September 28, 2006

Triathawhat? - Or - Taking The Blue Pill

Curling is a silly sport. When given the opportunity, I will make fun of it without a single moments hesitation. It's just too easy.

I've always figured curling must've been invented by Canadian housewives whose kids had finally gone off to college and whose husbands, the drunken useless bums, spend their weekends brushing the Dorito crumbs off their fat stomachs into the pile of empty Labatts cans at their feet as they watch hockey or lacrosse or whatever those Canadian fat guys watch on cold winter weekends.

The wives, not knowing what to do with their lives and not wanting to have to be disgusted by their husbands, decide to make a sport of their own. So they walk outside into the freezing cold, onto the icy sidewalk, carrying with them the only household implements they know their husbands won't miss: a broom and a cooking pot. They start throwing the pots down the icy sidewalks and sweeping the grime off the walkway to help the pots go further.

Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom... the sport of curling is invented.

How curling became an Olympic sport is beyond me. The thing is, most people don't even know what curling is. They're pretty sure it involves a broom and some ice - as for the rest of the details, nobody really seems to give a flying watuzzi. It got me to thinking -- how can a sport make it to the Olympics year after year and still be such a mystery to the majority of humans?

Which leads us directly into triathlon.

The other day I was watching a video of NBC's 1989 Ironman World Championships. If you haven't yet seen it, I highly recommend you spend the time to watch this amazing race - which, incidentally, is more amazing than anything you could ever hope to see on "The Amazing Race." It'll blow you away. (In fact, here's a link.) Between the infamous Ironwar where Dave Scott and Mark Allen silently battled it out like two ferocious pitbulls, and the inspirational accomplishments of Dick and Rick Hoyt, your mouth is guaranteed to be quite agape.

I've watched this video a few times. It never ceases to amaze me. But when I watched it the other day, something new did, in fact, amaze me. Specifically, I noticed that near the end of the coverage, NBC spelled the word "triathlon" incorrectly. I'm not sure how I missed this all those other times. In my disbelief I rewound the tape again and again to make sure my eyes weren't deceiving me. Lo and behold, they weren't. NBC did, in fact, spell the word with an extra letter. "Triathalon," they called it. The Ironman Triathalon World Championships.

I hope somebody got fired for that.

Granted, the sport really only gained international recognition in 1982 when Julie Moss famously - and literally - ran herself into the ground and crawled to infamy. But still, this was seven years later and NBC had been airing the damn thing every year. You'd think they'd actually be able to spell the sport correctly. Can anybody believe that they would've showed highlights from the Bassebal World Series? Or the Footbowl Superball? Of course not. But they clearly didn't have time for spellcheck when it came to Triathalon/Triathlon.

I'm hoping they got it correct in 1990. I just watched the 2005 Ironman coverage and they definitely had it fixed by last year. But the fact that they even screwed it up once kinda hurts. It makes me feel a bit like Rodney Dangerfield: no respect. And don't even get me started on Microsoft.

How many years do you think it'll take before Microsoft adds the word "triathlon" to their dictionary? Everytime I type it into a Word document, I get that damn red squiggly line that says the word doesn't exist. But I know the word triathlon exists. I'm sure of it. In fact, I raced in one not too long ago. And I've got it printed on far too many t-shirts that I'll never wear. And I watch the damn thing on NBC!! Hell, it's even an Olympic sport! But apparently that's not enough for Mr. Gates and his minions. For Microsoft, triathlon is dead to them.

Which I suppose leads us right back to the Olympics.

Triathlon has been an Olympic sport since the Sydney Games in 2000. In fact, there've been some pretty dramatic races, not the least of which was that 14 bike pile-up that engulfed Simon Whitfield, only for him to make up 25 places in the run and win the darn thing. But still, tell a person that you race triathlon and, nine times out of ten, they won't know what the hell you're talking about.

That's like swimming and biking and something, right? they'll ask you with the blank why-do-I-care-about-this look on their face. Yeah, you'll say somewhat offended. It's swimming and biking and something... you know what...forget I even brought it up.

Even worse, there are the ignorant masses who think that the only triathlon in the world is the Ironman World Championships. You race triathlon?! they'll say increduously, their eyes nearly bulging from the sockets. You race that really long event in Hawaii that ends with a marathon? Don't you have to bike, like, 200 miles or something in the same day?

As their excitement builds, you can feel your tail squeeze up between your legs. They've blown you up to be a hero and you're about to stick a pin in that concept. No, that is the Ironman World Championships, you say somewhat apologetically. The races I do a bit shorter... like... uh... a quarter mile swim, a twelve mile bike and a three mile run.

As they hear the distances, their once bulging eyes turn into blank stares of disbelief. And you kinda wanna smack them across the head even before they say anything else. That doesn't sound hard, they'll blurt out in a way that makes you want to smack them even harder. I think I can do that, they'll continue pompously as you angrily cock your arm back.

Yet still we sit here in our own little world, our Triathlon Matrix, if you will. Maybe every now and then, in the midst of one of these senseless conversations, we'll turn down the red pill and take the blue pill only to remember that the sport is still in it's infancy. Although triathlon is in the Olympics and although it is growing at a phenomenal rate, there is so much more room for expansion. The fact is that, although NBC can finally spell the name correctly, we are no more than a passing 90 minute segment in a year's worth of activity.

We can make fun of those ice sweeping curlers all we want. But we are, in a sense, kind of like them: a misunderstood sport. Hopefully as more and more people start participating in triathlons, that we will be seen as pioneers, boldly promoting a multi-sport lifestyle where health and happiness co-mingle with tenacity and masochism.

Sure everybody may not always understand why we do what we do. In fact, let those non-believers make fun of us all they want. But at least let them know what the sport is about. And, of course, make sure they know that we don't use brooms in our sport. We're much more manly. I mean, really... what kind of sport requires the use of a broom?!


jbmmommy said...

I've finally finished reading your whole blog and I'm so glad you decided to stick with it after your IM race in July. Your IM recap was one of the best I have read- while I'm not incredibly well read there have been many. It was great sharing the journey with you even if I was a few months late in joining in. As a newcomer to the sport- 2 sprints in this my first season- I wasn't much above the people that spelled triathlon with an extra "a" when I started. Now that I've found this whole world of multisport that embraces those of us that will never be great, I'm hooked. Thanks for your blog, I look forward to keeping up with your plans/training/opinions in the future.

j. said...

Thanks a lot for all your reading JB! God bless you... And, trust me, I think we all added an extra "a" to the word when we just started. That's part of the joy of racing triathlon - the continuous learning. I did my first race in 1992 and here I am, 14 years later, still feeling like I don't have it quite right. And everytime I go out there, I learn a little bit more about the person I am and the person I want to be.
Again, thanks for reading.

TriSaraTops said...

Just read this on trifuel--loved it! The best part is the local paper did a little write up on my race, which was very nice and sort of suggested by my school district (it made a nice PR story) :) and they spelled "triathalon" throughout the whole article.

Oh well. I kinda like bein' on the outskirts of things a bit, ya know?

j. said...

too funny about your paper spelling the sport incorrectly! it's so easy to take it all for granted by being here on "the inside".

Dawn - Pink Chick said...

Currently I am a runner and I haven't thrown a rock since in over 3 years. Yes, I confess I am a curler. Heck its the only sport that I've actually made it to the nationals in. Its actually a lot of fun. The challenge is in your ability to throw what's needed and to judge what's needed. There's a lot of logic involved in the game.

As for triathlons, they never really started interesting me until the last year or so. I've been following a few friends and bloggers that tri, even a couple that have made it to Ironman. I am in awe. Maybe I will even do a short one next year.

j. said...

What are the odds - a curler AND a triathlete in our presence! How wonderful. Rumor has it that the Olympics are considering including a Winter Triathlon event... I guess we'll just have to wait until then to test your true allegiance! ; )

Rock on.
(Pun intended)