Tag Archives: olympics

Swim USA

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

There is so much for me to write about and so little time. I have been pretty busy the past week or so. But sadly there are far too many things that I want to write about but don’t have the time, so unless someone creates an eighth day to the week and gives us a twenty-eight hour day I don’t know how I will be able to do it. 

So tonight I have just a short thought. Tonight I watched the American men and women swim teams cap off an amazing Olympics as the 4×100 Relay teams took gold. The American swimmers won 16 gold medals of a total 33 medals. The highlights of their performance in Rio are too numerous to list, but the their accomplishments set a standard of excellence and sportsmanship that we all should try to emulate, even if we are not swimmers. 

The see Michael Phelps conclude his Olympic career with 23 Gold medals of 28, the most of any Olympian ever was amazing, even when he lost the 100 meter Butterfly to a young man who idolized him. But tonight, he as well as teammates Ryan Murphy, Nathan Adrian, and Cody Miller. Murphy swam a world record backstroke leg to set the Americans up for the win. 

The American women concluded their campaign with the win with the team of Kathleen Baker, Lilly King, Dana Vollmer, and Simone Manuel winner the 4×100 relay. Three of the four women were in their first Olympics, and Manuel, who took two gold and two silver medals in the games was the first African American to medal in Olympic swimming. That is very important from a historical point of view. During the Jim Crow era, African Americans were prohibited from most public and private swimming pools, and as a result, swimming was not a sport that African Americans had much of a chance to excel. As in so many other areas of life, in swimming, blacks were considered less capable because they were racially inferior. Simone Manuel, an American whose public demeanor made us all proud exercised the ghosts of Jim Crow and has set a standard for others to emulate. 

I cannot forget Katy Ledecky’s dominance of the freestyle races, nor Lilly King who stood up to a Russian swimmer who had previously been identified as a user of PEDs. 

I was happy to be able watch all of the swim meets and proud to see Team USA do so well and in the process be magnanimous in victory. 

So anyway, until tomorrow. 


Padre Steve+

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2012 Olympics: The Gold for the Fab Five, an Olympic Record for Phelps and putting the Bad Back in Badminton

The Fierce Fab Five

I am amazed at the abilities of Olympic athletes, especially the gymnasts.  As part of junior high physical education we had to play around at gymnastics and I can say I am in awe of young women and men who combine the strength, grace and agility required to do this at any level, but especially at the national and international level.

The Magnificent Seven of 1996

My appreciation for these athletes really began in 1976 when like so many I was charmed by little Nadia Comaneci who scored the first perfect 10 in Olympic history. Since then when I watch the Olympics I make sure that I at least try to see the gymnastic competitions.  I remember the 1996 Games when the American “Magnificent Seven” led by the injured Kerry Strug won the Gold in Atlanta.


Jordyn Wieber

Last night I watched the Women’s Team event even though I already knew that the American girls had won the event. Somehow that didn’t seem to matter. NBC has had its share of errors during this Olympic year but last night was not one of them.

Gabby Douglas

I had watched the individual competition earlier in the week and was disappointed with the rules that kept Jordyn Wieber from being in the individual all-round competition despite being one of the top five competitors. It is a bad rule but it did not stop Wieber from helping her teammates win the Team Gold on Tuesday.

Wieber along with her teammates Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Ali Raisman and Kyla Ross blew away the competition  demonstrating incredible aggressiveness and amazing ability. The started strong on the vault and continuing without any major mistakes in any event. As the final scores were registered on the balance beam and the Russian team wept the girls who in a sport that is an incredible display of individual achievement showed that they were a team. Some are saying that they are the best team ever. It would be hard to argue that point.

It was a proud moment for them, their families and their coaches. It was great to watch and made me proud to see such poise under pressure and excellence in execution. It was inspiring to see these young women stick together as a team.

Michael Phelps

Likewise it was good to see Michael Phelps the greatest swimmer in Olympics history add to his legacy. It had been a tough Olympics for Phelps who had taken 8 Golds in Beijing in 2008 but failed to end up on the medal stand in an event for the first time since 2002. He won Silver in the 200 meter Butterfly, losing in the last couple of feet, but  anchored the team in the 4×200 freestyle relay.

Now while the Fab Five and thousands of other athletes were doing all that they could to win there was a shameful display in the Badminton tournament. Four teams were disqualified from the Olympics for attempting to manipulate the standings of thier group stage to secure more favorable match ups in the next rounds. The Badminton tournament is a round robin competition instead of an elimination style event that most of the other team events follow. In this event four pairs of doubles players, four teams, one from China, two from Korea and one from Indonesia were disqualified for throwing games in order. The Chinese seemed to be the instigator of this trying to set up a situation where they could play another Chinese team for Gold.

Disqualified for Throwing Games

There always seems to be at least one scandal at the Olympics, usually related to judging or teams or athletes using performance enhancing drugs. This was different. There is cheating and there is cheating. In this case China’s world double’s champion team of Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang threw a match against the South Koreans after another the second seeded Chinese team was unexpected defeated by a team from Denmark. Had the Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang won the match the Chinese could have faced each other in the semi-finals. By losing they hoped to set up a situation where they could still meet in the final. The Koreans and Indonesians were punished for the same type of behavior.

Throwing games in any sport shows a lack of honor and no respect for the game.  The teams that were involved should be banned from international competition.  Officials and fans alike condemned the teams. Gail Emms said that “It was absolutely shocking….The crowds were booing and chanting ‘Off, off, off.’” Another top player called the it a “circus match” while Lin Dan, the Chinese Men’s Gold Medalist noted that the sport would be damaged while defending his teammates and blaming the organizers for the round robin format.

Thankfully the Badminton World Federation took decisive action penalizing the teams for “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport.”

The contrast between the Fab Five and the teams that gave their all but lost in the team gymnastic competition and the “Bad” girls of Badminton was amazing. The women of the gymnastic competition, even those that did not medal clothed themselves and their sport in honor while the four Badminton pairs damaged their sport and dishonored themselves.

That being said I find it hard to believe that a “sport” like Badminton remains an Olympic sport while the IOC members voted out both Baseball and Women’s Softball. That is a travesty.

Well, back to watching the games.


Padre Steve+


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Finishing Second…Padre Steve Muses on Winning and Losing

“Without losers, where would the winners be?” Casey Stengel

Upset Win for Team USA

Charlie Brown once said “Winning isn’t everything, but losing isn’t anything.” I am one of the most competitive people that I know, I hate to lose and that attitude extends to almost everything I do. While I have a good attitude and don’t at least consciously try to gloat when I do well I also am never happy when I know that I could have done better.  As a kid I remember reading NHL Hockey great Stan Mikita’s book “I Play to Win” and while early on in life I took things less seriously than I should have I never forgotten that little book.

The Agony of Defeat Team USA Women “win” the Silver Medal

The most disappointing thing for me is to come close to winning it all and falling short due to my own mistakes or just simply having been beaten by someone better.  Since I am not the most gifted of athletes and had to learn the hard way about doing well academically I am one of those guys who have to work doubly hard to do well.  When I was in high school I played football for a year before moving on to be a trainer for the team.  I had never played organized tackle football before and probably should have stayed with baseball but I went out for the team anyway and through sheer determination and refusal to quit stayed on the team.  I didn’t get much playing time in, only a few plays in each of the last three games of the season but still finished the season.  At the team banquet after the season I was named most inspirational player. Now most inspirational is not about being the best or even good.  I really don’t know why I got it but evidently I must have inspired someone.  I realized after the season that I had no legitimate place on the football field and since I was the smallest and one of the slowest individuals in a sport where size, speed and power are paramount I took it all as a life lesson.

Canadian Celebration

In college I did not live up to my potential, I came out with a 2.8 something GPA.  However in the classes that I put the effort into I aced, those that I sluffed off because I thought they were boring I blew with a poor attitude and lazy performance.  There were also times that I overreached and had to sacrifice grades in order to get the credits I need for graduation, this happened my senior year when I took 21 hours at Cal State Northridge, 4 at UCLA had a job and was in the National Guard. Threatened with incompletes I negotiate to get out with low grades and not have to take the classes again.  Not a smart way to go, but once again a learning point taken.

No Medal for the Russians

In seminary I worked my ass off both in class, with more than one job and serving in the National Guard. That was the hardest I have ever worked. We had lost our house in the real estate meltdown of 1988-89 and Judy was sick through most of seminary.  When it looked like due to financial considerations that I would have to drop out for a semester I called a “prayer line” of a major TV ministry. Some “prayer partner” at the Terrible Blond Network (TBN) had the never to tell me that I must not be called to ministry because “otherwise God would be blessing you.” Somehow that angered and motivated me to get back in the game and finish, I just needed something to motivate me and despite many other challenges I finished and finished well, with a 3.5 GPA in a 92 semester hour program always working at least a full time job as well as being a National Guard officer.  Despite this I was not satisfied as I thought that I could have done better in several classes which would have probably had me finish with a 3.8 GPA. In classes that I scored less than an “A” I felt like I had let Judy as well as those helping me down, and we got a lot of help the last two years of school from people at work and church.  Since that time I have worked very hard in every academic endeavor as well as in physical conditioning.  Since I entered the Navy I have judged and score less than an “Outstanding” on the Navy RPT or Class One on the Marine PFT as personal failure.  I may be almost 50 years old competing against myself as well as trying to keep pace with young guys but I hate not to do my utmost to excel.  My biggest disappointment coming back from Iraq as that physically and emotionally I have not been at my best. That is changing and I hope that Adolph passes on his own so I don’t require surgery that could set me back in my physical conditioning program.   At least emotionally and spiritually I am getting things back together and academically I finished a Masters in Military History with honors passing my comprehensive exams with distinction and keeping a 4.0 through the entire program.

Glad to get the Bronze, Team Finland

The past few nights while laid up in pain from the damned Kidney stone which I have decided to name Adolf Von GrosseSchmertzen (Adolf of the Big Pain) I ended up watching a lot of the Olympics especially Hockey and Speed Skating.  I think this is because I played hockey for a couple of years in junior high school.  What impressed me was what used to be called on ABC’s Wide World of Sports “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

Redemption for Bodie Miller

While watching these events I again was impressed as just how close the margin is for world class athletes and teams between winning and losing.  I wonder how anyone could call any of these athletes’ losers or as in the case of some countries like South Korea have fans send hate mail to athletes who don’t win it all. I could feel for the Dutch speed skater who followed his coach’s directions and ended up disqualified even though he had won the event handily and would have done so without the misdirection. Likewise the angst of Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso whose ill timed crash and stoppage caused Vonn to not finish and Mancuso to finish 8th in an event that they have dominated.  Then to see the winner’s who had never won before or failed to live up to expectations in previous games like Bodie Miller who came back from a personal worst at Torino where though heavily favored did not medal. In this Olympics it was great to see the joy on his face when he won his gold medal.  There were so many other individual performances that were memorable where athletes experienced triumph and tragedy often exhibiting tremendous grace and sportsmanship even in defeat.  From the treacherous Bobsled, Luge and Skeleton track where a young Georgian luger died before the completion and a heavily favored German sled flipped, the chaotic short track speed skating, to the grueling Nordic events and the individual pressure on the figure skaters and ice dancers it was something to watch.

Less than Gracious in Defeat Evgeni Plushenko

When American figure skater Evan Lysacek defeated favored Russian Evgeni Plushenko his joy as well as magnanimity in victory were in stark contrast to Plushenko who bad mouthed Lysacek and then claimed a “Platinum medal” on his website.  It is hard to lose, I guess Plushenko will have “the sorest loser who ever lived” placed on his tombstone.  Then there was the beautiful performance of Joannie Rochette of Canada in Women’s Figure Skating who took to the ice just days after the death of her mother and won the Bronze Medal.

Overcoming the Death of Her Mother Joannie Rochette takes Bronze

However for me the most memorable moments will be the Hockey tournament in both the mens and womens competition.  The shock of the Canadian men losing for the first time in Olympic completion to the United States has set up a possible rematch for the Gold medal; while the vaunted Russians were manhandled by the same Canadian team and eliminated from the completion not even reach the quarter-finals.  To see the dream of the Swedish women end in sudden death to the Finns was one of the most poignant examples of the thrill of victory for the underdog Finns who had not medaled since 1998 and the devastated faces of the Swedes some of whom sat on the ice in tears while a fear meters away the Finns were celebrating.  But the hardest was for the American women who lost to the Canadians 2-0 in the Gold medal game. Finishing second is always difficult because unlike others you always wonder and have in your mind the “what if” and “why” that make of the difference between victory and defeat.  That goes for the Olympics, the Super Bowl, World Series, World Cup, High School  or Little League championship.  Second is the hardest place to finish.  Watching the medal ceremony after the Gold Medal game it was a study in contrasting emotions.

Disqualified for Listening to Coach…Ouch

First were the Finns who had upset the Swedes in the Bronze medal game in sudden death overtime.  They showed elation even though they finished third.  Then there were the Canadians flush with victory on home ice, once again joy.  Finally there was the American team, the defending World Champion team still in shock and showing the disappointment of their loss while trying to be gracious in defeat.  As they received their medals you could see that this was not what they came to Vancouver for, they had come to win and finished second.

Evan Lysacek Wins the Men’s Gold

Now the Canadians are great people and great Allies.  They have stood with us for years and despite enduring a lot of ugliness by various American media types they are our friends.  We have two Canadian exchange officer chaplains in our Pastoral Care residency program and I wish I could get them into our Navy. The Canadian Hockey teams sent a letter to their troops deployed in harm’s way.  One of our Canadians sent a copy to me and it really stuck me as something very special.   I place it for you here:

February 5, 2010

To OUR Troops,

As we get ready to represent Canada at the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Februaryand March, we wanted to take a minute to let each and every one of you know how much of an inspiration you will be in our quest for three gold medals in the coming months.

People throw out words like war and battle way too often when speaking about sports such as hockey.,,As athletes, we know that what we do for our country can never measure up to your contributions ‐ the sacrifice and dedication that our armed forces show on a daily basis.

When we take to the ice, rest assured that we will have you in our thoughts and prayers. We are so proud to be Canadians, and owe so much of what we have here to you, the Canadian military.

We will do our best to represent you well in competition, and look forward to a day in the very near future when you will return home safely in Canada, and all Canadians can thank you in person.

All the best,

Jean Labonté                      Scott Niedermayer                     Hayley Wickenheiser

Captain                                      Captain                                       Captain

Sledge hockey team             Men’s hockey team                  Women’s hockey team

I thought that the way the Canadian hockey teams did this for their soldiers was really great, they are a classy organization.

Anyone who has ever finished second, or lost in a playoff or championship game can understand. I’ve been on a number of teams that have finished second or lost a playoff game after winning a league or conference. That is far more emotionally difficult than being on a team that is terrible, in fact my best year hitting in either baseball or softball came when I played on the worst team that I ever played on.  That season ended when I was plowed over at home plate trying to put a tag on a charging runner and breaking my right wrist.

Over the years I have come to handle defeat better.  I still don’t like it but I refused to be a bad sport by either dissing my competition or gloating.  I am up for promotion this year, of course it is a competition as not everyone will get promoted. I think my record is solid but you never know until the results are released.  When officers are “passed over” or “non-selected” they are often shunted aside by the institution and sometimes even by their colleagues.  In the past I have always tried to care for friends who were not selected and help them prepare for a second look or their grief at the end of their career.  I am fortunate, even if I a not selected I will be able to retire and count it all as a great career between two services.  Hopefully regardless of the outcome I will be gracious, although as Bill “Spaceman” Lee said: “People are too hung up on winning. I can get off on a really good helmet throw.”

So to all those who competed with all their hearts thank you.  You may not have won but you are all the best in the world at what you do. Maybe your example will inspire others to greatness in sports and life.

And to the rest of us, me included may we all strive to do our best and treat others well in the process.


Padre Steve+


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Interns and Residents Graduate while New Ones Arrive; Save #500 for Mariano Rivera and I Know Why the North Koreans are So Belligerent…They Don’t Have Baseball!

Well. I got back to work today and I’m glad to be back.  The trip to DC was really nice.  Having duty the first day back well, what can I say?  Tonight has been very busy but not too sporty yet, although I am wondering as the night has a weird feel, which a resident that I have worked with a lot feels too.  Hopefully we are just paranoid.  I wrote this at my dinner break and thankfully I picked relatively uncomplicated things to write about tonight, I had it done by the time the cardiac response pager went off following some meetings and early rounds and patient visits.  It’s about 2300 and I am just now sitting down to finish this prologue.

Today we graduated our Intern Class.  I have gotten to know a good number of these young physicians during the past year during their ICU rotation as well as when I have been on call throughout the house.  It was a privilege to be at the graduation at the invitation of the class leadership as I had been with them on their Dining Out back in April.  To have one more time with them before they go on to residency, the Fleet Marine Force or Sea Billets as General Medical Officers or Surgeons, as well as those selected to become Flight Surgeons or Diving Medical Officers assigned to Special Operations, Diving or EOD units was really nice.  Having spent a lot of time with many on the ICU I see the toll that the internship places on them and their families.  These young physicians have done well and will serve our Sailors and Marines, as well as Soldiers and Airmen and their families well.  Some will remain to complete residencies of various types and lengths, while those who do not initially get a residency will likely be on the front line of caring for our servicemen and women in harm’s way or on medical and humanitarian missions.  Some will end up with the Marines in Iraq or Afghanistan and others serve as the “Doctor” for a ship or Marine battalion often far from any immediate back up or specialty care.  I wish all of them the best.  We have also had residents leave us for new horizons.  Some will be going on to advanced fellowships while others will serve as staff physicians or surgeons throughout the world.   It has been great working with many of them in their final residency year.

While these young physicians are leaving us, we have some who will remain on as residents here or fellowships.  It will be good to continue to work with and get to know them over the coming years.  Now the fun part, we have a butt load of brand new Interns who are reporting to us as well as some Residents from other institutions or coming back from their tours in the Fleet.  I remember my time at civilian teaching hospitals where I served as a chaplain or did my residency.  Pastoral Care Residencies typically start in September or October which takes them out of the cycle that most residents or interns have in the medical community.  I hope that we will eventually have our program lined up so our new residents report the same time the physician internships and residencies begin and for our residents to have more interaction with them.  I think the latter will happen sooner than the first mentioned with things that we are in the process of instituting.  I really believe that the cross pollination of physician and pastoral care residencies will benefit both specialties as they meet at the intersections of healing, life and death, faith and spirituality.  Tonight when I have been greeting every new physician I see and introducing myself to them.  They come from quite a few interesting places and I hope to get to know them all pretty well.

Last night was a great event.  Yankees ace reliever and “closer deluxe” Mariano Rivera notched his 500th save.  He became the second pitcher to achieve this number as he shut down the New York Mets at Citi Park.  To some this may not seem too much of an accomplishment.  After all, the relief pitcher as a specialty and development of pitchers to serve in different relief roles is a relatively new part of baseball, really only going back to the 1970s.  Of course there were relieves before, but they had a limited role as starters often would pitch complete games.  Satchel Paige was an exception when he came to the Majors from the Negro Leagues spending most of his time in a relief role, and there are a few others but the reliever was in many cases a former starter who didn’t have the juice to pitch complete games later in their careers.  Rivera is a special breed even as a reliever.  He is a closer.  This means that when he comes in he is either trying to save the victory or stave off defeat.  He has to come in at a moment’s notice in any park, weather or situation often to deal with the heart of an opponent’s batting order.  He has the 500 saves and a career 2.29 ERA.  In the World Series he has 9 saves and a 1.16 ERA.  It gets better.  In the League Championship Series that he has pitched in he has 10 saves and a 0.97 ERA and in Division Series he has 15 saves and a 0.38 ERA.  Since the playoffs tend to have the better and more competitive teams in them so these are amazing statistics.  In the playoff he has 8 wins and only one loss.  At age 39 he shows no sign of letting up.

What makes a guy like Mariano so special is first that he is nearly unhittable and his very presence on the mound gives confidence to the Yankees and sends a message to their opponents.  He will if he has any say in the matter save or win that game even if he comes in early with the bases loaded and no outs in the 8th inning.  Rivera is like a really hot ER or ICU team that has to save a life when the situation is at the worst or if not that bad where it could get sporty.  I have always admired relievers who do the job well having had to go into a number of jobs where my predecessor both as a Medical Service Corps Officer in the Army or Navy Chaplain was fired.  That is no fun when you have to go pick up the pieces.  Relievers make their living doing this and Rivera has to be the best reliever who has ever lived.  To top it off he is regarded as a nice guy, a leader and one of baseball’s good guys.  And last but not least Mariano was not a “bonus baby.”  He came up as an undrafted free agent.  Some Trevor Hoffman fans may argue this point but the high intensity playoff game record speaks for itself.  Nobody does it better.  Someday Jonathan Papelbon may do so for the Red Sox, but he has many years to go before he hits 500 saves.  He has the advantage of starting his Major League career as a closer and already has as of the end of 2008 114 saves and a 1.84 ERA.  He is the real deal and hopefully will remain healthy.

Finally a closing thought for the night.  I have wondered for some time just why the North Koreans can be so bellicose and ill tempered.  They are threatening to incinerate us and upset that we have moved missile interceptors to Hawaii, like hello, Hawaii is 4000 miles away from North Korea.  Needless to say the whole bunch of nations in the neighborhood is not real happy with the Dictator named Kim. The Japanese are upping their readiness, the South Koreans sending folks to the border and talking of pre-emption and even the Chicoms and Russians are not real happy.  Some sources are even saying the Nutty North Koreans may launch and ICBM in our general direction around the 4th of July.  That would not be cool.

So like I said, I was wondering about what makes the North Koreans so ill tempered.  It finally came to me last week at Harbor Park when watching the Tides play the Pawtucket Red Sox.  There were scouts from the Korean Professional Baseball league in the stands as well as Japanese scouts and American scouts.  Then it hit me.  Baseball is big in South Korea and they are getting pretty darned good in international competition.  They are so good in fact that they have won the Olympic Gold Medal and finished second in the World Baseball Classic.  In contrast the North Koreans don’t have baseball.  If they had baseball they would be able to work off all that unhealthy stress and hatred, the Yin and Yang would come back into balance.  What if Kim Jung Il had played little league and high school ball?  Who knows he might be a manager in the Korean Leagues taking out all that anger on the umpires when they make a bad call or executing his closers when they fail.  The South Koreans have been blessed by the Deity Herself with Baseball and I do believe that this has to be the difference.  Even Communist Cuba is nowhere near as nutty as North Korea and this too I attribute to Baseball and Fidel having played ball himself.   Maybe we should instead of negotiators send Baseball players, scouts and instructors to North Korea?  It just might work. Look what McDonald’s and Coke did to the former Soviet Union….

Peace, Steve+

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