Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Rule Infractions

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

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

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

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

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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Athlete Profile: Breezy Johnson

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

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

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

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

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