floating facebook button arrow left side

Columns //  Cycling //  Formula 1 //  Golf //  More //  Olympic Sports //  Soccer //  Tennis

NTSF 096: Iroquois Dealt Injustice, Tour de France News, Sydney Sprinters Regain Medals and More…

As much as a summer can feel as though it is slowing down, there is still a ton of action ongoing both around the globe in the world of sports as well as more locally in my own life. It’s funny — I recently sat down to read fellow Sports Nickel writer Marcelo‘s current offering from his weekly “The Outer Limits” column, and the opening passage really got me thinking:

If you haven’t noticed, we’re in the middle of The Black Hole of Sports. These few days are as torturous as they are dull for the average sports fan.

Sure, it is a dull time of year for the average sports fan in the United States… but for a Non-Traditional Sports Fan in America, this time is just heating up. Not only are we nearing the endgame for this year’s Tour de France, but next month will hold cycling’s third grand tour of the year in Spain and then — following the festival in Geelong, Australia for the road-bike world championships — we head back to the realm of one-day classics. And just east of where I currently sit, the Cascade Cycling Classic stage race rages on through the central Oregon mountains surrounding the town of Bend with both a men’s and a women’s race running simultaneously.

The British Open was a lovely story to witness, Louis Oosthuizen finishing off a field of pretenders and a course that begged to be dominated at St. Andrews. The beauty of watching the South African out-Tiger a weekend that was supposed to finally reawaken Eldrick’s own inner Tiger brought unabashed joy to my face. Long before Woods dug his own pothole bunker out of his gleaming fairy-tale life, I had been clamoring for a more-diverse field of golf champions. With the man stalled in his chase for Jack Nicklaus’ all-time majors record, 0-for-7 in his recent past, I’m definitely getting my prescient wish come true.

The other half of country-club society has a wide range of tennis options all across the tour to watch, and we’re staring right down the passage of time at the looming sight of Flushing Meadows, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and the last Grand Slam of the year at the U.S. Open. But with tournaments all around the globe — and players like Federer and Nadal and the Williams sisters all sitting on the sidelines — the chance to witness a surprise performance or a budding star in action is still right there…

… but that’s the thing. You have to want to dive in. The world provides enough options that, on any given day of the 365-strong year, a genuinely-dedicated fan of athletic achievement should be able to find something to sate that craving for sports. Options abound for the fan suffering withdrawal from North America’s unique blend of sports leagues and their soon-to-start seasons. All it takes is to skew your view away from the ESPN-driven American sports media cycle and take a cue from the BBC, or Eurosport, or any of the other channels out there online if you just start searching away. There’s always a cure for those summertime blues, if you’re willing to give yourself enough credit as someone more than merely average…

BRITAIN SHOWS NO SYMPATHY FOR A FORMER ALLY…

I first really started learning about lacrosse and getting into the sport when I went and spent my one half-hearted year at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon back for the 2001-02 school year. One of the guys in the dorm next to me had played in high school and was an avid fan of the sport, and his enthusiasm was infectious. I had seen games here and there on the satellite back during middle and high school after our family upgraded from the near-nothingness of nine channels to the full-blown goodness of satellite television (first Primestar, then DirecTV after they purchased them), but I’d never really been captivated by the sport until that neighbor’s love of the game rubbed off.

Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team

Thanks to the regressive policies of the British, the world will miss out on the treat of witnessing the only indigenous sovereign national team in the world at the World Lacrosse Championships...

A few years ago, my wife went to a conference where she got to hear Chief Oren Lyons speak. Chief Lyons, the goalkeeper of the undefeated 1957 Syracuse national championship team that also featured a young Jim Brown, was a key figure in getting the Iroquois Nationals finally accepted in 1990 as a member of the International Lacrosse Federation — the first and still only indigenous nation which is granted the ability to compete in international competition as a sovereign state. The Iroquois, founders of the sport, had for years been denied entry to lacrosse’s pinnacle of competition, the world championships. But in 1998, they finally got the chance to compete.

That year they took fourth in the competition, ahead of seven other nations and behind just the United States, Canada and Australia. In each of the next two editions, quadrennially in 2002 and 2006, the order of the top four remained the same. But this year the Haudenosaunee have been denied their place at the table, relegated to spectator status like the rest of us yahoos despite their preeminent place in the sport’s long history. What, though, have the Iroquois Nationals done to deserve this treatment; after so many years of fighting to be recognized, why now — after two decades of finally earning their right to join the party — are they sent to the sidelines?

An international dilemma has been sparked. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did her damnedest to alleviate the situation. But ultimately it all comes down to a matter of sovereignty. The Iroquois Nationals travel to competition under passports issued by the Haudenosaunee; Great Britain, which is hosting this year’s Lacrosse World Championships in Manchester, refused entry to the Iroquois team unless they either:

  • Traveled under American or Canadian passports, or
  • Had proof from the United States that they would be allowed reentry into that country after the tournament.

The first stipulation was simply out of the question. A matter of pride, the Iroquois have managed to keep some semblance of self-sovereignty despite the presence of colonizers for centuries. Their passports have been recognized at past worlds in Baltimore, Maryland; Perth, Australia; and London, Ontario. Yet this year the British were stamping their foot down. The Brits might have been willing to enlist the help of the Iroquois Confederacy and its six member tribes 250 years ago during the French and Indian War, but now they have turned their back on the natives and denied them entry.

Clinton managed to get a waiver from the State Department issued that would have allowed free passage out of and back into the United States for the Iroquois Nationals team. Yet the British government was still insistent on refusing the Haudenosaunee players to arrive on their soil, play a few matches and return home. The tournament officials rigged things to allow as long as possible for the Iroquois to reach their destination, moving them from one preliminary group to the other on the slim chance they’d gain approval to play. But with things now a week into competition and the British steadfastly refusing to shift their stance on the matter, the ILF had no choice but to forfeit all the games scheduled for the Iroquois Nationals.

There was nothing else the ILF could do; the entire blame for this scenario falls upon the misguided British insistence on more demands than are reasonable. Would a lacrosse player from London or Manchester be willing to travel under a passport from the Republic of Ireland, for instance, if that was the only way they could get to a tournament? Some things go beyond sport, and the pride of knowing who you are and what nation to which you belong is one of those things. So Chief Lyons, along with the rest of the 125,000-strong population of the Haudenosaunee, can only watch as their beloved national lacrosse team is once again subjugated to rules that a host nation would never demand of another team. Shame on the British, for their obstinacy only serves to show them as bigots — while not every Briton is of this mindset, the British government has proven itself unable to look beyond its own colonial past and frame of mind. In the end, the ones who pay most are those of us who would’ve witnessed better lacrosse competition with the Iroquois than we will without them…

BEARING DOWN ON PARIS…

Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck in the 2009 Tour de France

It's like deja vu all over again... Schleck wears white, Contador dons the yellow and the two men have outclassed the rest of the Tour field...

In 1989, just fifty seconds separated Greg LeMond from race leader Laurent Fignon as the Tour set up to ride its final-stage time trial into Paris. Fignon, letting his long blond hair flow in the breeze and riding a standard road bike, was convinced that this was to be the day he won his third Tour de France. But LeMond, recently returned from getting shot in a hunting accident, had other ideas. Wearing an aerodynamic helmet and sporting aero bar extensions off the front of his frame, the American ended up winning the day’s stage — by 58 seconds, rendering it the tightest finish in the race’s history as LeMond won his second of three Tours by a mere eight seconds.

That’s the time separating Andy Schleck and defending champion/current race leader Alberto Contador after the Stage 15 debacle that saw the young Luxembourger lose his race lead to the Spaniard. What… haven’t been keeping up that well with the race? Well, then — there’s a reason I do daily recaps! Check out my latest coverage from the past week by following through the various links below:

  • Stage 11 (Sisteron to Bourg-Les-Valence) – The hunt for the yellow jersey, already fairly reduced to a two-man race, took a backseat yet again as the speedsters of the peloton cranked out a chaotic bunch sprint. Emerging at the head of the pack to claim his third stage victory of 2010 and the 13th of his still-burgeoning career was Mark Cavendish (Columbia). In winning lucky number 13, Cavendish overtook the all-time record for sprint stage wins from a trio of legends — McEwen, Mario Cipollini and his mentor Erik Zabel — in just the fourth Tour the 25-year-old British rider has raced. But after commissaires relegated his lead-out man, Mark Renshaw, to the rear of the field and ejected him from the race, Cavendish is going to have one hell of a fight from here on out at the Tour….   READ MORE
  • Stage 12 (Bourge-de-Peage to Mende) – On the same slopes where Laurent Jalabert launched his decisive winning move on Bastille Day in the 1995 Tour to put himself in position to win the green points jersey and finish fourth in Paris, Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) outkicked defending champion Alberto Contador (Astana) to win the first Tour de France stage of his ten-year career. In an all-Spanish two-up sprint in Mende, the former national champion and winner of this years Volta a Catalunya stage race was superior to his more celebrated compatriot. But while it was Rodriguez taking the line first and winning the stage, Contador set a tone that the illusion of his vulnerability through the first two weeks of the race were just that — illusions. On the Montée Laurent Jalabert — so renamed by the town of Mende after that legendary ride by their countryman fifteen years ago — the steepest pitch in the 2010 Tour (3.1km at 10.0% with three 14% switchbacks) became the launching pad for Contador to reassert his preeminent place amongst the favorites….   READ MORE
  • Stage 13 (Rodez to Revel) – Everything came full circle on lucky Stage 13 at the Tour de France today, as two veteran riders were at the forefront of the discussion. Both are returning to the sport after serving suspensions for doping offenses; however, that is about where their similarities end. One sanction was wholly justified, an airtight case of performance enhancement. The other, based on a legitimate medical application for which the rider had a therapeutic use exemption, was anything but legitimate. Despite the variance in their respective histories, though, both riders will share the glory of 17 July 2010 for a lifetime. Astana’s Alexander Vinokourov succeeded in staying away to the finish in Revel to win his first Tour stage since 2007, soloing the last seven kilometers to foil the sprinters’ hopes of one last battle before the Pyrenees….   READ MORE
  • Stage 14 (Revel to Ax-3-Domaines) – A century ago this year, the godfather of the Tour de France Henri Desgrange made alterations to the layout of the race’s course that would have a major impact on the grand tour — along with its sister events in Italy and Spain — right through to modern times. Before the days when derailleurs were all the rage, cyclists on what were effectively fixed-gear bicycles mashed their pedals in 1910 up the now-famous slopes of the Pyrenees. The mountains along the French-Spanish borderlands have played an integral role in the race’s history ever since, witness to some of the most memorable events in Tour lore. And the drama of the high altitudes proved infectious; these days a stage race would seem incomplete without at least one ramp to ascend. Today they were, on their centennial reappearance at the 2010 Tour de France, a launching pad for one audacious Frenchman to snatch the host nation’s fourth stage win so far in this year’s race….   READ MORE
  • Stage 15 (Pamiers to Bagneres-de-Luchon) – Chalk another one up for France! For the fifth time in this year’s Tour de France, a domestic rider took a stage victory as Thomas Voeckler (Bbox-Bouygues Telecom) crossed the finish line alone in Luchon. Decked out in the tricolor bleu, blanc et rouge of the French national champion, Voeckler — who will always hold a soft spot in his countrymen’s hearts after his ten days in yellow during the 2004 Tour — put in a vicious acceleration with 8km left to ride up the hors-categorie Port de Bales climb that dropped the other nine riders in the breakaway. Riding alone from that point, the Bbox rider maintained his advantage to the finish well enough that his final 200m were spent with arms upraised in celebration as the throngs watching by the roadside greeted their own gleefully. Behind the day’s winner, though, a contentious debate erupted on the Bales as yellow jersey Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) suffered a mechanical failure at the worst possible time….   READ MORE
  • Stage 16 (Bagneres-de-Luchon to Pau) — France hasn’t been able to celebrate six individual stage wins in a single Tour de France since the 1997 edition… France also hadn’t seen three of its native sons win consecutive stages of the Tour since the 1994 race… A Frenchman hasn’t won the race since Bernard Hinault won  his fifth in 1985; a 25-year show of futility on home soil shows no signs of abating anytime soon. So the citizens of the host nation need to find something else to cheer about within their compatriots’ achievements. Today, as Pierrick Fedrigo (Bbox-Bouygues Telecom) held off countryman Sandy Casar (FdJeux) in an eight-man breakaway finish in Pau before the Tour’s second rest day, the two secondary streaks of futility were brushed off in an instant. Fedrigo, the 31-year-old veteran who was the national champion in 2005 and is racing this year in his eighth Tour de France, claimed the third Tour stage win of his career by beating out a field that included seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong, his teammate Chris Horner, former Giro champion Damiano Cunego and a third Frenchman in Christophe Moreau….   READ MORE

BUT DID THEY EARN IT?

The American women's 4x400m relay team celebrates gold in Sydney
The lady on the left has already been stripped of her THG-stained medals, but the other three are smiling once again after their successful appeal…

Last Friday I reported on the recent victory in the Court of Arbitration for Sport by seven of the eight relay teammates of Marion Jones who had their medals stripped by the IOC from the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The victory, which is sure to prove a one-of-a-kind ruling after the work the IAAF and IOC has done sealing up the loopholes in their systems, allowed the runners on both the 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams to reclaim their medals from the millennial Olympiad. If it hadn’t been for the fact that it was only won because the CAS recognized an attempt by the governing bodies to retroactively apply a statute currently on the books, this might have been a landmark case.

As it was, though, the reinstatement of these medals will only prove a footnote in the long and unfettered history of performance-enhancing drug use in the realm of sports. While on one hand I can understand the reticence on the part of these seven women (Jones’ eighth teammate in the relays, Nanceen Perry of the 4x400m relay, declined to file as a litigant in the suit), on the other hand one is left wondering about the fate of the runners which finished behind. After all, we will always be left to wonder whether Perry (whose medal was also reinstated despite not being part of the suit), Jearl Miles-Clark, Monique Hennagan, LaTasha Colander Clark, Andrea Anderson, Chryste Gaines, Torri Edwards, and Passion Richardson would have finished as high as they did if the THG-enhanced Jones hadn’t been running as part of their teams.

That’s the real dilemma of PED use, regardless of the sport: we never know what the statistics might have been without any chemical supplement. Just as one is left to question whether Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa or Barry Bonds would have surpassed Roger Maris in the single-season home runs count without anabolic-androgenic substances, so too we must wonder whether these relay teams from the United States were better than the Jamaican, Russian, Nigerian and French teams they supplanted from what may well have been their rightful steps on the Olympic podium. We will never be able to say with any certainty; the facts, ultimately, are simply too muddled for coherent analysis. But what we do know is this: the Americans, after this ruling, have been declared the rightful winners of the race by what is essentially the Supreme Court of Sport. The ruling is final, like it or not… though we’ll never see another one quite like it ever again…

READ “Sydney Olympians Win Appeal to Reinstate Medals”

TOOLING AROUND THE NET…

Every week it’s something new… yet I can’t help but keep diving into a subject once my mind’s there. I’m still stuck on the World Cup, as my reading selections show. Currently it is a book of essays compiled and edited by Stephen Wagg titled Giving the Game Away: Football, Politics and Culture on Five Continents. I’m not one for light reading… fiction was never my strong suit, which is what makes sports so fun — often things are stranger than fiction, right up my alley. I can’t resist the pull of a really perplexing phenomenon, or the desire to think outside the box. So here’s what grabbed me most as I read articles on my phone on the bus or on breaks at work in between essays in the aforementioned tome:

  • Brazilian league lacks bite (Tim Vickery/BBC Sport/19 July 2010) Now that the past month is over, thoughts can start drifting back to club teams after taking the timeout to focus on the international game of soccer. But as Vickery illustrates, not all leagues are created equal. For all the talent the Brazilians produce — amongst international squads, they could easily field two full sides in a tournament and have a realistic shot at matching up against each other in the finals — their league still leaves something to be desired. In this article Vickery focuses on how a reduced level of pace, structure and discipline in Brazil’s professional game might be a detriment to those stars once they reach out for the big money of Europe. It is a case study in why coddling potential budding superstars can ultimately cause their withering demise…
  • U.S. soccer going abroad to find talent (Brent Latham/ESPN.com/16 July 2010) Yes, the World Cup still occupies the thoughts of this Non-Traditional Sports Fan in America despite the fact they’re over again for another four years. It’s never too early to start looking ahead — just as fellow Sports Nickel writer Jack Greene, who is currently in the process of doing just that with his series, “The Future of Soccer” — and that’s just what the Americans are up to at the moment. How does a country, one with little pedigree in the sport yet ever-rising ambitions, find a way to improve its lot at the international level? As Latham reports, U.S. Soccer has decided to take the tactic of going abroad. The battle for dual-citizenship players at the youth level is always contentious (just ask the Boateng family, where Jerome plays for Germany while half-brother Kevin-Prince plays for Ghana), and it will be fascinating to see what Rongen, Gulati and crew dig up abroad…
  • Fraternization among foes have made sports way too chummy (Dan Shaughnessy/SI.com/19 July 2010) I found it really amusing that, on the same day when many a fan across the globe was fuming mad about the decision by Alberto Contador not to wait up for race leader Andy Schleck after his mechanical failure on the Port de Bales on Stage 15 of the Tour (see above), this article went up at Sports Illustrated’s website. Shaughnessy, using the recent three-star alignment in Miami after the Heat signed LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, posits that sports these days are just a bit weaker for all the friendly relations between seeming opponents. Unfortunately, I fear he may be right. Without true enmity between rivals, and the best playing against the best, we are left with a watered-down version dictated by the athletes’ desires but without any of their true passion. And, most frighteningly, we as fans become so inured that, when a gauntlet is thrown, anything perceived to be unfair — even when it is wholly fair — is scorned loudly…
  • Girls should be given main tour chance (Patrick Mouratoglou/Eurosport/16 July 2010) Earlier in the day last Friday, I read an article on ESPN about the trials and tribulations which have befallen the child prodigy Jennifer Capriati throughout her two decades in the public eye. Largely due to the pitfalls of her young entry to the WTA Tour, women’s tennis has responded with rules intended to allow these girls to still be girls. Yet along comes Mouratoglou with a piece on Eurosport on the same day, talking about why the rules are too regressive. Sure, there are certainly young ladies in the juniors ranks who are physically capable of playing against Serena Williams or Samantha Stosur or Kim Clijsters… but does that really mean that they should?

ON THE DOCKET…

The summer has calmed its pace since the trifecta of the World Cup, Wimbledon and the Tour de France all came together on July 3; we are down to just the cycling as far as the biggest international spectacles go, and that means there is plenty of time to dig deeper and find some other pursuits worth following as well. The British Open has arrived and passed, with improbable champion Louis Oosthuizen dominating the venerable old course at St. Andrews, Scotland, so fans of the links have the chance to diversify as well. But that doesn’t mean that the Black Hole is imminent; that sun has come and washed away the rain. Lots of diversions await; don’t hesitate to give them a shot. After all, what will you be watching this weekend and beyond?

  • World Lacrosse Championships (through Saturday/24 July 2010)Sure, it is intolerable that the British denied the Iroquois team passage to this event. But we can at least take solace in the fact that the host team has absolutely no chance of finishing in the top four of the competition (where the Iroquois have finished each of the past two quadrennial editions of the tournament). Will it be the Americans and Canadians matching up yet again in the final after meeting in every championship match since 1998? Will Australia derail the Yanks for their first chance at a title since 1994, avenging their loss that year to the U.S. in the final?  Will the Japanese squad knock off the Canucks to earn their first-ever shot at the championship? One way or another, and while it is sad to see the Iroquois absent at this juncture, there are still three contests left that are wholly worth watching — you can find it at 247.tv
  • Tour de France (through Sunday/25 July 2010) – With the riders coursing through the Pyrenees one last day today before the final trio of stages into Paris, we’re just four days away from knowing whether it will be Schleck or Contador who walks away from the Champs-Elysees with the maillot jaune on his shoulders. Which sprinter will win the stage on the promenade along the Seine… and will that result determine which man ends up with the maillot vert in the points battle? Can Anthony Chatreau hold on to his lead as the polka-dotted King of the Mountains and become the first Frenchman since Richard Virenque in 2004 to win a jersey at the race? There’s tons of intrigue in store, and Versus will have the live action in the mornings along with replays all day…
  • F1 German Grand Prix (Sunday/25 July 2010) Speed TV will have the coverage from Hockenheim almost two days late, airing the race at Tuesday midnight Eastern (Monday 9:00 pm Pacific)… so if you want to watch some live coverage, I suggest you check out one of my favorite sites on the internet to find a free live feed, usually through Eurosport. I highly recommend watching, live online or the late-night Monday replay from Speed, because Hockenheim is a notoriously fickle course over the past two decades. (The last person to win this race a second time in their career besides Michael Schumacher was Britain’s Nigel Mansell in 1991 and 1992.) Could Schumacher, hoping for a good result finally in his comeback season, pull off the upset? Or will Red Bull’s defending champion Mark Webber follow in the footsteps of Mansell, Ayrton Senna (1988-90) and Nelson Piquet (1986-87) to start a new trend of repeat champions in Germany? Hamilton has already also won this race before, so he could get his second career victory as well… a McLaren/Red Bull duel looms, with Ferrari and especially Mercedes (for Schumacher) looking to get in the hunt as well…
  • Tennis, tennis everywhere… (throughout the week) Just check out the lineup throughout the week at the Tennis Channel…  every day this week there’s something new. Friday yields the ATP quarterfinals in Hamburg and Atlanta, with both the American and German tournaments continuing through the weekend to their championship matches on Sunday. And if you miss that live action, replays are going throughout the week. You can also catch the classic Capriati-Henin match from the 2003 U.S. Open on Monday and the 2005 U.S. Open tilt between Agassi and Federer on Tuesday, along with the U.S. Open National Playoffs. All in all, the ramp-up to Flushing Meadows is in full swing, and now’s the time to get brushed up on some history and that hard-court game after the clay and the grass of spring and early summer…

After all, when it comes to beating the summer heat, it is all a matter of keeping a cool and level head. Sure, with the NFL and college football so close you can almost taste the fresh-cut grass it is tough to distract the mind enough not to pass out from the giddiness. Hockey is right over the horizon, even if Ilya Kovalchuk doesn’t know whether he’ll be a Devil or not. A stretch run in baseball looms as the days shorten again. So many things are just out of reach as we inch along through the summer of 2010.

But just because there is so much to look forward to in the near future doesn’t mean that the present is a yawning abyss of nothingness. All it takes to stay sane in this endless summer of action is an open mind, a good television or internet connection and a little time to let the mind wander to another corner of the globe. After all, who really wants to merely endure the drab thumb-twiddling wait of the average American sporting life this time of year? There is no need to saddle oneself with such tedium when there are plenty of athletes ready to entertain us if only we allow ourselves to diversify beyond the traditional…



Zach is a writer and editor who covers a wide array of sports both traditional and non-traditional. Formerly the managing editor of Informative Sports before joining Sports Nickel, Zach has been covering events international and domestic for various publications since 2006. Find him @zbigalke on Twitter.

Zach Bigalke has written 289 posts for SportsNickel.com

TAGS: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments

  1. World Wide News Flash
  2. Stable Store Equestrian Shop

Leave a Comment