

Step Two: Cigarettes. While I don't condone smoking as a habit, it can be very effective as a training tool. You see, after a cigarette, you start to have more trouble breathing. Physical exertion becomes more difficult. Stamina is sapped from your body. You know how long-distance runners train at high altitudes because the thin air makes it more difficult to run and breathe, and therefore they feel that much better when they run at sea level? What they are doing is conditioning their bodies at a certain level that is beyond what they would ordinarily need for competition. Cigarettes can do the same. Have just one before you train, and it's like you're instantly transported to Denver's Mile High Stadium for that one session. Have a whole pack, and you're WAY ahead of the game. Then when you play your game without smoking, you will already have been conditioned at a much higher level than everyone else.

Step Three: Mental preparedness. No matter what the sport, you must be mentally prepared to face your opponent. And that means that before the game, you must condition yourself to HATE that opponent. In the case of tennis, I instructed Petra yesterday to attack her opponent. And not in that metaphorical, namby-pamby sort of sports-psychologist "attack" the oppponent sort of way. In the literal, seriously attack sort of way. I told her to hit tennis balls directly at her opponent. Now, you would hope that no one gets injured (Petra does hit tennis balls awfully hard). But the main idea here is that you become more focussed on destroying that opponent than you are on actually winning the match. And before long, when you are tired from pelting the other girl with tennis balls, you'll start playing real tennis just out of exhaustion. But by then, your opponent will be so frightened of you, she won't be able to play at all. And the wins will fall into place on their own. I used this theory when I played baseball. As a pitcher, I would throw as hard as I possibly could, without aiming, to the first batter in every game. When that batter walked (usually on four pitches...sometimes on just one), every other batter in the game was about half a foot further back in the batter's box than they usually were. And the wins just fell into place on their own.

Step Four: Psychological warfare. Tennis, like baseball and football and almost all other sports, is part athletic and part mental. You must have the skills to hit the ball, but you also must be mentally prepared, since the match itself is like a chess game. If I hit it there, and she hits it there, then I will have to do must think several moves ahead. And it is far easier to get into your opponent's mind than it is to master your own. I used to do this on the chess team. I would mutter under my breath the whole time, "I really want to make out with Keanu Reeves" or some such thing. And it gets into the opponent's head right away. Physical intimidation works wonders, but mental intimidation is your bread and butter. Wear freaky clothes. Like lingerie, or hip-waders. When you hit a tennis ball, don't do that loud grunting Maria Sharapova thing. Instead, make that Xena Warrior Princess noise before returning a serve. When I played football, I used to get a face painter to paint Hello Kitty on both my cheeks before a game. The tight end lined up across from me would wonder about that the whole game. And by the time he became used to it and managed to ignore it, it would be the fourth quarter and we would be winning.

I don't know if Petra listened to any of my advice. She certainly seemed reluctant to work with me on perfecting a brand-new jump serve. And she has chosen to continue working with her current coach, much to my chagrin. In all seriousness, however, this girl is a major talent, internationally ranked #342, and yet has had trouble finding sponsors so she can afford to attend the tournaments that will allow her to to turn pro. Tennis is an expensive sport once you reach that level. Anyone interested in sponsoring her, please let me know. Send me an email and I will forward it to her right away - - now here's yesterday's video:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The hottest woman ever to play sports?

I'm watching Pardon The Interruption right now. On the ol' PVR. And they are calling the French Open champion, Ana Ivanovic, the "hottest woman ever to play sports". In winning the Open, she moved past Maria Sharapova, who lost in the fourth round, to take over the number one seed in the tennis world. And I realized that I had never seen her before, or heard her name. So I thought I would find some pictures, and let you decide for yourself. Yes, this is pandering to the lowest common denominator. So let's take a look.

This is Ana Ivanovic. In addition to being attractive, she is also - judging by the interviews I've seen today - very charming and fun and smart. And, unlike the Anna Kournikovas of the world, she has won tournaments and she is legitimately one of the best in the world.

Below, this is Gabriela Sabatini, the woman I remember from my childhood as being the hottest tennis player this side of Martina Navratilova. Although I did forget the fact that she once had a mullet and a milk mustache.

Remember Canadian Olympic swimmer Joanne Malar? One of the all-time best swimmers in Canadian history, she won four gold medals in international competition, and represented Canada at three Olympics.

Okay. Now I have created my own little version of the Doc and Woody Fun page, based on some vague memories I had when I was a little younger (or, in the case of Gabriela Sabatini, a LOT younger). I feels so dirty. I'm going to stop, mostly because this putting-pictures-up-on-the-blog thing is a pain in my ass and I don't want to do it any more. But I may return to this subject later, so I'd love to hear any votes you might have. By the way - Jamie Sale, Katarina Witt, et al, do not count because figure skating is not a sport. And some obscure golfer ranked #744 in the world also does not count. Only people at or near the top of their sports are considered. Like, the hottest hockey player in the world might well be in the Sewdish Elite League, ladies. But until he makes the NHL, he's not on the list. By the way, that reminds me. Anyone remember when Mike Ricci was voted Hottest Bachelor In Denver? It actually happened...women have weird taste too...

Monday, June 9, 2008

Something I forgot.

I think I meant to make mention of this the other day, but I forgot to write it down. We were talking about technology, and how it distances us from each other, and creates a very impersonal environment the world over. And I was going to say how Doc, last week, had sent me an email that I didn't check before the show, and so I had missed a Breaking Rock News story. (Which is better than what I did this morning - suggesting that John Bonham had played with the Foo Fighters on Saturday night. John Bonham is, let me state for the record once again, dead. And he did not play with the Foo Fighters. John Paul Jones did, as did Jimmy Page.) And he complained that I hadn't checked my email, saying "how are we supposed to communicate?" Even Woody, the poster child for blackberry addiction, had to laugh at that one. After all, he had sent the email from the desk he works at in the morning. Which is about twenty feet from the desk I work at. And sure, there is indeed a door in between, but "how are we supposed to communicate?" That really is too funny.

Localpalooza and the rest of Saturday.

Busy day on Saturday. First, Woody and I went to Ottawa Dodge for their motorcycle poker run in the morning. We figured we were there to kick off the event, you know, "gentlemen, start your engines", and so forth. It turns out we weren't. We were there to enjoy a pancake breakfast and watch the bikers peel out. 200 bikers, in the brutal summer heat on the first really hot day of the year, wearing leather and long pants. I was in sandals and a T-shirt and shorts, and I was sweating like John Goodman on a treadmill. I sure hope they were all able to go fast enough to cool down some. Even the little dog with the shades looked sweltering. A great turnout, though, and we'll find out how much these great people managed to raise for the Doc and Woody Fund on Tuesday.

Then it was off to Localpalooza, where the beer was already free-flowing and the heat was already pounding and the clothing was already as skimpy as it was going to get when I arrived just after noon. There was of course beach volleyball going on all day, and bands playing as well. Ambush was the first to play, and they had brought a monster set of stacks that was too big to be powered by the existing rig on the stage. So someone had to run out to Home Depot or Canadian Tire or something and buy a generator to power the system. Finally, they hit the stage at about 3:00, and although it was way too hot for any kind of crazy, frenetic dancing, they did get the crowd going. Their drummer, it should be noted also, may well be some kind of reptile. He was wearing long pants and long underwear. For real. It was forty degrees.

I managed to get one game of volleyball in while Ambush were playing, with the team who won through CHEZ and came with me to play volleyball and judge the bikini contest. We were bounced after one game. Either we were only allowed to play one, or they had a rule that if you lost by one hundred or more in the ten-minute game, you were automatically bounced. I'm not sure which. Also, Ambush got me up on stage to sing Satisfaction with them, and to my embarassment I actually lost track of the words in the second verse. The words - to Satisfaction - the most well known classic rock song of all. How humiliating. But everyone was well into their cups by that point, and no one seemed to notice.

Then it was Tara Holloway, a great young singer-songwriter who actually used to work at CHEZ in reception before I was ever there. Apparently, she was even on the Doc and Woody show before I was, when she occasionally came up from reception to do a Janis Joplin impression. Judging by her show, she will certainly ellicit comparisons with Janis for the rest of her career. Also a poor choice of wardrobe, in that Tara was wearing long black jeans. That had to be unpleasant. By the way - she is playing at Bluesfest this year, Saturday July 5th. The best day to go to Bluesfest, Steely Dan and Lucinda Williams are that night. And Tara will be well worth seeing in the afternoon. (1:15 on the Roots Stage.)

Then it was the bikini contest. I was told, before the event, that the wet T-shirt contest had been replaced with something "classier". Like, they wanted to make sure there was still debauchery, but the kind that the whole family could watch. So, "bikini contest" is merely the toned-down version of "wet T-Shirt contest". And "wet T-Shirt contest" is, as is my understanding, a toned-down version of "stripper contest", which is a slightly less raunchy version of "porn star contest", which is...anyway. So we were several steps removed from porn star, but still pretty far from "nicest floral print on a giant hat". As is my understanding of pageants such as this one, you need to have several elements. The walking-around-in-the-bikini element, the making-the-crowd-yell element, and the talent portion. And the skill-testing question. I asked each girl a skill-testing question. The first question was this: "Sex And The City - female empowerment through solidarity and camaraderie among women, or female debasement through the pursuit of rich men who can buy you expensive shoes?" I believe she answered "BOOOOOOBS!" Which wasn't the right answer. But it was about the most coherent answer I got out of anyone.

Well, except for Erica, the last contestant, who asked for an easy question, but managed to field my question about Palestinian terrorism, freedom fighting, Middle Eastern apartheid and the Israeli state with considerable aplomb. Her answer made little sense, but god bless her, she tried. She was also the only bikini contestant who was still willing to speak with me once it was all over. She ended up being the runner-up, partly thanks to her question-answering ability, and partly thanks to the fact that the girl who did win had all of her friends there in force. Here is a hint girls - if you ever want to win a bikini contest, and the one at Localpalooza is worth $1,000.00 each year, then bring all of your friends to make lots of noise. If you can do that, it doesn't matter one bit what you look like or how you perform. Unless your friends are jerks.

Then Amanda Rheaume hit the stage at the back. She gave me one of her CDs, and I've been listening to it in the car all weekend since. Terrific stuff, singer-songwriter type music, much like Tara Holloway. In fact, I think they have performed together for a long time. The Amanda Rheaume band played Bluesfest the last few years, and they are terrific. Well worth seeing also when they play there this year - she is also there on July 5th, on the Rogers Stage at 4:00. This is the day people - Tara Holloway in the afternoon, Amanda Rheaume a little later, then Adrian Belew, Zappa plays Zappa, Lucinda Williams and Steely Dan. Best day of the year.

By the time Honeymoon Suite hit the stage, it was about an hour later than scheduled, and sadly the place had emptied out some. Still a good show, still a big sound (the noise complaints had apparently started with Ambush and their stacks in the afternoon), and the people who had stuck it out had a great time. I think the others had found the combination of the crazy heat and the gallons of beer to be too much, and had packed it in early, for the most part. All in all, however, a good day. And since I too found the combination of cold beer and sweltering heat to be a rough one, I was driven home and went straight to bed. Only to discover, early the next morning, that some jokers - quite possibly others who had been at the very same event - had uprooted the stop sign beside my house and laid it down ever-so-neatly across my driveway behind the tires of my car. All in good fun, I assume. Just like the rest of the day.