Monday, September 28, 2009

The World Is Waiting for the Fifteenth Time

Welcome back, Amazing Racers! An all-new season is here! I already forgot who won last year. Was it Tammy and Victor? I think that sounds right. Our show of shows returns having just won it's 7th straight Emmy for Best Reality Competition show. TAR has never lost in that category, much to the chagrin of the American Idol producers.

This was a great premiere because we got rid of one useless team right from the start. I was a little nervous about what the pre-race elimination task would be, but when it turned out to be a task in reading the effing instructions, I was okay with it. Every season people simply refuse to read the clues correctly and it's ridiculous. I'm glad we were not made to suffer one of these teams right from the get go. I'd like to think the other teams learned a lesson about the importance of clue reading in this task, but maybe that's too much to hope for.

If getting rid of a clue-deficient team in the opening minutes wasn't enough, we also got rid of one of those on-and-off dating couples trying to test their relationship by the end of the second hour. These types of couples always make the most excruciating teams. I don't mind married or estranged couples making a go of the race. But couples who can't commit to each other in real life? They always grow to hate each other under the stress of The Race. It's not even fun television. It's just annoying. I've said it before and I'll apparently have to say it again: The Amazing Race is not the venue to see whether or not you really want to spend your life with someone. If you have issues but want to work it out, try counseling! I've always thought the best teams this show has produced were non-dating couples. So we were spared spending a few more weeks with a team that would likely have imploded in a very nasty way.

Now there are 10 teams left. I find it hard to predict a winner because there are so many variables on The Race. I'll split the remaining teams into 2 groups - ones i think have a good chance to make Final 3 and ones that i think are just not contenders.

The non-contenders are:

Mika and Canaan - I don't like this "newly dating" couple. Considering themselves "sexually pure" is not really something that's gonna come in handy as a racing skill. Also not really helpful? Canaan angrily professing how he'd like to rip Mika's head off when she was having difficulty in the second Road Block. Red flags, Mika! Red flags. He seems very competitive and intense which is good for racing, but she seems pretty weak. I don't know exactly when they'll bounce, but I believe it will be sooner rather than later.

Lance and Keri - This might just be wishful thinking on my part. They don't seem that weak, but he's kinda boorish and I wouldn't mind an early exit for this couple. They both seem quick to anger. They are engaged and... sigh... testing their relationship on the Race. We all know where this is heading. Blow-ups and meltdowns. I'm hoping it comes to a head around an Eighth Place elimination.

Marci and Ron - They are the token old people. I like them. I do. But they are slow. If they can add "and steady" to the "slow" they might be able to make a nice run in the competition over teams that move to fast and make silly mistakes. But they ALSO seem prone to silly mistakes, and if you make mistakes and can't recover quickly, that usually leads to an early exit.

Maria and Tiffany - I like these pro poker players. I think they have skills and could make a deep run of it... but they were already stressed and arguing with each other this week. Plus they couldn't complete the first roadblock and had to take a time penalty. These are not good signs. Killer Fatigue isn't even an issue yet! I think one or two bad taxi rides or a navigational issue while driving could push them over the edge. They did recover a bit in the second hour, so that's encouraging, but ultimately i think there are stronger teams in the mix.

Gary and Matt - I like this father/son team. They had a pretty good first two legs. I think they will Race well together. But I don't know how much hustle they have in them. Especially in the face of upcoming Killer Fatigue. Will 47-year-old Gary really be able to bring it home if it comes down to a foot race to the mat with a younger team? I am doubtful. But if they can stay in it long enough for them to believe they have an actual shot at the million they could get a second win that carries them to the end.

The Contenders

Brian and Ericka - I am on the fence about TAR's first interracial married couple. I like them. I want them to do well. I feel like they will either grow in strength as the Race goes on or they will flame out really fast. I think they will be the team that can race really well once they fall behind. They seem like a team that has enough toughness to keep themselves out of last place even if they spend a lot of time in the back of the pack. They seem nice, though. I'm rooting for them!

Sam and Dan - Gay brothers. If they don't have bad cab karma and can read the clues correctly, I think they have the skills to go far. They have a good attitude, are athletic and they seem pretty functional together. They don't want to tell the other racers they are gay which seems... odd. I can't understand why they think anyone would care, or how it could possibly affect their race.

Zev and Justin - Zev has Asperger's Syndrome. Justin does not. They seem like cool guys. I think they could be a team that's underestimated by the other teams but consistently find themselves in the middle of the pack. I don't know if they have what it takes to make it to Top 3, but I definitely see them in the top half. Best of luck, guys.

Megan and Cheyne (Pronounced Shane? ...i think?) - I think they have a really good chance to win. They are a dating couple but they are not on the race to test their relationship (thank you, Jeebus!). They have a long history together, both are athletic and have positive attitudes. I think they could strike a good balance between enjoying the experience of the race while running it hard. They don't strike me as easily stressed out people, and I hope they don't prove me wrong.

Herbert and Nathaniel - These two Harlem Globetrotters really seem to have the skills to take this to the end. They are natural competitors, have world travel experience, have a pre-existing bond as teammates not just as friends/family, have endearing personalities and are physically strong. On paper, they should have this in the bag. Please, fellas. Read your clues, fellas. And invest in some road maps.

Like I said before, there are lots of other variables in this race. There is much you can't control or anticipate. You can be hours behind and fight your way back, but also be way ahead and take a wrong turn and seal your fate. That's what makes the race so exciting. Good luck, Racers. Travel safe. The world is waiting and I am watching.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

30 days to 30

I have one month left of my 20's. One little month! Oh, how the time has flown by this year. Pleasantly enough, the few arbitrary things I'd decided I'd wanted to do before I turned 30 have been completed. I ran the NYC Marathon for the 1st time last November, I went skydiving in May and in two weeks I'm going on my solo European excursion. I don't know why I wanted to do these things with a 2 in the first digit of my age instead of a 3, but sometimes we get caught up in age benchmarks. Sometimes it's just a good way to make sure you get things done. It's nice to have a few life goals scratched off the list. The list is still long, but I look forward to crossing off a few more of them in the coming year, and to keep adding new things to the list as they present themselves. One currently pressing thing on the list: planning my 30th Birthday Party. Hmm... what to do...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Not My Foot Fault, Blame Aunt Flo

So by now I'm sure you've all heard 100 times how Serena Williams kinda lost it during her semifinal match against Kim Clijsters. While I don't condone Serena's outburst (i actually think The Open was not strong enough in the penalty against her) I understand why she got so upset. Foot Fault can be a very cheap call. There is no challenge for it and this year at the open it seemed line judges were calling them left and right. Not just against Serena, but against many others. I think there's a time and a place to call a foot fault and it's not always when a server's foot touches the line. If it's on a first serve and the player makes a blatant step into the playing field, then call the foot fault. If it's a second serve, with the player serving at 15-30 4-5 in the second set and it's a close call? You let the players play through. It's like during the NBA play-offs. The refs stop calling the little pushes so the players can PLAY. And in Serena's case it was a BAD call. She didn't even foot fault! So Serena was angry with herself for being behind and when she got that bogus foot fault call, she exploded. She shouldn't have done it, but she's human and emotion got the better of her. Also in her defense, I will say she immediately calmed down, and realized she was at fault. She went over and shook Kim's hand and showed up for her post-match press obligations and explained what happened. I thought she handled herself very well after the fact.

What's kinda funny now though, is that Serena is featured in the new ad campaign for Tampax in which she battles Mother Nature on the tennis court, pummeling her with tennis balls. You can't help but draw comparisons to when she threatened that little lines person with shoving a tennis ball down her throat. Judge for yourself.

Tampax is taking the "all press is good press" approach and not backing down from the ad campaign. I don't think they should either. I think it's kinda funny and maybe the timing is a little awkward, but Serena is an awesome champion and one little non-that-time-of-the-month outburst is going to tarnish that. Battle on, Serena. Show Mother Nature who's boss!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dream Fed Returns

Last night I had another dream about Roger Federer. It was not like last time when he was screaming at me. This time he was my best friend and we were at summer camp. We were playing double's tennis on a court that was inside our bunk house. At one point we made out with these blonde girls in the next bunk over. It was such a cool dream even though I don't remember a lot of it now. I only remembered I had it at all just a moment ago. I don't know why Roger popped up in my dreams again. Nor do I know why we keep playing indoor racket sports together. Why is this recurring dream imagery? What does it MEAN?

I never got to post about how happy I was that Federer lost to Del Po in the US Open final earlier this month. It's not that Fed wasn't deserving, it's just nice to see someone new win every once in a while. It's nice to see someone win their 1st major title. And it's nice to know that there's someone other than Rafa out there who can beat Fed in a final. It just makes the sport more interesting this way. I don't think Fed is done winning major titles but it's good to have more names in the conversation of who can win a main event. This year was the first year since 2003 when no men's champion successfully defended their Slam title, and I think that made for some really memorable tennis. All four Grand Slam Finals were for the ages (The French more for Fed's breakthrough on clay and completing the Career Slam rather than the match itself, but still that's pretty major.)

But back to the dream. Fed and I were such great friends! And then I woke up and I had to accept that it wasn't true. Dream friendships can be so bittersweet. I think it's a worse feeling than when you dream of a bad fight with someone you DO know, and then the whole next day you're inexplicably mad at them or suspicious of their behavior. At least in that situation reality can reinforce that your friend is still there and still cares about you. In the "dream friends" situation, reality can only reinforce that something good you felt isn't based on anything. I think it's a terrible cheat.

Also... maybe I'm too hard on Fed when I'm awake. Maybe I should try to be more supportive out of respect for our dream friendship. In case he shows up again in Dream World, I want him to know that in reality I had his back.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fat Chances, 2nd Time Around

Another season of Biggest Loser is finally here and it's just in the nick of time. I need my weekly dose of BL on Tuesday nights. My fascination with BL has been much documented on this blog. But right now, it's gonna be a crucial part of my marathon motivation. You see, Monday is routinely my day off from training and having enjoyed that day just sitting on my ass, when Tuesday comes around it's tempting to never run again. Then I watch an episode of Biggest Loser and before the first hour is over, I've got my running shirt and gym shorts on, and I'm heading out for a nice 10k run on the treadmill. It's great motivation, let me tell you.

Every season BL tries to raise the bar in fat contestants and heartbreaking stories. Each season you think, "they can't possibly find fatter unhappier people than the ones from last year." But find them they do, and this season is no exception. This season is dubbed "Second Chances." It seems like half the contestants are over 400 lbs and some have suffered the worst of possible tragedies in their lives. Take, for instance, Abby. In a horrible car crash, she lost her husband, her 5 year old daughter and 2 and a half week old son. Just hearing about it is almost unbearable. I can't imagine living it. But here this woman is trying to pick herself up, get herself healthy and make a difference. It's so inspiring. That's why I love this show. I love when people make the decision to reclaim their lives and their bodies no matter what tragedy they have faced. This show always works best when they cast nice personalities. People you WANT to see succeed. Hopefully they have chosen only people who want to get healthy and not "game-players." Those people can be very frustrating on a show like this.

So along with more pounds and more tragedy, the show also aims for more drama. It sure delivered in its first challenge last week. Not a half hour into the show, and two contestants were sent to the hospital. TWO! Let's take a look at Tracey. In the first task, everyone had to run a mile on the beach. It was an homage to the last mile of the marathon last year's finalists had to run at the end of their stay at the ranch. Tracey started strong - a little too strong in fact. She went from being in the lead, to getting passed by everyone, to falling down into the sand when her legs turned to jelly just a few hundred feet from the finish line. As a show of solidarity several contestant went out to help her across the finish.

She resisted at first, wanting to do it herself, but eventually she made it across with their assistance. Immediately after she crossed the finish line, she collapsed in a heap on the ground.

Medical teams worked on her trying to revive her to consciousness, but they could not. She didn't die (thank god) but she couldn't breathe well, couldn't sit up and couldn't respond to verbal commands. This first challenge didn't look like such a great idea at this point, did it Alison Sweeney?

Eventually she was airlifted to the hospital where she stayed for the rest of the 2-hour episode. She was not kicked off the show, and we assume she will return this week. It just goes to show you that this shit is no joke and that these people really are in really poor physical condition. This opportunity is the life or death for them and that is not hyperbole. The thing is, I already like Tracey and I wanmt her back and doing well ASAP.

It's always sad to see people get kicked off this show, because they all really need to lose weight. I'm glad to have them back on my TV so I can celebrate their progress and remind myself to get out aand run another day. Not because I'm a super-fatty, but because regular exercise is important and it's good to have done something each day to make you feel proud. Just like the theme song asks of you!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

No You "Sang" Chicken

Years ago, I went with a friend's family to Disney World. It was one of the best vacations ever. One night while we were hanging out at our hotel room, we decided to play Taboo. One of the words my friend Beth got was "Chicken." She decided to sing the KFC theme song as a clue, without using words. What came out was "da-da-da-da chicken, da-da -" BUZZZZ!!!! Beth was momentarily confused, and then realized her mistake. "Oh, I said chicken!" "No," we corrected her, "You SANG Chicken." And then we all laughed. It was just funny because she avoided all the words she could say and said the one she wasn't. It became a thing we said for a long time after: No, you SANG chicken. Good times.

Yesterday, a new chapter in the book of "Inexplicable Mentionings of Chicken" was written. For reasons unknown, New York anchor Ernie Anastos seemingly lost his mind on live TV. He was talking with local weatherman Nick Gregory, they were joking around and then chicken was mentioned in a most bizarre fashion causing co-anchor Dari Alexander's to make this face (click on the pic to magnify for full effect):

What exactly did he say? Follow this link to see for yourself. As if that wasn't bad enough, later on in the clip, Anastos cuts off Alexander mid-sentence to let her know how good she looks in work-out gear.

Do you think that Anastos was: a) drunk b) high c) both a and b d) suffering some sort of mental breakdown.

Man, for my money that dude just sang chicken. I love it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Rafa Round Up - 3rd Round, Quarters and Semis

Much like Rafa's rain-delayed Quarterfinal match that stretched over three days, my posts about Nadal's matches also fell behind schedule. By now, Rafa's tourney is over but here's a recap of some of the highs and lows.

Tuesday Night, Rafa won his Round of 16 match against Gael Monfils with a solid 6-7, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3. I'm not a big fan of Monfils because every time he wins a point he acts as if he has won the whole effing tournament. He jumps around all over the place, is hyper-animated and talks to himself. It's like he's a character in Street Fighter IV. It's too much. When he won the first set in a tie break, he acted like the match was over. Rafa didn't take too well to that, and he gave him a hard stare as if to ask "how much you got left in that tank, buddy? we're far from done." But to answer that unspoken question, Monfils didn't have much left in the tank at all. Rafa wore him down and halfway through the second set Monfils looked exhausted and his level of play dropped drastically. And then Rafa cruised to victory. Woohoo!

THURSDAY, he played against Gonzo in the Quarters, and during their match the skies effing opened up after almost of being completely overcast. Nadal was leading 7-6 2-2 when the rain first stopped play, but they managed to play again for a little while until another shower stopped things for good with Gonzo serving at 6-6 (2-3) down in the second-set tiebreak.

We made no progress on Friday as rain washed out the whole day and pushed the women's final to Sunday and the men's final back to Monday. On Saturday around noon they resumed the match and Rafa really just ran over Gonzalez winning the last four points of the tiebreak and the next set at love. The final score was -6 (7-4), 7-7 (7-2), 6-0. It was lucky for Rafa too, because shortly after they finished it started raining again! Rafa looked really good and it did not look like his ab injury was really affecting him...

Which cannot be said for his Semi-Final Match against del Potro. I was always worried about this match. Del Po had a very strong summer and a very good tourney heading into this match. Rafa never looked good in this match from the start. He couldn't make any kind of impact on the match at all - very unusual for Rafa! In the end, Del Po was just too strong and he beat Rafa easily in straight sets - 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. It's very sad, but Rafa did the best he could. I can ask for no more than that.

He managed to come back from his knee injury and equal his performance from last year's US Open. That's really impressive. And by making it to the semis, Rafa has gained enough points to retake the No. 2 ranking from Murray. So things are moving in the right direction. Hopefully Rafa will have time to rest his ab strain and he'll be able to make a good run of things for the last few tourney's of the season.

I'm proud of Rafa's effort in this tournament. He played some thrilling matches and went far into the field. For me, getting to see him in person on the practice courts on Labor Day and getting one of his practice balls afterwards was a huge thrill for me. I wish him the best and a speedy recovery. Rafa may not always win, but he never disappoints! Vamos!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

So You Think You Can Take A Hiatus?

Can we talk about this picture for a minute? Doesn't it look like somehow the spotlights are inflicting pain upon these people? The guy really looks like he's shielding his face and the girl looks like she just got shot in the back. What's going on here promo people? SYTYCD is not a death sport.

Anyway, So You Think You Can Dance is back tonight. It feels like it never left! Jeanine won only 5 weeks ago, but here we are already on our way to find a new champion. I won't start recapping until after we get to the Top 20, so I get a couple more weeks of rest. I'm interested to see how this fall season works. For SYTYCD die-hard fans, it's difficult to have to wait all the way until American Idol has its finale at the end of May before the show returns. So it's nice to have it in the regular fall line-up. The more of Cat Deely I can get, the better, I just hope they found great dancers and that they advanced some b-boys and b-girls to the Top 20 this season. I liked season 5's top 20 but they were heavy on contemporary and it hurt all the hip hop routines.

I also hope that my DVR works better with SYTYCD this season. All this summer the DVR would shut off in the middle of recording. It was very frustrating, since full episodes are not streamed by Fox online. Mine was not the only DVR to suffer problems with SYTYCD. It's as if Fox in a bid to boost ratings is trying to force us to watch it live for fear that we should go out and do something else and then come home to find the recording shut off 8 minutes in.

Still these are minor issues, all things considered. Welcome back, Show of Shows! I'm ready to accept my responsibility of helping to chose America's Favorite Dancer.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Rafa Round 3: Hurt So Good

Yesterday, Nadal defeated fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro (7-5 6-4 6-4) to advance into the fourth round of the US Open. It was an odd match in that the server kept getting broken over and over again. That's very odd for Men's Tennis where it's usually one break of serve alone that will decide the set of a match.

Even stranger, in the third set Rafa was leading and then suddenly BOTH players needed a medical time out. Rafa was getting treated for an ab strain and Almagro was treated for his back. It was so odd to see both of them go from playing high level tennis to them lying on the court in pain.

Rafa had a patch applied to his stomach, and Almagro got some deep massage and thankfully they both got up to finish the match. Rather hilariously, Rafa had to switch shirts after being treated and the crowd shrieked about it like he was one of the stars of Twilight. He was asked about it in his court-side post-victory interview and it made him blush. Aw, Rafa!

For Rafa's winning efforts he gets to face 13th seed Gael Monfils of France on Tuesday. I'm a little bit nervous about this match. I hope he comes out strong tomorrow night and doesn't give Monfils a chance to get in the groove. Still it was a great effort in the third round. Vamos Rafa!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Rafa's Round 2: Crowd Control

So Nadal won on Friday night against his second round opponent Nicolas Kiefer, 6-0, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. I thought it was a pretty solid second round display.

Nadal won the opening set quickly, blanking Kiefer 6-0, but then things got tricky in the second set. Kiefer upped his game considerably and it threw Rafa off his rhythm. It took Rafa time to adjust and in the process he lost the second set. Now, while I would love straight set wins for Rafa every time, that's just not possible. Even losing the second set and looking a bit rattled, I never thought he was in danger of losing the match. The commentators were wringing their hands over it, but I didn't see a big problem in Nadal's game.

I DID see a big problem in the crowd at Arthur Ashe stadium. When Rafa started making mistakes they started cheering for Kiefer and chanting his name. I understand the folks there wanted to see a real match and not a 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 rout, but it felt uncomfortably similar to when the French crowd cheered for Rafa to lose at Roland Garros this year. Don't cheer at Rafa's mistakes! What's wrong with you mo-fos? Rafa is coming back from injury, he was unable to defend his Wimbledon title, his ranking dropped from 1st to 3rd because he couldn't defend his ranking points, and you CHEER his mistakes in his first major tournament back? Does he not play with enough HEART for you? You can't wish for his opponent to play well without jumping on Rafa's errors?? It's unbelievable. You should've heard the expletives I was hurling at my TV on Friday night. I'm sure the Domestic Dispute Couple that lives in my building were taking copious notes for the next time they want to have a dramatic argument that wakes everyone up at 2:30 in the morning on a weeknight.

Nadal, for his part, didn't worry about it too much and focused on the game. "It was a very good test for me, no?," Rafa said courtside after the match. "When you win the first set easy and then he starts to play better it's difficult. Nicolas is a great player, he played a good match and I'm very happy to beat him," But seriously, spectators, get with it.

Today Nadal meets Nicolas Almagro (who won in 5 sets over my ex-girlfriends pretend boyfriend Robbie Ginepri) in the third round. I don't really know Almagro that well. Hopefully he will not pose too much trouble for Rafa and the crowd will be supportive as he deserves it to be.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Rome, If You Want To

Today I booked myself a weekend trip to Rome. I am very excited! I have always wanted to go to Italy and I had promised myself this year I'd take a vacation to somewhere outside of the country that I'd never been before, so this Columbus Day Weekend I'm going on an adventure. I now get to spend the next month figuring out what exactly I want to do in Rome while I'm there. I'm staying in a hotel right near the Coliseum, so clearly I will be seeing that, but everything else is up in the air and I'm on my own to go in search of it. I'm pretty much giddy over the possibilities.

This trip is an early birthday gift to myself, as turning 30 is only a few weeks away! If you've spent any time in Rome and would like to send me info on sites to see or skip, places to eat, etc. I would greatly appreciate it!

1st Round Victory! Vamos Rafa!

Congrats to Rafa for taking down his good friend and 1st round opponent, Richard Gasquet, Wednesday at the US Open. This match was a bit of a question mark in the press since Rafa has been sidelined with injury and Gasquet has been out under a cocaine suspension. When the actual match got under way, however, it was clear that Rafa was back in top form, while Gasquet still had a lot of rust to shake off. In the end it was a quick match; 6-2 6-2 6-3 in Rafa's favor.

"I felt well out there," Rafa said. "I served very well in the important moments and my backhand was very good today. My forehand was good at the start and then I made a few mistakes, but it doesn't matter. I am very happy to be in the second round."

Next up is Nicholas Kiefer. Destroy him, Rafa! Vamos!