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Posts tagged ‘victory’

Good News On The Sands

I was born and raised at the beach and, while no one would confuse me for an athlete, I have a deep appreciation for beach sports. Thus it was with a heavy heart that I reported back in August on the demise of the AVP, the professional beach volleyball tour. Those of us who care for the sport feared we were entering a dark decade, but it appears that the light at the end of the tunnel is a lot closer than we had feared.

When the AVP collapsed the week before the iconic Manhattan Beach Open, the California Beach Volleyball Association stepped in, allowing the event to proceed – albeit in a much smaller version. That was a one-time deal, however, and the rest of the season was cancelled. That left the tour players – among them, the defending Olympic Men’s and Women’s champions – with no domestic options to ply their craft or hone their skills. Worse, the only Olympic-qualifing events would now be overseas as part of the FIVB tour, meaning the best American players would play in Europe, and the rest would be unemployed. By the time a new domestic tour could be organized and financed, the current generation of players would be long retired – and no one would be there to replace them.

I’m happy to report that the Doomsday scenario described above might just be avoided. USA Volleyball, the governing body for the sport in America, has partnered with event management giant IMG to form a new professional beach volleyball tour – and it starts next year!

The Beach Championship Series will consist of four to six events and include tournaments in Hermosa Beach, Huntington Beach, Chicago and Belmar, NJ. In addition, the USAV will operate the Olympic trials for the first time since 1996.

“This represents USA Volleyball’s continuing commitment to and investment in beach volleyball,” said USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal in a statement released Monday. “This partnership will allow us to promote the beach game while giving U.S. beach volleyball teams the opportunity to compete at a high level as we move toward London in 2012.”

There’s more good news associated with the announcement. Dave Williams, formerly the VP of Operations for the AVP and they guy who produced over 150 of their tournaments, has been hired as the Managing Director for the new USA Beach Volleyball, meaning there’ll be an experienced hand at the controls.

Personally, I think this is great news. It’s nice to see USAV working on the beach side of things for a change, and bringing the right people into the mix to insure success. It’ll be interesting to see if they integrate Manhattan Beach into their series – key to long term success – but this is a big step in the right direction for fans of the sport.

The Best Of Us All

As I write this, Luis Urzua has just stepped from a small metal cylinder onto the rocky ground above the San Jose Mine in the Chilean desert. Urzua, foreman and leader of the 33 miners trapped for nearly 70 days after a collapse sealed the only exit to the mine, was the last of the miners to be rescued – like the captain of a ship, he refused to leave until all of his charges had preceded him. As he exited the Fenix 2 rescue capsule that brought freedom to the trapped miners, he was bathed in the bright lights of media cameras and washed over with the loving embrace of a world of rapt witnesses.

Like the rest of the world, I was unable to turn away from the coverage. Cynics and conspiracy theorists will decry the tight control and choreography of the event by the Chilean government, who dictated everything from where the media could be to the t-shirt-and-custom-Oakley-sunglasses wardrobe each miner wore to the surface, but even the harshest critic was stunned when the government began to stream live video from within the survival chamber deep underground – just as the first rescue capsule arrived. Over the next day, miner after miner made the ride to the surface to be met with fresh air, family members, and the Chilean president. Some cried, some prayed, some exalted – all were elated. It was human theater on the grandest of scales.

We salute you, amigo ...

Commentary and coverage of this event can be found everywhere, so I’ll spare you the same talk of the heroic miners, their stoic families, and the hard-working team (including American drillers brought in from Afganistan to dig the escape tunnel) – all of which is true. To me, everything that is right and good about this wonderful outcome is personified by Manuel Gonzalez. A mine rescue expert, it was Gonzalez who first strapped himself into the untested rescue capsule for the first ride down 2,000 feet to the miners below. At a time when so much was being done to bring the miners out of the mine, it was Gonzalez – much like the heroic FDNY rescuers of the World Trade Center – who volunteered to take that ride into the unknown. Imagine for a moment what that must have been like – 15 minutes in a metal tube scant inches wider than your shoulders, surrounded by millions of tons of rocks with no control over your descent. It’s the stuff of nightmares – and hero tales.

To say the miners’ lives will never be the same is the silliest of understatements – hell, there’s already discussion about who should play them in the movie version of the rescue – but all of us who joined together in this worldwide event are changed forever. I was too young to appreciate the enormity of the first footsteps on the moon, but I have no doubt that this rescue will resonate through the ages in much the same way. It showed what can be done when everyone puts aside the petty issues of the day and brings all they have to bear on a challenge of momentous proportions. We are reminded once again that there is no issue that cannot be resolved, no problem that cannot be solved, no challenge that cannot be met if we apply the best of us all.

One last image for the ages:

And You Think Your Feet Hurt …

Ah, Labor Day – that big end-of-the-summer holiday weekend. One last shot to fire up the barbecue, pound down a beer and run on the beach. I can’t speak to your individual food or drink intake this weekend, but I’m confident you can’t touch Christian Burke when it comes to the beach running thing.

Burke, an ultramarathon athlete from Hermosa Beach, decided to run between the Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach piers on Sunday – a challenging run in the deep beach sand for the best of us. But where we might have stopped after one transit to rest and recuperate, Burke kept going … and going … and going … for a full 24 hours!

Burke’s daughter attends Hermosa Beach schools which, like most public school systems, face a budgetary crisis these days. Burke decided to take his love of his daughter and his skills as an athlete and combine the two to raise money for the school system by trying to break the Guinness World Record for distance running in soft sand during a twenty-four hour period.

It wasn’t just sand Burke was running in. He was running in abrasive Southern California sand along the Strand wall. Burke ran in that area to raise awareness among the onlookers from Fiesta Hermosa and hopefully raise more money.

It might have worked. Gary, homeless in Hermosa, dropped his last dollar in the big donations jar after witnessing Burke struggle back and forth.

After Burke finished his 24th and final lap just before noon Monday, about 24 hours after he started, TV camera crews, friends, supporters and even Mayor Michael DiVirgilio were on hand to greet and congratulate him.

Burke invited all to attend a celebratory after-party at the Union Cattle Co. But before he headed off to shower, he collapsed in a camping chair under his tent and reflected on his accomplishment.

“The hardest part was the last two laps,” Burke said. “As soon as I started thinking about the end that’s when it began to get a bit dramatic and my brain began to shut off.

“I didn’t know what it would be like to run that distance in sand. Nobody knew, right? Well, it was as unforgiving as I expected it to be. But you know, coming out here and doing it and seeing for myself, it was a handful. It was tough.”

Starting at noon Sunday, Burke completed 24 laps between the piers, covering 83.04 miles; the old record of 62.28 miles was shattered around 3AM. Money was raised both by donations from visitors to the nearby Fiesta Hermosa and from those who paid for the privilige of joining Burke on one of his laps. As for Burke himself, his feet are sore and blistered, but he still mustered enough strength to attend the after-event party.

If you’d like to donate to Christian Burke’s Hermosa24 effort, you can do so at hermosa24.com.

Don’t Be Stupid, Stupid …

I’m not in the sports prediction business, but I think there’s pretty good chance the Lakers will win tonight’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals, and be crowned champions of the basketball world.  A much easier prediction to make is that if the first one comes true, a large number of people will be rioting in the streets outside Staples Center, with one or more being crowned Dumbass of the Day.

I’ve never completely understood why it is that people riot when they win.  I get the whole righteous indignation leading to urban violence – Rodney King or Watts or May Day or any number of other injustices leave people angry and frustrated, and that rock at their feet seems like a pretty good release.   But how exactly is it that what ought to be a joyous celebration –  wisely monitored by the authorities – becomes a reason to smash and loot?

Back in the day, Staples Center stood out among the blighted region immediately south of Downtown LA.  There were abandoned buildings surrounding the place, and a huge parking lot on the north side.  People could still get onery, but they had to walk a pretty good distance before they ran into anything of substance, and one hoped that the frustration level was mitigated by the exercise.   In spite of that, when the Lakers won the title in 2000, looters destroyed a pair of police cars and damaged 70 other vehicles.

Now, however, Staples is the centerpiece of the “LA Live” complex.  New restaurants and upscale businesses surround the place, and that parking lot is now the Nokia Theatre – there’s a whole lot to break these days.  After last year’s victory, a crowd of knuckleheads got rowdy outside Staples, starting fires and throwing rocks – and that was with the game having been in Orlando.

As you might imagine, the police presence will be pretty significant tonight.  LAPD Chief Charlie Beck plans on having 4 to 5 times the number of police on hand this year compared to last, and the LA County Sheriff has several hundred deputies on call should backup be required. 

The eyes of the media world will be on LA tonight – for once, let’s not embarass ourselves.

Is That … Sunshine??

Homer says five and a half ...

Homer says five and a half ...

Here at the Home Office we love to laugh at the weathermen, but once in a while they get it right.  They predicted we’d get pounded with rain this week, and boy did we!  I’ve lived in this house for 15 years, and with the exception of the particularly nasty storms we got back in ’98, this was the worst I’ve seen.

Looking at the trust rain gauge – otherwise known as a Homer Bucket, we can see that 5 1/2 inches of rain has fallen here since Monday morning.  Most of it came in four fast-moving storms that were each followed by eerie calm, although today was a more traditional soaker.  In any case, it’s more rain than we’ve gotten in many full seasons, and a welcome gift.

The truly amazing thing about these storms is the relatively minor impact they’ve had on the hillsides that surround Los Angeles, particularly the ones where last fall’s wildfires left them particularly vulnerable.  Nearly 1000 homes were preemptively evacuated, fearing the rivers of mud that all this rain would doubtless cause.  So far, though, the hillsides are holding.

This weekend is supposed to be clear, but there’s a possibility of another storm next week.  It’ll be nothing like what we saw this week, though – and I suspect it’s going to be quite a few years before we do again!

Up And Away!

If you’ll excuse a small indulgence, I’m going to be a Boeing homer for a moment. One of the big stories that went down late in the year was the potential first flight of our new 787 Dreamliner, an oft-delayed event that some felt might never come. Welll, I’m happy to report that it came indeed – twice!

Off We Go!

Off We Go!

On December 15th, thousands of Boeing employees and family members braved chilly Seattle weather to watch as the first Dreamliner lifted off the ground at Payne Field in Everett, WA. Several hours later, it landed safely – in a rainstorm, no less – at Boeing Field in Seattle. I, unfortunately, was unable to be there, but was able to watch the historic moment via webcast – and even got a screenshot of the liftoff! A week later, on the 22nd, Dreamliner #2 made the same flight, the second of the six 787s destined to perform in the flight test program.

Most of the headlines recently about the 787 have been negative, so it’s good to have some positive news to report for a change. Now all we have to do is start rollin’ ’em out!

A Stimulus Package I Can Support

With our government spending money like drunken sailors for everything under the sun in the name of economic stimulus, I’m happy to find an example of “make-work”‘ spending that I can actually get behind. A group in Washington will receive stimulus money to remove old fishing nets from Puget Sound – nets that continue to kill long after they were lost. I don’t know if this project qualifies as technically “shovel-ready” – it’s underwater!

Divers swim close to 100 feet down to an environment that is anything but friendly. Instead of using scuba equipment, they breathe through air hoses running from the boat above. When the divers find the fields of nets, they begin the labor of cutting them free piece by piece and all by hand. Removing one net can take days.

The nets are then pulled to the boat waiting on the surface. In just a few hours on the water, the divers can pull free about 1,000 pounds of nets. Inside are the bones of countless fish and birds, along with several species of protected sharks and crabs. Anything still alive is cut free and thrown back in the water. Then, biologist Jeff June notes what they have brought up. So far, he says, the group has identified 112 distinct species trapped in the nets.

One of the complaints against many forms of commercial fishing is the lack of foresight given to the methods, and this is a classic example. The nets were deployed, were lost, and were written off as a cost of doing business. But while the nets might have been forgotten, they continued to hunt and kill long after the fishermen had replaced them. This is one time when at least a small part of that damage can be ended.

One Man’s Asshat Is Another Man’s Ear Mullet

Lemme tell ya – it ain’t easy being a visionary.

They laughed when we described the potential issue with people running around with their bluetooth earpieces stapled to the side of their heads like some kind of jewelry long after the call had ended. They snickered when we provided not only a term for the device – “asshat” – but the dork wearing it – “Asshat.” They shook their heads sadly at the thought that they themselves might actually be one of those “asshats squared” wandering around in public like some kind of Uhura without her post.


ToMAYto ... toMAHto ... ear mullet ... asshat

We took the heat, even though we knew we were right, because we knew that the day would come when we would be proven right.

And that day is today.

In their August 2009 issue, no less an authority on all things tech and cool – and tech cool – than WIRED Magazine has made it clear what they think of Asshats with asshats:

Admit it: You sometimes leave your Jawbone headset on after hanging up the phone. Perhaps spending your formative years watching The Six Million Dollar Man and RoboCop gave you the mistaken impression that upgrading your body with electronics is the height of cool. Let’s be clear: Walking around with a Bluetooth device in your ear is pure douchebaggery. There is no excuse for it.

In an article dedicated to the many fashion faux paus brought on by our newly technological lifestyles, they even committed the cover of the issue to the asshat dilemma.  Referring to their cover image of movie heartthrob Batt Pitt – playing the role of the Asshat with asshat – WIRED states:

Rule No. 52: Ditch the headset. He can barely pull it off — and you are not him,” a blurb on the magazine front says.

Smell that?  It smells like … victory!

WIRED even came up with a name for the thing that is just as cool as ours, and a little more socially acceptable – ear mullets. Asshat … ear mullet … they do roll off the tongue in a similar fashion, and both conjure up equally silly visual images. Being the benevolent kind of guy I am, I’ll accept the term “ear mullet” as the new description of the bluetooth device – but I’m keeping Asshat for anyone caught wearing it when not on a call …