This Site Has Moved

I moved the blog some time ago to Please join in the discussion over there!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I've Moved

Check out the new blog at See you there!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I'm Back

I'm back from Niagara and making some final changes to the blog. It may be down for a bit. I hope to have it back up today, but if not, stay with me. I'm converting to WordPress.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

25 of the World's Most Interesting Animals

I'm off to Niagara Falls for the weekend, so enjoy looking at these cute little devils for a few days. See you on Sunday. Same bat time, same bat channel, same bad jokes.

100 Foods to Improve Your Productivity

Here is a list of 100 Foods to Improve Productivity. All kinds of favorite foods make the list. Here are a few to whet your whistle:

Salmon: Not just a fish dish delicacy, a single serving of salmon is also full of healthy benefits. Low in calories but high in important omega 3 fatty acids and protein, salmon will keep your appetite at bay while you concentrate on your busy day. Salmon is known for keeping high-blood pressure in check – a benefit for the demanding currency trading lifestyle. Salmon also lowers your chances of sunburn, dry eyes, stroke, prostate cancer, and even minimizes feelings of hostility in young adults. Without the distractions of moody adolescents, you'll be able to get twice as much done!

Spinach: Make like Popeye and inhale that spinach. Full of practically every nutrient you could think of, spinach is the easiest way to take in all your vitamins at once. In addition to fighting cancer and building strong bones and muscles, spinach reduces stress and help keeps your brain young and focused.

Cauliflower: Like most other vegetables included on this list, cauliflower has an immense amount of Vitamin C and impressive detoxifying capabilities. Just don't pour on the ranch dressing, or you'll also be getting a lot of fat and calories. Visit for new twists on the vegetable.

Onions: Adding onions to any dish will add taste while lowering your blood sugar. Onions are also good for the overall health of your stomach, settling that queasy tummy during a hangover.

Ok, so you'll really notice one thing reading through the list: most of the foods that made the list are exquisitely healthful and you probably don't need to be told that they're good for you. Lots of fruits, vegetables, and delicious protein. Of course there are a few foods on the list that make me say "Huh?," such as pound cake (#55), tofu (#73..."a healthier alternative to meat"? Who're they kidding?), and vanilla soy milk (#78). And there are a few tweeners that I won't get myself all twisted over, but these shouldn't be a part of daily intake: orange juice (#36), brown rice (#52), bran cereal (#49), and whole wheat pasta (#79) to name a few. Of course, no self-respecting health list would be complete without a few grains huh?

All in all though, this is a solid list of foods to include in your daily eating regimen.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Is Juice Good For You?

There's an interesting discussion about fruit juice over at Wired Berries that I've been participating in. Stop in and check it out.

I stand by my contention that fruit juice should not constitute a regular part of a healthful diet. The sugar content is too high and, being a liquid, it is quickly turned into glucose for delivery in the blood. As we all know, high glucose equals high insulin and since insulin is a storage hormone, the body won't release fat while insulin is jacked up. You'll notice in the comments that I also point out that orange and apple juice are, ounce for ounce, higher in calories than a soda. Fruit is very healthful to include in a diet, but I'm not sure fruit juice would qualify. The sugar content is sky high, regardless of how natural it is, and likely causes a commensurate rise in insulin. Natural doesn't always equal healthful. Sure, you get some vitamins and minerals in juice, but those can also be found in the whole fruit. Of course, if you are going to literally DIE of thirst and you have a choice of only juice or Coke, go with the juice.

Anyone have any thoughts on the issue? Am I on base or off in left field?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Life is Fragile

I had a post nearly finished for today, but I'm going to let it wait until tomorrow. I don't much feel like writing right now. On my way home from work, traffic slowed and then about a 1/4 mile up from me, I noticed a silver SUV upside-down in the median of I-64 and then a guy headed west-bound that had stopped and was running back to the SUV. At that point, I was too far away to leave my car in the middle of traffic, so I picked up my phone and called 911. When I got up to the accident, I pulled off to the shoulder and got out. A girl (probably my age) had been taken out of the vehicle by the first guy on the scene and there were I guess 5 of us guys with the SUV and 2 women with the girl on the ground. There was a guy still in the car, obviously not wearing a seatbelt, as he was laying on his head/neck/shoulders with his legs bringing his stomach to his face. He seemed to be moving or twitching and some of the guys were talking to him to let him know help was on the way and to stay with us. Nobody could move him due to his positioning and weight, not that we should have anyway given the injuries he may have had.

I have to give a hand to EMS. In under 5 minutes there were 2 fire engines, a Fire Dept SUV, and an ambulance on the scene, in rush hour traffic. They quickly took control of the situation, securing the SUV so it wouldn't slide down the median onto the girl on the ground. I was thinking "Why didn't I think to tell them to send more than 1 ambulance?" but given that I hadn't arrived at the scene yet, there is no way I could've known how many were involved. They managed to get the guy out of the SUV and it was obvious he had been unable to breathe in the position he was in. His head, neck, and chest were bluish-purple from oxygen deprivation. As they were working on resuscitating him, I decided I was doing nothing there but gawking and since I wasn't a witness to the accident, I bowed out.

In the end, I didn't do anything at the scene, but I feel good knowing that I stopped and was available to help out if needed. The other people there before me had taken care of everything that could be taken care of before EMS arrived. I was quite shaken up during the drive home. The first guy on the scene was very shaken up and crying. I told him that he had done well, although I'm sure he will be wrangling with himself over other things he could've done. I came home and the accident was on the news. The guy that was in the truck died. It's the first time I've ever been so closely involved with a death. Sure, I didn't have anything to do with the accident, but I was likely there when he died.

I am furious at all the people that didn't stop. There was an SUV upside-down and only one guy on the scene. There was a 1/4 mile of traffic between me and the SUV and by the time I got there, only the semi driver, 3 or 4 other people, and the two ladies that were also involved in the accident had stopped. I watched people in the west-bound lanes go around the vehicle rather than stopping. To those people I ask: Is your life that busy that you can't stop to help your fellow man? Do you really have such important things to do? What happened to all of those cars between me and the accident? I guess everyone just thought "Yippee! Open highway!"

Part of me wonders if we should have moved him so that he wasn't laying in such a precarious position. Would it have helped? Might he have lived? There's no way of knowing and it sucks. I feel sorry for the lady that hit the SUV. It was an accident and she has to live the rest of her life knowing that a slip in her attention caused the death of another and caused untold amounts of physical and mental pain to the girl involved.

The only point I can make with this post is that life is fragile. This whole thing makes me think of an article I posted awhile back: Don't Die With Your Music Still In You. You never know what's going to happen, or when. Today it was Carl. Tomorrow it could be me or you. Make sure you're getting everything you want out of life. I hope that the moment before he died, this fellow was able to think, "At least I did the things I wanted to do with my life to this point." Too many of us go through life on auto-pilot and regret it later. If you have to make changes in your life, make them, but make sure you're happy.

I apologize for rambling, but I'm still stunned. And please, please, please fasten your seatbelt. It could just save your life.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Guinness is Good For You

Photo courtesy of Flickr

From the "fun file" comes this delightful tidbit: Guinness is Good For You. We already knew that Guinness was a delicious addition to a meal. And now we discover that it can help reduce heart attack-causing clotting activity in the blood. Note that Guinness, and probably other stouts and porters, but not lagers (drinkers of funky American macrobrews take note) provides this life-saving and important duty to the human race. This is great news for those of us that like good beer.

Here's to your heart!

Follow-up to "The Drugging of Our Children"

Yesterday, we had a bit of discussion on my post about The Drugging of Our Children. As luck would have it, Ross Enamait posted this article about the dangers of food additives to kids and their connection to hyperactivity and other disruptive behaviors in this post at his blog. I really can't top what he had to say, so I'm going to paste my favorite part here for all to enjoy...hop over to Ross' blog to read the rest.

It is not the child's job to read up on the dangers of food additives. We as parents must assume this responsibility. Being a parent is a responsibility and privilege. Part of this privilege means taking care of our children. Children don't buy food. We buy the food that they eat.

If you care about your children, you will make educated decisions regarding nutritional habits. Just because your child wants something doesn't mean that they will always get it.

Top notch post by Ross.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Cochrane Report on Low-Carb Diets

Check out Dr. Eades post from yesterday on the Cochrane Report on low-carb diets.

A few months ago the Cochrane Collaboration released a study showing that subjects on low-carb diets lost more weight and improved their cardiovascular risk profiles to a greater extent than did subjects following any other kind of diet. Did you read about this study in your local paper or see it on the evening news? I didn’t think so. I didn’t either.

Hop on over to his site to read the rest.

The Drugging of our Children

(Photo courtesy of WikiMedia) Here is a long, interesting, and infuriating video by Gary Null titled The Drugging of Our Children. It explores the prevalence of Ritalin for the treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Michael Moore is interviewed in the film, and while I'm not a huge fan of his, he is pretty well spot-on with his words in this film.

There are interviews with several young people that have been on drugs for ADHD and/or depression, all with interesting stories of the effects Ritalin and the SSRIs had on them and their demeanor. One lady's story entails her refusal to put her child on Ritalin as the school demanded she do for him to stay in school. Child Protective Services removed her son from the home and put him on the drugs. She later "kidnapped" him and left for Canada, but the FBI pursued her there and had her son put back into an institution. She had a choice of political asylum in Canada or fighting to keep her son. She chose to be imprisoned to fight for her son. To this day, her son has still not been returned to her. Granted, she shouldn't have taken her son from a government facility.

Obviously this is only one side of the story and is intended to create a certain reaction, but the video is quite interesting. I can't speak on Ritalin or SSRIs as I'm not a doctor nor well-versed in the workings of those drugs. I will say though that I doubt either ADHD or depression is underdiagnosed. I highly doubt that MORE kids need to be on these drugs, especially when it's quite possible that a change in diet, sleep, or exercise patterns could rid a child of ADHD. A kid fed the typical morning breakfast of sugary cereal or waffles or Pop-Tarts is unlikely to be able to pay attention very well in class.

It almost seems like the schools are trying to medicate the "kid" right out of the child. Three times as many boys are diagnosed with ADHD compared to girls. Perhaps the learning environment is not set up for the way that boys learn. Boys and girls are not the same and something tells me that there isn't something inherently wrong with boys that makes them more susceptible to this disease, especially since it's reported in the video that there is no actual difference in brain activity of an ADHD vs non-ADHD brain. Maybe the boys are bored so they act up. And in a system where teachers and counselors are making diagnoses based on subjective determinations, rather than objective tests, the bias towards boys seems to confirm that there is something else going on.

We live in a fast-paced culture now. In most households, both parents work to be "successful". Poor nutrition is prevalent in our society. This study reports that 51% of families eat fast food one to two times a week and 7% eat it three to four times a week. Family dinner time doesn't exist anymore and with the growth of over-sugared, under-exercised, and overweight kids, it's easy to see that the delicate balance of hormones in a kid's brain could go a bit haywire. That doesn't mean the proper recourse is a drug. It is the easy way, but not the proper way when switching to a diet based on natural foods and spending some time exercising or playing as a family would do wonders for the child. Once you start medicating, you then have to medicate the side effects, of which many report hallucinations and violent tendencies. And then there are the ties to murder and suicide.

This story reminded me about this article Most People Are Depressed for a Very Good Reason. There are probably some cases where antidepressants are the right course of action. There are probably many more where the right course of action is for the person taking them to make changes to their life.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Eating Together

Science Daily had this article a few days ago titled Eating Together As A Family Creates Better Eating Habits Later In Life.

Eating together as a family during adolescence is associated with lasting positive effects on dietary quality in young adulthood, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota.
The researchers found eating family meals together during adolescence resulted in adults who ate more fruit, dark-green and orange vegetables and key nutrients, and drank less soft drinks. Frequency of family meals predicted females would eat breakfast as adults. For both sexes, frequency of family meals as adolescents predicted eating dinner more frequently as adults, placing a higher priority on structured meals and a higher priority on social eating.

My family ate together at least 80% of the time when I was growing up. Either Mom or Jim cooked our delicious, balanced meals and everyone that was home sat and ate. At dinner time, we came home from playing outside, washed up, and ate with the family where we actually conversed (a foreign concept these days). Once dinner was over, us kids were free to go back to running around the neighborhood like hooligans, but only after we washed and dried the dishes. Our family meals were far more healthful than the norm, and while they may not conform to my "fanatical" standards now, all in all, they were a very solid base to a lifetime of proper eating. We always had a protein of some sort: steak, pork chops, roast, etc. A vegetable or two was always, always, always served and everyone of us took a little bit of everything, whether we liked it or not. I recall having to force myself to eat my broccoli and today I eat entire stalks of it willingly. And there was often a starch - potatoes, rice, noodles, bread, etc. Sure, I don't eat the starchy grain products with regularity anymore and there wasn't a bottle of olive oil nearby for dousing everything, but I would call our family dinners nutritious.

My Mom isn't a nutritionist by any means, but somehow she instinctively knew how to put together a nice delicious well-balanced meal. I would surmise that her mother cooked much the same way and unsurprisingly, my Mom and her siblings are all healthy adults. If more families ate like this, and took the time to eat together, we'd probably see fewer health problems in the nation. Just taking the time to slow down and eat, converse, and enjoy the company of others would be a big boon over the cram-a-burger-and-fries-down-your-gullet-while-running-errands eating culture that we have today.

And recall that kids will eat more vegetables if they're homegrown.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

101 Things in 1001 Days

This is a cool exercise that I undertook yesterday. It's called "101 Things in 1001 Days" and it has little to do with what I typically talk about here. This is about setting realistic, but stretch, goals with a long, but not too long, timeline of 1001 days to accomplish them. That is about 2.75 years to do the things you want to do with your life. I made my list yesterday and I have until June 2nd, 2010 (today is my start day, so do the math accordingly) to complete all of the items on the list. I'm not going to share all of my things with you because some of the people that I am going to do things for might read them and be anticipating, but I will give you a few examples of things I've chosen as goals.

- Drive cross-country, avoiding Interstates. Eat only at local restaurants.
- Bike more miles than I drive 3 months in a row
- Clean out file cabinet
- Go White Water rafting
- Deadlift 2.5 times bodyweight
- Eat only grass-fed/pastured/wild meats and seafood (except when dining at family/friend's houses)
- Pay off school loan
- Help with Habitat for Humanity
- Read 30 books
- Take a surfing class
- Donate $5 to charity for each item not completed by Day 1001

I divided my goals into categories: Personal, De-clutter, Adventure/Travel/Outdoors, Business/Blog, Health/Fitness, Food-related, Financial, Random Kindness/Charity, and Self-Improvement. You don't necessarily have to come up with 101 things. The purpose is in the setting of and striving for goals, not in the absolute number of them. If you can come up with 25 things to do in the next 1001 days, that is more than most people do. It's really interesting to see the things that you'd like to do laid out on paper, having a solid record of them that you can tick off.

This is an exercise that I'd suggest everyone undertake. That link above has plenty of other people's lists that can be used for motivation, since coming up with 101 things on your own can be pretty difficult without something to spur some thinking. Feel free to post some of your goals for the next 2.75 years to the comments.

A Squat Alternative

I just found the Straight to the Bar blog and along came this post: The Step-Up. It looks like it could be a good change of pace from the squat, although the squat is a movement that absolutely MUST be in your strength building repertoire. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Replacing Spaghetti, Low-Carb Style

I picked up a spaghetti squash at the farmer's market Saturday, along with some onions, a few zucchini, and a yellow squash (and myriad other things that aren't part of the picture above). Tonight, I baked the squash and then mixed it with 2 cans of El Pato and an onion, a zucchini, and the yellow squash, which I had sauteed in some beef tallow. On the other part of the plate are 4 pastured chicken thighs that I also picked up at the farmer's market. And sorry for the poor lighting, but I was hungry and didn't feel like moving the food for a better picture.

So what's my point? Essentially I could have turned this into a standard Italian dinner by using spaghetti sauce instead of El Pato. Spaghetti squash is a perfect replacement for spaghetti. If you think about it, spaghetti really has no flavor. It is merely a carrier for whatever sauce is on it. Spaghetti squash has a really mild flavor and I find it to be tastier than spaghetti, since it actually has a flavor. The flavor is slightly nutty and the texture is a touch crunchy. No more need for "low-carb spaghetti" since you can avoid the crappy grain products and use an all-natural item for your Italian fix. I was also able to fit in quite a range of other vegetables as well (although it's weird mixing winter squash and summer squash).

Now for the nutritional differences (1 cup of each):
Whole-wheat Spaghetti
31g net carbs
174 calories

Spaghetti squash
8g net carbs
42 calories

I think the winner, hands down, is spaghetti squash, even when compared against the "healthful" whole-wheat spaghetti.

To bake a spaghetti squash, cut it in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, and place both halves face down in about 1" of water. Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes. Then simply run a fork through the center of the squash to bring out the middle in strands, hence spaghetti squash. Top it with your favorite spaghetti sauce and some meatballs and you have Italian.

And the tasty beverage you see behind the plate is a Young's Oatmeal Stout. This stuff is the Nectar of the Gods with hints of chocolate, coffee, maybe a touch of caramel and a thick lingering head. Were I a big-time drinker, I think I could put a keg of this stuff away.

Our Growing Waistlines

Photo courtesy of MSN

This study hit the news last week: America Grows Fatter.

Mississippi has exceeded the 30% obesity rate for adults, the first time any state's population has done so, reported a health advocacy group. But 19 other states with large obese populations are not far behind.

30%! That's nearly 1 in 3 people that is obese in that state. Even Colorado, the "leanest" state is rocking a 17.6% obesity rate: more than 1 in 6 in Colorado are obese. And the other 48 states (plus DC) fall somewhere in the middle. My homestate of Kentucky is 7th with 27.5%, according to this report. And 1 in 5 of our kids are overweight in Kentucky, which in politically-correct jargon means obese, but we're afraid to call little Tommy obese.

Now, Dr. Eades has taken them to task over the methods of data collection and reporting. I don't disagree with him. The data in studies is often manipulated and massaged to produce what the authors want. And then the media reporting of it is generally geared in such a way as to create a great story, whether the report matches what the study says or not. The underlying reality is that at best, the stats are under-reported and there are even more obese folks walking around than the report says. In fact, I don't think we really even need these studies to tell us that America is getting fatter and fatter. A quick glance around you will tell you all you need to know.

Whether it's 30% or 40% is really irrelevant. It's too high of a percent. Our lack of exercise and poor eating habits are going to lead many in our nation to an early grave. But I can't get behind any kind of government intervention. As I mentioned in the comments of Dr. Eades' blog, the government foray into nutrition advice is much of what has us in this predicament in the first place, not to mention the Farm Bill and subsidies that support the prodigious amounts of cheap sugar and corn (which is turned into sugar) that keep us growing and growing. The Food Guide Pyramid is an excellent example of what's wrong with the government setting policy on our nutrition. Any new attempts will a) not stray far from the current pyramid because the government is far more concerned with saving face than with giving us proper recommendations and b) will go to the highest bidder. We don't need the government to save us. Personal responsibility is what we need. If people would focus on proper nutrition and exercise, their weight issues would miraculously disappear.

Our Dependence on China

Here is an interesting article from NPR about Chinese imports. First it was pet food and now it's toothpaste and children's toys. China turns out a great number of the goods that we consume here in the States and apparently quality isn't the top priority. In an increasingly global society, it is impossible to avoid some imports without going into a cave and hunting and gathering your own food. But you can minimize your exposure to some of the dangers of consuming goods from countries where regulations aren't quite as strict as they are here. For one, you can support your local farmers at the farmer's markets in your area, sticking tofresh, seasonal foods as much as possible.

Here are a few thoughts about some of the things coming in from China.

Last month, FDA inspectors blocked 257 food shipments from China, according to the list.
In the past year, the FDA rejected a higher proportion of food shipments from China than from any other country.

China is increasing the number of food products exported to the US every year, while also having products fail the tests more than any other country, even after taking into account the higher volume of shipments.

When Hubbard was at the FDA, he heard all kinds of stories about foreign food processors, like the one a staffer told him after visiting a Chinese factory that makes herbal tea. "To speed up the drying process, they would lay the tea leaves out on a huge warehouse floor and drive trucks over them so that the exhaust would more rapidly dry the leaves out," Hubbard says. "And the problem there is that the Chinese use leaded gasoline, so they were essentially spewing the lead over all these leaves."
The FDA normally inspects about 1 percent of all food and food ingredients at U.S. borders. It does tests on about half of 1 percent.

How does that make you feel about eating imported food products?

Now, I'm not anti-globalization. I am a big believer in a free-market economy and in a capitalist society, what a business values first and foremost is money. Producing value for shareholders is the number 1 goal of a corporation, for better or for worse. We as consumers have to demand that our corporations give us safe products and if you are interested in stopping the flood of imported products, stop buying them (which can be very difficult). Remember that in an economy where money talks, voting with your dollars for the companies that take consumer protection into account is the strongest statement you can make.

New Domain

Hey hey! I've redirected my domain name from to The old URL will redirect to the new one, but you can update your bookmarks accordingly anyway.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Benefits of Protein for the Elderly

To go along with the post on age and exercise, here is an article titled The Benefits of Protein for the Elderly from Science Daily.

This won't come as a surprise to most of us here, but it could be beneficial to our loved ones.

A new study recently published suggests that a diet containing a moderate amount of protein-rich food such as beef, fish, pork, chicken, dairy or nuts may help slow the deterioration of elderly people's muscles.

The article goes on to say that reducing muscle mass decline is vital in the health of the elderly. As Anna mentioned in the comments of the previous post, there is somewhat of a catch-22 with the elderly and the well-known "shuffle walk" they many of them do. They shuffle to maintain balance, which has been lost due to declining muscle mass. But shuffling keeps the muscles from being worked, so they further decline in strength, which results in even less balance and more shuffling. It's a vicious cycle.

Elderly people may eat less protein for a number of reasons, said Paddon-Jones, including cost, the fact that many foods may not taste as good to them as they once did, difficulty chewing, limited menus in nursing homes or assisted living communities, and decline in appetite. Another important contributor to muscle loss in the elderly is a lack of exercise, he noted.

Of course, we all know the value of a diet rich in protein and fat, but so many people are stuck on a high-carb diet (nearly always low in protein) with lots of joint-pounding, muscle-wasting aerobic activity. Both of these things lead to a decline in muscle mass and a decline in functionality as one ages. The way to go into old age with vigor and vitality, able to care for oneself is a nutrient-rich, low-carb diet (don't fear the fat) and lots of intense, muscle-building activity.

With the increasing cost of health care, it's important to remain functional as long as possible, so take care of yourself and maybe you'll be one of those 80-90 year olds running track in the Senior Olympics, laughing in the face of old age.

Happy Labor Day!

Enjoy your day off. Go to a cookout, visit family, or just relax. I couldn't find any good, non-political pictures for Labor Day, so enjoy looking at my dog.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Sports Culture (Semi-rant Warning)

College football season is upon us, along with pro football exhibition games, the end of the baseball season, and in October, the beginning of the NBA basketball season, to be followed closely by the beginning of college basketball. I know when all of these seasons start not because I actually care, but because so many people care far too much and spend far too much time talking about it. You can't turn on the TV or open a newspaper without seeing just how important sports are in our daily lives. From now until March, we will be inundated with opportunities to watch other people play sports.

I find our view of sports to be part of our obesity problem. Sports and fitness are viewed as something for athletes rather than as something for the common man. Invariably, sports are for the young, rather than for the old. Once you hit 30, you're more likely to be watching sports than participating in them. At a young age, we teach our kids to be the best in their sport or get out of it. Parents today push their kids to specialize in and train for football or basketball or baseball year-round rather than playing football in the fall, basketball in winter, running track and field in spring, and playing baseball in the summer. Experimentation is out as parents push their kids to become a big name in something, to become the star that they themselves weren't. Check out this article (found on Mark Sisson's blog) about an 8-year old girl that has been forced to run 2200 miles in the past 2 months to satisfy her father's desire to get her in the 2016 Olympics. Sure that's an extreme example, but parent's living vicariously through their kids athletic endeavors sets sport up for failure as we drive the fun out of sport, which is essentially a game.

We've turned sport into a grueling endeavor, devoid of fun. I'm not talking the "Kum By Yah," we-don't-need-to-keep-score-because-we're-all-winners-for-playing attitude. Hey, I'm one of the most competitive people I know, somewhat to a fault. When I'm engaged in sports (or unfortunately board games or it a vice), I'm playing to win, but I'm playing fair and having a good time. And if I lose, I don't feel bad about myself and if I win, I don't gloat over the vanquished suckers that took a drubbing. Teaching people about healthy competition, along with teamwork and getting some activity, is the intent of sports. The business of sports is what's ruining it. The prevailing thought seems to be "if you aren't going pro, there's no point in playing," so we sit on our collective rumps and watch others play college sports and pro sports, while we get fatter and less athletic. And I can't help but laugh at the people that can recite every sports stat for the last 10 years but can't run down a basketball court once. There seems to be an inverse proportion of sports knowledge and athletic ability.

Now, I'm not saying not to enjoy watching the local college team play a game or not to knock back a couple frosty beers with your friends on a Saturday to watch some football. But so many people are engaged all year long with keeping track of the recruiting, meticulously scrutinizing every stat, and arguing about which team will be better and who will beat whom. Why do people spend so much time and get so worked up over a team full of kids (18-22 year olds) that they've never met, will probably never meet, and who could give a flip if they ever meet a fan at all? In A Bronx Tale Sonny says something to the effect of, "You think if your father couldn't pay his rent that Mickey Mantle would care? Would Mickey Mantle pay your rent? Mickey Mantle makes $200,000 a year - he don't care about you, why care about him? Nobody cares." It's an illustrative point. The coach, the players, the whole team doesn't even know that the individual fans exist and were the fans to actually not exist, little would change. Why should we invest so much energy in them?

People get far too worked up over something that they really have no vested interest in. I can understand being a big-time fan if you're the coach's wife or mother, a relative of a player, or affiliated with the school. I have a friend that is such a big fan of the University of Louisville that if they lose a game, his day is ruined. If it's noon, he will go home and pout or go to bed. Why relegate so much control of your life to something that you have no control over? And then there's the xenophobic aspect, ingrained in the human animal to distrust all who aren't of our group (politicians play this aspect of human nature very well), to automatically think negatively of people that cheer for the rival. I heard one guy talk about getting in fights with fans of the other team at bars. That sounds like a wholly healthful endeavor; what a good way to spend a Saturday! I always thought sports were intended as a means of meeting people and sharing camaraderie, even with the opposition.

I guess I've just grown out of it. I was a die hard University of Kentucky fan all through my childhood, pretty much up until the time I graduated with my bachelor's degree (from rival U of Louisville ironically). At that point, I realized that I was older than most of the players and began transitioning away from caring (not really consciously, just kind of the path I took). I'm an alum of the University of Notre Dame as well, definitely some of the most loyal and vocal fans in the nation. During the year I was in school there, I got into the spirit, but since then, I don't really care. I watch the games if it's convenient. I don't rearrange my life to make sure I don't miss a single game. If I'm around with nothing to do, I'll turn it on. And while they're on, I get into it and cheer and enjoy myself. And when the game is over, win or lose, my life is completely unaffected. I don't spend the next week rehashing the game or reminiscing on the big plays or yammering about "what ifs". My involvement in college sports (I don't even pay attention to pro sports...couldn't tell you who plays for which team) is confined to the few hours that it is on, more approaching the level of disinterested observer than rabid fan. I discovered last year that I didn't know the name of any of the UK basketball players for half the season.

I would much rather get up, get out, and do something active for myself than be a passive spectator. If you give me a choice of going for a long hike or ski trip through the month of March or watching every March Madness Tournament game, guess which one I'll take. I'll be long gone by the time the first game tips off and won't care that I don't see a single one. I'd miss the Championship Game if I had something else to be doing. Unfortunately, I'm probably in a minority that would give up the ability to watch all of the games and keep precise tabs on the outcomes. Any guy that proclaims to not really care too much about sports is suspect in our culture where every red-blooded American male is taught that, by golly, if you're going to be a REAL man, you spend Saturday and Sunday pinned to the TV watching football, drinking beer, and eating Cheesy Poofs.

Please, for the love of humanity, stop talking about Barry Bonds and his alleged steroid use (note that it has only been truly proven in our "guilty until found innocent" media environment). It doesn't affect you and it doesn't affect me. As I said, I don't take issue with people that just sit down and watch their favorite team play. Hell, I sat down to watch yesterday's beating at the hands of Georgia Tech with a Honker's Ale and some blue corn chips and habanero salsa (which was delicious!). Notre Dame got killed and my blood pressure never rose. I didn't yell, scream, or allow it to affect my life. Nor did I have anything else to do having already hit the farmer's market, the grocery, and done an intense workout. I was free to just sit and watch, knowing that the more important things in life were taken care of.

But following the recruiting and arguing all week about the upcoming game or the just played game or who's going to win the Heisman or who's going to win the National Championship is ridiculous. One other thing that REALLY irks me: the use of "we" in reference to a team. Fans of every school say "we just scored," "we won," etc. No, "we" didn't do a thing. Those guys on the field (or court) won. You had no involvement whatsoever in their win. You may think you're an integral part of the team, but you're not. You're just one of millions of people that place great importance on the athletic achievements of others.

I just wish people would devote as much time to their own health as they devote to cheering for (and defending) a team that they don't play on. And let your kids play every sport if they want to. It doesn't matter if they're the A-One player on the team as long as they are able to go out, have fun, and get some exercise with friends. Perhaps that would help clear up some of our country's mounting health issues.

Fantasy Sports....well, I'm not even going to go there. Can sports spectatorship get any more pathetic than playing a game based around watching other people play a game? I guess I just went there.

Thoughts? Anyone? My flame suit is ready for the fury I may have just incited.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

But I'm Too Old To Exercise

I've really been enjoying Ross Enamait's series on older athletes getting it done.
Dara Torres wins 100m Freestyle at age 40
59-year old playing college football
Randy Couture wins UFC Heavyweight Championship at 44
We all know (or maybe are) people that find any excuse under the sun to not get any physical activity. Yet, CrossFit and The Performance Menu are loaded with 40-plus athletes rocking killer bodies and even better athletic performances. Sure, age makes a difference in how quickly the body recovers and how much muscle can be built, but look at guys like Jack LaLanne and Art De Vany. Art is 70 and LaLanne is in his 90s, both still strong as can be by following evolutionary practices of eating unprocessed foods and hitting intense exercise. Art also throws in some fasting here and there.

And then I came across this WebMD article that dances around the issue and seems a bit wishy-washy (not that I'd expect otherwise from WebMD).

First, they give some advice that is quite a surprise coming from WebMD: do something other than long, joint-pounding runs. Considering this site likes to focus on the high-carb, low-fat, aerobics is good crowd, this is huge.

"Even if you're aerobically active, you don't prevent loss of muscles. If you do exactly the same thing, you will lose muscle and gain fat. Strength training is the only way to increase or preserve muscle mass."

But here's where they get back to the excuses for not being in shape.
"It is also natural in the aging process," she says, "to automatically lose a sense of balance." She discovered that when she tried taking her grandchildren ice-skating after 30 years off the ice: "I was all over the place," she says.

Hmmm....naturally lost balance; it couldn't have anything to do with 30 years off the ice could it? They then go on to say that with some practice she's back to doing jumps and spins. As they say in their article, "Use it or lose it." One of my favorite excuses for people not exercising is "I'm too out of shape." Well you have to start some time.

Older athletes do have to be more diligent with recovery and nutrition than their younger counterparts, but age is not an excuse for not being fit. Proper training and proper nutrition will allow your body to express its genes properly rather than languishing into an increasingly decrepit old age. Check out the Senior Olympics in 2009 in the Bay Area to see some old folks that aren't letting age hold them back. It looks like there isn't a 2008 Games and 2007 was in Louisville in June, which unfortunately I didn't get a chance to see.