Monday, January 4, 2010

Underwhelmed: Hari-kiri and the survival of the dumbest.

As I stepped outside this morning and felt the sting of cold air in my nostrils, I was reminded of an incident that occured during the bitterly cold winter of 1985, when I was on the 8th grade basketball team.  It was Christmas break, so the school was closed, however we had an early Saturday morning basketball practice scheduled.  The temperature was -4 degrees that morning.  I threw on my practice uniform, then layered heavy sweatpants, sweatshirt and jacket over top to keep warm on my way to the gym.  My father drove me over to the junior high, and upon entering the gymnasium, my teammates and I were quite surprised that we could actually see our breath.  It seems that the boilers had been shut off over the holiday break, leaving the interior of the gym frigidly cold.  As coach Dillon headed off to the boiler room, the assistant coach started us off running suicide drills - the typical, and much dreaded way every practice began.  For those of you not educated in the way of the suicide, permit me a few lines to enlighten you.  The suicide (also known as a hara-kiri, so named for being a form of ritual suicide) is a sprint drill in which you start at the baseline underneath the basket at one end of the court, run to the foul line, squat to touch it, then return to the baseline from whence you came, squat and touch it, then sprint to the midcourt line, squat and touch it, return to the baseline, touch, sprint to the opposite foul line, touch, return to the base line, touch, sprint to the opposite base line, touch, then sprint all the way back to the original starting point.  Not to overstate the obvious, but suicides are named 'suicides' and not 'jaunty-jaunts' or 'lolly-gags' because they hurt like hell.

The team was split into three groups, so that as group 1 dry heaved from completing one suicide, groups 2 and 3 would run theirs.  Then group 1 was back up again to run another.  And the cycle continued.  A typical practice session started with us running suicides for about 30 minutes, with the hallitotic Coach Dillon screaming at us incessantly that he would "Make us run these all f***ing day long if we didn't speed up."  And now, just a moment on 1980's era basketball apparel.  For those that never got to experience playing basketball in the mid 80's, the shorts were very appropriately named, as they barely covered one's thighs.  As such, providing warmth was not one of their features. 

Therefore, as we began to run our suicides that particular January morning, we all did so still heavily garbed in sweatpants, sweatshirts and jackets over our practice shorts and jerseys because of the near-freezing temperature in the building.  Soon, though, we heard the hiss of steam coming through the radiators, and combined with the increasing body heat attributed to the suicide drills, each of us began to warm up and thus started to shed our outerwear piecemeal. 

It was about this time that the 7th and 8th grade girls' basketball teams showed up for their practice on the other court.  I paid little notice to them, as I was busy trying to coordinate both refraining from vomiting after my last suicide and simultaneously unsticking the zipper on my jacket.  After much struggling, I finally pulled the jacket off over my head along with the sweatshirt, leaving me in my t-shirt and sweat pants only.  My group was then back at the line - and we took off on our next suicide.  During this drill, I became noticeably more warm as the radiators were now in full force and this was my 10th or 11th run.  As I completed the drill and started waiting for my turn again, I decided to shed my sweatpants.  I pulled each leg of heavy material off over my hightops just in time to start the next drill.  As Coach Dillon's whistle blew signaling us to to sprint to the foul line, I instantly sensed something was awry.  I squatted and touched the foul line and began my sprint back to the baseline at which I point I squatted again to touch it.  As I headed back toward the half-court line, I, again, began to sense a bizarre sensation of being hot, and yet at the same time very cool.  It was then I noticed some snickering coming from the girl's basketball teams who were gathered at the edge of our court and looking at us and laughing.  I squatted and touched the half-court line and began my return sprint to the base court line when I heard Dillon scream my name.  At this point, I noticeably sensed a coolness on my ass which made me look down.  Below my T-shirt, and above my high tops, all that was covering my nether region was a stretched out jock strap.  Somehow, in the early delerium of a Saturday morning, I had forgotton to put on my shorts under my sweatpants, and was now bare-assing it down the basketball court in front of the entire 7th and 8th grade girls' teams, my own team and my prick of a coach.  I didn't stop to touch the basecourt line, but rather ran right over it and out of the gym, into the men's locker room.

Why do I bother telling you all of this?  Because 'fitting in' is a struggle that I've had my whole life.  The jockstrap incident could have been perceived as an incredible daring act of bravado, if I had played it off correctly, but instead, made me the butt of a neverending series of jokes....pun entirely I was soon refered to as the 'ass-man.'  What could have been a defining moment for my adolescence, setting the stage for the perception of possessing a reckless, devil-may-care attitude in high school, was instead replaced by ridicule for the "skinniest, whitest ass" anyone had ever seen.  If only I had taken a lap around the gym and feigned defiance at my coach, while waving at everyone, once I realized both cheeks of my ass were being held only by two flimsy straps and my pre-pubescent genitalia was covered only with a thin piece of ribbed, white cotton, instead of bolting out of the room like a spastic, wild animal fearing capture.  Sure - I may have spent the rest of the week doing suicide drills and riding the bench for the next 5 games, but that was going to happen anyway.  The line between incredible stunt and buffoonery was much too fine for my 12 year old brain to discern and comprehend in the heat of the moment.   But clearly, such fine lines are not always detected, and many fall into the side of favor by merely dumb luck.

Thus, I am baffled by how some people slide effortlessly into success and acceptance, and are respected and revered for doing little to nothing to earn it, while other talented and hardworking people go largely unnoticed.  More specifically, how do some in the world of cycling find themselves as "favorite sons" while other countless cyclists never find their place in the spotlight.  I would submit that recently, the cycling community has introduced into the culture an antithesis to Darwinism.  The fittest are not surviving, the dumbest are.

Take 'Wonka.'  Actually his name is Edward LaForte, but his personna is "Wonka."  He is the new rider and spokesman for GOrilla Bikes, and as such gets flown to the headquarters in Zurich for consultion during testing, and then throughout Italy for promo tours and design development.  He is given any bike and any equipment he asks for, at any time.  Should he bend a fork - he gets a new one immediately.  Need a new toe strap?  It's in the mail.  One might think that Edward, errr...Wonka...has a degree in mechanical engineering and can thus contribute intellectually to the novel frame designs.  Or perhaps he has studied marketing to better assess sales strategies for yet another brand of fixed gear bike. 

Maybe we could ask Wonka himself?

He seems a little confused at the moment.  This photo was taken from a video promo for GOrilla bicycles which is rapidly working its way through the cycling blogosphere and has been labeled as being both 'sick' and 'dope' with Wonka himself being labeled as a trickster genius.  The video consists of Wonka jumping his GOrilla fixed gear over a burning palette. Period.  I refuse to post the video, but will share the link here, in case you are craving some serious underwhelm-ment - which I know is not a word, and yet describes the state I'm left in perfectly.

What I will show you, however, is another "teaser trailer' for GOrilla bikes in which Wonka describes his new European life style.

It appears as though each new fixie sold today comes with a video camera and vimeo account so that the ever-growing population of fixie cyclists can document the development of their 'dope skillz'.  All claim to be working on a "new cycling documentary" to give the public a glimpse into the urban cycling community.  As such, the videos are labeled as 'trailers' because, certainly, a larger feature film comprised of this fascinating material is sure to follow.  By in large, cycling itself can be rather boring as a spectator sport. Pair with it a lack of anything meaningful as far as competition, strategy or objective and videos of this sort become more boring to watch than this

However, what makes the videos slightly more entertaining is if one of them puts the cyclist in situations where irradication from not only the cycling community, but also from the global community at large is imminent.  Take the 'trailer' entitled No Cassettes by FonsecaFilms.

Perhaps this cyclist is trying his own version of hara-kiri.   Or perhaps this is just the quickest way for a cyclist (and I use the term loosely to descibe him) to find himself in the hands of good favor these days.  No doubt there is a major Hollywood studio madly sending tweets to his Twitter account, and his endorsment deals are waiting for him as we speak, with offers from bicycle companies to fly him to Zurich and Italy for frame building consultation. 

I'd rather go out in an underwhelming and anonymous blaze of glory in my jock strap.

Pedal on!

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