Friday, July 02, 2004

KRT Wire | 07/02/2004 | Covering Tour can be a fog, yet fantasticCHICAGO - Remember Luz-Ardiden? Of course you do. It was the stage last year where Lance Armstrong nailed down his fifth Tour de France victory after he crashed, got up, almost crashed again and then charged past everyone else on the misty mountain, mashing the pedals with feverish intensity.

OK, so Armstrong had a tough afternoon. But when his day was done, he was airlifted off the mountain directly to a massage, a meal and a good night's sleep.

Me? My day was barely half over.

By 9 p.m., after I had filed my story and emerged from the big platform tent that serves as a pressroom on mountain-top finishes, the romantic mist had thickened into a full-blown fog. Luz-Ardiden was socked in. And I was roaming the uneven, cow-pie-strewn pasture where my car was parked, carrying my laptop and about 20 pounds of reference material.

I couldn't locate the car. I couldn't see two feet ahead of me.

Just then I heard an engine rev and made out the rear end of a big navy blue bus carrying the gendarmes - the national police who secure the roads during the Tour - taking off down the road.

Bad sign. I knew that meant most of the people left on the hill were inebriated Basques.

"Je ne peux pas trouver ma voiture (I can't find my car)," I said to the first person I encountered.

I got a grunt, a baleful stare.

I tried my grammatically challenged Spanish on the next guy.

"La coche esta perdida."

That elicited a string of slurred words, a shrug.

Right around that time I started to hyperventilate.

Hey, I'm not asking for sympathy. I know I'm privileged to cover one of the world's most exotic and chaotic sporting events that this year runs July 3-25.

When people ask me what it's like, I always say the same thing. There is one Tour for the riders and another for the journalists. We all lose weight and occasionally lose our tempers during the race.

We show up full of energy and happy to renew acquaintance with comrades from our little United Nations of a press corps. We limp into Paris three weeks later haggard, hollow-cheeked and, in my case, incapable of obeying American speed limits.

On a typical day, we drive to the start, grab a strong coffee, do interviews at the team vans (competing with mobs of camera-wielding fans), drive to the finish, find the press room, watch the stage, drink more strong coffee, scramble to the team vans (competing with mobs of autograph-seeking fans) to do more interviews, write a story, drive to a hotel, eat, crash.

Sounds fairly straightforward, right? But I haven't mentioned the gridlock created when half of France is vacationing and the other half is at the race, or the roadblocks that aren't on the map, or searching, exhausted, for a tiny auberge late at night knowing you'll have to wake the proprietor.

All those pampered cyclists have to do is ride 2,000-plus miles.

Trust me, this gig seems just as taxing and dangerous when your clutch starts smoking on the way down Alpe d'Huez. Or when some well-meaning villagers in the Pyrenees suggest a "shortcut" that takes you a mile high on a narrow, winding road with no guard rails, sheer drops and helpful signs that warn "surface deteriorated."

Right after mountaintop finishes, the Tour organizes what fittingly is called an "evacuation," with police escort, for officials who want to beat the tourist traffic. The high-speed caravan often takes the back way on what we refer to as "the goat road" for obvious reasons.

I usually can't evacuate with the gang because I'm writing, but I've done it and I can attest that it would be safer if you had horns and hooves.

On one epic climb I took with a colleague, the car stalled on a tight switchback and we couldn't get it back in gear.

It was hot - it's always hot in the mountains during the Tour, except when it's raining or there are gale-force winds. We were sweating profusely. The race was supposed to come through in about two hours. Meanwhile, a convoy of approximately 500 cars and trucks was stacking up behind us and there was nowhere to pull over but a deep, inviting ravine.

"They're going to throw us off the side of the mountain," I said.

I waded into the crowd to ask for help. A young man gallantly stepped forward. His mother grabbed his arm and yanked him back.

"Don't. You never know who these people are," she hissed.

An impatient driver behind us eventually got in, rustled around and threw the emergency brake as the engine roared to life. We throttled up the rest of the hill in first gear to derisive cheers.

I once bailed out the same colleague after she committed a traffic faux pas.

"Madame is having a crise," I said, ad-libbing to the angry gendarme with his head in our car window as my colleague obligingly began to cry. "Her grand-mere has just died. She is very upset. It will not happen again."

He nodded sagely and waved us on. Famille is sacred in France.

I have two rules during the race. One is to avoid low blood sugar by remembering to eat. The French understand this, and I've been shown many kindnesses on the culinary and hospitality fronts.

After last year's Stage 1 pileup extended my workday until 11 p.m., I arrived in the hamlet of Domptin expecting to go to bed hungry, only to have the hotel manager greet me with a plate of cold cuts and a glass of champagne. A few minutes later, her two children shyly knocked on my door, thrilled to meet an American reporter.

The second, more important credo is to make no enemies in the press peloton. Everybody needs somebody to draft behind sometime.

On Luz-Ardiden, I groped my way back to the press tent and found the three intrepid men of VeloNews magazine, who drive every mile of the course every year.

They thought my damsel-in-distress act was a little over the top until they walked outside, rubbed their eyes and realized they couldn't see, either.

We eventually found our cars and snowplowed down the switchbacks, aiming our headlights at the course barriers to see where we were before turning.

The fog lifted. I drove 40 miles to the city of Pau and checked into a hotel. Restaurants were long closed, so I walked to a bar, ordered a beer and struck up a conversation with the bartender.

He was horrified, as any French person would be, to learn I had missed a meal, and set a bowl of peanuts in front of me.

"The Tour? You follow the whole Tour?" he said. "Do you like doing that?"

I told him I loved it.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

SFIllustrated.com: Collecting Memories Collecting Memories
By Kristopher Jones Seahawks.NET
Date: Jul 1, 2004

Beckett Sports Collectibles magazine published their last issue in June. The magazine was dedicated to sports memorabilia, particularly old cards and autographs. The irony of course is that someday copies of Beckett’s last magazine will become a collector’s item itself, examined for dog-eared pages and overall condition, and given a value… by someone else.

When I was a kid, Beckett was my portable inventory, checklist, wish list and price list all rolled into one. Every year when it came out I’d buy the new Beckett Price Guide and painstakingly transcribe my bourgeoning sports card collection into it with pencil checkmarks.

Beckett was the treasure map of a 12-year old in search of the missing artifacts in his collection. It was as much a personal quest as it was a shared adventure with my best friend and those little pictures on cardboard transported us into a world we could only dream of.

Profit never entered our minds. The excitement of getting a great deal on the card of a great player or finally uncovering the last missing piece to a set was all we needed. We were lucky it was a simpler and more innocent time, we were able to experience all this before card collecting and autograph seeking became a big, smarmy business.

Football, baseball and basketball cards gave us an appreciation of the legends that played long before we were born and it opened up to us a part of history that runs deep in American culture.

Together, we would go to games and wait outside the stadium afterwards for the players to come out. There the heroes of our youth would sign our cards and sometimes chat with us a little. Every young boy dreams of being a professional ball player but those interactions, however brief, also allowed us to see these idols as real people too.

Naturally, the biggest stars always had the biggest crowds of fans and reporters around them. They could be hard to reach but we did our best. As proud as I am of some of the Hall of Fame players I have autographs of, looking back, some of the most memorable moments were with the second-string players who still seemed genuinely surprised that anyone would want their autograph.

The one superstar that never lost his innocence to success was many-time all-star, Dave Winfield. He had all the time in the world to sign autographs for kids and was one of the most generous and friendly people I’ve ever met. He had the biggest smile I’ve ever seen and I don’t think it ever left his face off the field.

Sometimes they’d claim they weren’t players to get to dinner or the team bus, other times their surprise and humility was completely genuine and we’d wind up with the signatures of the trainers.

We were just kids, what did we know?

One time my buddy and I were hanging out in the lobby of the team hotel where the Denver Broncos were staying. I was born in Denver and before the Seahawks they were my favorite team. I had a Broncos poster with me that I was having the players sign. A well-dressed, black man stepped off the elevator and I immediately thrust my pen at him, asking him to autograph my poster. He smiled and politely said he wasn’t with the team. Being the experienced autograph hound that I was, I’d heard that one before and I begged him, “please, mister!”

“Really, son, I’m not a ball player.”

Not taking “no” for an answer, I insisted.

Finally, he relented, and gave me his most dramatic signature right between those of Tom Jackson and Lyle Alzado. I’m sure that well-dressed businessman went home with a story he bored his friends and family with for many years.

Every now and then I dust off the boxes in the back of the closet and the memories come back of players whose names I’ve long since forgotten, and I remember the boys who put those young men on such a high pedestal.

Now, I’m older than all but a few of the guys who wear those uniforms today and I wonder about the men that came before them. What are they doing now and when was the last time most of them signed anything for anyone besides a check at the grocery store?

I imagine they have dusty boxes full of memories in the back of their closets too. Maybe even some with old sports cards in them with the heroes of their youth. And I wonder about one particular businessman and if he still tells his story.

Simpler times.

We’ve all had them.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Oh Mother! Britney Spears Pregnant ClaimOh Mother! Britney Spears Pregnant Claim
Pop star Britney's shock engagement may reportedly be because the singer is pregnant. The US singer announced last week she was to marry Kevin Federline, which she celebrated by splashing out £30,000 on new clothes for him.But the News of the World says Britney is expecting a child at Christmas and so wants to be married to him by November.

The wedding will be her second, after her 55-hour marriage to childhood sweetheart Jason Alexander in January.

The driving force behind the marriage is the singer's mother, Lynne, who doesn't want her to have a baby out of wedlock.

A Britney insider told the paper: "Her mum has taken control now.

"She's let Britney do what she wanted in the past but now she wants everything done by the book.

"That's why they got engaged first, rather than get married like Britney did before."

Monday, June 28, 2004

BW Online | June 29, 2004 | 10 Ways to Avoid Buying Fakes Online10 Ways to Avoid Buying Fakes Online
The Web is swarming with charlatans trying to sell counterfeits. So, arm yourself with these practical tips for safe cyber-shopping

No doubt, E-commerce is booming. Nearly 50% of Americans bought something online last year, according to market consultancy JupiterResearch. Unfortunately, as many as 10% of those consumers were fooled. Instead of buying what they thought were genuine products, they ended up with counterfeits.

Indeed, fakes of all shapes and sizes are proliferating online. On June 21, high-end jeweler Tiffany & Co. (TIF ) sued auction site eBay (EBAY ), alleging that 73% of the Tiffany brand-name jewelry sold there was counterfeit. On June 17, the U.S. General Accounting Office issued a report showing that 6%, or 4 of the 68 drug samples investigators bought in U.S. and foreign online pharmacies, were fake. "The volume and severity of counterfeiting has gone up," says Peter Neupert, chairman of online retailer Drugstore.com (DSCM ). Partly, he blames mounting health-care costs, rising at double digits annually for prompting patients to seek cheaper alternatives for prescription drugs.

Overall, discerning a fake online is no simple task. You can't finger the item as you might in a brick-and-mortar store. You can't take a good look at the seller or his shop to see whether or not they look legit. However, the case for safe cyber-buying isn't hopeless. Online consumers can take lots of steps to protect themselves from getting scammed by the charlatans. To help you in this effort, BusinessWeek Online has put together 10 tips from experts on how to avoid buying fake goods online.

1. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. A Louis Vuitton bag simply doesn't cost $20 ($200, more like it). A fire sale should be a major red flag.

2. Whenever possible, work with reputable online retailers. Consumers should check out Web sites of brick-and-mortar retailers first, says JupiterResearch analyst Monique Levy. That way, they can return any questionable goods to the store in person. They can also stop by the store to complain or to ask any questions.

3. If you aren't familiar with the online retailer, always review the site's general appearance first. If it looks unprofessional, has no returns policy prominently posted, or lacks the seller's physical address, those are warning signs. Also, make sure the company's phone number is listed and working before making your purchase, suggests Dennis Prince, the author of numerous books on online auction sites.

4. Look for appropriate certifications. A reputable online pharmacy, for example, will often have, usually at the top of the site, a certification from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). It means the NABP checks that pharmacy's storing conditions (certain medications lose their potency if not stored or shipped at proper temperatures), as well as its procedures involved in buying and selling drugs. Another certification to look for is the SquareTrade seal, which certifies that the site has a good track record of selling goods.

5. Don't buy drugs without a prescription from your doctor. If a site offers you medications without a prescription -- and you know these drugs aren't available over-the-counter -- chances are, the transaction is illegal, according to Drugstore.com. Fake drugs are typically not harmful, since the tablets are often made of rice flour. But they won't help you, either. And there's a good reason why prescription drugs require a doctor's visit: Despite the overwhelming come-ons for buying Viagra online, a condition like erectile dysfunction could actually be indicative of more serious health problems.

6. Don't be afraid to ask the seller questions, just as you would in a brick-and-mortar store. Online-auction buyers have a right to know just how long the seller has had the item they're interested in and how he got it, says Prince. If a poster, dating to 1964, looks like new after hanging in its owner's garage for 40 years, it's probably not genuine. Also, if you're buying an especially valuable item, like jewelry, it's perfectly all right to ask the seller for a copy of an appraisal report. Many legitimate sellers would have those handy anyway, says Prince.

7. When buying expensive items, say, over $500, consider using an escrow account to complete the transaction. Escrow.com, the only U.S. escrow site approved by eBay, will hold your payment and not transfer it to the seller until you receive your purchase, compare it to the photograph of the item you bid for, and confirm its authenticity. Escrow.com's commission typically add up to less than 6% of the purchase price, and buyers and sellers often split the fee.

8. Do your homework before buying. If you're bidding for golf clubs, check out the original manufacturer's site for info on where special stamps and numbers should be located. If you're buying collectible items, such as stamps or coins, eBay recommends that users visit one of its specialized online discussion groups, where they can ask other collectors for advice.

9. Don't trust "certificates of authenticity." Lots of folks buying autographs online -- of which more than 90% of those are likely to be fakes, says Prince -- feel better about making the purchase if they come with such stamps of approval. The problem is that the certificates can be fake, says Prince. Even if you think you know what the signature you're buying looks like, it's easy to be fooled online. Often, you can hire online experts who can help you determine whether the autograph appears genuine.

10. Check the seller's rating. Auction sites like eBay post the sellers' ratings and comments from people who've dealt with that seller in the past. A lot of disappointed buyers is an obvious stop sign. With other Web sites, it's a good idea to do a search for the site's name or the company name to look for comments from disgruntled customers or buyers in discussion groups.

Remember, getting taken by a fake online is way too easy if you don't start out with a suspicious mind -- and a set of tips like these -- to guide you.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

PackerReport.com: Elway to return to the fieldElway to return to the field
By Broncos Update
Date: Jun 26, 2004

John Elway will be featured in a flag football game at Invesco Field at Mile High on August 20th as he and an all-star team of Denver Broncos legends square off against Joe Montana and an NFL legends all-star team to commemorate Elway's induction into the Hall of Fame.

A GAME OF FAME - A Mile High Salute and Colorado celebration of John Elway's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Friday, August 20th, 2004 at INVESCO Field at Mile High will feature John Elway and a DENVER BRONCOS legends all-star team vs. Joe Montana and an NFL legends all-star team in a star-studded regulation flag football game.
"This will be my first - and final - game ever at INVESCO Field," said Elway. "I'm really looking forward to playing there in front of the best sports fans in the world!"

Tickets are $35.00 each and go on sale to the public from Ticketmaster this Saturday, June 26th. For each ticket purchased, fans will get a free John Elway 'Class of 2004' collectible bobblehead. The Friday, August 20th event line-up includes a free autograph session with the players from 5-6 p.m., reserved seating to the four-quarter flag football game to start at 7 p.m., and a post-game concert by DIAMOND RIO.

Beginning Saturday, June 26th, fans can log onto www.agameoffame.com for schedules, line-ups and ticket information. Tickets may also be purchased at all Ticketmaster locations, or log onto www.ticketmaster.com. 'A GAME OF FAME' is produced by Marty Garafalo and DREAM EVENTS, LLC, who also produced 'SAY GOODBYE TO MILE HIGH' with a similar game that closed old Mile High Stadium in 2001.

'A GAME OF FAME' marketing, media, promotion and sponsorship sales are being handled by Rich Foro Sports Marketing and Communications. RF-Sports currently manages The COLORADO CRUSH media and marketing.

Kenai Peninsula Online - Alaska NewspaperMarion Jones fighting for reputation 06/27/04
Marion Jones fighting for reputation

AP Sports Writer

She was the darling of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, capturing five medals and a pocketful of endorsements. Her quest for more gold this summer, barely a year after having a baby with the world's fastest man, was sure to be the feel-good story of the Athens Games.

Life seemingly could not have been better for Marion Jones.

Then the BALCO steroid scandal unfolded.

Now she's being investigated for possible doping violations. Her reputation and her career are threatened. Her boyfriend could face a lifetime ban for alleged drug use, her ex-husband and ex-coach are talking to the feds.

And she could do no better than fifth in the 100 meters ‹ an event she once dominated, capturing Olympic gold and two world titles ‹ at her last meet before the U.S. Olympic trials.

How could it have all gone so wrong for America's golden girl?

Instead of focusing on her quest for more medals this summer, she's struggling just to protect her chance of making the U.S. Olympic team ‹ and battling to clear her name.

''I am fighting to preserve something that is priceless ... my reputation,'' Jones said this week in an e-mail interview with The Associated Press. ''There are other Olympic Games. I only have one reputation, and that is what I am fighting to preserve.''

Jones repeatedly has denied ever using prohibited drugs, and points out she has passed 160 doping tests. But that no longer is enough ‹ the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is using documents and other circumstantial evidence from the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative case to go after athletes on doping charges.

Though Jones has not been formally notified she is the target of a USADA probe, she remains under investigation. She met with USADA officials in May, and answered follow-up questions from the agency this month.

''Imagine someone questioning all of the hard work that you've done in your life. Imagine that. It's difficult,'' Jones said at a news conference last week in San Francisco. ''My name is the one being questioned. My reputation, my career.''

It wasn't supposed to be like this.

After winning three gold medals in Sydney, Jones was named the AP Female Athlete of the Year for 2000. She starred in ads for companies such as American Express and Nike. She was track and field's biggest star, and one of the world's most popular athletes.

Even her personal life seemed to be following a Hollywood script. After divorcing surly shot putter C.J. Hunter, who retired in 2000 after four positive drug tests, Jones started dating training partner Tim Montgomery. He ran his fastest time wearing her shoes, and then broke the world record using her starting blocks.

Shortly after giving birth to their child in June 2003, Jones announced she was coming back for the 2004 Summer Games ‹ and within six weeks, she was at her racing weight.

But there already had been troubling signs. Jones and Montgomery had an acrimonious split with coach Trevor Graham in the winter of 2003, and for a short time they worked with disgraced coach Charlie Francis ‹ who supplied steroids to Ben Johnson in the 1980s.

Jones and Montgomery both testified last fall before a grand jury probing BALCO, but the focus at first was on baseball players like Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi. Jones and Montgomery said their relationship with BALCO founder Victor Conte, one of four men indicted on charges of distributing steroids to top athletes, was minimal.

The spotlight has turned to track and field, though, as the U.S. Olympic trials and the Athens Games approach. Montgomery is one of four sprinters now facing drug charges, and a possible lifetime ban, based on evidence from the BALCO case. He says he has never used drugs and has done nothing wrong.

In recent weeks, Jones has taken the offensive in her battle with USADA. At the news conference in San Francisco, she defiantly accused the anti-doping agency of being a ''kangaroo court'' and demanded a public hearing. She offered to provide her grand jury testimony to USADA, and took a lie detector test to bolster her claim she has been drug-free.

The bubbly and media-savvy Jones remains extremely popular.

On the day before last weekend's Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., the line of fans waiting to get Jones' autograph extended out the door of a Nike store.

And some newspaper columnists have come to her defense, saying she is being unfairly targeted and accusing USADA of everything from McCarthyism to conducting a witch hunt. USADA maintains it is merely following the anti-doping rules endorsed by athletes.

Jones said in the e-mail interview that her current sponsors ''have been totally supportive. They believe in me, they know I am drug-free, and they are steadfast with their support.''

But she may be losing other endorsement chances.

Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon, says corporations are leery of athletes tainted by drug allegations or other legal problems.

''She may still have more friends than enemies, but there's a big difference between what the impact is on her general appeal and whether businesses would want to attach themselves to her,'' Swangard said.

The skirmishes with USADA have been a constant distraction as Jones prepares for what she hopes will be another run at five Olympic gold medals. She's in limbo, facing no charges at this point but knowing USADA could be building a case that might keep her out of the Aug. 13-29 Olympics.

Though she refused to blame her fifth-place finish at the Prefontaine meet on such distractions, she repeatedly has accused USADA of dragging out her case.

Her son, Monty, turns 1 on Monday. Jones says motherhood solidified her desire to compete until the Beijing Olympics in four years.

''Monty and my family are the most important things to me now, and they have provided me strength during the current situation. I know that no matter what happens, when I come home Monty and my family are and will always be there for me, no matter what,'' she said in the e-mail.

''My plans have not changed. I will be there in Beijing in 2008. In fact, Monty will be 5 years old in 2008 and I can't wait for him to see his mom compete.''

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?