June 2, 2008

monday morning reads

Posted in sufficiently entertaining at 10:12 am by squishy

a.k.a. Things I wish I could’ve written, but sadly could not possibly dream of writing.

All of these are long (some even longer than others) and may not initially interest you, but I really recommend them.

Fred Rogers: Can you say hero? by Tom Junod (Esquire): a feature on Mister Rogers of PBS and international fame. I admit I misted up a little.

The Cynic and Senator Obama by Charles P. Pierce (Esquire): Can seem a bit repetitive, but nonetheless well written.

I really didn’t need that stew by Joe Posnanski, on his greatest day of sportswriting. I don’t care if you don’t care about sports. Go read it.

– … and the actual column that was published in the Kansas City Star about Joe Posnanski’s greatest day of sportswriting, after the jump.

COPYRIGHT 2000 The Kansas City Star

Byline: Joe Posnanski

SYDNEY, Australia – OK, let’s try to start it this way: A man named Rulon Gardner, who grew up on a Wyoming dairy farm, on Wednesday pulled off what might be the single greatest upset in Olympic history when he shocked the legendary and undefeated Russian wrestler Alexandre Karelin, no, wait, this story’s bigger than all that. Let’s try it again.

SYDNEY, Australia – Rulon Gardner, who used to be called “Fatso,” by schoolmates when he was growing up in Afton, Wyo., defeated Russian legend Alexandre Karelin Wednesday. Karelin, a nine-time world champion and three-time Olympic champion, had never lost an international wrestling match. Wait. Stop. That doesn’t quite capture the scene, does it?

SYDNEY, Australia – A full house of fans sat in stunned silence as Alexandre Karelin, the unbeatable force, a man who once lifted a refrigerator up seven flights of stairs because he could not find someone to help him, was beaten by Rulon Gardner 1-0 in the most shocking wrestling upset … Gotta stop using that word “shocking.”

Maybe we should start with the mother.

SYDNEY, Australia – Virginia Gardner knew her son was strong the first time she saw him carry around four milk buckets at once. Still, she admitted she was more than a little nervous sitting in the stands watching Rulon wrestle Alexandre Karelin, a man so ferocious that twice in Olympic finals, his opponents essentially quit on the mat.

No, let’s try the Dad:

SYDNEY, Australia – Reed Gardner made it to Australia to watch his son by selling his famous stew at the Lincoln County Fair (Ingredients: carrots, potatoes, onions, Polish sausage), but he never thought he would watch Rulon defeat Alexandre Karelin, a man dubbed “The Toughest Man In The World.”

“I hope I never wake up,” Reed says.

No, that doesn’t capture the weight of the moment. That doesn’t tell how invincible Karelin was before Wednesday. How about this:

SYDNEY, Australia – Wrestlers always knew in their hearts they could not beat Alexandre Karelin. Beat him? Only one person in 10 years had scored on him. Karelin won every match despite broken ribs and torn muscles and opposing coaches who would spend months designing strategies just to beat him.

He was the kind of man who hauled logs through the Russian snow. He was the kind of man who would leave the home saying that he was going to work out and not return until the next day. He was the kind of man movie producers craved for the screen, but he told them, plainly, simply, “I am a Greco-Roman wrestler, not a Hollywood star.”

Sheesh, you writing a book on the guy? When do you get to actual match?

SYDNEY, Australia – In the end, Alexandre Karelin knew he was beaten. And in one of the most stunning moments in Olympic history, Karelin bowed his head with four seconds left in the match, and he conceded defeat to American Rulon Gardner.

“He mumbled something Russian at the end,” said Gardner, whose greatest previous wrestling achievement was finishing fifth at the World Championships in 1997. “I think it was ‘I give up.’ ”

No, that doesn’t tell how far Rulon came for this. He’s the hero, here. We’ve got to start with him:

SYDNEY, Australia – Rulon Gardner did not think he could do this. Guys who grow up in little Wyoming towns, on dairy farms, they don’t grow up to beat unbeatable men. But those days of bailing hay and milking cows made Gardner stronger than he ever imagined. Strong enough, even, to defeat Russia’s Alexandre Karelin.

“When you pushed against him,” Gardner said. “It was like pushing against a horse.”

No, hold on, pushing against a horse? This isn’t Green Acres, for crying out loud. Why don’t you just start the story with Gardner comparing this guy to a cow?

SYDNEY, Australia – Rulon Gardner said Wednesday that wrestling against the invincible Alexandre Karelin was a lot like trying to push around a cow.

“Only problem is,” Gardner said, “he’s a little quicker.”

This is absurd. Maybe you should go with something personal.

SYDNEY, Australia – I have never seen anything like this. Never in all my life. And I still don’t know what I saw. Apparently, a total nobody, a guy named Rulon Gardner, who grew up in a town in Wyoming so small that his mother placed it by saying it was close to Idaho, just beat Alexandre Karelin, the greatest wrestler who ever lived.

I say “apparently,” because I have no earthy idea what just happened. The rules are kind of confusing. Gardner scored one point when he broke out of Karelin’s grasp. And then, for the next six minutes, Karelin desperately tried to get at Gardner. I don’t know what he was doing, what moves he was trying, but it was breathtaking, watching Karelin chase and Gardner defend, chase and defend, back and forth. It was mesmerizing. It was fascinating.

“He fought the perfect match,” national Greco-Roman coach Steve Fraser said. “Absolutely perfect.”

Nah, too many “I’s” in there. How about this?

SYDNEY, Australia – Nothing quite like this has ever happened in the Star Valley area in Western Wyoming. Well, every so often, Wilford Brimley fishes here sometimes. “You know,” Virginia Gardner says, “that Quaker Oats guy.”

But this is bigger than that. Local boy Rulon Gardner won gold in Greco-Roman wrestling. But it was much more than that. He beat the invincible man, Russia’s Alexandre Karelin. This has thrown the entire area for a loop.

“We’re going to have to dispense with the birthdays this morning,” KRSV’s Dan Dockstader reported to his listener’s early Tuesday morning. “We’ve got a lot of breaking news happening.”

Dockstader said the town of Afton, Wyo., has come alive. Signs everywhere. Hugs everywhere. Everyone was riveted to the KRSV radio, which had cut away from its usual country music. Rulon himself called in at about 4 a.m. from the Sydney Planet Hollywood. The connection broke up after a while, but not before Rulon could tell the town how thrilled he was.

“We’re going to have plenty of members of the Gardner family on during the week,” Dockstader announced.

Too folksy. What you should do is just tell them straight.

SYDNEY, Australia – A man named Rulon Gardner, who grew up on a Wyoming dairy farm, pulled off what might be the biggest upset in Olympic history when he shocked the legendary and undefeated Russian wrestler Alexandre Karelin.

There’s nothing in sports history to compare this too, because no one in sports history was ever as unconquerable as Karelin. Three golds. Nine world championships. He had never lost an international match. Matt Ghaffari, one of the great American wrestlers, had chased Karelin around the world.

Ghaffari’s record against Karelin: 0-22.

Meanwhile, Gardner had never won a single major international tournament. He had fought Karelin once, lost 5-0, and when asked if wrestling Karelin before had given him confidence, Gardner said “Actually, what it did was frighten me.”

But something happened inside Gardner. Something impossible to describe. Maybe it came from wrestling hard with his brothers and sisters. He is the youngest of nine. Or maybe it came out from the helplessness he felt when kids back home used to call him “Fatso.” That hurt. But it also gave him fury.

Whatever, Wednesday, he simply refused to yield to the greatest wrestler of all. He refused to be thrown. He refused to be pushed around. He went out there, in a T-shirt signed by friends and Richard Petty, with his entire family watching from the stands, and he matched the best who ever lived.

And In the gripping final seconds, it was Karelin who dropped his head in defeat.

Karelin then shook Gardner’s hand, and he walked over to American Olympic coach Dan Chandler and shook his hand as well.

“Your man did very well,” Karelin said.

No, that’s not it either.

SYDNEY, Australia – Here’s what Rulon Gardner said after doing the impossible on Wednesday: “I can’t wait to see it on TV and see how it actually was.”

You know what? Forget it. There’s no way to tell this story.

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3 Comments »

  1. Anonymous said,

    i love that you love the poz

  2. Tina said,

    I really liked The Cynic and Barack Obama article. I’m an idealist and a cynic, all rolled up into one. I’m an idealist about the way it could be/should be/might well be and a cynic about what actually is. And yeah, I do think Obama is a bit like the angel over my shoulder telling me what I should do and who I can be. But you know what? I’m ready for a little angelic behavior, even if it’s idealistic and hopeful. I’d so much rather see someone trying that path than fear-mongering one we’re currently on.

    All of that said, I’m sorry to see HRC go out like she is. I love her and will always respect her, but man has she disappointed me over the course of this campaign. She’s a fighter, which is good, but she’s shown she’s also a dirty fighter and I really, really liked to ignore all the rumblings about the Clintons during Bill’s presidency. I don’t appreicate either of them making me think that maybe some of those asshats (to use your word) back then were right. So Hilary – stay strong and spend some time at the spa after today. You need a break to recompose and come back stronger than ever (hopefully without all the negativity thats been around you lately).

  3. squishy said,

    Anon: I visit everyday!

    Tina: Especially with yesterday’s news, I think the article is particularly fitting. I think you’d also enjoy the Mister Rogers feature, too. It is exceptionally well written.


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