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.
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!
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.
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.
Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno passed away today of lung cancer, just two months after his reputation was irreparably tarnished by his alleged failure to respond forcefully enough to allegations of child abuse. It is, first of all, very sad that such a successful and celebrated coach had to spend the last months of his life not only fighting a painful disease but also knowing that his standing would be forever diminished in the eyes of many people. Second of all, Paterno is another example of our society’s tendency to punish people who are merely accused of wrongdoing, not found guilty. As Judge H. Lee Sarokin pointed out, Paterno was fired before the facts of the case could be determined, similarly to how Dominique Strauss-Kahn was pressured into resigning from the IMF after being accused of sexual assault, and how Herman Cain ended up quitting his presidential campaign after allegations of sexual harassment and an affair. Although Paterno faced no charges and spent no time in jail, for his career to end so abruptly and on such a bad note is undoubtedly a punishment. Yes, sexual abuse is a crime that should be punished severely, but considering the fact that Paterno is not accused of abusing anyone, that he actually reported the abuse allegations to his immediate supervisor, and that his only arguable mistake was not reporting the allegations personally to police, I think it is sad that his career and life ended the way that they did.
I am taking a break from politics and liberty tonight to give a shout out to the Stanley Cup winners, the Boston Bruins! Congratulations to all of them, especially MVP Tim Thomas. The Boston cops are making it look like a police state, but hopefully everyone will be able to truly celebrate in the streets of our great city!
- Photo by Getty, via Daylife.
Figure skating is not something I usually write about on this blog. But when I was watching and reading about this past week’s World Championships, I noticed a lot of people were criticizing (unjustly, in my opinion) the choice of the three American skaters in the men’s competition.
Back in January, Ryan Bradley, Ricky Dornbush, and Ross Miner won the gold, silver, and bronze medals in the U.S. National Championships. All of them were considered underdogs, who ended up skating extremely well while the favorites messed up. Dornbush and Miner are newbies to senior-level skating, and Bradley, who is known for his showmanship and quad jumps but often accused of lacking transitions and artistry, was almost going to retire but decided at the last minute to compete at the urging of his fans.
As one would expect since they were the top finishers, the U.S. Figure Skating Association decided to send them as its three representatives at Worlds. Technically, they could have sent anyone they wanted. There is no rule requiring countries to send their top finishers, and many bloggers and commentators said that they shouldn’t have, primarily because the number of slots each country gets is determined by how well its skaters place in the previous year’s Worlds. Bradley, Dornbush, and Miner ended up finishing 9th, 11th, and 13th, which means that we will only have two spots next year.
But I believe the U.S. did the right thing. Our three representatives deserved their spots. Although their records and reputations over the course of their entire careers may not be the most impressive of all of America’s skaters, they did the best in the event that counted, and it would be unfair to give their spots to someone else. I am a deontologist; I believe that the right decision is the one that respects what people deserve, not the one with the best consequences. Sending the skaters that most people consider “better” to Worlds might have been better for U.S. figure skating as a whole, but Ryan, Ricky, and Ross earned the right to go, and I am glad that they got to.