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A Random Post

  I want to believe in Usain Bolt. I don't really know why I need this so desperately, apart froorm the fact that I look at the man and want him to be legit. Why would he be on the gear? I mean look at the dude? He is just a machine, a hyper-real cartoon figure of a man who literally takes off like Road Runner and mows the rest of the field down. He slows down at the finish line to check it all out, to savour his victory! He dances before and after the race like this doesn't really mean anything to him. The man is an amazing specimen, with more bravado, more front, more energy than anyone this side of Muhammad Ali in his prime. I love the cockiness. Iit is completely against my national sentiment btw. As an Australian I hate the idea of someone that talented rubbing others’ nose in his genius.  We prefer out champs more Sam Stosur than Lleyton Hewitt, thanks very much. Our Sam just goes about it with little flair and no charisma. Just wins the match and shakes the loser’s hand, cursory wave to the fans and she's off. No histrionics for Sam. No chainsaw or yelping,- 'C'mon,' every time the match is turning her way. We hate Lleyton for being so confident that he showboats it. Usain would not get much traction wearing green and gold but in the livery of Jamaica I want him to be a world beater.Lance Armstrong skewered my faith. Strangely, I didn't care that much for him as a person. His lack of a charisma, the blandness of his competitive persona didn't invite me to care that greatly for his everyday business. I looked at the big picture though and saw a bloke you wanted to believe. Cancer survivor, seven time Tour De France winner, paean of all that is righteous. The truth now appears to be that his holier than thou attitude was a mask for the ruthless competitive cyclist underneath. In recent days I’ve heard it said that he was cycling in the worst era of doping and cheating with performance enhancing drugs that the sport of cycling has ever known. The  implication being that he would have only stayed competitive if he used the apparatus's of that cheating himself. The man who never quit, who made us think of him as a man who would die before he conceded, suddenly and inexplicably walked away from the fight.No one knows what happens next but the shadow his decision not to fight the charges against him casts leaves too much in  the shade. Put simply, I believed Lance Armstrong was 'clean' when he dominated his sport because he made you want to be a part of his righteous vision. He was a tele-evangelist , hyping himself so grandly that even though I didn't follow the sport I assumed he was telling me the whole truth. Why would someone so supremely confident in his action lie to me?More importantly, why do we always fall for this act? The classic default setting appears to be - never trust the politici but always trust the athlete. Isn't that just slightly screwy? Think of the logic for a second. Who gets paid pots loads of money based of successful performance and who has to facet a voting public every three years? There are truth, lies and damn statistics, sure, but thane when it come to the political life there appears to much more to lose in the form of integrity than you will ever lose in using illegal methods to ensure a multi-billion dollar athletic supplier uses you as the face of their advertising campaigns in the future.This is the mythical angle  of sporting endeavour. Whether you subscribe to the grandiose exhalations of athletes as Gods that walk amongst us, or you just glance at the Olympics every four years, it is nigh on impossible to ignore the 'hype' that surrounds a pursuit that really doesn’t seem to hold much gravitas. If you watch sport, chances are you play it as well. I firmly believe there is the connection. You wield the willow or hurl the pigskin and suddenly watching the best of the best do what you have attempted makes you connected. I wanted to be a multi-sport hero as a child. I opened the batting for Australia in the summer and played full-forward for St.Kilda in the winters. Looking back I do find that fascinating. I certainly pretended to be my heroes. I would raise the bat in  an exaggerated back-lift to imitate Allan Border and take speccies off the granny flat down pipe in imitation of Trevor Barker but they were always my team mates. T. Greenaway was always on the team sheet. Of course, you reach an age where your dreams don't fulfil your ability. According to Malcolm Gladwell, I was spreading my talents too thin. I needed to be dedicated to one sport above all others and put into it all my  obsession. Ten thousand hours makes you capable regardless of any other factors. Talent, it is now supposed, is based on dedicated, repeated training. Do a task often enough and it becomes automatic. Once that occurs, you stop having to occupy you brain with the task and can concentrate on strategy. Champions win, more often than not, because they are so attuned to their sport they play that there is an automatic element to their play. Roger Federer wins so effortlessly because he has practiced that win hundreds and thousands of times. Every shot in his arsenal has been played and perfected. The best example of this dedication  comes in the form of Australian Test cricketer, Mike Hussey. While I was copying Allan Border's back-lift in the backyard I always batted right handed. Nothing wrong with that you suppose, even if Border was a left hander. But across the country in Perth, Hussey also took to imitating Border's style……..except, while he was also a right hander, he made the decision to change his technique to better imitate him. Anyone who has ever played cricket will tell you how seriously difficult that is. Once you have locked in to battling on one side of your body, picking the bat up and trying from the other side feels so unnatural and awkward that you can barely make contact with the delivery. It is the act of learning to bat all over again. If you ever want to understand how hard it was to learn the skill of batting from scratch, try picking up the bat on your opposite side. You have to think about everything - Bottom hand is power, top hand is control. Front foot points towards the ball…then there's the trigger movement. Every batsman has an 'engagement' moment. Just before the ball is released by the bowler, I move my back foot ever so slightly forward. It is a trigger to get my momentum. To react to a delivery you need to be balanced and fluid, meeting the ball with your bat in a position that let's you put the ball where you want it to go. I distinctly remember my junior coach teaching me to do that and how hard it was to perfect. Before his intervention I was rooted to the spot and falling over on impact with the ball. Subsequently it never went where I expected. With my back foot moving I could make the ball work for me. Yet, I could never get it completely right. I could never work the ball through a gap in the field. I never learnt how to build an innings. There were holes in my learning experience that I never had the dedication to fulfil. Meanwhile, Mike Hussey taught himself to bat left handed and became a test cricketer….That gap in my learning experience was fairly substantial. Yet I still feel overly qualified to comment on the merits of Hussey being in the Test side. The point is that I feel involved with the sports I watch. I venture my opinion in terms that it is as valid and important was anyone else's. That sense that I know what's what when it comes to sport only falls apart when athletes break their side of the bargain. Lance told me he was clean. I  bought into that on his recommendation and never thought about it. Now I have been offered the opportunity, I can start to wonder how anyone gets through the Tour De France. I mean really? That is a brutal and uncompromising test of endurance and willpower that I cannot get my head around. When you discuss the idea of skills becoming automatic, I can't imagine how that can factor in the pain threshold that cyclists must go through on a daily basis on the Tour. In an article Gladwell recently wrote for The New Yorker he tells the tale of winning the very first cross-country race he entered. As a teen he took to running and thought nothing of entering a race and striving to win it before he'd trained anywhere near enough to expect to. When he won anyway, the realisation of how much he had to push himself, how much pain he had to endure to get there, he suggests that it ruined his chances of ever winning again. Once he knew what he had to do to triumph, the very thought of going there again meant that he lost the passion almost immediately. Men like Armstrong go there again and again. The pumping of your legs as they power up a mountain might be automatic muscle response but the pain  never goes away. How you bring yourself to go through that repeatedly is what separates us from elite competitors. To find out that those elite athletes are cheating is bitter pill to swallow, pun very much intended. It is why I want to believe that Usain Bolt is all fanatical training and biomechanics and nothing to hide. Ben Johnson shocked the world, I suspect not because he cheated but because he was so brazen about the act of cheating. He won with such flourish that the aftermath felt like the tsunami waves finally reaching the shore. It was the aftershock that resonated more than the act of cheating. We believed he won because we saw him do it…then we learnt the why and how and were asked to reassess what we had seen. That's hard to do. Even more so when we see the participants of these events as Gods. There is a very difficult disconnect between the Gods of the field and the people they become on our side of the fence. It can be disturbing to realise that Shane Warne, the greatest bowler I have ever had the pleasure of watching, is an outright dropkick off the turf. It has been the template for my new world order of sport engagement though. I  have now managed to take the person out of the equation. It does soundhould drastic I know, but by making that decision I can relieve myself of the burden of having to justify the person behind the talent. If Warne wants to swing with some 'ladies' in his jocks with an inflatable phallus, then let him go. If he wants to get crazy surgery and hook up with Liz Hurley, sure. Water of this little black duck's back. If he ripped a huge leggie through the gate and made a Test quality batman look stupid then that’s all I cared about. It made my life so much easier. The only way it comes crashing down is if the whole facade falls away a'la Tiger Woods.It’s what makes Lance Armstrong's downfall difficult to take. His shame is connected to his glory. Cheating appears to be a part of his psyche and that changes the rules. Tiger cheated in that other sphere that I don't care about. Armstrong will be shamed in the area I have chosen to focus on. That sucks.Please Usain. Be real or the shoes I bought will be a waste of time….. Yes it really has got to that level of consumerism....