Real Life Sports Movie: John Woodruff

If you were scripting an unrealistic Hollywood sports movie, what would the ingredients be?

You’d want a main character who came from humble beginnings. You’d want him or her to work their way up to some climactic event. You’d need a villain.  How about the event is taking place at a particularly momentous time in history, when the planet is gearing up toward its most devastating world-wide war?  And maybe you’d have the tyrant who is the leader of one of the aggressor countries be there at the event, looking on, with the event held in his own capital city, rooting against the hero character. Maybe that enemy leader, who is white, would be a legendary racial supremacist who was trying to prove the supremacy of his race – and maybe our hero would be black.

That’s a pretty wild set-up so far.  We might have lost our credibility with the script readers already.  Let’s press on anyway.

What else would you want? Maybe the key event would arrive, and the game — or match — or, let’s say, footrace begins. 800 meters. Less than two minutes total. Our hero wants to win it. Somehow our hero finds himself trapped and pinned in by the other competitors, back in fourth place, with nowhere to maneuver and time rapidly expiring. His whole life’s work, what he has been building toward, is starting to come apart at the seams, second by difficult second. Suddenly, our hero does something wild and unexpected to break out of the trap he’s in – he stops in his tracks, in the middle of the race… Everyone else zooms ahead and he attempts to catch up again with a mad dash up the outside of the pack.

At this point, the movie’s audience would groan. Could things get any more unrealistic (short of the hero sprouting wings)? First there was the dramatic situation and setting. Then this ridiculous mid-race maneuver? Against the most elite competitors in the world, all at full gallop? For our man to actually win at the end of the movie, well, that would just be too much, right?

Allow me introduce you to John Woodruff.

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What a Messi made

Why Lionel Messi should thank Michael Phelps, and other ramblings about historical legacies.

It was a chance to stand beside, if not pass, his country’s greatest soccer star.  A rare moment, in his prime, when he could take full advantage of his singular talent.  A golden opportunity to enter the rarefied air of the consensus all-time greatest sporting legends.  Messi (with a massive assist from an excellent defense) made his Argentina squad relevant, at times impregnable, and nearly unbeaten at this World Cup.  But in the end, once the comfort of the group stages were behind him, he looked all too ordinary and could not quite inspire his countrymen to glory.  Even though he dazzled with his usual mesmerizing dribbles and pristine shots, and even though Argentina made it farther than most expected them to, and even though he was even awarded with the 2014 World Cup Golden Ball (best player) award, many will judge this World Cup as a detriment to Messi’s legacy rather than a benefit.  It’s illogical.  It’s not fair.  It’s also sure to happen.  Just look at his face below — despondent for his country’s loss, and surely aware of its ramifications for him as an individual.  Here’s why that’s a bunch of bull.

Lionel MessiPhoto credit: Clive Rose, Getty Images

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T.J. Sochi

More than six and a half years after the 1980 “Miracle on Ice,” when a bunch of American amateur hockey players downed the vaunted Soviet team at the Olympics in Lake Placid, T.J. Oshie was spawned in the Boeing hub of Everett, Washington.  It’s safe to say he doesn’t have the same visceral reaction to the 1980 matchup1 as do those who were in attendance or watching live, or at least those who were even arguably alive at the time, but he seems comfortable enough authoring an exciting epilogue to it… Continue reading

Controlling the narrative

Two all time greats.  Each made a similar announcement within a day of one another.  First, on February 12, the all-time Yankees hits leader, modern baseball legend, and gift basket enthusiast Derek Jeter told his fans via Facebook that 2014 would be his final season playing baseball.  The following night, probably the greatest male figure skater of all time, Evgeni Plushenko, withdrew from the male short program event in front of his home crowd in Sochi due to a back injury, and announced his retirement shortly thereafter… Continue reading