Saturday, December 26, 2015

Questions and Answers December 2015

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive
Ski racing season is in full swing now. Our mailbag is full of letters from ski racing fans all over the world. Here to answer our readers's questions is our very own Answer Man, who is really one of our intrepid researchers. Let's find out what our readers and Answer Man have to say.
Question 1: Lindsey Vonn said that she was able to finish the slalom portion of the Alpine combined race in Val d'Isere with only two days of slalom training. Why are the slalom specialists training so hard if you only need two days of training to make it down the course?
Answer Man: That is a very good question. The short answer would be that even an advanced beginning skier could ski on a slalom course with just a few lessons, so Ms. Vonn's feat is not so extraordinary. But the slalom specialists go fast and look good while doing so, which is why they train so much.
BB: Do you think that ski schools will start promoting "Absolute Beginner to World Cup Slalom Course Finisher in Two Days" programs? After all, there are "Couch Potato to Marathon Finisher in 12 Weeks" training plans.
Answer Man: That is a possibility. A World Cup slalom course is much shorter than the 42.2 kilometer (26.2 miles) marathon distance, so a person would need less time and training to ski down it. If it takes 12 weeks to go from a junk food eating sloth to marathon finisher, I think that two days for a beginning skier to slalom course finisher sounds about right.
BB: Those quickie marathon programs are designed to get a runner to the finish line with no regard for finishing time. Would a two-day Beginner to Slalom Course Finisher course have the same goal?
Answer Man: Yes. The goal would be to make all of the gates and finish the course. Speed would  not be an issue. Just like elite marathon runners train hard for their races, it is the same for World Cup slalom specialists. Keep in mind that Michaela Kirchgasser, who is a technical specialist, had the best slalom time in the Alpine combined race in Val d'Isere. Just like recreational runners are not elite athletes, beginning skiers are not either. Therfore, they just need a short training period to make it to the finish line. Watch for ski magazines and online skiing forums to start publishing their own "Absolute Beginner to Slalom Race Finisher in Two Days" programs soon so that every skier can be like Lindsey Vonn.

Question 2: Why was Tina Weirather disqualified from the downhill portion of the Alpine combined race in Val d'Isere?
Answer Man: This time it was not for wearing her arm guards on the outside of her speed suit instead of on the inside. She learned her lesson about the FIS's high-tech arm guard detection methods after wearing her arm guards in the wrong place.
BB: What does it matter where a racer wears her arm guards? Isn't the important thing that she is wearing them?
Answer Man: If a racer wears her arm guards in the wrong place, it could set a dangerous precedent. Soon everyone will be wearing them in the wrong place and then it would be total chaos. What is the point of having rules if nobody is willing to follow them?
BB: Good point. Back to Val d'Isere. Why was Tina disqualified?
Answer Man: It appears that she was wearing a training suit instead of a racing suit.
BB: Again, who cares which suit Tina was wearing? Nobody cares about Lindsey Vonn or Julia Mancuso wearing non-official US team racing suits.
Answer Man: Just like with the arm guards, it would set a precedent of letting the athletes wear their training suits in races. If the FIS is going to have a Big Book of Rules, those rules must be enforced. It looks like Tina was trying to ignore the rules, but the FIS has stealth technology that detects whether an athlete is wearing a training or racing suit.

Question 3: Some of the athletes in Val d'Isere only did the downhill portion of the Alpine combined race? Isn't there a penalty for skipping the slalom?
Answer Man: There is currently no penalty for only doing the downhill or Super-G portion of a combined race. Everyone knows that a certain percentage of the athletes use the downhill portion of a combined race as an extra training run. There is nothing in the Big Book of Rules that prohibits this.
BB: Do those who skip the slalom portion take advantage of an extra training run because they are slow learners?
Answer Man: Some people might think so. But I think that they are actually smarter than average  because they found a way to sneak in an extra training run.
BB: Let's imagine that you ran the FIS and could come up with any way to encourage athletes to do both parts of a combined race. What would you propose?
Answer Man: If I ran the FIS, any racer who skipped the slalom portion of a combined race would have 250 points deducted from his or her total. If that racer had less than 250 points, then a 50% reduction would be fair. The exception would be for sudden illness or injury during the speed portion, which would be verifed by three independent doctors who are not associated with that racer's team. If there is no injury or illness, the athlete would be put on a pillory in front of the stands with a sign around his or her neck that says, "I am a quitter."
BB: That sounds a bit harsh!
Answer Man: Not really. At least we are not arming the fans with rotten fruit to throw at the person in the pillory. That would be a bit extreme.  But remember, the pillory worked quite well in the Middle Ages and it could still be effective today.

Question 4: Now that Lara Gut has taken the lead in the overall standings, will there be an invasion of Ticino?
Answer Man: I don't think so. The people who attempted to invade Slovenia ended up at the Lubyanka prison instead of in Ljubljana. They still have not been found. The only ones who benefitted from the attempted invasion were the elephants, who are fat and happy in the Salzburg Zoo.
BB: Wouldn't you think that the lesson learned from the failed invasion of Slovenia was that reading a map is a good thing to do before setting out?
Answer Man: It is always good to read a map, though the ancient Roman legions made it all the way to Great Britain without Google Maps or a GPS system. But I can only imagine that anyone trying to invade Ticino would end up in Torino or even Toledo.
BB: Toledo? The one in Spain or the one in Ohio?
Answer Man: You never know.
BB: Do you think that the whole country of Switzerland will be bombed? Besides Lara taking the lead in the overall standings, Fabienne Suter is tied for the lead in the downhill standings.
Answer Man: Switzerland hasn't been invaded in many, many years. You have to remember that every able-bodied man in Switzerland is part of the National Guard and will defend their country. You don't want to mess with Swiss men. For any invading force, the upside is if they bomb the whole country, they are bound to hit Ticino. But...they have to ensure that they are reading their maps correctly and not accidentally bombing Swaziland. That could cause an international incident.

Question 5: There was a Norwegian podium Super-G sweep in Val Gardena last weekend and the Norwegian trainer set the course. Nobody said anything about that. But people got upset when Marcel Hirscher won a Super-G race in Beaver Creek on a course that the Austrian trainer set. Why is there this double standard?
Answer Man: Everyone loves the Norwegians. They are a small team that produces great ski racers and they have given the world ojlmsfjaegger. Also, ski racing fans dislike Marcel Hirscher because he wins too much.
BB: He can't help it if he is consistent. Marcel has also been answering his critics by doing Super-G races. When was the last time you saw Aksel Lund Svindal or Kjetil Jansrud doing a slalom race?
Answer Man: the slalom part of a combined race. They don't look very graceful doing slalom, but they make it down the course without a lot of slalom training.
BB: Are you saying that Lindsey Vonn is not the only one who does just a little bit of slalom training to prepare for a combined race?
Answer Man: Yes, that's right.
BB: So ski schools and online ski forums should amend their "Beginner to World Cup Slalom Course Finisher" programs to say that students will be just like Lindsey and the Norwegian speed racers?
Answer Man: Hmmmm...I suppose they would have to include the Norwegian speed racers in their promotions.

Question 6: What are the Norwegians eating for breakfast these days? Aksel Lund Svindal came back from a death-defying injury, Kjetil Jansrud is having a great season, Henrik Kristoffersen is leading the slalom standings, Alexander Aamodt Kilde had his first podium finish, and Nina Loeseth is on a hot streak.
Answer Man: The Norwegian team is being well-supplied with ojlmsfjaegger. Evidently, it is not just for birthdays anymore on the Norwegian ski team. Or perhaps they eat it every day because every day is somebody's birthday. In addition to Grandma Jansrud, other Norwegian grandmothers are doing their part to keep the team eating their ojlmsfjaegger.
BB: Can you explain what ojlmsfjaegger are for our newer readers?
Answer Man: Of course. They are cubes of pickled reindeer hearts covered in a special smoked salmon and chocolate sauce, which are eaten on birthdays.
BB: Ojlmsfjaegger were originally considered a banned substance by the FIS. But they changed their mind and allowed the Norwegians to eat them. Will the FIS consider banning them again because the Norwegian team is having a super season?
Answer Man: We all know that the FIS is always right, even when it's wrong.  I think for now ojlmsfjaegger will still be legal.
BB: Norway got a witch doctor this season, Dr. Mwafume. What effect has he had?
Answer Man: He has obviously had a positive effect on the team's performance. He could even beat Dr. Mabongo for the Dave Seville Witch Doctor of the Year Award. But the Norwegian team seems to think that as long as they have their ojlmsfjaegger, they will keep on winning.
BB: Will other teams drop their witch doctors and start eating ojlmsfjaegger? Or does it only have a good effect on Norwegians?
Answer Man: Somehow I don't forsee other teams eating ojlmsfjaegger. It's definitely an acquired taste. I think that teams will stick with their witch doctors. Whenever the Norwegian team has a birthday party and invites racers from other teams, the non-Norwegians refuse to touch the ojlmsfjaegger. I know that you have tried the ones that Grandma Jansrud made, and lived to tell the tale, but most of the World Cup racers are not as intrepid as you.
BB: Of course not! The Blickbild has the most intrepid reporters in the business! Well, it looks like we are out of time and questions to answer. I want to thank our Answer Man for taking the time to answer everyone's questions. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive story.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters had more than two days of training to become the intrepid journalists that they are.

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, December 23, 2015

Attack of the Killer Drone

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive
By now everyone who went online in the past 24 hours has heard about the drone that crashed just behind Marcel Hirscher during his second slalom run in Madonna di Campiglio. We would normally avoid this story like we would swimming in the ocean surrounded by sharks on a feeding frenzy because the others have already covered it. But, as usual, we have our own unique perspective on what happened and whose drone it was. One of our intrepid reporters went to Madonna di Campiglio and talked to our old friend, retired Schladming police chief and current special consultant on crime for the FIS, Hermann Mayer. Let's find out what he has to say.
BB: Herr Mayer, it is nice to see you again. When were you called in to investigate what we are calling the Killer Drone?
Mayer: I was actually in the stands watching the race. That is one of the benefits of being a special consultant to the FIS. I get free race tickets any time I want them.
BB: I see that you have two dogs with you now.
Mayer: Yes. Fido is starting to get older and it will soon be time for him to retire. I'll miss him because he has been my faithful canine companion for many years. But I am training Spot to replace him.
BB: Spot? What kind of name is that for a bloodhound? That is normally a name for a Dalmatian.
Mayer: I know, but I love American dog names. Every Austrian names his dog Bello, so I wanted something different. When Spot retires, the next dog will be Rover.
BB: What can you tell us about this drone? Who let it go over the race course?
Mayer: The media wants you to believe that it was a TV camera drone. But after examining the scene, there could be something more sinister afoot.
BB: So you don't believe that it was a TV drone?
Mayer: There is some circumstantial evidence that someone was specifically targeting Marcel Hirscher.
BB: Why would someone go after Marcel? He is a great guy. I can't imagine the Italians going after him because he donated race winnings to Italian earthquake victims a few seasons ago.
Mayer: The Italians have nothing against Marcel and actually admire his consistency. But the first piece of evidence is that the drone crashed while Marcel was racing. Why did it crash during his run and not when any of the others were going?
BB: I see. So it specifically went after Marcel and not the other Austrians?
Mayer: Right. Remember, a few seasons ago Tina Maze received death threats. Even the great Annemarie Moser-Proell received death threats in her time. So it is possible that someone was sending Marcel a message.
BB: Who would do such a thing, especially on international TV for all to see?
Mayer: We have several suspects. The first is Ted Ligety or one of his fans.
BB: Why would Ted go after Marcel? It is common knowledge that they don't like each other. But I can't imagine Ted trying to kill a competitor. I'd think that he would let his skis do the talking.
Mayer: Marcel is leading the giant slalom standings and that is usually Ted's globe. Also, one of our investigators found out that one of Ted's firms is developing drone technology. His drones are using the latest camera technology and will be even better than what the TV stations are currently using. Ted wants his drones to be used instead of the current FIS-approved ones.
BB: I thought he was just working on developing airbag systems.
Mayer: That's what he wants everyone to believe. But we sent an undercover investigator to Slytech and found out that they are also developing a new type of drone.
BB: So you think that Ted or someone working for his firm purposely crashed the drone to make it look inferior to his own product?
Mayer: That is a good possibility. Ted had already left the race venue after the first run, but he could have directed someone else to crash the drone, rattle Marcel, and promote his new product.
BB: Are the any other suspects?
Mayer: We are also checking the alibis of the Norwegian team. It is in Henrik Kristoffersen's best interest to get Marcel out of the picture to make it easier for him to win the slalom globe this season.
BB: It looks like Henrik is doing a good job of taking the lead in the slalom standings on his own. He does not need to eliminate his competitors.
Mayer: If Grandma Jansrud falls ill and cannot supply the team with ojlmsfjaegger, Henrik needs to have a backup plan.
BB: Somehow I don't see Henrik needing a backup plan to win races this season.
Mayer: But Aksel Lund Svindal might. It is a very tight race for the overall globe this season.
BB: I can't imagine Aksel trying to kill a competitor. He is one of the nicest men in the World Cup.
Mayer: Let's just say there were some not so nice feelings after Marcel won a Super-G race on a shortened course that happened to be set by his trainer.
BB: Wait a minute! Norway just had a Super-G podium sweep and the Norwegian trainer set that course. But I don't see Marcel going after the Norwegians.
Mayer: The Norwegians could be sending the message that the speed disciplines are their domain. Anyway, we found some suspicious markings on the drone pieces that could resemble a Norwegian flag if you hold them at just the right angle and have good lighting.
BB: Could someone have drawn the Norwegian flag on the drone to deflect attention from the real perpetrator?
Mayer: We are examining that possibility. But there was also very tiny print that said, "Made in Norway" on it. In addition, there was a stick man skiing with the word, "Marcel" with a circle and slash through it. For now the Norwegians are our number one suspects.
BB: What about other suspects?
Mayer: After the race we searched people leaving the area for remote controls. Nobody had one, but we found one in the trash. We now have it at our lab and are dusting it for fingerprints and checking for DNA.
BB: There are a lot of ski racing fans who dislike Marcel Hirscher. Do you think that one of them could have sent the drone after him?
Mayer: That is a possibility. But we found that most fans prefer to vent their dislike of Marcel in online ski racing forums.
BB: What about the Swedes? After all, they are the ones who kidnapped the German witch doctor at the Schladming World Championships.
Mayer: We ruled them out. The way their men's team is performing, you would think that they were still under the witch doctor's curse. None of them are close to Marcel in the slalom standings.
BB: What about Felix Neureuther? I know that Felix and Marcel are friends, but you never know what your friends would do to you behind your back. Felix could still be angry over losing the slalom globe the last two seasons to Marcel.
Mayer: Felix was also ruled out as a suspect. But I could possibly see Fritz Dopfer going after Marcel. Perhaps he sees Marcel as a symbolic representation of the Austrians' failed attempt to bring him back to the OeSV. We will definitely be investigating that lead.
BB: Do you think that the drone was flying over the race course as a promotion for the new Star Wars movie?
Mayer: We thought of that because what is more fitting for Star Wars than a drone? But we realized that most people who are into Star Wars are more into dressing up like the characters and going to comic book conventions than attending a ski race.
BB: Last year there was a Naughty Stone that went rogue and was going after Ted Ligety and Lindsey Vonn. Do you think that the drone was acting on its own and decided to attack Marcel for the fun of it? The Naughty Stone was nominated for the witch doctor of the year award for its powers. Could it be that this drone was thinking, "If a rock can get nominated for witch doctor of the year, then I could too?"
Mayer: That is also an interesting point, which we will be investigating. We will examine all of the pieces in our lab and figure out how it was working.
BB: Will fans start being searched for drones and their controls at races?
Mayer: I think so and also TV people. Effective immediately, TV networks will no longer be allowed to use camera drones. Ski fans at races should expect long waits to get in so we can check their pockets and bags for drones, remote controls and voodoo dolls.
BB: Voodoo dolls?
Mayer: Yes. Someone could be using a voodoo doll to direct a drone instead of a normal controller. You can't be too careful these days.
BB: That is true. When you figure out who the drone belonged to, you must contact us so we can tell our readers.
Mayer: I will do that, along with Fido and Spot.
BB: Speaking of Fido and Spot, I will have to bring a double batch of dog treats to our next meeting. Well, it looks like we are out of time. Herr Mayer, I want to thank you for another interesting interview. I'm sure you and your colleagues will figure out who crashed the drone on the race course. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.
The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: We are not developing our own drone technology, so we didn't crash the drone. Anyway, we like Marcel.
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.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Battle of the Sexes: Austrian/Canadian Style

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

The ski press has written about Lindsey Vonn's desire to race against men and Mikaela Shiffrin's hope to be a forerunner in Schladming to see how she compares to the men. We will avoid those topics like we would two dogs fighting over a Frisbee. Instead, we will focus on a real competition where a male and female ski racer are facing off against each other. Injured Canadian Super-G star Dustin Cook challenged Austrian superstar Anna Fenninger to a race on crutches. Anna answered the challenge and hobbled 20 meters in 12.9 seconds. Dustin responded by going down a homemade hill on a specially-modified sled. Who won this epic battle? Was Dusting cheating by using a sled and not his legs? Well, you are in luck. One of our intrepid reporters was able to interview both Anna and Dustin using a satellite link. Let's find out what they have to say.

BB: We at the Blickbild, as well as most ski racing fans, were saddened to hear about your injuries. How is your rehab and recovery coming along?
Cook: As well as I expected it to. I hope to be back strong next season.
Fenninger: I will be a long time off of skis but my recovery is going at the right pace.
BB: Dustin, what inspired you to challenge Anna to a race on crutches?
Cook: She seems like a nice lady with a good sense of humor. I had a feeling that she would go along with it.  
BB: And your intuition was right. Anna, do you think that Dustin was cheating because he was using a sled and you used your legs?
Fenninger: Well...we could have had a more direct comparison if we both did the same thing.
Cook: I'm sorry. I didn't mean to give the impression that I was cheating. But I have a possible solution. Why don't I go 20 meters on either my legs or with crutches and you sled down a hill? Then the winner could be decided by combined times of each event.
BB: That is an excellent idea! 
Fenninger: Would you come to Austria and use the same course I did, and then would I go to Canada and use your sledding hill?
Cook: That would be ideal. If we used different walking tracks and hills, they could not be directly comparable because of weather conditions and height differences of the hills.
BB: So you are proposing that you fly to Austria and Anna flies to Canada to complete the challenge? Who is going to pay for this?
Cook: I could pay for it. 
BB: That is a very generous offer. But suppose that you don't wish to fly because of the discomfort on your legs? Could you think of something that you could both do that is the same?
Cook: How about a chariot race?
Fenninger: A chariot race? Where are we going to find two chariots?
Cook: Since I am not training or racing, I could go online and look up museums in both Canada and Austria that have Roman antiquities. They are bound to have some chariots that we could borrow. There are plenty of horses in our countries to pull the chariots. We also have tracks where we could set up the race.
BB: Isn't the point of this challenge to see who is the best on crutches or under their own power? Anyway, chariots would be painful on the knees because they are not exactly smooth. You could also fall out and injure other body parts. 
Cook: You are absolutely right. What about a camel race?
Fenninger: Then the camels are racing against each other.. We need something different that is directly against each other.
Cook: Anna, you are right again. Let's see....what about an auto race? We could then compete to see who is the fastest driver.
BB: That sounds like an interesting idea. But the concept is for you to compete head-to-head. Anyway, there is the problem with deciding if the car will have an automatic transmission or stick shift. 
Cook: True. We want this competition to be fair for both of us.
Fenninger: Dustin, are you always this nice?
Cook: Well, I am Canadian. We are supposed to be nice. When I was a kid and was rude to other people, my mother would beat the living daylights out of me.
BB: That doesn't sound very nice at all. In fact, that sounds downright un-Canadian.
Cook: You're right. But if the Blickbild can do parody, I can make fun of my upbringing. Anyway, my parents were really both very nice people. And if you think I'm nice, you need to meet Jan Hudec. He reinforces the stereotype of Canadians being nice.
BB: Back to our original dilemma of getting you two to compete against each other. 
Cook: I know! We can have a kangaroo boxing match. I can fly to Austria, where there are plenty of kangaroos.
Fenninger: The only kangaroos in Austria are in zoos.
BB: Anna, you are from Salzburg and I know that the Salzburg Zoo has at least two kangaroos.
Cook: I'm very sorry. I confused Austria with Australia. Please forgive me. I'll make it up to you by making Canadian and Austrian t-shirts for the kangaroos.
BB: Hold up here! A kangaroo boxing match is not a competition between you two, it is between the kangaroos.
Fenninger: But the kangaroos will have t-shirts so we'll know which one represents Dustin and which one represents me.
BB: You're missing the point. We are trying to find a way to directly compare you two, not a couple of kangaroos.
Fenninger: Back in the Middle Ages, a nobleman would designate a champion to fight for him. Why can't we have the kangaroos as our champions?
BB: OK, let's suppose that you have kangaroo champions. Are they going to box, or will they have an actual race against each other?
Cook: Well, I suppose the fair thing would be to have the kangaroos hop a certain distance on a pre-measured course. But if that doesn't work because the kangaroos start fighting with each other, we can have them box.
Fenninger: We will need a referee to either keep time in a hopping race or boxing match. (to the reporter). Are you intrepid enough to be our referee?
BB: Of course I am! The Blickbild has the most intrepid reporters in the business!
Cook: Shall we have this match during the Christmas holidays?
Fenninger: Sounds good to me!
Cook: Here's what we'll do. Anna, can you borrow two kangaroos from the Salzburg Zoo?
Fenninger: I can talk to the zoo. I'm sure they will lend them to me.
Cook: I'll get the t-shirts made. Since the kangaroos are from the Salzburg Zoo, I'll fly out there with the shirts and we can take it from there.
BB: This isn't quite what everyone had in mind when your fans wanted to see you race on crutches, but it will do. I'll do my part as your referee. We will see you in Salzburg for the final Cook vs Fenninger showdown. Well, it looks like we are out of time. Anna and Dustin, I want to thank you for this interview. We at the Blickbild wish both you a full and speedy recovery so we can see you back in the World Cup. It just isn't the same without you. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters do their own interviews. They don't hire a champion.

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 Twitte as bostonblickbild.

Monday, November 30, 2015

North American Race Roundup Week 1

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Ski racing season is now in full swing with five races over the past weekend. We won't report about Aksel Lund Svindal's double win in Lake Louise after coming back from an injury. We also won't talk about how Mikaela Shiffrin obliterated the competition in the two slalom races. Those are things for the others to report. We specialize in talking about the things that the others don't dare to print. Let's find out what really happened in Lake Louise and Aspen last weekend. 

Racing Against Men. Mikaela Shiffrin just announced that she wanted to compare herself to men after trouncing the field in the two Aspen slaloms. Contrary to popular belief, she will not be the first female ski racer to compete against men. Canadian Super-G ace Dustin Cook, who is out for the season with a torn ACL, challenged injured Anna Fenninger to a race on crutches. Anna may be shy in person, but she took Dustin up on the challenge. Anna walked 20 meters without crutches in 12.9 seconds. Evidently Dustin was intimidated by how well Anna did because he has not walked his 20 meters yet. Who knows...The FIS may start holding special races for skiers who are out for the season with injuries. There could be on and off crutches divisions, with men and women directly competing against each other.

Racing Against Men Part 2. In the Aspen giant slalom race Mikaela Shiffrin was in the lead by a large margin. Suddenly, she slid out two gates before the finish. The spectators' gasps of shock were heard as far away as Thailand. Everyone began wondering if German GS specialist Stefan Luitz is Mikaela's new boyfriend. Or maybe she simply has a crush on him and was trying to impress him by missing the second to last gate in Aspen. After all, Stefan was awarded a gold medal in Sochi for his artistry when he tried to limbo under, and then straddle, the last gate before the finish when he had the lead (see this story). Since the FIS does not currently allow women to directly race against men, maybe Mikaela was trying to be Annie Oakley to Stefan's Frank Butler. So Mikaela has compared herself to a male ski racer after all, though Stefan gets the edge for missing the very last gate while Mikaela missed the penultimate one.We at the Blickbild would be willing to sponsor a race between Mikaela and Stefan to decide who is the real Heartbreak Racer.

King of Training. While Mikaela Shiffrin was channeling Stefan Luitz, Norway's Kjetil Jansrud was doing the same with Bode Miller. As you recall, Bode won three of the Olympic downhill training races and was 3rd in a fourth one.  If downhill training races counted, Kjetil would have walked away from Lake Louise with two wins and he could be leading the overall standings. Let's see what happens in Beaver Creek next weekend. Perhaps the FIS would be willing to start giving partial credit for training races. If training races are going to be used for race qualification, then the least the FIS can do is reward those who do well in them but don't win the real races.

The 108% Solution. Mikaela Shiffrin's record-setting margin of victory in the first Aspen slalom was so great, the last three finishers did not receive points for their efforts. FIS rules state that a racer's time must be within 108% of the winner's time. Anything over that, and it's zero points. The purpose of that rule was to keep racers who missed gates and hiking up to make them from getting points. We feel that is wrong. Anyone who has the determination to hike up a steep slope on skis just to go around a  plastic pole should be rewarded, preferably with double or triple points. But we are not the FIS. Back to the original point...If Mikaela carries on beating her opponents by such large margins, the FIS may have to rethink that rule or at least adjust the number. Otherwise, Mikaela would be the only racer to receive points in women's slalom races the way she is going.

Nobody Remembers Who is Second. Except if your name is Frida Hansdotter. Frida got her 137th World Cup second place finish in the second Aspen slalom. OK, we exaggerated. But even the others, especially the tabloids, exaggerate to get their readers' attention. So why can't we. It was really Frida's 13th second place finish in a World Cup race. But it seems like 137 because she has the record for second place finishes and extended it even further on Sunday. If  Fasching can start on the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, it is only fitting that Frida takes second place in the second slalom of the season. In addition Frida grabbed second place in the slalom standings and second place overall by virtue of her second place finish in the second slalom.

No Supper For You. Lindsey Vonn lost a ski about halfway down the giant slalom course, which gave her a DNF for the day. Her boot came out of the binding. It looks like her HEAD service man, who is supposed to be one of the best in the business, didn't adjust her binding properly. Oops. But he was punished severely for this infraction. First of all, he had to stand on a street corner in Aspen with a sign around his neck which said, "I am a failure. Don't let your children grow up to be like me." Then he had to clean the toilets at the ski area with a toothbrush. After that, he was sent to bed without being allowed to eat supper. In Lake Louise he will make her bindings so tight that even 10 body builders pulling together won't be able to get Lindsey's boot out of her ski.

Witch Doctor Ratings. No Blickbild race report is complete without rating the team witch doctors. This is a tough one. Norway has a new witch doctor, Dr. Mwafume, but the Attacking Vikings will always think of Grandma Jansrud as the team witch doctor. After all, she is the one who supplies the team with ojlmsfjaegger. Dr. Mwafume just gives the athletes weird potions to drink, which they really don't like but drink anyway. Aksel Lund Svindal won both of the Lake Louise races, and both Kjetil Jansrud and Alexander Aamodt Kilde were in the top 10 in the Super-G and top 15 in the downhill. But regardless of which witch doctor the Norwegians follow, they did very well in Lake Louise. However, there is a challenger for best witch doctor of the weekend--Eileen Shiffrin, Mikaela Shiffrin's mother. Mrs. Shiffrin is with Mikaela at every race and helps to manage her daughter's career. After doing her best Stefan Luitz imitation in the giant slalom (see above), Mikaela set a record for margin of victory in a slalom race the next day and came close to that in the second slalom race. Everyone was wondering what she had for breakfast. When Mrs. Shiffrin said that she feeds Mikaela Barilla pasta at every meal every day, sales of Barilla pasta in the States soared. Did Mrs. Shiffrin give the pasta magical powers, or is Barilla pasta to Mikaela what ojlmsfjaegger is to the Norwegians? We will find out as the season progresses. 

And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive report.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: We obliterate the competition. That's because we have no competition. We are the only ski racing parody blog on the Internet.

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. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Do Athletes Really Want to Win?

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive
Like most ski racing fans, you have read stories on other sites about ski racers. The titles are along the lines of, "Racer A wants to win," "Racer B wants to improve," or "Racer C wants to have a successful season." It seems like these headlines are stating the obvious. Of course a professional athlete wants to win, improve, or have a good season, right? Not so fast! Our intrepid research team went to work investigating if it's really true that athletes want to win. We ended up talking with our famous Answer Man, who is really one of our intrepid researchers and part of the team who looked into this matter. Let's find out what he has to say.
BB: What did you find out? Do all athletes really want to win or improve?
Answer Man: The short answer is that of course athletes want to win. That is why they do what they do.
BB: That makes sense. But you must have found exceptions.
Answer Man: We did. For example, American football and basketball teams who are doing poorly don't really want to win. The worse they do, the better chance they have of getting the first draft choice.
BB: We're not really talking about teams though. Our readers want to know how this applies to ski racing.
Answer Man: Right. As you know, everyone wants to do their best in a race.
BB: That is true. But there can only be one winner, except when two or more people tie.
Answer Man: You have obviously never been around youth sports teams in the States. Everyone who participates, from the best to the worst, gets a trophy. It doesn't matter if you spend all of your time sitting on the bench watching the games. You still get a trophy.
BB: The World Cup is not a Stateside junior baseball league where everyone is a winner. There are racers who never qualify for points, yet they keep coming back week after week to race with no realistic shot of winning---
Answer Man: Never say never! Carlo Janka was second place in a World Cup race where he had start number 65. Nobody thought that he could win and he almost pulled it off. Tina Maze also won a race with a number in the 50s. Carlo and Tina are role models for those who start at the back of the pack. They give hope to those who are the last to compete. Also, the people who consistently finish last race because they enjoy it.
BB: So they know that they have an almost zero chance of winning but still come back for more defeat race after race?
Answer Man: Right.
BB: Are you saying that they are professional masochists?
Answer Man: Not at all. Recreational runners participate in marathons even though they know they won't win. They do it to prove that they can run a long distance and also to get a finisher's medal.
BB: Because every finisher gets a medal, whether he wins or comes in last.
Answer Man: Exactly!
BB: On to another subject. Is Lindsey Vonn a lesbian?
Answer Man: What does that have to do with our investigation into whether athletes really want to win?
BB: Nothing. But I'm the one asking the questions, and you're supposed to answer them. That is why you are the Answer Man and I am the intrepid reporter.
Answer Man: No, she is not a lesbian that I know of.
BB: But in a recent interview, she said that she was finished with men. Doesn't that imply that she is a lesbian?
Answer Man: Not at all. She just wants to focus on winning races and romance would get in the way. Think of winning races as her dogs fighting over a Frisbee and romance as her hand.
BB: But if she races against men, which she wants to do, doesn't that also make people think that she could be a lesbian?
Answer Man: No, I would actually think the opposite. She wants to be around men and not other women. If she were a lesbian, she would never want to race against men because she would have to interact with them.
BB: Back to the original question about whether athletes really want to win. What about those who are past their peak and are being passed up by younger racers?
Answer Man: That is a good point. But even the older racers who are past their peak, like Ivica Kostelic, can still beat 99.9% of the population. Think about someone like Patrik Jaerbyn. He was world class into his 40s. Patrick also could have beaten anyone who challenged him.
BB: Okay. What about hobby racers who want to compete at the Olympics? Vinne "The Shark" Razzovelli and his gang of Mafia enforcers went to Sochi with no chance of winning. The same goes for Thai violinist Vanessa Mae.
Answer Man: There you go again with that negative attitude! Who says that they have no chance of winning? They may not win the race, but they could win other awards. And those hobby racers got to compete at the Olympics, which is something that we mere mortals have never done.
BB: What other awards did Vanessa Mae and Vinne win?
Answer Man: Vanessa Mae got a certificate from the Last Place Finishers Club. Vinnie got a special commendation along with the other Freedonians for their work on the security team. They might not have won their races and gold medals, but they still won something.
BB: But did they really want to win those awards instead of a gold medal?
Answer Man: They can't give everyone a gold medal at the Olympics. Otherwise it would be meaningless. They looked happy enough when they got those awards.
BB: What about an athlete who is over 65 and his best days are long behind him? He can't possibly want to win the race.
Answer Man: Au contraire! There are marathon runners in their 90s who want to win in their age categories, and they do.
BB: That is because they are the only ones in their age category! Let's try and stick to ski racers and not 97-year-old marathon runners.
Answer Man: I bet you won't be able to run a marathon when you are 97.
BB: Neither will you. So there! (short pause). OK, let's see what we have found out. Most athletes want to win, except those in youth sports or on lousy American football or basketball teams.
Answer Man: That is correct.
BB: And hobby skiers at the Olympics know they won't win a gold medal, but they still want to win a special award.
Answer Man: Right again.
BB: Old people want to win in their age categories because they know they won't win the race.
Answer Man: That's not necessarily true. They could win at the Senior Olympics.
BB: But ski racers want to win, even those who are past their prime.
Answer Man: Yes. Remember, the old retired legends could still whip our butts on a ski slope. They may not win against ski racers in their prime, but they want to win against anyone else.
BB: Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for another enlightening interview. Now ski racing fans can look beyond those "ski racer wants to win" headlines. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters want to win all the Intrepid Journalist awards.

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

Friday, November 6, 2015

Athlete's Mother Profile: Eileen Shiffrin

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

We have talked about people who work behind the scenes at races and interviewed photographers. But one of the most important influences in a ski racer's life is his or her mother. A mother is good for many things: cooking, doing laundry, shopping, managing an athlete's day-to-day affairs so that he or she can concentrate on racing, and providing milk and cookies when her son or daughter has a bad day. More racers than you think have their mothers with them on the World Cup tour. One of our intrepid reporters got the opportunity to talk to Mikaela Shiffrin's mother Eileen in Soelden. Let's find out what she has to say.

BB: What do you do for Mikaela?
Shiffrin: I take care of all of the daily things so that Mika can focus on training. I also help her with her studies. 
BB: What is she studying?
Shiffrin: She is currently taking online German courses so that she can talk with some of the other ladies on the World Cup tour. She is also taking differential calculus, which will help her for  the math test if she ties for a globe with another racer.
BB: Very impressive. When Mikaela was 17, she was asked about having you accompany her on the tour. She said that it was normal for a 17-year-old to live at home with her mother. But she is 20 now. Don't you think she is old enough to be on her own now?
Shiffrin: In the States there are lots of men in their 30s and 40s who still live in their parents' basement.
BB: But those men who live in their mothers' basements are the ones who will never get a date because they spend all of their free time at Star Trek conventions.
Shiffrin: That is true. Yet they are the ones that the FIS calls on when they use Klingon for the tie-breaking language test. They can tell if someone's Klingon is grammatically correct, unlike most FIS officials. 
BB: What do your husband and son do when you are in Europe with Mikaela?
Shiffrin: They do a lot of father-son bonding activities. Most nights they sit on the sofa in their underwear watching sports on TV, drinking beer, burping, and trying to light their farts. 
BB: Do they remember to leave their underwear on when lighting their farts?
Shiffrin: I hope so. At least neither of them has told me that they burned themselves trying to light their farts. What does this have to do with Mika?
BB: Nothing really. But I'm trying to give our readers a picture of what life is like for the rest of your family while you are on the road with Mikaela. (short pause) Do you make sure that Mikaela eats all of her vegetables at dinner?
Shiffrin: When she was younger, it was very difficult to get her to eat her vegetables. Now she does so happily.
BB: That must be one of the things that make you realize that you did something right for your daughter. 
Shiffrin: Yes. I am glad that she makes good, healthy food choices. 
BB: The French men's technical team attributes its success to a combination of its witch doctor and eating Wheaties. Does Mikaela eat Wheaties?
Shiffrin: Not in Europe. They don't have Wheaties in Europe.
BB: How do you think the French witch doctor gets Wheaties if you can't buy them in Europe?
Shiffrin: He must import them somehow. Or maybe he conjures them up.
BB: Does Mikaela eat Wheaties when she is in the States? After all, she was on a Wheaties box after winning a gold medal in Sochi. Barilla pasta is one of her sponsors and she has been photographed eating dishes made with it. 
Shiffrin: She does eat Wheaties once in a while. Where are you coming up with these questions?
BB: We at the Blickbild ask the questions that nobody else dares to ask. Mikaela is known for her excellent sportsmanship. Whenever she loses a race, she never makes excuses and even congratulates the winner. Now that she is in her fifth season in the World Cup, don't you think it's time to hire an excuse coach?
Shiffrin: An excuse coach?
BB: Someone who helps a racer come up with a clever excuse for losing a race. Lindsey Vonn has the most creative excuse coach in the business. It's the American way to make excuses for a poor performance.
Shiffrin: When Mika was young, I taught her about sportsmanship. But now her good sportsmanship comes from within. I have nothing to do with it now.
BB: Do you realize that you are a very poor parent because you taught Mikaela how to be a good sport and respect her opponents? And you refuse to hire an excuse coach. What kind of a mother are you?
Shiffrin: I am a good mother and very proud of my daughter!
BB: Mikaela is a lovely young woman who anyone would be proud to have as a daughter. But she became that way despite your influence. Your fitness as a parent is questionable.  While Lindsey Vonn's mother was teaching her daughter how to make creative excuses for losing, from belly aches, to the snow being the wrong shade of white, to her dog humping her leg, you were teaching your child not to be a diva. What do you have to say about that?
Shiffrin: I was doing what I thought was right by my child. Anyway, it seems like Lindsey has all of the good excuses and that any that Mika made would pale in comparison. 
BB: Your behavior must change if Mikaela is going to become a prima donna. Contrary to popular belief, there is room for more than one diva on the US Ski Team. 
Shiffrin: Mika is now an adult and I don't have any influence on her anymore. I could suggest that she start making excuses when she doesn't win, but she probably won't listen. I don't think that she would listen to an excuse coach either. 
BB: So you are saying that you will be known as the US Ski Team's Worst Mom because Mikaela will carry on with her super sportsmanship? Aren't you ashamed of yourself?
Shiffrin: I am! (starts sobbing) I am the poster child for the US Ski Team's Bad Parent School! (sobs uncontrollably)
BB: Oh great! Now I will be even more infamous than that reporter who made Bode Miller cry in Sochi. (pause while getting some tissues, goes over to Mrs. Shiffrin and pats her on the back) There, there. Have some tissues. (hands tissues to Mrs. Shiffrin) It will all be okay. There is still hope for you and Mikaela.
Shiffrin: (still crying) There is?
BB: Yes. Lindsey's excuse coach is willing to spend time working with Mikaela on developing creative excuses for losing. He will also train you in coaching Mikaela not to congratulate or respect her opponents. Mikaela will be the perfect drama queen diva in no time!
Shiffrin: Thank you! I don't know what I would have done without you.
BB: We at the Blickbild are always willing to help those in need. We learned that from our mothers. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for this interview and for giving us insight on what it is like to be the mother of a successful World Cup racer. We at the Blickbild also want to wish Mikaela a successful season. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.
The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters learned their intrepidness from their mothers. 

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 3, 2015

Bode Miller to Come Back in 2016/17 on Non-Bomnber Skis

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Bode Miller missed his calling in life. He really should have been a writer for a soap opera because of how he keeps his fans in suspense. Will he retire, will he come back, will he compete at the 2018 Olympics, and is he having spaghetti with meatballs for dinner? Well, dear readers, you are in luck. One of our intrepid reporters scored an interview with Bode, which will either give you all of the answers or leave you even more confused than before. But that's the nature of Bode. Let's find out what he has to say.

BB: Before we get started, belated congratulations on your newest son, Nash Skan. 
Miller: Thank you. 
BB: Are you looking forward to the day when little Nash can race against Ivica Kostelic and Benni Raich's sons?
Miller: He could end up being a volleyball player like Morgan instead of a ski racer. You'll just have to wait about 20 years like the rest of us to find out what he will do.
BB: If Nash does end up becoming a ski racer, would you want him to date Denise Karbon's daughter? They are the same age.
Miller: It's a little early to talk about dating. Nash doesn't even talk yet, so he can't tell me who he likes. 
BB: Have you already started him on skis?
Miller: He doesn't even walk yet! We have to wait for him to walk before putting him on skis.
BB: You do realize that by holding him back and waiting for him to walk before learning to ski, you are ensuring that he will be hopelessly behind the Austrians. Benni Raich already has little Josef on skis and he is just two weeks old. But enough about your baby and how you're retarding his development as a ski racer. Are your plans for this year to take the whole season off and then come back next year?
Miller: That is my plan for today. I want to have time with my kids, especially my new baby. I also want to concentrate on my race horses.
BB: Do your race horses have the same wild style that you have on the race slopes?
Miller: You'll have to come to a race and see for yourself.
BB: I just might do that. (short pause) So you are not officially retired from ski racing?
Miller: No. Like Tina Maze on the women's side, I'm taking the year off.
BB: So you plan to come back next season in Soelden?
Miller: That is the plan, unless I change my mind.
BB: I see. There are rumors floating around that you may come back for the races in Kitzbuehel this season.
Miller: That is a possibility, although I haven't been training. 
BB: That never stopped you before. 
Miller: True enough. But I found that as I get older, I actually have to train for a day or two before the season. 
BB: Yeah, getting old can be a pain in more ways than one. One of our intrepid researchers found out that when you come back to the World Cup next season, you will use Bomber skis instead of Head.
Miller: That was my original game plan. But then the idea occurred to me...why not make my comeback on cheap rental skis! I would go into a local rental shop, rent the cheapest and most beat-up pair of skis, then race in them. The older they are and the more scratches in them, the better!
BB: That sounds like an interesting proposition. What does the FIS have to say about racing in rental skis?
Miller: Annemarie Moser-Proell won her regional championship at age 13 on old, bad skis. She was not disqualified for using them. 
BB: There is a difference between a regional ski race in Austria that happened fifty years ago and the World Cup today. The FIS has strict standards about ski length, width, and turning radius. 
Miller: As long as the skis meet the requirements, the FIS has no grounds to disqualify me. Even if the skis are not up to World Cup standards, and I win the race, the FIS might still let me have the win because of the low-tech skis. Think of it this way...By racing in rental skis, I am being a job creator.
BB: How are you creating jobs by renting cheap skis for your races?
Miller: You obviously have not taken any economics courses in school. Ski shops will remain open because I am renting their equipment. The shops need people to work in them, right?
BB: Right. 
Miller: Ski firms that make rental skis will also have more business because of the demand for their products. If I rent a pair of no-name skis from the local ski shop, my fans will also want to buy or rent those skis. Therefore, the ski firms will need to hire more people to keep up with the demand for new skis. It's a win-win situation
BB: If you end up winning races on your cheap rental skis, do you think that your fellow racers will follow suit? Or do you think that they will stay loyal to their Heads, Rossignols, or Atomics?
Miller: I don't see my fellow racers using rental skis. But they are not as wild and crazy on the race pistes as I am. 
BB: That is definitely true. You always had your own style and marched to your own drummer. What do you think the odds that you will come back at age 39 and win races on rental skis?
Miller: Patrik Jaerbyn was a world class racer in his 40s. Nobody said anything about him racing at that age. 
BB: He also didn't take two seasons off and then come back on rental skis. Would you also rent the boots and poles, or just the skis?
Miller: Just the skis. I have my own boots and poles. By the way, I won't even have my service man wax the skis. I will use whatever wax the rental shop puts on them. 
BB: What about when conditions change and you need a different wax?
Miller: I think I'll be able to race in rental skis, no matter the snow or wax.
BB: If you forego a service man, and the other racers decide to use rental skis, then service men would no longer be needed. Therefore, you would be contributing to world unemployment because of all the service men  will be fired.
Miller: I still believe that more jobs will be created than lost by me using battered rental skis.
BB: We all have our personal delusions. (short pause) If your comeback is successful with the cheap skis, are you planning to race at the 2018 Olympics? If so, would you race at the Olympics on rental skis, or go back to Head?
Miller: You never know. I'll see how it goes next season on rental skis. If all goes well, you may see me at the Olympics. Or you may not. I make my decisions on a day-to-day basis these days. 
BB: It makes it that much easier to keep your fans in suspense that way. Well, it looks like we are out out time. Bode, I want to thank you for another interesting interview. We'll see how your comeback goes on rental skis and what the future holds for you. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: We don't write our stories on old rental computers. 

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. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Ligety vs Hirscher

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Shakespeare gave us the Montagues and Capulets and the US gave us the Hatfields and McCoys. Now the World Cup is giving us Ted Ligety and Marcel Hirscher. Even the most unperceptive person in Soelden could easily recognize that there was hostility between Ted and Marcel at the podium presentation and award ceremony. If their eyes could shoot laser death rays, they would both have killed each other and Thomas Fanara would have been declared the winner. But what caused this hostility?  Our intrepid reporters in Soelden were not able to interview Ted or Marcel. However, he was able to find a representative from each camp who gave us some insight into the root causes of why Ted and Marcel dislike each other. Instead of using their real names, we will simply call the Ligety representative Ted and the Hirscher representative Marcel. Let's find out what they have to say.

BB: As recently as two seasons ago, Ted and Marcel seemed to be friendly with each other. What happened to change that?
Ted: Marcel won the GS globe last season. Everyone knows that the GS globe rightfully belongs to Ted. All Ted wants this season is to get his globe back.
Marcel: Marcel beat Ted fair and square last season and deserved the GS globe. He earned the most points, and therefore deserved the globe.
Ted: I can't believe that Marcel feels zero remorse about taking Ted's globe from him. We'll show you who deserves it this season!
BB: Let's try and keep this discussion friendly and civilized. We'll find out at the end of the season who deserves the GS globe. It was last season when fans first noticed the hostility between Ted and Marcel. Was there any one incident which sparked it?
Ted: Last season in Garmisch, Ted and Marcel were riding up the Kandahar Express lift together to get to the start house.
BB: Why were they riding the lift together if they didn't like each other? By the time of the Garmisch races, they clearly disliked each other.
Ted: They didn't really have a choice because the crowd in the lift line pushed them forward and onto the same chair. If Ted had his way, they would not have sat together. Anyway, Ted and Marcel were sitting next to each other. Suddenly, Marcel elbowed Ted in the ribs.
Marcel: Ted was taking part of Marcel's seat on the lift.
Ted: That can't be! Ted does not have a big butt by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe Marcel was encroaching on Ted's space but was trying to find an excuse to injure Ted and eliminate a competitor.
Marcel: Marcel is even smaller than Ted, so he would not spill over into anyone's space on a chair lift. Anyway, Marcel didn't need to eliminate the competition in Garmisch because he won the race by over 3 seconds. Ted is just being a sore loser!
BB: Time out! Let's refrain from the name calling. From what our intrepid research team found, the mutual dislike was already there in Garmisch. Anyway, I hardly believe that an elbow on a chair lift is sufficient grounds to hate someone. 
Marcel: You are right. A lot of it started when Ted kept feeding Marcel's former guide dog treats before races, even though Marcel said not to do it.
Ted: Can you blame Ted? He loves animals, especially dogs.
Marcel: Whitey was a working dog at the time and the other racers knew it. Was Ted really that stupid to ignore Marcel's wishes about his dog? He was told time and time again not to load Whitey up with treats before races. We saw what happened in Adelboden when Marcel had to use a substitute dog. (see this story) Ted will do anything to eliminate a competitor, won't he?
Ted: Ted doesn't need to get rid of his competitors because he's the best.
Marcel: Ted is obviously not the best because Marcel won the GS globe last season. Get over it!
BB: Our readers believe that the men's World Cup tour is like a big happy family without all of the drama of the women's tour. You two are certainly proving everyone wrong. 
Ted: Every family has sibling rivalry and squabbles. The World Cup is more like a big, happy, dysfunctional family.
BB: True enough. But most families, especially the dysfunctional ones, keep their arguments to themselves. They don't let the public see their hostility. (short pause) Let's talk about the press conference at the Olympics in Sochi.
Ted: Marcel started it because he kept putting his water bottle on Ted's side of the table!
BB: That can't be the cause of all of the bad blood between Ted and Marcel. 
Ted: Marcel seemed to be doing it on purpose!
Marcel: Well, Ted really started it because he was putting his hands on Marcel's side of the table.
Ted: That's because Marcel kept poking Ted on the shoulder!
Marcel: Ted kept looking at Marcel! What was he supposed to do?
Ted: Marcel was breathing!
BB: You two are worse than rivals for a woman's affection in a Brazilian soap opera! At least in a soap opera, the audience knows why the two rivals hate each other. The way that you two are carrying on, one would think that Marcel is the father of Ted's wife's baby.
Marcel: Ted's wife is having a baby?
Ted: No, she is not pregnant!
Marcel: But if she were pregnant, someone other than Marcel would be the father. He is faithful to his girlfriend.
Ted: That's what he wants the world to think. But we all know how those Europeans are.
BB: Marcel being the father of Ted's wife's baby could be a very good reason why they dislike each other. Imagine having to compete with the man who not only slept with your wife, but also got her pregnant. That would bring out the hate in anyone.
Marcel: Marcel never slept with Ted's wife, so there is no way he could be the father of her baby. Anyway, she is not his type. Maybe Ted should watch out for the Italians instead of picking on Marcel.
Ted: Again, Ted's wife is not pregnant. And what do you mean she is not Marcel's type? No wonder Ted doesn't like Marcel. I wouldn't like anyone who thought that my wife was ugly. Now you know why Marcel wasn't at the wedding.
BB: But if Ted's wife were pregnant, do you think it's possible that Marcel is the father?
Ted and Marcel (together): No!!!!!!
BB: Wow, you two finally agree on one thing. Maybe you could use that agreement as a step to help Ted and Marcel get along like they used to.
Marcel: We shall see. But I somehow doubt it.
Ted: I have to agree. Some things just can't be fixed.
BB: That is two things that you two agree on. One more question. Let's say that Ted has a son and Marcel has a daughter. Would they be forbidden to date each other?
Marcel: Why can't Marcel have the son and Ted the daughter?
BB: Does it really matter who has the son and who has the daughter? The question is would their kids be allowed to date each other?
Ted: Absolutely not!
Marcel: Never!
BB: Hey, we're getting into a streak of agreeing on issues. That's really too bad now because it looks like we are out of time. If we had more time, perhaps you would agree on many more things. If you can do it, so could Ted and Marcel. Then they would be able to revive their friendship. But now we will never find out if that is possible, just like we never learned the the original cause of the hostility between Ted and Marcel. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our office is very boring by Brazilian soap opera standards.

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, October 27, 2015

Soelden 2015 Report

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

 The 2015/16 ski racing season officially kicked off with the giant slalom races in Soelden last weekend. The others will report about Ted Ligety's 4th win in Soelden, Federica Brignone's first World Cup win, and the comebacks of Aksel Lund Svindal, Manuel Feller, and Sophia Goggia from injuries. But, as usual, our intrepid reporters will tell our readers about the stories that the others don't dare to print. Let's find out what they have to say.

 Before getting into reporting about Soelden, we will get serious for a moment. Anna Fenninger will be out for approximately 8 to 9 months because of her injury. We at the Blickbild wish her a full recovery from her horrific injury and hope to see her on the race pistes again.

 The Power is in the Hair. What do Italian ski racer Federica Brignone and Samson have in common? Fede is one of the top ski racers in the world and Samson was a Biblical strongman. What could they possibly have in common? The answer is a lot of hair. Just like Samson, it seems like Fede's power is in her hair. Fede may not be able to lift mountains and rub them together like Samson, but she can ski down them better than those of us who are mere mortals. But we hope that Fede will keep her beautiful mane of  hair, just in case that is where her real power lies. You never know what could happen if she got a haircut and we really don't want to find out.

Un-American Behavior. It's a good thing that Joe McCarthy and his Committee on Un-American Activities is no longer in existence. Otherwise someone would have to report second place finisher Mikaela Shiffrin to them as being a bad American. When Mikaela saw the video of Soelden winner Federica Brignone's first run, she said that Fede deserved to be so far ahead. Mikaela did not make excuses for not being in first place, nor did she blame rocks, the course slippers, or the conditions. She has not yet realized that it is the American way to blame others and make excuses for not winning. Remember last year in Soelden, when Ted Ligety finished 10th and blamed the Naughty Ninja Stone? In addition, Mikaela sincerely congratulated fellow podium finishers Federica Brignone and Tina Weirather. Even after four years in the World Cup with 15 wins, three slalom globes, two World Championship gold medals, and one Olympic gold medal, Mikaela has not become a prima donna. Her parents have obviously done something wrong, or she must be spending too much time around Europeans, because Mikaela has the best sportsmanship in the World Cup and is not a diva. This must change if she is to be like her other famous teammates.

No Pressure Here. Eva-Maria Brem, who finished 9th, had the weight of Austria on her slender shoulders on Saturday. It's a good thing that Austria is a fairly small country, or else she would have been crushed flatter than a pancake. One of our intrepid reporters overheard the Austrian trainers talking to Eva-Maria, trying their best to motivate her and take the pressure off. Here is a sampling of what they told her: Trainer A: "We don't want to pressure you, but with Anna out for the season, you're now the top GS skier on the team. Show the world why you are our Number One." Trainer B: "There is no pressure from me, but the whole country is watching you. But just relax and don't let the stress get to you."  Trainer C: "You cannot fail us because you are the team leader. Imagine the shame of the Austrian Power Team's leader faltering on home turf. But I'm not putting any pressure on you to perform." Trainer D: "You are Austria's last and only hope for any World Cup success this season. So simply relax, enjoy the race, and don't feel the pressure of being the one our country is turning to for redemption." With motivational speeches like that, it's a wonder that Eva-Maria managed to finish the race at all.

Wham-O Comes to Soelden. There was a Wham-O Slip and Slide (see this video if you never heard of a Slip and Slide) on the course in Soelden. Several racers slid all the way from the top of the Steilhang (steep face) to the bottom. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. One of our intrepid researchers found out why the Slip and Slide was there. According to the FIS, ski racing is just not exciting enough anymore. The powers that be at the FIS were trying out the Slip and Slide in Soelden before heading out to their big meeting in November. According to audience surveys, the Slip and Slide was a big hit and we should see more of them on race courses in the future. Who knows...The sport of Alpine Slip and Slide could replace the downhill races at the Beijing Olympics.

Don't Trust Anyone (With a Bib Number) Over 30. Don't trust anyone over 30 was the motto of the hippies back in the 1960s, but it definitely won't be the new FIS motto. In the men's race, about 25% of the racers in the second run had start numbers higher than 30: Hannes Reichelt (31), Adam Zampa (34), Roland Leitinger (39), Christian Hirschbuehl (52), Andrea Ballerin (57), Manfred Moelgg (62), and Steve Missillier (66). All of them finished in the points, with Leitinger tying for 6th place and having the fastest second run, Reichelt finishing 16th, and Ballerin 19th. When the FIS convenes in November, it will recommend changing the start order to a totally random draw in technical races. Soelden showed that a racer's start number in the first run was not a factor in making it to the second. With a random draw there will be no more complaints about how start order favors the best racers, or that certain racers get an advantage because of their bib numbers.

Best Artistic Impression. No Blickbild race report would be complete without an award for best artistry. That award goes to an unknown course worker during the second run of the men's race. He started at the top of the Steilhang and slid all the way to the bottom headfirst on his belly. Maybe he was an Anja Paerson fan and wanted to imitate her famous belly slide. Or perhaps he was trying to promote the new sport of Alpine Slip and Slide racing (see the paragraph about the Slip and Slide). Nevertheless, the course worker's belly slide earned him an artistry score of 9.7.

Top Witch Doctor. Just like we include best artistry in our reports, we also tell our readers which witch doctor was the best. It looks like French witch doctor and three-time Dave Seville Witch Doctor of the Year runner-up, Dr. Djibuku, was tops in Soelden. He is certainly going to make it hard for Germany's Dr. Mabongo to win his 4th Dave Seville Award. There were 4 French men in the top 10 in Soelden: Thomas Fanara (2nd), Alexis Pinturault (5th), Victor Muffat-Jeandet (9th), and Mathieu Faivre (10th). However, Dr. Djibuku's award for the top witch doctor in Soelden was controversial. The Italians protested and thought that their new witch doctor, Dr. Mujingu, should have named the top witch doctor. They certainly had a strong case. Italy had the women's race winner and a total of 6 women in the top 16 as well as men's tin medalist Roberto Nani, 11th place Florian Eisath, 13th place Giovanni Borsotti, 19th place Andrea Ballerin, and 23rd place Manfred Moelgg. However, the Italian protest was denied, though Dr. Mujingu got a bouquet of flowers, a box of chocolates, and a card from the FIS for coming in second. It looks like the competition for the Dave Seville Award this season will be more than a two-horse race between Drs. Mabongo and Djibuku.

Well, dear readers, it looks like we are out of time. We will bring you all of the excitement in Levi in 3 weeks. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive report.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters are never under pressure to produce a story.

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.

Friday, October 16, 2015

No More Olympic Downhill?

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

There is a proposal by the FIS to eliminate the downhill at the Olympic Games starting in 2022. At first we thought that those who posted this story had time traveled back to April Fools' Day. We could not believe that this was a real story; it seemed like something that we would print. After all, every day is 1 April at the Blickbild. But our intrepid research team checked it out and it was indeed real. One of our intrepid reporters went to Switzerland to interview Gian Franco Kasper, but he was not available. However, our friendly FIS contact Bob was able to speak with us about this issue. Let's find out what he has to say.

BB: Hi Bob! It's nice to see you again. Are you still working in media relations?
Bob: Yes. The powers that be at the FIS have read my interviews with you and felt that I was a good spokesman for them. 
BB: I knew that we were good for something. (short pause) Why would the FIS eliminate the downhill from the Olympics? It's the premier Alpine skiing event.
Bob: Downhill is one of the events that we are seeking to eliminate. The others are long-course cross-country races and possibly some ski jumping events. 
BB: But why downhill and not the team event or the super-combined?
Bob: Believe it or not, downhill gets the lowest TV ratings out of all the Alpine disciplines. Downhill is not made for TV like the other disciplines. You know that TV ratings are very important to the FIS.
BB: Of course we do. They are as important as athlete safety, if not more so.
Bob: Whoa! Athlete safety is the most important thing at the FIS. But TV ratings are a very close second. 
BB: Anyway, what is it about downhill that makes it so boring for the spectators? It is one of the three classical disciplines, the fastest, and the scariest. 
Bob: Yes, that is true. But people stop watching after the 25th racer has finished because of how we do the start order. All of the top racers are in the top 30, but the very best go 16th through 22nd. After the 30th racer has come down, then we start the award ceremony.
BB: If you want to make the fans watch until the last racer, the FIS needs to shake things up. Why not eliminate rankings as a factor in the bib draw, and make it totally random? In a 50-skier race, fans would pay attention if Anna Fenninger had Number 5, Lara Gut Number 23, and Lindsey Vonn Number 47. 
Bob: That sounds a bit unfair. The racers who go later in the race have a disadvantage. Anyway, the fans like seeing the best going down close to each other and not staggered. 
BB: Not true. If the later racers are really that good, they can overcome the disadvantage of a late start. Tina Maze won a race with a start number in the 50s and Carlo Janka got second place in a downhill after starting 65th. 
Bob: I see your point. But it is rare that someone with a high start number wins a race or gets on the podium. 
BB: Maybe that could change with a random start order. It sounds like another priority at the FIS is resistance to change.
Bob: That is not true! We change with the times, just like any other sport.  After all, you don't see the racers on wooden skis wearing stretch ski pants and beanies. 
BB: Point taken.
Bob: We have also changed downhill courses to make them steeper, faster, and much scarier than in the past.
BB: Maybe for the men, but you obviously have not seen a women's downhill in a while. A lot of the courses are easier gliding courses where the larger women have a built-in advantage. Lake Louise, Cortina, and Meribel are powder puff courses compared to the men's classic courses in Kitzbuehel or Wengen. Even in Garmisch, where men and women go down the Kandahar, the women go on a shorter course. (short pause) Our intrepid research team also heard that if downhill is not eliminated, it would be a short-course race. Is that because there are no ski hills in Beijing that can accommodate an Olympic downhill race?
Bob: The size of the ski hills in Beijing has nothing to do with making downhill a sprint event. After all, what is the most popular event at the Olympics?
BB: Women's figure skating.
Bob: OK, what is the most popular Summer Olympics event?
BB: Women's artistic gymnastics.
Bob: I see that you are partial to events that feature scantily-clad teenage girls. No, let's try again. The premier Olympic events are the sprints, namely the 100-meter and 200-meter races.
BB: How are downhill skiing and track and field sprints remotely alike?
Bob: I'm getting to that. To keep fans interested, we will start off with a field of 50 racers. Each athlete will ski on a downhill course that is the approximate length of a World Cup slalom course.
BB: Wait a minute! At the speeds that downhill racers go, the race would be over in about 10 seconds.
Bob: The 100-meter dash takes about 10 seconds and nobody complains about how short it is. In fact, it is so exciting because it is short with a small margin of victory. Anyway, the first heat will be all 50 racers taking one run.
BB: The first heat?
Bob: You heard me correctly. After the first heat, the 32 fastest will go on to the next round. The 32 athletes will be randomly drawn into four groups of eight. Then there will be another heat where each group goes down the course.
BB: All at once or individually?
Bob: Individually. The four fastest in each group from the second heat go on to the third round, which has 16 racers.
BB: Suppose  the 5th place skier in the first group is faster than the top skier in the third group. What happens then?
Bob: He or she is out of luck. It's the same thing that happens in track and field or swimming. What counts is how you do against the others in your group. The remaining 16 skiers are then randomly divided into two groups of eight. Again, the top 4 in each group go on to the final. The eight skiers who are left will be the ones competing for a medal.
BB: Will the times from the heats carry over, like in a technical race?
Bob: No. Everyone starts a new heat from zero.
BB: Won't the racers in the final be tired from doing so many runs?
Bob: That's the beauty of doing a sprint or short-course downhill race. The skiers are taking 20 to 30 seconds to do each run instead of close to two minutes. The fans will also be paying attention to the whole race because they will have to wait until the final run to know who gets on the podium. That is much better for our TV ratings than the current system of knowing the podium before half of the racers have done their run.
BB: How do the athletes feel about this? I'm sure that those who trained to race on a proper long downhill course will be disappointed about having to do a sprint race. 
Bob: We didn't ask the athletes because they never like anything we suggest, even if it boosts TV ratings and fan interest. At the FIS, we are always right even if the athletes don't think so.
BB: Of course you are. Does the FIS have any other proposals up it sleeve to radically change the sport?
Bob: Remember, change is good. The racers and fans may not like it at first, but they will come to embrace it. They will look back and wonder why athletes ever did downhill races with one long run that took about two minutes.
BB: I'm sure they will. Well, it looks like we are out of time. Bob, it was great to see you again. Thank you for another enlightening interview. I'm sure the fans are looking forward to the 2022 Olympics with either a sprint downhill or none at all. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters never took short journalism courses.

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, October 13, 2015

Behind the Scenes in Soelden

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

The opening races of the season start in 11 days in Soelden. While everyone focuses on the athletes, there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to get everything ready for a World Cup race. From course workers to those who work in local shops, hotels, and restaurants, there is a whole team of people working together to make a World Cup race successful for the fans. One of our intrepid reporters is already in Soelden and decided to interview some of those workers that the public doesn't usually see or associate with the races. Let's find out what they have to say.

1st person. Someone working to prepare the course. 
BB: Course preparation begins well in advance of the race itself. What is your role in preparing the course?
Course Worker: My job is I take the snow from that pile over there (points to the left) and move it over there (points to the right).
BB: I see. Are you involved with slipping the course or smoothing out the snow?
Course Worker: No, that is not my job I will explain again what I do in case you did not understand my English. My job is I take the snow from that pile over there (points to the left) and move it over there (points to the right).
BB: That is all you do, move the snow from one place to another?
Course Worker: Yes, that is my job. I move the snow from that pile over there (points to the left) to over there (points to the right). It is a very important job. If I do not do my job, the skiers would be racing on grass.
BB: True enough. One of the important jobs behind the scenes is making sure that the snow is in the right place. This worker is doing his part to make the races in Soelden a success.

2nd person. A waitress in a local restaurant.
BB: The restaurants in Soelden are very busy feeding athletes, fans, and support staff. (short pause) Servus! Race weekend must be a hectic time for you.
Waitress: Yes. We have many customers during the races. It is quite busy.
BB: Which country has the least fussy customers?
Waitress: Germany. You can feed a German anything and he will be polite and eat it. Serve a German beets and Brussels sprouts in liver sauce, and he will clean his plate. Germans are brought up to eat everything on their plates no matter what and then say that they loved it. 
BB: Has your restaurant ever served beets and Brussels sprouts in liver sauce?
Waitress: No! Nobody would eat here if we served that.
BB: What about ojlmsfjaegger or surstroemming?
Waitress: What are those?
BB: Special Scandinavian delicacies which a German would probably eat to be polite. Who are the fussiest customers?
Waitress: Definitely the Americans. They want to know if our food is organic, non-GMO, low-fat, carb-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, soy-free, dairy free, wheat-free, and peanut-free. A lot of Americans also want to know if our meat comes from free-range animals who have classical music played to them while they graze.
BB: Have you even been tempted to serve an American a peanut butter and soybean sandwich fried in lard where the bread is made with non-organic, GMO wheat?
Waitress: Uh....No. But you gave me a great idea for my next customer who asks too many questions about our food.
BB: At the Blickbild, we are always willing to help others with our creative ideas. The restaurants in Soelden have waitresses just like this one all throughout race weekend. When you go into a restaurant on race weekend, think about how hard she and others like her work to serve you.

3rd person. A Race Day Ticket Taker
BB: What do you do on race day?
Ticket Taker: I ensure that everyone entering the race venue has a valid ticket.
BB: Have people tried to come to the races with counterfeit tickets?
Ticket Taker: Yes. You wouldn't believe how many try. But they don't get by me.
BB: That's good to hear that you are so diligent about checking tickets. (short pause) Goesser is the official beer of the Soelden races. What if someone tries to get into the race venue with a Stiegl beer?
Ticket Taker: That is practically a criminal offense! There is  only one beer at the races and that is Goesser.
BB: Do you have a Mafia hit man on call to terminate those who bring Stiegl beer into the race venue?
Ticket Taker: No, but we call Security and they deal with the offender.
BB: What about people who try to bring voodoo dolls to the races?
Ticket Taker: I haven't seen anyone trying to bring a voodoo doll to a race and I  have been a ticket taker for 15 years. 
BB: But in theory, would it be okay for a fan to bring a voodoo doll to a race?
Ticket Taker: I don't see why not as long it is one of a non-Austrian racer.
BB: So you are saying it is okay to bring a voodoo doll to a race but not a Stiegl beer?
Ticket Taker: Uh...I guess so.
BB: It is good to see workers like you who are dedicated to rooting out the wrong beer at the races. If it weren't for people like you, fans would bring any old beer with them and not Goesser. Thank you for helping to make race weekend a success.

4th person. A Sports Shop Employee
BB: I'm sure that you have many people coming into your shop on race weekend to rent or buy ski equipment. 
Store Worker:  We have a lot of people coming into the store, but not so many buyers.
BB: Do you increase your prices because it's a busy, high-demand weekend?
Store Worker: No. In fact, we have special offers. But the reason people come into my store is because some of the racers have autograph sessions there. 
BB: But you would think that after getting an autograph, someone would check out your merchandise.
Store Worker: One would think so. But most of the ski fans are in the shop just to get the free autographs and a photo of their favorite racers. What a bunch of cheapskates!
BB: Can't you tell the people who come in for autographs that they can't leave the shop unless they buy or rent something?
Store Worker: That would not work. The fans would just wait until after the race to get a photo or autograph.
BB: Sure it would. If every ski shop in Soelden said that you get an autograph and photo card if you spend 25 euros, and could have your photo taken with your favorite racer if you spent 50 or more euros, it would be a win-win situation. The fans would get their autographs and photos, the ski shops would make money, and you could keep your job.
Store Worker: Interesting idea. I must ask my boss about that.
BB: Our reporters are not only intrepid, they are also clever. Dear readers, if you are in Soelden for the races, buy something at one of the local shops so that the workers can keep their jobs. 

5th person. A Course Slipper
BB: I see that you are not doing anything right now. What do you do for the big race weekend?
Course Slipper: I am not skiving off, but I'm on a break. According to Austrian labor laws, I am entitled to take a break. but during the races I am very busy as a course slipper.
BB: That is a very important job on race day.
Course Slipper: It certainly is! Smoothing out the ruts and ensuring that every racer has a clean course is a huge responsibility.
BB: Last season some of the racers criticized the course slipping and said that it was very poor. What is your opinion on that?
Course Slipper: Only the very best can slip courses at World Cup races. We course slippers are very experienced. The people who criticized us are sore losers who were looking for a good excuse. 
BB: So it is not true that the quality of course slippers has been declining?
Course Slipper: Heavens no! That is a rumor spread by people who didn't win their races. Saying that the winner was the best that day was simply not good enough, so they unfairly slammed us course slippers. We need to pass a lot of exams to become World Cup course slippers. I think that we are better now than we were back in the early days of the World Cup. 
BB: You don't deliberately do a poor job when you know that your least favorite racer is next on the course
Course Slipper: Of course not! We are supposed to be neutral.
BB: Did you or one of your fellow course slippers plant the rock that bit Ted Ligety's ski on the Soelden course last year?
Course Slipper: No, no, no! That stone was proven to have teleported itself onto the course. We course slippers had nothing to do with it and could not have prevented it from getting onto the race piste. We can only remove ordinary stones.
BB: What if a Yeti comes onto the course? Can you remove it before a racer crashes into it?
Course Slipper: What a ridiculous question, but I'll answer it. No, I have personally never encountered a Yeti on the course. But if there was one, I would remove it in time to prevent a crash. I would grind it into the snow and smooth it out so that a racer would never even know it was there. 
BB: Let's hope that neither the Naughty Stone nor a Yeti appear in Soelden to test your course slipping powers. Otherwise, you poor course slippers will come under even more fire than you were last season. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I hope you enjoyed meeting some of the people who work behind the scenes in Soelden to make race weekend a great experience for everyone. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive story.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our job is to write the stories that nobody else dares to print. And our intrepid reporters are smarter than a rock.

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.