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.

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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.