Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Shalit Just Hit The Fan (er, the door, leaving The TODAY Show)

My eyebrows ascended upon reading that longtime TODAY Show film critic Gene Shalit is leaving the program later this week to continue film reviews online.

I'll never forget meeting Shalit in New York. During the fall of 1996, I had a brief apartment-sitting gig on the way-upper West Side (north of the George Washington Bridge), and a great friend of mine was working at Au Bon Pain beneath Radio City Music Hall.

I had just slipped in to the restaurant to surprise my pal Meg, who was working the counter, and undetected by yours truly, Mr. Shalit stepped in line behind me during the surprise, so my friend reacted both to Shalit and my appearance simultaneously.

Its fair to say Shalit was as surprised as Meg and I were with the gleeful exchange that ensued (Shalit was a regular at this location, if memory serves me, and Meg and I had not seen each other in months, so the retail reunion was boisterous). Shalit was a nice guy and really cheerful for our brief exchange, and as Meg and I later finally got to chat, Shalit waved goodbye and wished us well. Nice guy.

Shalit did a memorable review of an Olympic film when I was in grade school, stating "'Chariots of Fire' will lift you with exultation and hold you there." Agreed!
During the Vancouver Olympics, Shalit even took to the slopes of the Eastern U.S. for a ski-clad review of "Shutter Island." Well done!

Here's hoping Shalit's great work continues for years to come. Long live the puns!

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Screen The Dream Opens Nov. 15

In Atlanta, The King Center announced this week that the nonprofit will launch its "Screen The Dream" film series on Nov. 15 with the award winning documentary "A Small Act" at 7:30 p.m. in the Center's auditorium.

According to the press release and the website for the 2009 film, "A Small Act" tells the tale of a Swedish woman and a life she changed.

"When Hilde Back sponsored a young, rural Kenyan student, she thought nothing of it. She certainly never expected to hear from him, but years later she does. Now a Harvard graduate and a Human Rights Lawyer for the United Nations, Chris Mburu decides to find the stranger that changed his life. Inspired by her generosity, he starts a scholarship program of his own and names it for his former benefactor."

This description reminded me of the letters sent to a young Tanzanian boy -- Ndugu Umbohe -- adopted by the retired Nebraska insurance executive (Jack Nicholson) in "About Schmidt."

I hope the organizers of this new "Screen The Dream" film series may consider some Olympic-themed films, such as "Chariots of Fire" or "The Jesse Owens Story," in which themes of equal treatment for all are explored.

More details about the Atlanta and other screenings are available online. Enjoy the show!

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Please Re-Peat This ... Four Times

If Bob Costas, Jim Lampley, the other NBC Sports anchors, or their army of Olympic researchers and interns, are online to gear up for the London 2012 Olympic commentary, I hope they'll read this post.

Because on my desk is a copy of a page-turning academic paper my good friend J. Brian Carberry got published in the most recent edition of the Journal of Olympic History.

In his report titled The Olympic 4-Peat -- A Rare Achievement, Carberry presents his case as to why the terms "Olympic Four-Peat" (changed here to match AP Style), "Olympic Three-Peat" or similar should be added to the Olympic and sports lexicon.

That definition states that to achieve the rare Olympic Four-Peat one must take home the gold medal in four consecutive Olympic competitions in the same sport/discipline. An example: Carl Lewis winning his fourth gold medal in the long jump at the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta. One blogger used the term in 2004 to describe the original/first Olympic Four-Peater, Al Oerter.
(11/7/2010 correction: Oerter was not the original/first Olympic Four-Peater.)

Carberry also charts the history of past or potential Olympic Four-Peats, including 15 athletes -- five women and 10 men -- who may Olympic Four-Peat themselves into the history books AND Carberry's updated research during the Games of the XXXth Olympiad.

Yes, we are shopping for tickets to attend the potential Olympic Four-Peats (as stated in my previous post, Carberry and I also seek tickets so we may achieve a personal Olympic Three-Peat in spectating at the women's beach volleyball final in 2012).

Following Carberry's six-page report, a 10-page chart provides excruciating yet thorough detail about Olympic Three-Peat and Olympic Four-Peat achievements in modern Olympic history (only eight Olympians achieved Olympic Four-Peats thus far -- remarkable.

Commentators should clamor to describe the one-time Olympic Five-Peat (would that also be an Olympic Pent-Peat or Olympic Pente-Peat) and the single Olympic Six-Peat (Olympic Sex-Peat?) winners in history, Hungarian fencers Pál Kovács and Aladár Gerevich, respectively. CNN.com features a nice write-up about Gerevich.

By way of this post, I am encouraging Carberry to set up his own website, Facebook page and blog to showcase and elevate the terminology he proposed should have more prominence. This way, Brian and others will be able to continue to build a case for the Olympic Four-Peat vocabulary to achieve mainstream status in sports coverage and conversation.
An online resource dedicated to this topic will permit more interactive history and discussion on this topic, and give fans a place to reference -- in real time from London 2012 -- the status of the upcoming Olympic Four-Peat contenders.

To inspire Mr. Carberry to get online and get busy, I added an "Olympic Four-Peat" statement to the Al Oerter page on Wikipedia.
(11/7/2010 update: Because this statement was incorrect, it was later edited from the Wikipedia page; I stand corrected.)

And send a copy of the article to Mr. Costas -- he needs to read it.
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