Friday, December 9, 2016

Making Austria Great Again

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

What has happened to the mighty Austrian Power Team? So far this season the athletes are performing like they are the Austrian Sissy Team. The only Austrian man or woman to get on the podium this season has been Marcel Hirscher with his win in Levi and two second places. Austria's legacy of past greats is being tarnished. To add insult to injury, Italy tops the Nations Cup standings. What can be done to make Austria great again? One of our intrepid reporters had the chance to interview new Austrian co-trainer Werner Franz. It appears that he has the perfect plan to restore Austria to its usual ski racing glory. Let's find out what he has to say.

BB: Should our readers be concerned about the recent decline in the Austrian Team?
Franz: No. On the women's side there have been many injuries. Eva-Maria Brem and Carmen Thalmann suffered season-ending injuries. Anna Veith is still recovering from her injury. For the men Matthias Mayer just came back from fractured vertebrae and Hannes Reichelt from back surgery. 
BB: I understand about all of the injuries and that it takes time to get back to racing form after them. But how long can you use that as an excuse?
Franz: Let's see how well you can report ski racing news if you injured your hands.
BB: The Blickbild has the most intrepid reporters in the business! We can always improvise. You can do anything with a Swiss Army knife. But back to Austria. What is your grand plan for bringing back Austria's glory?
Franz: First of all, the plan is to get the racers back to their winning ways. It is a great plan!
BB: Tell our readers what it is.
Franz: As I said, it is important for our racers and our national morale to get our ski racers winning again. Ski racing is Austria's national sport. We need to ensure that our Sportsmen of the Year are ski racers and not football (soccer to our North American readers) players.
BB: Are you going to explain your astounding plan sometime today?
Franz: Yes. It is the best plan ever to get our racers winning again. It is like no other plan and is simply the best.
BB: One more time. If you do not explain your super plan, this interview will be over. Our readers want to know what your amazing plan is. Does it involve hiring a witch doctor for the team or feeding them ojlmsfjaegger? 
Franz: Okay, okay! The others were simply satisfied with me telling them that the Austrian coaching staff has a stupendous plan to get our racers winning again. You are obviously not like the others.
BB: That's right. So let's hear it, unless of course there is really no plan and you are simply playing mind games with the Austrian people by telling them what they want to hear. 
Franz: You win. First of all, our World Cup racers, except for a select few like Marcel Hirscher, will be relegated to the Europa Cup. If football teams can be relegated for poor performances, then we should be able to relegate ski racers. Our World Cup racers should be able to win Europa Cup races easily and improve their record of wins and podium places.
BB: Let's suppose that being relegated to the Europa Cup level does not make the Austrian racers win. Will the next step be for them to do FIS races?
Franz: Yes. Our World Cup racers should be able to dominate FIS races. Then the next step would be to bring them back up through the Europa Cup and then to the World Cup.
BB: That sounds good. You boost the athletes' confidence by giving them easy opportunities to win, and then bring them back up again. By the time they get back to the World Cup level, they will be winning again and the Austrian ski team will resume its rightful Number One position.
Franz: Yes! You got it!
BB: Playing devil's advocate here, what if your plan backfires? Maybe the athletes feel so demoralized by being relegated that they have no confidence and stop winning. What will you do then?
Franz: This plan should be foolproof because it is so brilliant, but I will indulge you. We will keep on relegating the racers until they start winning, even if it means having them compete in a children's division.
BB: Wait a minute! Won't people be suspicious if they see Olympic gold medalist Matthias Mayer in a race for ten-year-olds?
Franz: Yes, but we would simply say that he is big for his age. After all, if Vanessa Mae competed in a junior race in Slovenia when she was in her 30s, there should be no problem with World Cup racers competing in children's races in Austria. It is all about getting our racers to win again.
BB: That seems a bit extreme. Why not change your training methods or hire a team psychologist or witch doctor?
Franz: We will not hire any witch doctors because we believe Austria is so great already!
BB:  You just contradicted yourself. First you said that you need to make Austria great again. Then you said that it is already great. Which is it?
Franz: (sighs) You media people always come up with absurd trick questions. No wonder our racers are doing so poorly.
BB: You obviously don't read the Blickbild, or you would know all about absurd questions. Do you have a backup plan if relegation does not work?
Franz: Yes. Just like the Swiss a few seasons ago (see this classic story), the men will compete in women's races. The men should easily be able to defeat the women. Their victories over the ladies will give them the confidence they need to go back to the men's division and start winning there.
BB: Has the FIS given the Austrian Ski Federation permission for the men to compete in women's races? It would not let Lindsey Vonn participate in men's races except as a forerunner. 
Franz: We should have no problems getting the FIS's consent because we are Austria. We can get anything we want. The Swiss got special permission for their men to compete in women's races, so the precedent has been set. We will also have our women in men's races.
BB: A woman can't win a men's race because men have more muscle mass than women. How would having women in men's races bring back Austria's ski racing glory?
Franz: We would not really have the women race against the men. We are not crazy! But having the women around would embarrass the men into winning again. No man wants to be beaten by a girl. The men would go out and do their best in order not to be beaten by women, even if the women don't actually start the race.
BB: That is even more ridiculous than something we would come up with. Don't you think the men would catch on after a few races that the women were hanging around in the starting area but not actually participating?
Franz: Hmmmmm...We didn't think of that possibility.
BB: Evidently not. You underestimated the intelligence of your fellow Austrians. Shame on you! What about bringing in successful racers from other countries to compete for Austria? Someone like Mikaela Shiffrin or Aksel Lund Svindal would be real assets to the Austrian team. I'm sure that you could find a way to get a waiver from the two-year residency requirement for switching teams. 
Franz: The Austrian team should be composed of real Austrians and not immigrants pretending to be Austrians just to get some glory through sport. Mikaela and Aksel would also have to go through a long vetting process to ensure that they are not terrorists. By then the season would be over.
BB: What about this idea...Italy is leading the Nations Cup overall standings. Why doesn't Austria invade Italy, or at least the Suedtirol, and bring the Italian ski racers onto the Austrian team? That would be a win-win situation. Austria gets Italy's land and its successful ski racers. 
Franz: What a great idea! I'll run it by Herr Schroecksnadel and the rest of the powers that be at the Austrian Federation at our next team meeting. I'm sure he would find a way to get the Austrian army to invade Italy and put their ski racers on the Austrian team. That could be the solution to our problems.
BB: Invading Italy would be a short-term solution to the problem of the winless Austrians, Marcel Hirscher excepted. But have you or your colleagues thought through a long-term plan? This generation of both Austrian and Italian racers will eventually retire. Who will take their places?
Franz: The Austrian federation has a huge plan for ensuring that future generations of skiers will win races. It is so huge it is gargantuan! Nothing compares to how enormous this plan is.
BB: Ai yai yai! Just tell our readers the details already.
Franz: In Austria we have our special academies where we develop our racers from the time they learn to walk. We originally thought about bringing back the guillotine and installing one at each academy, but someone pointed out that if we chop off the heads of every junior racer who does not finish on the podium, we would quickly run out of ski racers. Parents would not bring their kids to the ski academies for training for fear of them being beheaded instead of simply dropped from the team.
BB: Oh those pesky facts! If the guillotine idea was a failure, what are you doing to inspire Austria's young racers to win?
Franz: We are doing the next best thing with our aspiring racers and bringing back the pillory. If a young racer finishes off the podium, he will be put in the pillory and the fans can throw rotten fruit and vegetables at him.
BB: How will putting young children in a pillory and throwing rotten food at them going to motivate them to win races?
Franz: We heard that Lindsey Vonn's father used to beat her and poked her with an electric cattle prod when she did not win in her youth. She now has the attitude that she must win all the time because second place is really the first loser. We must develop that attitude in our young racers so when they grow up they will win and take their places among the Austrian greats. We will also have pillories at World Cup, Europa Cup, and FIS races. The pillory worked wonders back in the Middle Ages, so why wouldn't it work now. Sometimes older ideas are the best ones.
BB: Doesn't that seem rather extreme? Who is going to pay for the pillories and the cost of transporting them to all of the different race venues?
Franz: Italy should pay for them! The Italians have taken Austria's rightful place in the Nations Cup standings and need to be put in their place. What a magnificent plan!
BB: I'm not sure how the Italians would feel about paying for pillories for Austrian ski racers and their transportation. But that is something to worry about if your plan actually gets approved.
Franz: Why wouldn't it be approved? It is the grandest plan of all!
BB: Let's see how everything plays out this season. Hopefully the Austrian men will find their mojo and start winning regularly so that order can be restored to the world. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for this interview and wish the Austrian team success for the rest of the season. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters may not be stupendous, but they are the most intrepid in  the business.

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