Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Not So Perfect Timing

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Saturday's women's downhill in Crans-Montana had a controversial result because of problems with the timing. We are not going to address the results, who should have been second or third, and the protests. We will leave that to the others. The regular timing for the Crans-Montana downhill seemed to have failed and the race organisers were forced to rely on the backup system to time the racers. How do World Cup timing systems work anyway? If the main system fails, what is the backup system?  We sent one of our intrepid reporters to Switzerland to talk to a representative from Longines, but nobody from Longines was willing to talk to us. However, we ran into Bob, our old friend and contact at the FIS. Let's find out what he has to say.

BB: Hi Bob. It's nice to see you again. 
Bob: It is always a pleasure to talk with the Blickbild. 
BB: The FIS does not actually handle race timing, but Longines does. Is that correct?
Bob: Yes. Longines has been handling World Cup race timing for many years. 
BB: Longines is a Swiss firm, right?
Bob: Yes. 
BB: Has Longines started making its timing equipment in China or Bangladesh?
Bob: No, it has always been made in Switzerland. 
BB: Maybe the FIS and Longines are trying to save money and decided to outsource the construction of the timing equipment. A few years ago the Austrians had the trophies for the Kitzbuehel races made in China. But they went back to having them made in Austria when the Gams embarrassingly fell off of one of them during the award ceremony.  But back to Crans-Montana and the timing. Maybe you can explain how timing systems work.
Bob: The timer is activated when the start gate opens. It is connected to the finish line and split timers by two sets of cables. One is the main cable and the other is a backup. Split and finish times are recorded when the racer breaks a beam. There are computers in a timing shack near the finish area that record all of the start, split, and finish times. 
BB: Is the beam that the racer breaks a laser beam?
Bob: No, it is an optical beam between two points. 
BB: So the racers don't have to worry about being burned or cut in two by a laser beam?
Bob: No. Think of it like an automatic door sensor. All of the sensors are connected to computers which record the times that the racer started, crossed the split points, and finished.
BB: To what degree are the times accurate?
Bob: They are accurate to 0.001 seconds.
BB: Can the timing be manipulated? For example, can the timing computers be programmed to go faster or slower than normal?
Bob: Why would someone want to make the timers go too fast or slow?
BB: Let's suppose that someone on the timing crew is tired of Mikaela Shiffrin or Marcel Hirscher winning all the time. One of the engineers on the timing crew could change the timing software so that the clock runs really fast when Mikaela is on course so that it looks like she took longer to make her run. 
Bob: I think that someone would get suspicious if the clock ran faster for Mikaela than for the other racers. 
BB: Maybe yes, maybe no. A lot of people were very suspicious about the timing in Crans-Montana. It seemed to benefit the Swiss racers.
Bob: What happened in Crans-Montana is that the primary system was not working so the backup system was used. 
BB: Perhaps you could explain to our readers how the backup system works.
Bob: There are two sets of cables running from the start to the finish area. When one does not work, we have the second. 
BB: Let's suppose that both sets of cables stop working. How would the race be timed?
Bob: We set up an emergency generator to supply power to the cables and computers. It is powered by a local boy pedalling a stationary bicycle. We don't want to pollute the air with a gasoline-powered generator. 
BB: That is very environmentally friendly. I'm sure that protection of the environment is an FIS priority, up there with athlete safety and TV ratings. But suppose the boy gets tired from pedalling the bike. Do you have more than one bike, or do you have a crew of local boys who alternate pedalling the bike?
Bob: There are a few boys who take turns pedalling. They switch during the TV breaks or any other time a race is interrupted. But we have not needed them in a long time. The timing systems normally work very well. 
BB: Are local girls also allowed to be bicycle power generators or just boys? 
Bob: I suppose a girl could do it. But it is traditional for boys to have this honour.
BB: Okay. Let's imagine that there was a big power failure, so there was no power for the timing cables.  In addition, the boys who ride the bike which powers the emergency generator are all sick. Would the race be cancelled due to lack of proper timing equipment?
Bob: No. We would then use hand timing.
BB: Explain how hand timing would be used in a World Cup race.
Bob: Members of the timing crew use stopwatches. They start the stopwatch when the starting gate opens and stop when the racer crosses the finish line.
BB: How can someone in the finish area see when the timers at the start house have started their stopwatches?
Bob: The monitors by the start and finish area communicate by radio or mobile phone. There are 3 monitors at each point, the primary time keeper and two backup time keepers. There are also time keepers at each split point. Their times are written down and averaged to get the racer's time.
BB: That sounds good so far. But what if our power failure also affected mobile phone service and radio waves and the monitors can't communicate with each other? A large solar flare or a Martian invasion could wipe out the whole power grid and cause such a scenario.
Bob: The odds of a Martian invasion are rather slim. But we have a backup plan. 
BB: Are you going to tell our readers or leave us all in suspense?
Bob: If the radios or phones don't work, the start house and finish area are all connected to each other by tin cans and string.
BB: So you are saying that professional race timing could come down to how loud someone can yell into a tin can?
Bob: Let's not go that far. We have the monitors at the start, split points, and finish line. When a racer passes each checkpoint, the monitor at each checkpoint contacts the timing shack via the tin cans.
BB:  What type of string conducts sound the best?
Bob: Longines has conducted extensive tests with different types of strings, yarn, and twine and found that worsted weight yarn is the best sound conductor. Longines uses only the finest worsted weight yarn for its backup system to ensure accurate communication and timing.
BB: Nothing but the best for the FIS.
Bob: That's right! Here is how the backup system works. When a racer starts, the monitor at the start house yells into his tin can that Racer Number 1, 2, 3, 17, etc. started. Someone in the timing shack records the time. When the racer passes the first split point, the main monitor there contacts the timing shack via his tin can. After the racer crosses the finish line, his or her time is calculated.
BB: Where are you getting all of the tin cans and yarn?
Bob: Part of the pre-race timekeeping preparation is a trip to a local recycling centre to get tin cans. Someone on the timing crew also goes to a local yarn shop. Another person is responsible for putting holes in the cans and installing the yarn. The timing crew is also responsible for connecting the tin cans at the start house and split points with the timing shack.
BB: Once all of the times are communicated to the timing shack, how is the final time figured?
Bob: There are ten people with slide rules who take all of the times and calculate the averages. The ten averages are then averaged to get the final time.
BB: Wait a minute! Where are you going to find ten people who still know how to use a slide rule?
Bob: If a slide rule was good enough for the NASA scientists and engineers who sent men to the moon, it certainly is good enough for Longines and the FIS. Part of timing crew training is learning how to use a slide rule.
BB: So the backup system for race timing boils down to some stopwatches, tin cans, yarn, and ten men with slide rules? (to himself) What could go wrong with that?
Bob: Yes and no. We have another backup system.
BB: An abacus?
Bob: How did you know?
BB: We at the Blickbild are not only intrepid, we are psychic. 
Bob: The timing crew has a 90-year-old Chinese man named Mr. Li who is a whiz with an abacus. He is our backup to the slide rules. We even have a third backup system if the tin cans, slide rules, and abacus fail--a Mayan calendar.
BB: What does a Mayan calendar have to do with calculating race times?
Bob: The ancient Mayans used it to calculate time. Remember, they did not have computers, Google, or YouTube tutorials to help them create their calendar. If the ancient Mayans could keep time with their calendar, so can a World Cup race timing crew. The timing crew has figured out a way to convert the symbols on the Mayan calendar to race times. There is a reason why the timing crew is well-paid.
BB: This is getting absurd, even by our low journalistic standards. You might as well have the timing crew use their fingers for calculating correct race times. 
Bob: What a great idea! I will pass it on to the people at Longines. The more backup timing systems that we can use when the main one fails, the more accurate the race timing will be.
BB: Just like in Crans-Montana last weekend. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for educating our readers about how World Cup race timing and backup systems work. Hopefully the FIS will not have to rely on the backup systems very often. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters don't have backups. They are one of a kind.

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Friday, January 11, 2019

Athlete Profile: Katharina Liensberger

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Katharina Liensberger is Austria's newest technical racing star. After coming close to the podium earlier this season, she earned her first podium finish in Flachau and became the Second Attendant to the Snow Space Princess. One of our confident correspondents of communication, better known as one of our intrepid reporters, was sent to Austria to talk to Katharina. Let's find out what she has to say.

BB: Congratulations on your third place finish in Flachau. 
Liensberger: Thank you. 
BB: How does it feel to be the Second Attendant to the Snow Space Princess?
Liensberger: I don't think that the Snow Space Princess has any attendants. I was simply the third place finisher. 
BB: Of course the Snow Space Princess has attendants. All princesses do. 
Liensberger: Maybe Petra Vlhova's trainers and service men were her attendants. But neither Mikaela Shiffrin nor I did any traditional attendant to a princess duties after the race. 
BB: I see...You are part of the new generation of Austrian ski racers who are making their mark in the World Cup. Do you feel pressure to live up to the legacy of the Austrian stars who came before you?
Liensberger: No. I simply go out and do my best. Of course I want to make my fellow Austrians proud, but I don't feel any pressure. It was a special thrill to place third in front of the Austrian crowd in Flachau.
BB: You are part of a group of not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 Katharinas who are all rising stars on the Austrian team. Is there any special reason why there are so many Katharinas?
Liensberger: Katharina is a popular name in Austria.
BB: So the Austrian Ski Federation did not put out a notice to all mothers with daughters named Katharina that there was a shortage of ski racers with that name on the national team and to have their girls report for compulsory ski lessons?
Liensberger: Ski lessons are mandatory for everyone in Austria, no matter what their names are.  I think that it is a coincidence that there are four Katharinas on the team. As I said before, it is a popular name.
BB: As far as you know, the Austrian federation does not tell parents, "This year we want only Annas for the team, next year we want Stephanies, and in two years we will only take Katharinas?"
Liensberger: No, the team picks the best skiers based on their race results, not their names.
BB: Let's talk about the other Katharinas on the team, namely Katharina Truppe, Katharina Huber, and Katharina Gallhuber. Are all four of you friends?
Liensberger: Yes. We are rivals on the race course but friends outside of racing and in training. We all support each other and are part of a great team. 
BB: Let's play a little game. Are you ready?
Liensberger: This is a rather strange interview. 
BB: Of course it is. We are the Blickbild and specialise in asking the questions that nobody else dares to ask. We also have the most intrepid reporters in the business. You on the other hand don't seem very intrepid because you are not interested in playing along with me. 
Liensberger: OK, I will play. 
BB: Out of the 4 Katharinas: yourself, and Katharinas Huber, Gallhuber, and Truppe, which one is not like the other three?
Liensberger: Oh, that is a hard question.....I will go with myself because I am the only one who has been on the podium this season.
BB: Good guess but incorrect. But because you are so nice, I will give you another chance. 
Liensberger: Katharina Huber because she has dark hair and the rest of us have light hair.
BB: No no no! But an interesting try nonetheless. It is Katharina Truppe. You, Katharina Huber, and Katharina Gallhuber all have an odd number of letters in your surnames. Katharina Truppe is the only one with a surname with a even number of letters. 
Liensberger: I never thought about it, but that's true. 
BB: Of course it's true. We at the Blickbild may be a bit bizarre, but we never lie. But do you or the other Katharinas?
Liensberger: No. We all grew up learning never to lie.
BB: So you don't try to fool your trainers?
Liensberger: How would we fool our trainers?
BB: You all pretend to be different Katharinas. For example, Katharina Gallhuber pretends to be Katharina Truppe, who pretends to be Katharina Huber, who pretends to be you. 
Liensberger: No. Our trainers can tell us apart. They would know if we were pretending to be someone else.
BB: Really? They can tell all of you Katharinas apart without any special markings on your training suits or different coloured lights on your helmets? 
Liensberger: Yes. Austrian ski trainers are smart enough to know who their athletes are.
BB: Maybe they learned their lesson after the Regina Sterz debacle (see this story). Do any of you try to fool your friends and family members by saying that you are a different Katharina?
Liensberger: No. We all look different enough that our friends and family can tell us apart.
BB: So ski racing fans and your trainers can be 100% sure that it was really you, and not one of the other Katharinas pretending to be you, who got 3rd place in Flachau?
Liensberger: It was definitely me.
BB: Well you are all about the same age and size. You and one of the other Katharinas could have switched helmets and skis and played a joke on your trainers and ski racing fans all over the world. Nobody would have known, at least while you were on the course. Katharina Truppe could have raced as you, but you actually showed up for the podium photos and award ceremony. 
Liensberger: That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard! If Kathi Truppe earned 3rd place, she would have gone to the award ceremony and posed for podium photos because she would have deserved it. Our team probably would have been disqualified if we tried to play a trick like that.
BB: I have one more theory about all of the Katharinas on Team Austria. Maybe you are really all four of them. 
Liensberger: What? !? Where are you coming up with this stuff?
BB: If you think for a moment, it makes a lot of sense. Maybe you have Multiple Personality Disorder. Instead of having separate male and female personalities, or personalities with different ages, you have four distinct personalities who are all named Katharina and are Austrian ski racers. Each of your Katharina personalities has a different surname.  
Liensberger: You think for a moment. If I were really all four Katharinas in one body, how would I finish a run, then make it back to the start of the the next Katharina's run? It would be impossible if one of we Katharinas started right after each each other.
BB: Modern ski lift technology is amazing. 
Liensberger: Don't you think our trainers and teammates would notice the difference between having one and four Katharinas in a training session or race? I would also be too tired to train or race if I was really all four Katharinas.
BB: Your wonderfully perceptive trainers and teammates evidently did not notice that Regina Sterz was really the former Regina Mader. They may have the same powers of observation with your four Katharina personalities.
Liensberger: I do not have four different personalities with their own surnames. There is just me and the other Katharinas are separate people. They are not separate personalities residing in my body. When are you going to ask me normal questions, like what my goals for the rest of the season are or if I hope to win a medal at the world championships in Are?
BB: If you wanted someone to ask you the usual questions, you should have been interviewed by Der Standard and not by us. We at the Blickbild usually do not ask those types of questions. 
Liensberger: Evidently. This has been by far the weirdest interview I ever had.
BB: That's because our specialty is weird interviews. But if you insist.....what are your goals for the rest of the season and do you hope to win a medal in Are? If I get fired for asking such mundane questions, you share the blame. 
Liensberger: I hope to continue my success and yes, I would like to win a medal in Are. Maybe your boss won't notice that you finally asked a normal question.
BB: Let's hope not. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for this interview and wish you and the other Katharinas success for the rest of the season. I'm sure we will be seeing you, assuming it is really you and not one of the Austrian Katharinas,  on the podium in future races. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: None of our reporters have Multiple Personality Disorder

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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Rule Infractions

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

It seems like FIS rules are being violated this season more often than some people bathe. First Germany's Stefan Luitz used supplemental oxygen in Beaver Creek. The FIS is talking about stripping Luitz of his win because of it. Magnus Walch of Austria was disqualified for taking 5 seconds too long for a second run course inspection in Alta Badia and also suspended for two races. What is happening here? Has Alpine ski racing suddenly become a big free-for-all? One of our intrepid reporters was dispatched to FIS headquarters in Switzerland to investigate. He spoke with Charles "Poindexter" Baxter, a special rules consultant to the FIS. Let's find out what he has to say. 

BB: Mr. Baxter, tell our readers how you became a special rules consultant for the FIS.
Baxter: Call me Poindexter. From a very young age, I had a special talent for memorisation. At age 2 I memorised the alphabet. But my parents got tired of me saying it and told me to say it backward, which I easily memorised. From first grade on, I memorised my school textbooks within a week. When I was 8 years old, I memorised the whole Bible for fun. 
BB: Would that be the King James or New International version?
Baxter: Both. I graduated from high school when I was 10. For a short time I was in the high school drama club and we performed Our Town for the school and our parents. Because of my talent for memorisation, I was the person who stood in the wings and cued the actors. On opening night Chelsea Hoffman totally forgot her lines and did not listen to my cue. I ran onstage, pushed Chelsea off the stage, then proceeded to recite the whole rest of the play. After my performance, I was banned from the drama club. 
BB: From reading your biography, you got a Bachelor's degree at age 13 and PhD at 16. How did you get from your Stateside university to Switzerland?
Baxter: After memorising the Bible, I also memorised the Koran, War and Peace, and the number Pi to 37,000 places, all while earning my degrees. But nobody would hire a scrawny 16-year-old with a PhD, even one with a memory like mine, so I looked for a bigger challenge. I decided to memorise the entire FIS Big Book of Rules. I thought that would be the ultimate test of my memory and lead to  a job. 
BB: How many pages are in the Big Book of Rules?
Baxter: 2,733 single-spaced pages. 
BB: Wow! That is a lot of pages and rules to memorise. Did you write to the FIS telling them of your intention to memorise the Big Book of Rules?
Baxter: No. I am from a small town in Nebraska. Our local newspaper wrote a story about my feat of memorising the whole Big Book of Rules and somehow the Swiss media picked it up. I was interviewed over the phone by a representative of the FIS, who quizzed me about trivial FIS rules. He was so impressed that I was hired on the spot as a special rules consultant.  I moved to Switzerland two weeks later and started my job. Any time there is a dispute about rules, I am the first one called. 
BB: So you were the one who was consulted about Stefan Luitz and his supplemental oxygen?
Baxter: Yes. When Romain Velez and Adam Zampa found the oxygen tank and wanted to check the rules, I was called in as the final authority. 
BB: I see. Now the whole world knows that ski racers are not allowed to use supplemental oxygen. But what about other gases, like helium? Are they covered in the Big Book of Rules?
Baxter: Why would a ski racer want to inhale helium before a race?
BB: Athletes have some crazy pre-competition rituals. Maybe a ski racer likes to talk in a squeaky voice to calm his pre-race nerves. Or he wants to sing in a silly voice while racing because that helps him concentrate.
Baxter: That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Where do you come up with these questions?
BB: Let me explain the Boston Blickbild interview rules. The reporter, that would be me,  asks the questions and the person being interviewed, which would be you, answers them. I'm sure that's easier for you to memorise than the first 16,152 digits of Pi. But I will answer your question. We at the Blickbild specialise in the absurd. If you want to answer normal questions, go back your little town in Nebraska and talk to their newspaper reporters. 
Baxter: Oxygen is the only gas covered in the rules. 
BB: So theoretically a ski racer can legally inhale helium before a race?
Baxter: Yes.
BB: So if Stefan Luitz had inhaled helium instead of oxygen before his second run in Beaver Creek, there would be no talk of stripping him of his win?
Baxter: Correct.
BB: I have another situation for you. Imagine that Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud are in a hotel elevator together. Aksel had one too many helpings of beans and cabbage at dinner and lets loose with a huge expulsion of flatulence.  Kjetil can't help but to breathe in Aksel's gas because they are in an enclosed space. How is fart gas handled in the Big Book of Rules? Would Kjetil be disqualified or barred from racing because he breathed in his teammate's noxious fart  fumes?
Baxter: As I said before, oxygen is the only gas covered in the Big Book of Rules. Kjetil would be punished in other ways by breathing in Aksel's intestinal gas; but  he could race without any sanction or disqualification.
BB: It doesn't matter if Aksel's fart was silent but deadly, a squeaky tooter, or a sonic boomer?
Baxter: No! I don't think that anyone ever asked me questions like this before. 
BB: That's because we ask the questions that nobody else dares to ask. Maybe being subjected to a fellow racer's windies should be in the rule book. If oxygen is bad, but flatulence is good, maybe Stefan Luitz should have been in an enclosed space with a farting teammate in Beaver Creek instead of breathing oxygen. Let's move on to Magnus Walch and his disqualification in Alta Badia and suspension for going over his course inspection time by 5 seconds. Don't you think that is a bit over the top?
Baxter: No. Course inspections are precisely timed down to the second. If we let one racer go 5 seconds over, the next one will want to take 6 seconds longer than the prescribed time and it could lead to chaos. Every racer is assigned a monitor who times his or her course inspection. We use accurate Swiss timing. 
BB: The Canadians were the ones who reported Herr Walch for taking those extra 5 seconds. Is there a rule about tattling on other countries' ski racers?
Baxter: No. Others are encouraged to come forward and report any violations.
BB: I see.  Suppose a racer decides that he does not need to use his full course inspection time. Is he punished for taking too little time?
Baxter: There is nothing in the rules about that. 
BB: I get it. Going over your time is bad but taking less than the prescribed time is okay. Now let's say that Marcel Hirscher decides to end his course inspection 10 seconds early. Can he give his 10 extra seconds to a teammate? 
Baxter: No.
BB: But in the US Congress, if a member does not use all of his or her prescribed speaking time, he or she can give that time to a colleague. The net time used stays the same, but different people can use different amounts depending on their needs as long as it does not go over the total allowable minutes. 
Baxter: This is ski racing, not the US Congress. So no, Marcel Hirscher cannot give his unused time to a teammate. Each racer has his or her individual allowable course inspection time, and no more.
BB: I am going to ask you about more rules violations. A few seasons ago, Tina Weirather was disqualified for wearing her arm guards over her racing suit sleeves instead of under them. Does it really matter where a racer wears her arm guards, as long as she has them?
Baxter: Yes. Everything must be worn in the proper place. The FIS has special stealth technology to detect where a racer's arm guards are.
BB: Why do you need special stealth technology for that? I can use my eyes to see if a racer's arm guards are over or under her sleeves. 
Baxter: The human eye is amazing. But sometimes it is not perfect, thus the stealth technology. If the human eye was perfect, people would not need glasses.
BB: Fair enough. I know that the FIS is also strict about showing up precisely on time for bib draws.
Baxter: That's right. An athlete must be exactly on time, not even one second late, to the bib draw. Otherwise, the racers will think that they can show up whenever they want to get their bibs.
BB: Wait a minute! If a racer is one second late to the bib draw, he is penalised?
Baxter: Oh yes! He will start with bib 46, just like Bode Miller did a few years ago because he was late to the bib draw.
BB: What if the racer's watch or clock in  his hotel room is not perfectly in synch with the official FIS clock? I can see being punished for being one minute late, but one second is a bit much. 
Baxter: It's a good thing that you don't work for the FIS. It is the racer's responsibility to ensure that his watch or the clock on his phone is synched up with the official FIS clock. The racers are all adults and should know to do this. If they can't get to the bib draw exactly on time, maybe they need to find a different job. Races are measured in hundredths of a second, so one second really is a long time.
BB: I assume that if a racer shows up 5 seconds early to the bib draw, he cannot give that time to a teammate who arrives 5 seconds late. Am I correct?
Baxter: Yes.
BB: I am sensing a pattern here. On to another topic. Everyone knows that women can't compete in men's races and vice versa. But what would happen if a woman put on a fake beard and competed in a men's race? For example, Lindsey Vonn is as tall as most men. If she put on a fake beard and called herself Larry von Kildowski, could she compete in a men's race?
Baxter: Only if she had a racing license under that name.
BB: You mean if Lindsey had only glued on a fake beard and taken out a racing license with a man's name, she could have competed in men's races?
Baxter: It's not quite that simple.
BB: Is there anything in the Big Book of Rules which requires that men's beards be checked to ensure that they are not fake? 
Baxter: No.
BB: Since men's beards are not checked to see if they are real, could a woman with a fake beard technically sneak into a men's race?
Baxter: I suppose so, but that has never come up before.
BB: It looks like the Big Book of Rules needs some revision and you will have to memorise it all over again. One more thing. As we stated before, women are not allowed to compete in men's races. But are they allowed to use the men's public toilets?
Baxter: Why would a woman want to use a public men's toilet?
BB: It looks like someone forgot the rule about who is supposed to ask the questions. Maybe your memory is not so incredible after all. A lot of athletes in different sports have to pee before a competition. It's called pre-race nerves. Let's suppose that a female ski racer needs to use the toilet. There is a long line for the women's toilets but no line for the men's. If she waits in the women's line, she would be late reporting to the start area and disqualified for being tardy. So she uses the men's toilets.  Is that okay according to the Big Book of Rules?
Baxter: There is nothing in the Big Book of Rules which prohibits women from using a men's toilet.
BB: So a female racer can use men's toilets, but she cannot compete in a men's race?
Baxter: That is correct.
BB: It looks like Lindsey can save her money by not buying a fake beard. She can use the men's toilets without one. Well, it looks like we are out of time. Poindexter, I want to thank you for this interview. It was very interesting to learn exactly what is covered and what is not in the Big Book of Rules. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters ask the questions and the people being interviewed answer them. Is that really so hard to understand?

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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Athlete Profile: Breezy Johnson

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Breezy Johnson has established herself as one of the top downhill racers in the World Cup. Unfortunately, she will be out for this season because of an injury. Despite her injury, she keeps a positive attitude and is one of the most delightful female ski racers in the White Circus. One of our intrepid reporters caught up with Breezy at an undisclosed location in the States. She talks about food, her rehab, how she relieves stress, and her name. Let's find out what she has to say.

BB:  Your rise to becoming one of the top downhill racers is amazing. You have quietly worked your way up the standings in the past few seasons. What is your secret?
Johnson: A lot of hard work, waking up before the sun rises to train, listening to my trainers, and a large dose of self-belief. 
BB: Do you also eat a lot of Barilla pasta like Mikaela Shiffrin?
Johnson: I eat a healthy diet, which sometimes includes pasta. But I don't eat it at every meal. 
BB: When you travel around Europe during racing season, do you try the local foods?
Johnson: Oh yes! It makes me feel like a European and more connected to the other racers. 
BB: What is the most unusual thing that you have eaten in Europe?
Johnson: Hmmmmm.....one time I had Mexican food in Austria. Does that count?
BB: That's not quite what I had in mind, but I will accept that answer. I was thinking more along the lines of lamb brains while in Val d'Isere or reindeer burgers in Are.
Johnson: The reindeer burgers sound okay, but I don't think I would knowingly eat lamb brains. 
BB: I would, but we Blickbild reporters are supposed to eat strange foods because we are intrepid. (short pause) You tore your ACL and have blogged about your recovery. The most remarkable thing is that you have such a positive attitude. How do you stay so positive, especially during racing season? You remind me of the people on the crosses at the end of Life Of Brian singing, "Always look on the bright side of life." 
Johnson: I could have drowned my sorrows by drinking a lot of wine and eating junk food. But I decided to focus on recovery and a positive attitude helps.
BB: You opted not to have surgery, like Carlo Janka. Do you think that will really work?
Johnson: In Norway they do physical therapy and rehab first and then decide if surgery is necessary. Kjetil Jansrud recovered from his torn ACL by doing physical therapy first and then having surgery. Carlo regained racing fitness without surgery. I hope not to have surgery. 
BB: Kjetil also had his grandmother's ojlmsfjaegger to help. They supposedly have medicinal value. Kjetil was even kind enough to send me some to give to you to aid your recovery.
Johnson: What are they exactly?
BB: Only the most exotic food you will ever eat! Once you have a piece of Grandma Jansrud's ojlmsfjaegger, you will be begging for the recipe. 
Johnson: Let's open the box and try it. (short pause as the box is opened) Oh they smell awful! They remind me of those things that Ragnhild Mowinckel eats. I'm not eating one unless you do.
BB: I have eaten them before and lived to tell the tale. But it's your choice if you want a slower recovery from your injury and want to offend the Norwegian World Cup racers. Kjetil's grandmother took a lot of time to make these just for you. And it's not even your birthday!
Johnson: What does my birthday have to do with these things?
BB: Ojlmsfjaegger are eaten in Norway on birthdays. But since every day is someone's birthday, you can still enjoy them when it is not your birthday. You will be one of the very few Americans privileged enough to experience pickled cubes of reindeer heart covered in a special smoked salmon and chocolate sauce. Anyone can eat bland Mexican food in Austria. But very few outside Norway get to eat ojlmsfjaegger.
Johnson: I'll eat one if you will. (there is a short pause as both of them eat a piece of ojlmsfjaegger). Let's just say that this an acquired taste. Maybe my mom or my dog will like them.
BB: Speaking of your dog, is he well-trained? I see photos of you with him on social media.
Johnson: Yes, he is great!
BB: So you have trained him not to pee on your friend's carpet or go poo in the VIP tent at races?
Johnson: Whose dog would do such a thing?
BB: Lindsey Vonn's dog Lucy. Lindsey has Lucy trained to pee or go poo in every inappropriate place imaginable.  But let's move onto another subject. You like to dive into icy lakes.
Johnson: Oh yes! It is a great stress reliever.
BB: Did you ever take gymnastics or diving lessons as a child? Your form in the air is quite good.
Johnson: No, I just do what feels natural. Have you ever tried diving into an icy lake?
BB: No. 
Johnson: Wow, I am more intrepid than a Blickbild reporter!
BB: Excuse me, but nobody is more intrepid than a Blickbild reporter,  except for a member of our research team. Let's go find an icy lake and dive in. (there is a long pause as our reporter and Breezy get some towels, walk out to the nearest icy lake, strip down to their underwear, and dive in.)   
BB: (after getting out of the water and drying off)  Holy sh*t that was cold! 
Johnson: Isn't it refreshing? I bet you don't have a care the world now.
BB: You're right about that. I could not feel any stress if I tried. Any stress hormones can't move through my body because they are frozen. That is the real reason why you have no stress after diving into icy lakes.
Johnson: If you do it long enough, you get used to it and come to enjoy it. Diving into cold lakes is like eating those things from Granny Jansrud. It's an acquired thing.
BB: Are you sure that you are not a professional masochist?
Johnson: Very sure.
BB: Year after year, you remember your fans at each race venue. Do you have a little leprechaun sitting on your shoulder whispering their names in your ear?
Johnson: No, I have always been good at recognising faces.
BB: Does the US Team have a witch doctor who gave you a magic facial recognition potion?
Johnson: The US Ski Team does not have a witch doctor.
BB: Are you really a space alien from the planet Zorkon?
Johnson: Where are you coming up with these questions? No, I am not a space alien, although the way Mikaela Shiffrin skis, she could be from another planet.
BB: We at the Blickbild ask the questions that nobody else dares to ask. And it is not so far-fetched about you being a space alien. Anna Veith was recruited to be part of the ski team from the planet Zorkon. Anyway, if you want to answer normal questions, talk to people from the Jackson Hole Gazette. (short pause) So you don't feel like your body has been taken over by aliens? How else does that explain your amazing memory for your fans and love for diving into very cold lakes?
Johnson: I have always been that way, so if my body was taken over by a space alien, it must have happened when I was very young because I have no memory of it.
BB: There is one more thing that I want to talk about with you...your name. Did your parents name you Breezy because they are former hippies?
Johnson: Breezy is not my birth name. I legally changed my name to Breezy a few years ago. My parents named me something else.
BB: Were you inspired by the 1973 film Breezy, starring William Holden and Kay Lenz, which is about a romance between a 50-year-old man and a 17-year-old girl named Breezy?
Johnson: I never heard of that movie. It sounds like the man was either just plain creepy or a pedophile.
BB: In the film Breezy's friends think that her man is creepy, while the man's friends tell him, "You have a 17-year-old girlfriend! You rock!" But all in all, it got bad reviews.
Johnson: I think I'll pass on watching that movie. But let's have some fun. If you can guess my birth name within 10 tries, I will eat all the rest of those reindeer and fish things. But if you can't guess it, they are all yours. I'll even give you a hint. It starts with a B, so we can eliminate names like Gertrude, Mildred, Gladys, or Agnes.
BB: You're on! Brunhilde?
Johnson: No.
BB: Bertha? 
Johnson: No.
BB: Beulah? Beatrice?
Johnson:  No and no. You have six more guesses left.
BB: Babette? Blickbildia?
Johnson: Nice tries, but no. Blickbildia? Really? Four more guesses.
BB: Maybe your parents liked us so much that they named you after us. Everyone loves the only ski racing satire site on the Internet. People name their kids London, Madison,  and Brooklyn because they love those places so much. 
Johnson: But I was born before the Blickbild was founded. Keep guessing.
BB: Bessie? Beverly?
Johnson: Not even close! Two more tries.
BB: Bronwyn?
Johnson:  No!  Last chance.
BB: Brumplestilskin?
Johnson: Brumplestilskin?
BB: Well, Rumplestilskin worked in the fairy tale, but you said that your birth name starts with a B. So I combined them. 
Johnson: Unfortunately, life is not a fairy tale. And the name my parents originally gave me certainly was not Brumplestilskin. But you were a good sport and win the box of reindeer hearts.
BB: You're not going to tell the world your real name, are you?
Johnson: Yes I will. It's Breezy.
BB: You got me there. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with us and going for a dip in the lake. We at the Blickbild wish you a full recovery and we are hoping to see you on the race pistes next season. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: If any of us have daughters, we would name them Blickbildia.

The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Athlete Profile: Mikaela Shiffrin

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Two-time overall globe winner Mikaela Shiffrin started off in the World Cup as a teenage wunderkind and has matured into one of ski racing's superstars. Since her debut in the World Cup, she has kept her girl next door wholesomeness along with great sportsmanship. Mikaela is a real champion because of her graciousness in both victory and defeat as well as an interesting person to interview. One of our intrepid reporters caught up with Mikaela in Killington during a break in her training. Let's find out what she has to say...

BB: Thank you for taking some time to talk with us. You have always been a great interview subject.
Shiffrin: Are you new? I have been interviewed by the Blickbild several times but never met you.
BB: Yes, I am new.
Shiffrin: Are you as intrepid as your predecessors?
BB: Normally I am the one who is supposed to be asking the questions because I am the reporter and you are supposed to answer them because you are the ski racer. But because you are so nice, I will answer your question. I like to think that I am as intrepid as our other reporters. (short pause) Let's start off with a typical day in your life. What do you usually eat for breakfast? Barilla pasta?
Shiffrin: No, I don't usually eat pasta for breakfast. I like to eat an omelet with one of Barilla's sauces. Barilla not only makes wonderful pasta, it makes good sauces.
BB: What is your favourite sauce to put on an omelet?
Shiffrin: Barilla makes a very good arabiatta sauce. It has just the right amount of spiciness to start the day.
BB: Do you eat pasta for lunch and dinner?
Shiffrin: Yes. Barilla makes a variety of pasta noodles and sauces. Sometimes I eat the pasta as a main dish and other times as a side dish.
BB: Do you sometimes mix other things into your pasta like your boyfriend Mathieu Faivre's mother's sheep spleens or ojlmsfjaegger? (see this story) Both of these are good sources of protein, and we all know that athletes need protein for maintaining strong muscles. 
Shiffrin: Not this again with Mathieu's mother's sheep spleens! And what are ojlmsfjaegger?
BB: They are cubes of pickled reindeer heart covered in a special smoked salmon and chocolate sauce. They are eaten in Norway on birthdays as special treats.
Shiffrin: That sounds awful! Who would eat that?
BB: Everyone in Norway. They love ojlmsfjaegger in Norway.
Shiffrin: So those are the funny things that Nina Haver-Loeseth, Ragnhild Mowinckel and Maren Skjoeld are always eating. I will stick to my Barilla pasta.
BB: Speaking of pasta, do you cook it or does your mother?
Shiffrin: Usually Mom cooks for me, but sometimes I like to get creative in the kitchen and cook for myself. Barilla has many delicious recipes.
BB: So your mother still goes on tour with you? Isn't that a bit odd at your age?
Shiffrin: Not really. Italian men live with their mothers until they are 40. A lot of men in the US are in their 30s and 40s and still live in their parents' basements.
BB: Touche! Does your mother make sure you eat all of your vegetables?
Shiffrin: Yes. But I like vegetables, especially in Barilla pasta primavera.
BB: Does your mother tell you that you can't have dessert until you have eaten all of your vegetables?
Shiffrin: No. As I said before, I like vegetables and eat them happily. Ski racers eat a healthy diet with a lot of fruits, vegetables, pasta, and protein.
BB: Does your mother make you sit at the table until you clean your plate?
Shiffrin: No. I am an adult and choose my own portions. I usually eat everything on my plate. These questions are getting a bit absurd.
BB: You should know from previous interviews that the Blickbild specialises in the absurd. If you want the usual questions, talk to Ski Racing magazine. (short pause) You have won three reindeer in Levi. Do you check in on them through the special website that was provided to you?
Shiffrin: Oh yes! I love my reindeer! They are adorable!
BB: Your reindeer Rudolph and Sven look like they would have the perfect size hearts for ojlmsfjaegger. When Mr. Gru grows a little more, he will also have the right size heart. Would you ever--
Shiffrin (horrified): I could never eat my reindeer! How could you even think such a thing?!?
BB: Even if Ragnhild Mowinckel gave you a cookbook with her favourite reindeer meat recipes? Reindeer meat could go well with Barilla pasta. It's an excellent source of protein.
Shiffrin: No!!!!
BB: Do your reindeer get along well with each other? 
Shiffrin: I think so. They seem to play well together when I watch them on the website.
BB: So Rudolph and Sven are not suffering from any emotional disturbance because they have been replaced by the younger and cuter Mr. Gru?
Shiffrin: I don't think that reindeer have mental illnesses. But I am beginning to wonder about you.
BB: Marcel Hirscher's first reindeer definitely had issues with being replaced by a younger model.  Let's move on to a different subject. A couple of seasons ago, Lindsey Vonn's excuse coach offered to work with your mother and you to help you develop creative excuses when you did not win races. Did you ever work with him, and if so, how did those sessions go?
Shiffrin: I worked with him once, but thought that he was weird. When I don't win, it is because someone else was faster than me that day and therefore she deserved her victory. Who would really believe that the wind, only one course inspection, or the snow being the wrong shade of white would cause someone to lose a race?
BB: This is why you are such a refreshing role model for good sportsmanship. You don't make excuses when you lose a race, but you congratulate the winners. Speaking of being a role model, you are a real inspiration for those who don't want to work long hours.
Shiffrin: What!?! As a professional athlete, I work very hard to be in condition and at my best.
BB: The way I see it, you actually work for about 4 to 5 minutes a week. That is the combined time that you are on the course in a weekend of ski racing. Then you finish the race and eat a nice Barilla pasta meal that your mother cooked for you. OK, you have to work weekends, but most people could deal with that for a five-minute a week job. 
Shiffrin: I don't know where you are getting your information, but you are way off the mark. There is a lot of preparation during the week and off-season for those 5 minutes. I spend a lot of time training on snow and in the gym to prepare for my races.
BB: But the general public does not see you training. They only see you racing and think, "I want a job like Mikaela's where I only have to work a few minutes a week then eat pasta,  get a massage, and create dance routines with my physiotherapist afterward." 
Shiffrin: I think that most people realise that being a professional athlete is more than just what happens on race day. First of all, there are many years of training just to make it to the World Cup. Then at the World Cup level, there is increased training to maintain my fitness level. I must train every day in the gym and on snow. If I want to stay the best, I need to train hard. Yes, I get massages, but they are therapeutic. And I eat Barilla pasta because I like it. Come and spend a week with me to see how hard a ski racer really works. I think that I work harder than you!
BB: There's no need to get testy. We at the Blickbild are not only intrepid, we are also hard-working. The real way to settle who works harder is to have a camera crew follow us for a week to show what we really do. OK, you may do more physically demanding work and wake up very early in the morning to train, but we Blickbild reporters have to eat sheep spleens, ojlmsfjaegger, and surstroemming. We travel the world, including  places like Mongolia and the Mojave Desert, to bring our readers the stories that the others don't dare to print. Have you ever been to Mongolia?
Shiffrin: No. But I have been in gyms all over Europe to maintain my fitness.
BB: One more question...how do you feel about the FIS proposal to make parallel races more interesting by giving the competitors guns or even bows and arrows?
Shiffrin: I never heard that. How would I hold both my poles and a gun or bow and arrow? I would need more than two hands. And why would I want to shoot my competitors? They are very nice and I am honoured to be in the World Cup with them.
BB: You wouldn't be shooting them with real bullets; the guns would either have paint balls or use a laser tag system. Even the FIS realises that if the athletes end up shooting each other, there would be no more ski racing. 
Shiffrin: That's a relief. I really like my fellow ski racers, even if they eat weird things. But you never answered how I would hold a gun and poles at the same time.
BB: When you learned to ski, you started off without poles, correct?
Shiffrin: Yes, but I started using poles after a short time like everyone else.
BB: So you know how to ski without poles already. And you have already won parallel races. All you need is a little target shooting practice and you could win parallel races with a gun. 
Shiffrin: I don't know....I would have to try and hit my opponent, who is a moving target, while avoiding being shot in the space of about 20 seconds.
BB: That's right. Think of the TV ratings and how more people in the States will be interested in ski racing because they love their guns. But the best part is the total time that you have to work is less than with a conventional race. 
Shiffrin: I think I will have to work even harder because I would need to ski well without poles and be a good shot. My work hours would double because of both ski training and target practice. There would be no time to sleep.
BB: But your hard work will be rewarded with more Barilla pasta. We all know that Barilla pasta is unbeatable,  just like you. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for this interview and wish you even more success this season. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: We work hard to ask the questions that nobody else dares to ask.

The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

The New Start Order Ranking System

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Last weekend in Levi ski fans were confused about Alexander Khoroshilov having bib 46 when he was in the top 15 just a few short seasons ago, while Matej Vidovic, who did not often score World Cup points, had start number 33. Well, dear readers, you are in luck. Our favourite contact at the FIS, Bob, is here to explain to one of our becoming-more-intrepid-but-still-not-yet-as-intrepid-as-our-original reporters how the new ranking system works. We guarantee that you will understand it clearly. Let's find out what Bob has to say...

BB: I heard that the new ranking system, which goes into effect next season, is based on a lot of math. 
Bob: That's right. Here at the FIS we love statistics and even developed our own formula to go along with our statistics. At first we wanted to use the Quadratic Formula, and use FIS points, race results, and potential race results values for a, b, and c--
BB: That sounds interesting, but we just received some breaking news. Marcel Hirscher's new reindeer, Mr. Snow, has disappeared under very mysterious and suspicious circumstances. What do you know about Mr. Snow's disappearance?
Bob: This is the first I heard of it. 
BB: You mean to tell me that you work at the FIS and this is the first you heard of Mr. Snow's disappearance?
Bob: Uh, yes. What happened?
BB: I was hoping that you would tell our readers. We just got a report from Finland that Mr. Snow vanished from his herd this morning.
Bob: Maybe he just wandered off looking for food. Reindeer do that you know. Can we get back to the new ranking system? We at the FIS are very proud of it. 
BB: I'm sure it is a source of pride, and it puts your idle minds to work. After all, it was the FIS who came up with such brilliant ideas like sprint downhills, two-run downhills, three-run slaloms, and only allowing 50 athletes per race. Hmmmm....Maybe your minds should remain idle. 
Bob: We never implemented the three-run slalom or the 50 racer rule. 
BB: And it's a good thing or else we would never have seen Albert Popov and others with bib numbers over 50 in the second run of the Levi men's slalom. But let's get back to Mr. Snow's disappearance. Do you think that Marcel's first reindeer, Ferdinand, was involved? He is not exactly the most mentally stable reindeer in the herd.  (see this story)
Bob: I don't believe that a reindeer has the capability of making a herd mate disappear. Maybe Henrik Kristoffersen kidnapped Mr. Snow to make ojlmsfjaegger from his heart. When Marcel won Ferdinand, Henrik wanted to give Marcel his favourite recipe for reindeer stew.
BB: I remember that well. That was why Ferdinand was afraid to go up onto the podium after the race. But why pick on Henrik? He was not the only Norwegian racer in Levi. Jonathon Nordbotten, Sebastian Foss-Solevaag, and Nina Haver-Loeseth were also in Levi. Perhaps one of them took Mr. Snow. They probably wanted a reindeer because they don't have one. Henrik has Lars.
Bob: But there is a real rivalry between Marcel and Henrik. In fact, Henrik has a motive because he seems to resent that Marcel almost always beats him. Marcel does not have such close competition with the others, so they don't really have a motive to steal Marcel's reindeer. Ms. Haver-Loeseth does not have anything against Marcel because she cannot compete in men's races. Now about our system for ranking racers. We had to discard using the Quadratic Formula because we now have more than three variables that we use for rankings.
BB: We will get to that after we finish talking about Mr. Snow--
Bob: And when will that be?
BB: I ask the questions because I am the reporter and you are the person who works for the FIS.  It looks like you want to accuse the Norwegians of foul play, or simply post-race hunger, in Mr. Snow's disappearance.
Bob: Well the Norwegians taking a reindeer to make stew or ojlmsfjaegger is certainly more plausible than a reindeer being mentally ill and harming his herd mate.
BB: But there are plenty of reindeer in Norway, unless there is a difference in taste between Norwegian and Finnish reindeer. 
Bob: There could be. But about our new ranking system for start order--
BB: And who calls a reindeer Mr. Snow? Was there no blood flow to Marcel's brain after the race because all of his blood was still in his leg muscles? That has to be the most lame name ever. No wonder Mr. Snow disappeared! He was probably embarrassed by his name, so he snuck off to join another herd and change his name. 
Bob: Mystery solved why the reindeer disappeared. I really want to talk about start order ranking. I think that ski racing fans are more interested in that than what happened to a reindeer in Finland.
BB: How do you know what racing fans are interested in? You probably think that a parallel race where the athletes are armed with bows and arrows would be more exciting to ski racing fans than the classical ski racing disciplines.
Bob: Parallel races with bows and arrows....wow, we never thought of that! I'll have to bring that up at our next meeting. I'm sure everyone will love it.
BB: We at the Blickbild are not only intrepid, we are creative. Which is more than we can say about Marcel's name for reindeer number three. By the way, what did Marcel name his new son?
Bob: He never announced the child's name. We thought that was rather strange because other ski racers announce their new babies' names. But maybe Marcel prefers his privacy.
BB: I can see why he did not announce the child's name. If the best he could come up with for his reindeer was Mr. Snow, I'm sure he named his kid something like Mr. Hospital. If he and Laura end up having more than one child, I'd hate to find out what any others will be named. For the child's sake, we can only hope that Laura chose his name. 
Bob: When can I explain the new ranking system?
BB: Now. But make it quick, because we are almost out of time. 
Bob: The new ranking system takes into account the following factors: World Cup results from the previous season, World Cup results from this season, recent Europa Cup results, other continental cup results, FIS race results, World Championship and Olympics results, the racer's country, and the rankings of the other athletes in the field. It is explained by the simple formula: [WCP + 3.81(WCC)+ 1.22 (EC) + CC + 0.87(FIS) + 1.49 (WSC) +1.82 (OG)] * RC +  - OR = FIS points. Our rankings are basically the athlete's FIS points. The lower the FIS points, the higher the ranking.
BB: Sounds very logical.  I'm sure racing fans can figure it out and easily predict any athlete's bib number based on your formula. 
Bob: Don't you want to know how we assigned a numerical value to each country, how we figured the original variables for this formula, or how we converted Olympic and World Championship placement to ranking points? It took a lot of people many hours to come up with it.
BB: I'm sure it did, but you left out Junior World Championship and Topolino results.  Shouldn't they also figure into the rankings, especially for younger racers?
Bob: All that time spent developing this formula for figuring rankings and start order!  Now we will have to go back and start all over again. I can't believe we left those things out! I hope that we can come up with a new formula by the start of next season.
BB: I'm sure you can. I have complete confidence in you and your other colleagues. You don't seem to have a lot of real work to do, so you should have plenty of time to fix your formula. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for another enlightening interview. We almost learned about why Matej Vidovic had a better bib than Alexander Khoroshilov in Levi. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: We don't have a lame name. 

The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Levi Reindeer Rage

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

After over a year of our not-as-intrepid-as-our-original reporters disappearing, we found some new ones. However, they actually worked for real news sources and have journalistic standards. But we had to take what we could get. We sent one of these new reporters to Levi, where there is some strife in the herd which supplies reindeer to the slalom race winners. A photo of Marcel Hirscher's second reindeer, Leo, was posted on social media. Marcel's first reindeer, Ferdinand, was nowhere to be seen afterward.  Rumours abound: did Leo kill Ferdinand, did Ferdinand run away and simply disappear, was he sold to the Norwegians for ojlmsfjaegger, or did something else sinister happen to him? Our not-very-intrepid-compared-to-his-predecessors reporter was sent to Finland to investigate this matter. He was able to score an interview with Matti, the reindeer herder who owns all of the reindeer which the racers in Levi win. Matti appeared with Leo by his side. Let's find out what he has to say....

BB: On what date did Ferdinand disappear from your herd?
Matti: He never disappeared from my herd. In fact, he is alive and very well.
BB: Then he didn't die or run away to Norway?
Matti: No, he is still in my herd.
BB: So he was not murdered, nor did anything else sinister happen to him?
Matti: No, he is very much alive and in perfect health. 
BB: How can you tell if Ferdinand is still in your herd? All of your reindeer look alike to me.
Matti: Not this again! I know every single one of my reindeer and can easily tell them apart. Ferdinand is still in my herd and I have the honour of taking care of him, just like with all of the other reindeer who have been awarded to Levi race winners. 
BB: So why is Leo here with you for our interview and not Ferdinand? Do you like Leo better, or is Ferdinand being punished for something?
Matti: I love all of my reindeer equally. They are my babies! Don't you love your children equally?
BB: Of course I do. Hey, I'm supposed to be the one asking the questions here. Is Ferdinand being punished?
Matti: Of course not! How would I punish a reindeer? 
BB: How would I know? I'm a reporter, not a reindeer herder. You are supposed to know that stuff. What kind of reindeer herder are you if you don't know how to punish a recalcitrant reindeer?
Matti: I happen to be a very good reindeer herder! Otherwise, the FIS would not have entrusted me to take care of the Levi winners' reindeer. What kind of reporter are you for not getting any background information about me or my herd?
BB: I happen to be an excellent reporter! Intrepid too. And I ask the questions because I am the reporter and you answer them because you are the reindeer herder. Now that that's settled, why is Ferdinand with the rest of the herd and not with you and Leo now?
Suddenly Leo starts making a lot of noises. Matti turns his attention to Leo.
Matti: Really? No! That can't be!
BB: What is he saying? 
Matti: Leo said that after his photo was posted on social media, Ferdinand drew a stick figure reindeer and wrote, "Leo is a poopy head" on a tree. 
BB: Wait a minute! How do I know you're not making this up?
Matti: Just like a parent knows what a baby who can't talk yet is saying, I know what my reindeer are telling me. They are my babies. And they all get along very well with each other. 
BB: But a reindeer drawing a picture and writing on a tree? Why don't we bring Ferdinand here to get his side of the story?
(there is a break in the interview while Matti fetches Ferdinand)
BB: Are you really Ferdinand, or another reindeer that Matti picked out of the herd to fool me since I wouldn't know the difference?
Matti: Of course this is Ferdinand! I am offended that you are questioning my honesty. My reindeer are my babies and I can tell which one is Ferdinand. 
BB: Ferdinand, did you draw a picture of a reindeer and write, "Leo is a poopy head" on a tree?
Ferdinand (speaking though Matti): Of course not! How can I draw pictures or write? I have hooves, not fingers! How can I hold a pencil with a hoof? Leo is delusional.
Leo: I am not! You just hate me because I am younger and cuter than you. 
Ferdinand: You are just jealous because Tanja likes me better than you. She likes age and experience over youth and immaturity.
BB: Who is Tanja?
Matti: One of my other reindeer. 
Leo: Do you know what else Ferdinand did? He put a copy of 365 Ways to Cook Reindeer in my special sleeping spot.
Ferdinand: How could I put a book where you like to sleep? First of all, I would have to leave the herd, go into town, buy a book, bring it back, and put it in Leo's sleeping spot. I would think that Matti would notice if I was missing. Secondly, that sounds like something that Henrik Kristoffersen would do. Anyway, I am a reindeer and cannot read. 
BB: You seem to be rather intelligent, so maybe you really can read but you're holding back because you don't want to appear intellectually superior to your herd mates. 
Matti: Reindeer can't read. Anyway, if Ferdinand could read, he would be wearing glasses so that he would look smarter than the others. As we can see, he is not wearing glasses. Ergo, he cannot read. 
BB: Right. Unless--
Leo: Then how do you explain the letter that I received with Grandma Jansrud's recipe for ojlmsfjaegger*? Ferdinand is the only one who would think to do such a thing. He has been trying to get rid of me since my photo was posted on Facebook. 
Matti: What is going on here? My reindeer have always gotten along well. And when did they learn to read?
BB: I'll tell you what else is happening here--
Ferdinand: OK! I confess! Yes I drew the picture, put the book in Leo's sleeping spot, and sent the letter with the ojlmsfjaegger recipe. And I can read, as can Leo. Do you want to know why I did those things? I need ski racing fans to realise that I still exist. Leo is not Marcel Hirscher's only reindeer. I was his reindeer first. Leo, you better watch out! You may be the young and cute one now, but if Marcel wins another reindeer this weekend, you will be yesterday's news. Look at what happened to Lindsey Vonn's dogs Leo and Bear after she got Lucy. She stashed them away somewhere in Colorado and only takes Lucy everywhere she goes. Leo and Bear could have run away or died, but nobody would notice or care.
BB: What about Mikaela Shiffrin's reindeer Rudolph and Sven? Wouldn't they have the same issues as you two?
Ferdinand: No. Rudolph and Sven are ordinary reindeer and don't know how to read or write. If Mikaela won a third reindeer, Rudolph and Sven would get along fine with him, unless they all fight over a female. Then all bets are off. 
BB: You not only have reindeer who can read, but you seem to have the world's only psychotic reindeer, although he does have a point with Lindsey Vonn's dogs. You really need to find a family therapist who specialises in reindeer herds.
Matti: I don't think they have family therapists for reindeer. They are just for people.
BB: Then I suggest you find a good human family therapist who will take your reindeer too. You will need one, especially if Marcel Hirscher wins again in Levi. Two reindeer who can read, one of which is psychotic, will be a deadly combination going after a third reindeer. Good luck getting your herd back in order. You will need it. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters can read, but they are not psychotic.

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* For our newer readers, ojlmsfjaegger are cubes of pickled reindeer heart covered in a special smoked salmon and chocolate sauce. They are eaten in Norway on birthdays.