September 30, 2014

A tribute to Suffolk Downs

Filed under: sports by Victoria Liberty @ 9:47 pm

Earlier this month, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission announced that the historic racetrack Suffolk Downs will not be awarded the Boston-area casino license. (It will instead be awarded to a proposed Wynn casino in Everett.) As a result, the track’s owners and manager announced that it will be closing at the end of this season.

This news is nothing short of tragic. There truly is nowhere like Suffolk Downs, a fact that is apparent from the moment you pull into the parking lot and catch a glimpse of the track through the chain link fence. Once inside, you can take in the races from the glassed-in grandstand, the cavernous space beneath it (lined with betting windows on one side and silks of famous horses hanging from the ceiling), the more compact clubhouse, or the outdoor benches and picnic tables. There is something magical about being around horses, whether they are loading in the starting gate, racing down the track, exhaustedly coming to a stop afterwards, or whether they are just lead ponies casually trotting around. My first time at Suffolk Downs, I was surprised at how close-up visitors can get to the thoroughbreds. Anyone can go right up to the paddock fence to watch their favorites be saddled up and walked in circles by grooms pre-race. This is also the place where jockeys return to the locker room after races, chatting and joking with each other, congratulating each other after a good result, complaining or shrugging it off after a bad one. Some fans even yell out to their favorite jockeys, who acknowledge them with a smile and wave. Suffolk Downs is truly a blue-collar place, a type of place that is increasingly rare in this day and age but which the world desperately needs more of. I will miss the sight of gruff old racing fans poring over the Daily Racing Form, packing the benches in the clubhouse, swarming to the betting windows, and moving to the rail to urge on their favorite horses. I’ll miss hearing them yelling and swearing with Boston accents at the TVs showing simulcast races. I’ll miss the vaguely uneven cement floors covered in shreds of ripped-up losing tickets, and I’ll even miss the clouds of tobacco smoke in the air.

The New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association is attempting to possibly lease the track and keep it alive. I hope against hope that they will succeed. If they do not, the land may be become a mixed-use development or possibly a new stadium for the New England Revolution. No matter what happens, this land, to me, is meant to be a horse track. If Suffolk Downs closes, Massachusetts will forever be an emptier place.

I visited Suffolk Downs this past Saturday, which could be one of its last ever days of racing. Below are some of the photos I took. If you have not had the privilege of visiting Suffolk Downs in person, I hope that these pictures are able to capture a fraction of what it’s like to experience this unique place.

The view from the parking lot.

The view from the parking lot.

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June 11, 2014

Despite Chrome’s disappointment, Triple Crown should stay as is

Filed under: sports by Victoria Liberty @ 8:20 am

California Chrome head.jpg
California Chrome head” by Maryland GovPicsFlickr: Governor Tours Preakness Stakes Barn. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

It’s been a few days since California Chrome’s co-owner, Steve Coburn, angrily ranted on live TV about how horses who didn’t run in the Kentucky Derby shouldn’t be allowed to run in the Preakness or Belmont. Coburn has gotten blasted by many in the media for having poor sportsmanship, and after taking a couple days to think things over, he went on Good Morning America to give a heartfelt apology. So I’m not going to beat a dead horse by criticizing his attitude and how he chose to express his views. It’s understandable to be angry and looking for someone to blame after such a huge disappointment. But there’s been debate over whether Coburn’s views were right – should the rules of the Triple Crown be changed?

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May 19, 2014

There’s nothing worse than a sore winner

Filed under: sports by Victoria Liberty @ 9:49 pm

Milan Lucic - Boston Bruins

As all Bruins fans know, Milan Lucic has faced a lot of criticism after the Bruins’ game 7 loss to the Canadiens last week in the second round of the playoffs. During the handshake line after the game, Lucic allegedly told Canadien Dale Weise, “I’m going to *@!$ kill you next year.” Weise complained about Lucic in the media, saying, “Even in the handshake they had a couple of guys — or, sorry, just one — that couldn’t put it behind them and be a good loser. Milan Lucic had a few things to say to a couple guys… It’s just a poor way to lose… They just disrespected us in every single way and I don’t think they had any respect for us as a team. We’ll leave it at that. The better team won.”

Not surprisingly, Lucic has been called a sore loser. He’s been accused of disrespecting the sacred ritual of the handshake line. He’s even been called “pure, unadulterated human filth,” in a particularly nasty and mean-spirited piece.

Lucic stood by his actions and did not apologize, adding, “I didn’t make the NHL because I accepted losing or I accepted failure, and I think that’s what’s gotten me to this point and made me the player that I am.”

In my opinion, Lucic’s actions were understandable, and the criticism of him is going way overboard. His post-game reaction might not have been ideal, but there is nothing wrong with being upset and angry after you lose. Our society puts too much pressure on people to be happy, smiling, and gracious all the time, no matter the situation. But it is simply not logical for someone to be calm and happy after losing, especially a professional athlete whose team was eliminated in the second round of a postseason in which many people, including the team themselves, expected them to become the ultimate champions. As Lucic pointed out, accepting a loss means, to some extent, that you don’t care very much about your sport. The handshake line is a great tradition, with a great ideal behind it, and the Canadiens did win fair and square, which no one should take away from them. But is it really right to make people act gracious and happy when they would logically be feeling the exact opposite? We need to be more accepting of people who are justifiably angry and upset, and slower to label them “sore losers.”

One thing that we shouldn’t accept, however, is what I like to call “sore winners.” A sore winner is someone who wins, but continues to bash and criticize their opponent anyways. An example of this is when Montreal fans threw trash at Lucic and Zdeno Chara after the Canadiens’ 4-0 defeat of the Bruins in game 6 of the series. Another example, albeit to a lesser extent, is Weise’s criticism of Lucic and the Bruins in general. This type of behavior is really not understandable. It’s piling on, and kicking someone when they’re down. People who have just won should be happy – they got what they wanted and achieved their goal. They shouldn’t spend time and energy criticizing those whom they defeated. While “sore losers” get a lot of criticism in our society, it’s even more dishonorable to be a sore winner.

February 23, 2014

A tribute to Evgeni Plushenko

Filed under: sports by Victoria Liberty @ 9:30 pm

2012 European FSC Evgeni Plushenko5

Although this blog is not primarily about sports, now that the 2014 Winter Olympics have come to an end, I think it’s fitting to pay tribute to my favorite athlete and one of my favorite people in the world: Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko. For him, the past few weeks have held both tragedy and triumph. After two excellent performances to help his country win the gold medal in the team figure skating event, he was forced to withdraw from the individual event due to injury mere seconds before he was scheduled to skate. But the way that Plushenko’s career ended does not change the fact that he is not only one of the greatest figure skaters in history, but also a remarkable and courageous person.

With two Olympic gold medals and two silvers, as well as three World Championship titles and countless other medals, Plushenko is arguably the most accomplished figure skater of all time. In addition to completing difficult jumps with remarkable ease and consistency (something that the error-filled skates of the newly-crowned Olympic gold and silver medalists threw into stark contrast), he has a sense of elegance, passion, and charisma that is uniquely his own. Plushenko began his career as an Olympic-level skater in 1998 at age 15, and won his first Olympic gold medal in 2006. As impressive as these accomplishments are, I admit that I didn’t really follow his career (or figure skating in general) until 2010, and it was his character and personality off the ice that initially made me a fan.

The night of the men’s free skate during the Vancouver Olympics, I was sitting on the couch, reading about something or other on my laptop, while glancing up at the TV occasionally. When American Evan Lysacek took to the ice, I was impressed that he didn’t make any mistakes, but I didn’t find his routine particularly memorable. A few skaters later, it was Plushenko’s turn. I’m no expert on figure skating, and was even less of one four years ago, but I thought his routine was more interesting to watch and showed more personality. Like Lysacek, he skated a clean program, but unlike Lysacek, he did a quad jump, making his routine more difficult. When his scores came up, and he was put in second place, I was vaguely disappointed but, not being extremely info figure skating, I went back to whatever I was doing on the computer. A few minutes later, Andrea Joyce of NBC interviewed Plushenko. I was expecting him to say what most athletes say in similar situations: that he was happy for Lysacek, that he was content to receive any medal at all, that he was just proud to have done his best.

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November 3, 2013

Red Sox rolling rally (photos and video)

Filed under: sports by Victoria Liberty @ 11:42 pm

As everyone knows, the Red Sox are World Series champions, and that means it’s time for a little break from crimes, trials, and politics. Above is a video that I made of the Sox’ rolling rally victory celebration. This was the 8th such parade in 12 years, following parades for the Patriots (2001, 2003, 2004), Red Sox (2004, 2007), Celtics (2008), and Bruins (2011). Approximately 1 million people filled the streets of Boston to salute their team on Saturday. I managed to find a relatively non-crowded section of the route near Mass. General Hospital from which to watch and photograph. Below are some photos that I took. Enjoy!

September 7, 2012

Olympics and Big Brother

Filed under: privacy & security,sports by Victoria Liberty @ 11:47 pm

What happens to all the security cameras that are installed in host cities for the Olympics? According to a must-read blog post by Bob Sullivan at the Red Tape Chronicles, the answer is that for the most part, they stay there. This was posted a month ago, but I just saw it today:

“Host cities tolerate massive shows of security that would otherwise be unimaginable. In London, which already has more CCTV security cameras than any other city in the world, 2,000 new cameras were installed in the Olympic Village, while nearly 2,000 more were installed around the city, according to Big Brother Watch. License plate recognition systems have been installed throughout London. There are even surface-to-air missiles atop apartment buildings and more military troops on the ground than Britain has in Afghanistan. An $877 million effort, it’s been called the largest peacetime deployment of security forces in history, but the question remains: Will there be mission creep? How much of that infrastructure and the public’s newfound tolerance for being watched will remain after the Games are finished?”

The article paints a disturbing picture of the numerous ways in which everyone’s privacy is gradually shrinking, and how governments use the Olympics as just another excuse to accelerate this trend.

Read the rest here.

April 21, 2012

Happy birthday, Fenway Park

Filed under: sports by Victoria Liberty @ 10:37 am

Let’s take a break from law and politics this morning to wish a very happy (belated) 100th birthday to the home of the Red Sox, Fenway Park. Watch part of the ceremony, featuring Red Sox legends from past and present, above.

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